Game Design Theory Level 3 – Customization and Creative Design Techniques

Be Aware of the Three A’s When Designing Projectile Combat

Whenever you need to design projectile combat there are three things which you need to address and plan for regarding the projectile gameplay: Action, Aiming and Ammo.


Action is loading, firing and handling. Some of the questions you need to ask about your game:


What types of weapons would your character or gameplay favor? Guns, alien sword?


Auto-reload or manual reloading by the player?


What would be the ideal rate of fire or time between strikes for each weapon?


Is there any recoil or “kick” from the weapon that the player will notice?


The answers to these questions will help to describe the “action” of your weapons.




Ammo in a game can be the difference between a good experience and a great one. There are a lot of good questions to ask about the ammo in your game that will help you figure out what is best for the gameplay you are trying to create:


What kind of damage will each weapon do and what ammo does it require?


Does each weapon have one firing mode or multiple? (semi-auto / auto, rifle / grenade launcher or other combinations)


Can each weapon only fire one type of ammo or multiple types? How scarce is the better / best ammo?


Does the ammo serve a purpose other than to cause more damage?


Is the damage caused by each of the weapon / ammo types balanced? Is there one weapon/ammo combination so dominant that no one would rationally use the others? 

Aiming is pretty self-explanatory but there are questions you need to ask to make sure the aiming system in your game is appropriate for the gameplay you’re planning. You need to decide if your game will require more precision and skill, which means the shooting reticle (the cross or x-shaped icon that shows where the projectile is going to land) would be smaller and the aiming assistance would be minimal. Your game may not need this added difficulty and could have a larger or more intricate reticle with a more precise auto-aim.


Aiming is more than that however, because there are certain factors that you should generally make adjustable like rotational speed if your game is 3D, which is basically how fast the player can turn around and turn from side-to-side. In a 2D game you need to make the speed at which the player can move their aiming reticle adjustable. Some players like very fast movements and others will default to a slower speed. If shooting is a major part of your gameplay you definitely want to give the players options and aiming speed is an important one.


Another important question you need to answer in regard to aiming is whether or not the player will be able to zoom in, and how much so. Will the player be able to shoot freely at a distance or will there be a more realistic kick and moment of readjustment before the player can shoot again? Will the player have to press a button to hold their breath and steady the weapon, or can they just point and shoot? If the player is using hand-held weapons much of these same questions apply but also keep track of striking distances for weapons and how that affects your gameplay.


There needs to be a balance between enabling the player and making the game realistic. Sometimes you have to be less realistic (extremely accurate aiming or unrealistic rates of fire/attack) to enable the player and make the game less frustrating and more fun.