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Design of the Dead: Lock and Load

Design of the Dead is a series of blog posts from various members of the Sandswept team. This is a way for us to give you some good insight into the thought process and stages as we develop The Dead Linger. Design of the Dead will frequently contain new information about upcoming ideas we plan to implement into the game as well! Everything shown in these design blogs is subject to change in the final version of The Dead Linger.

Hello again survivors and welcome to our second installment in Design of the Dead!

My name is Geoff Keene, otherwise known on the forums and elsewhere as Zag. I’m the design director of Sandswept Studios, and I am mainly responsible for guiding the team in creating a unified look, play, and feel to the zombie apocalypse. As The Dead Linger is essentially my brain-child, everything I do centers around making the game the best experience for you, the end user, and holding together the entire vision of the project. I’m responsible for the majority of gameplay and interface design decisions, from the big to the small, so today I’ll be exploring the design of the Reloading and Ammunition system that you’ll see added to The Dead Linger Alpha in the coming updates.

Please bear in mind this is the plan for development and does not necessarily indicate features currently available in The Dead Linger Alpha at the time of writing. And as always, everything is subject to change. Read on to learn about our plans for Ammunition and Reloading!

Ammunition

Ammunition, like batteries or food, is a resource in the world of The Dead Linger. Ammo is scarce, unique to various weaponry, and required to fire the many firearms you’ll find in the world. You’ll find ammo in many, many varieties. To fire a handgun that requires 9mm rounds, you’ll require 9mm rounds in your inventory. We’ll get on to that in just a moment, but let’s first talk about readability.

Readability

Along with the general appearance and writing on the boxes, we’re color-coding ammunition so it’s easy to spot and easy to identify. For example, the prevailing color of a box of 9mm rounds is teal, and 5.56 rounds are primarily red. We also varied the shapes and size of the boxes to make them identifiable. Here’s a quick visual run through our development process with the ammunition.

Initial concept art

Trying out some color coding

Note the ability to identify each ammo type at a glance

Some more ammo box comparisons

Now that we’ve tackled the issue of readability, you can scavenge for ammo without having to spend a lot of time nit-picking the environment or digging through your inventory to know what you’re picking up.

Magazine System

With The Dead Linger, we’re walking a careful line between realism and fun. We want to bring a truly gritty, intense, and realistic experience, while still keeping the game a game – that is to say – enjoyable, rewarding, and not overwhelming in control schemes or interfaces. It’s a simple concept to visualize, albeit difficult to truly pull off. If realism gets in the way of fun, we throw out the realism and keep the fun. Simple as that. The system for managing and refilling magazines is no exception.

I looked at a few different paths for magazines and reloading. There’s the main three systems used in games, from most common to least common;

  • 1. You have a set pool of ammo. Every time you reload, you have a magical magazine full of rounds, and the extra rounds in the previous magazine are put back into the pool of magical ammo.
  • 2. You have a set pool of ammo, but after reloading a partially-used magazine you will never see those rounds again. By reloading with a magazine that is partially full, it disappears and can never be gained back again.
  • 3. You have a set pool of ammo that fills your many magazines. Magazines, when reloaded, are rotated through.

None of these existing systems really portrayed the sort of realism I wanted, but the third one struck me as realistic enough to build upon. Starting with magazines, every type of gun in The Dead Linger will have a set number of magazines attached to it. For example, a handgun of a certain type might have 5 magazines attached to it. They won’t take up inventory space, and the player will cycle through them as they reload. Here’s a scenario you can picture; the player could use half the rounds on Magazine #1, and swap it out for Magazine #2. The player can keep realoading empty or partially empty magazines, and come back to Magazine #1, which would be put into the weapon half empty.

Refilling Magazines

Refilling magazines is going to be something you don’t do in a hurry – at least not when you can help it. The magazines on your gun might need some topping off, or be entirely empty. Regardless of the reason, at some point you’re going to need to take some quiet time aside and refill them. To refill ammunition, you can either press R (reload) when all of your magazines are completely empty, or you can go into your inventory, right click on the firearm, and press “Refill Ammo.” Either of these actions will begin refilling magazines, and it will take some time. It’s best to do when you’re in a relatively safe place. Reloading can be interrupted at any time by moving, and all progress on the refill that was made will be retained. By our current estimates, a single 30-round magazine should take roughly 30 seconds to fill entirely, but these numbers, as always, are subject to change. We have a perk planned that players can acquire if they choose to reload weapons faster, and that too will affect reloading magazines.

Obviously some weapons do not have magazines. Clip-based weapons (weapons that have an internal magazine or are fed by a stripper-clip) will work the same, but single-load weapons, such as a shotgun, will treat the weapon itself as the single magazine, and the player can top off the reload at any time. (In other words, if you have an 8-round carrying capacity on a shotgun with 6 rounds in it, you can reload at any time fill it back up to 8.)

Pretty simple, right? This gives players some ammunition management without being overwhelming or too complex to quickly pick up. Players will generally spend a bit of time every day (or night), hunkered down in safety, refilling their weapon magazines and preparing for the day to come. Keeping your magazines topped off will mean the difference between life and death, in many scenarios.

Ammo Indicator

This is a fairly big topic amongst everyone. How much HUD is The Dead Linger going to have? We’re aiming for limited HUD, and optional HUD. A prime example of this on-going conflict is that some players don’t want sound or visual cues for health, they want a health bar. While we’re perfectly fine with bars for those types of things, we want to keep guns skillful. In doing so, we’re requiring players to count rounds, or at the very least, be ready to reload when their magazine unexpectedly bottoms out. After using a firearm for a duration of time, there’s no question that players will be able to estimate their rounds quite effectively. To assist with this, on reload of a magazine, we will splash some quick text with the following levels of emptiness;

0% – Empty
1% to 10% – Very Light
11% to 49% – Light
50% to 74% – Medium
75% to 99% – Heavy
100% – Full

Along with the option to turn this off entirely (for the most hardcore players,) one of our planned perks will allow the player to see the exact number of rounds remaining, instead of a vague description. We feel this leaves the door open for players who feel they need an very clear assistant when measuring round count.

I hope you’ve enjoyed this quick glimpse in to the ammunition and reloading systems planned for The Dead Linger, and you should see these changes coming into the game very soon in one of the upcoming builds. Thanks for reading! Linger on, Survivors.

- Zag

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Design of the Dead is a series of blog posts from various members of the Sandswept team. This is a way for us to give you some good insight into the thought process and stages as we develop The Dead Linger. Design of the Dead will frequently contain new information about upcoming ideas we plan to implement into the game as well! Everything shown in these design blogs is subject to change in the final version of The Dead Linger.