Aesthetically pleasing weapons November 15, 2009 cliffski I’ve been watching big battleships shoot each other. It’s what I do for a job. cool huh? The interesting bit is that despite doing a future-tech sci-fi war game, I find that the images and footage that is most appropriate is WW2. There is a darned good reason that so many good games are set in WW2, and this is it: WW2 had the best looking weapons. Now it’s true that napoleonic wars had some darned colorful outfits, but the guns took ages to load and mostly missed anyway. And fast forwarding to the modern day, we have all sorts of gizmos, mostly with American military ACRON-YMS, but the problem is they don’t lend themselves to gameplay. The overhead night vision gunship scene in Call of Duty 4 was very cool, but hardly challenging. Modern weapons, especially in fighter planes amount to a pilot or gunner just pressing a button saying ‘yup shoot that guy so far away I can’t even see him’. Computers are having all the fun in modern combat. The whole range thing is a total nightmare. Being able to blow up an enemy base from 500 miles away may make strategic sense, but it really screws up your graphics engine if you want the player to see what the hell is going on. And the destructive capability of weapons also acts as a pain. Any sensible futuristic weapon deployed in space is likely to at least have nuclear-missile level explodiness, yet that will obliterate everything for miles. This is not good gameplay fun. So I find myself, like so many game designers, looking at battles between ships in the pacific and atlantic from 1939-45 and taking inspiration from that. Firing broadsides at ships where you can look out the window and see them explode. It’s not just everyone copying the battles from Star Wars, it’s everyone coming to the same conclusion, which is that in terms of visual entertainment, if you move beyond the technology of WW2, it becomes difficult to feel ‘involved’ in the conflict. So yup, I know that GSB’s battles make no sense. There is no sound in space, and no friction, and you can shoot for probably 2,000 miles without missing ever, and most spaceships would be best crewed by AI and robot anyway, but this would all make for a sucky game. We can invent all kind of pseudo scientific technobable to justify why we have to fly within 500 meters of the enemy spaceship to shove a torpedo up his exhaust port, and we will continue to do so. Because games are about having fun. Especially fun with spaceships going zap.