Swamp: the stamina system


Ah, Swamp. The most popular accessible online Zombie FPS game. We’ve been shooting at zombies for almost 8 years now …
Or so you’d think. Actually, we’ve been doing a lot more hammering and hacking and blocking zombies lately, according to Aprone. As a result, he has implemented a stamina system to punish melee weapon and shield users for overuse of these items, in the hopes that people will go back to firing guns. A noble goal. In most zombie apocalypse movies and shows, people are using guns and explosives, not short-range weapons, to hold off the hordes. Unfortunately, I feel that at least a few major changes to how zombies act would need to be made in order to encourage people to actually use guns more, short of utterly crippling melee weapons. The following list will discuss some of these.

Making maps larger:

One of the problems I had when I tried to use even powerful guns was that even as I was mowing down zombie after zombie, I was being forced further and further away from whatever goal I was trying to reach. The situation was made even worse when my ammunition ran out, as the reload time was quite substantial. In the movies, it’s usually a whole phalanx of people firing away at the zombies, which gives them a much better chance against them. I suppose that a similar case could be made for Swamp, but sadly the player base isn’t active enough that you can expect another player to be near you at any time. A larger map would spread the zombies out, lessening the potency of swarms. Another reason that melee weapons are the only valid way to go are that they don’t attract swarms the same way guns do. Even with your speed and elusiveness maximized, you won’t easily shake off a group of canine or dire zombies, because they run about as fast as you, which means you’ll have to fight them.

Add an audio crosshair for zombies:

Sighted players actually have a heavy advantage over us in that they can see when a zombie is in range of their weapons, and they also know if a zombie is able to hit them. This is because of the block-based tile display they get on their monitors. A few years ago, One of my friends told me that his sighted buddy was able to run a strip mall mission without killing a single zombie by luring them into a huge pack, and running just ahead of them all around the map while they were just out of range of hitting him. This might not be the case now, but it’s still disturbing because I have not seen any change log entries about the sighted experience besides a few generalized entries about how graphics should be a bit smoother or more efficient. As it is, it is impossible to know whether a zombie is directly centered and in range to be hit by my weapon, and it really ought to be. Come to think of it, the sighted player probably figured out precisely how many blocks away from center he could be from the zombie, which is still better than what blind users have: an approximate panning amount from our ears.
The exception to this complaint are the shotguns, which have a scatter shot mode that lets you hit a zombie even if you aren’t aimed precisely at it. In fact, it seems that if you are aimed really well at it, the spread mode will actually double-hit the zombie, which does more damage per shot than normal mode.

This would also make me a lot more confident about using guns, because the main reason I would want to use guns is that they have a far longer range than melee weapons, but it is far harder to aim at zombies far away from you using audio than it is to aim at those closer to you. It’s also why scoped weapons like the sniper and sport rifles are semi-useful. Unfortunately, the scope makes you vulnerable to zombies close to you, which is pretty much a 0-sum tradeoff as you’ll probably be taking damage before you can stop it while you’re firing at that faraway zombie.

Slow down zombies/lower weapon reload times:

these are probably the most obvious ways to help balance this issue out, but slowing the zombies down a bit would give us more time to reload our weapons. And lowering weapon reload times would entice us to use guns more.

Lower the impact of weapon noise:

When you fire a weapon, move, or do a voice command, zombies in range hear a certain amount of noise, which attracts them to the location the noise came from. Canine and Dire zombies can howl, which also creates noise. Instead of having gun shots produce noise, why not have the character’s pain screams produce the majority of the noise? This would encourage players to kill zombies from farther away, so that they would avoid being damaged and thus attracting hordes. I understand that silenced weapons can do this, but they just can’t kill fast enough unless, once again, you are extremely accurate and can shoot at long range.

What are the effects of the stamina change?

Personally, I’ve pretty much adjusted to the change. I can’t swing my sledgehammer continuously to get the first hit in on a big horde of zombies, so I take a bit more damage, so I just have to watch how many zombies are coming a bit better and bring more medkits. I am still firmly against using guns; they are simply not worth using. The main reason for stamina, according to Aprone, is to stop people standing in one place for hours and hours swinging away. I’m not sure why anyone would do this, unless they were playing hardcore mode and wanted to idle in their fort to gain levels. It occurs to me that this may be a big reason why so many people have ludicrously high levels. It may be time to dent some of the higher level people in some way, or add a diminishing returns system to skill points so that we could see more of an effect out of the points at the low end. As it is, it takes me a few hours of hard work to get a level on my level 27 character, assuming I don’t die and I can find some diesel fuel. Thanks to the weird bug where your entire inventory gets duplicated, you can usually bring that up to 3 or 4 cans just by switching maps a few times (another big problem with the game that needs to be fixed pronto).

Ah yes, the other thing about missions now is that this stamina system also affects shields. I actually stand behind this change. People were using riot shields to literally wade through a horde of zombies and not get hit. Now, both the block rate and your movement speed get reduced if the riot shield blocks too many attacks too quickly, and that’s good. Unfortunately, it also means that missions have gotten a good deal louder as people are resulting to heavy weapons like the Vulcan minigun to control the swarms. This probably means that the higher end difficulty settings for the missions ought to be toned down, as they were made in the days when people were using their riot shields more.

Final Thoughts

I’m actually not too annoyed about the melee change. It does fix some huge problems, such as people soloing deathbringer missions with only a riot shield, and people idling in their fort swinging their sledgehammer to gain risk-free exp 24 7 365. Does it encourage people to use more guns? Absolutely not. The imprecision, amount of noise they make, amount of time it takes to reload them, and mainly lower damage over time the guns do right now usually doesn’t merit them being used in most cases. The zombies just love hearing you miss with your gun, and will come for you with hungry growls when they do. And then, you’ll be forced to reload, and as you insert the magazine they will swipe at you. Though really, the inventory duplication bug is a high priority bug that needs to be fixed first.

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