I recently played through Fallout: New Vegas and couldn’t help but feel that while the whole weapon modification system was a nice addition, it was a pointless one. I, as much as anyone, love some good gun porn and being able to modify my weapon is a welcome addition to any game but in fallout:new vegas there really wasnt any reason to bother with it.
So what did I find so wrong with the weapon modification system in new vegas? Well two things, the first being that unique weapons exist in the game world. These unique weapons are far superior to their fully upgraded standard counterparts which makes you wonder why should I bother with the upgrades? You’ll spent a ton of cash buying the upgrades just to end up with an inferior weapon. Honestly, if designers want unique weapons, I think they need to either remove the entire modification system (and offer more unique weapons) or make the unique weapons upgradeable as well. Hell, make unique weapons unique by adding smaller perks like offering increased criticals or accuracy due to improved internals or improved reliability or something along those lines. That way the the player still has the option of modifying the unique weapons as well and not lose any of the unique features. Basically what you’d be doing is offering the player an improved base platform for the weapon modifications.
The second issue I had with the weapon modification system in F:NV was that not all weapons could be upgraded. Some weapons had three upgrades, some only one, while other had none. There was that issue as well as the fact that there was only a single upgrade route for each weapon. There is absolutely no customizability present in what is essentially a customizability system. Assuming that the designers put in weapon mods as a method to improve the weapons and not to customize them i.e. have fixed weapon levels like 9mm pistol lvl1, lvl2, lvl3, then why include unique weapons which completely outshine an upgraded weapon?! It is true that some of the unique weapons have all the upgrades already applied to them, but then why not simply offer the weapon as unique base platform?! Then there is the fact that some of the upgrades are annoying like when I wanted put a scope on my varmint rifle but the only available upgrade option is a night vision scope, which is really fucking annoying during the day and so wasnt something I really wanted?! Removing the player choice in the customizability of the weapons is a mistake. It would not have been so hard to add it a larger variation of weapon mod options for the weapons, half of the weapon mods may not have even needed any additional modelling or artwork.
I think the fallout designers need to take a lesson from the STALKER weapon upgrade system. In STALKER every weapon could be upgraded only by a gunsmith and required no external parts just cash. Not only that but every weapon had various upgrade paths that the player could choose depending on his playing style. If the player wants to spray and pray then he can upgrade the firing rate and decrease the recoil of the weapon whereas another player would prefer accuracy upgrades. The weapon upgrades in STALKER were essential and altered the gameplay to suit the player. I couldnt wait to collect enough cash to be able to further improve my equipment. I even had specific weapons upgraded for specific roles: an accurate assault rifle for outdoor battles, a close quarters modified SMG and shotgun for exploring bunkers and tunnels.
Isn’t the whole point of having such a system in place for the player to be able to customize his weapons to his own preference, even games like Diablo II had sockets with which a player was able to upgrade their weapons and armor to suit their needs, though once again in Diablo II, the powerful unique items had no sockets and were vastly superior to any socketed creation. It is beyond me why game designers feel that that they should offer the player the option to customize their items and then make the customization pointless. Has no-one realized at any point: “hey I spent all this effort upgrading this item just to find a uncustomizable one that is vastly better, WTF?!?!?” (maybe its some kind of game designer inside joke)
Dragon Age was also a game that did it right, it offered the option to enchant the best weapons in the game with elemental DMG, chance to stun, paralysis, etc… Further improving the weapons. The armor runes and rune crafting was introduced in the Awakening expansion but I felt that things got a little to complicated with having to manage numerous ingredients, recipes and so on… I’m straying from the point which is that in DA, you could find the best long sword in the game (for example starfang) and make it even better.
To date STALKER has had the most comprehensive weapon upgrade system I’ve seen in a game and other game designers would do well to look at it as a prime example of how to implement such a system. During the course of this post I’ve actually realized how common a problem this is. Numerous games feature crafting and mods systems for item but the usefullness of such systems is often limited. So I would love to know why those system even exist, is it just to be able to say that your game features a crafting/modification system for the hell of it? If a game features a crafting system then the designers should strive to make the items produced via that crafting useful. For example in an RPG, dont just offer magical weapons but recipes for new magical weapons that have the possibility of being the most powerful weapons in the game.
Just my 2c…