Hitscan Solutions and Drawbacks

How do you make hitscan enemies both fun and fair to fight against in a game where you don’t have regenerating health?

I think I’ve answered this before in a question regarding Vanquish. I think the answer is to mark the spots that enemies are targeting, then have you dodge the reticules (or laser sights obviously). Another very fair hitscan enemy is the Vortigaunts in Half Life because they have a very distinct audio and visual cue for when they’re about to fire and appear in environments with cover nearby. Not to mention they can be stunned by gunshots before they fire.

The idea is, you need to provide a reasonable method for the player to avoid taking damage. This means the sources of damage must move predictably, detectably, and within reaction time.

I don’t think your solution to hitscan is very interesting, it becomes the same as projectiles, only that lamer, as they don’t fill space and time. Hitscan as it’s usually implemented promotes spacial awareness–you need to know where enemies are and move perpendicular to their line of sight– and it promotes taking cover. They may not be very interesting in themselves, but they serve a different function from projectiles, and making them totally predictable eliminates that difference.

Becomes the same as a laser beam or a contact damage enemy really instead of continuous damage anywhere in sight of the enemy (imagine if an enemy emitted light that damaged you if you weren’t in shadow, it would have a very similar effect to common implementations of hitscan if you think about it. Someone should make a prototype of this. The hit detection would be easy to cheat with raycasts as long as you could get dynamic light sources and shadows working).

I mean, if we could have projectiles in every game, that would be fine. We use hitscan because it’s realistic, not because it’s necessarily good. My solution is just trying to preserve the theming in a way that’s fair.

Every form of projectile promotes spatial awareness. Every attack does. Moving perpendicular to their line of sight (circle strafing them) doesn’t affect hitscan enemies except at extremely close ranges. Unless they’re human that is, then it can be effective. It has no effect on AI enemies, which is where hitscan damage is actually harmful.

I don’t think hitscan bullets promote very much spatial awareness, because circle strafing and moving in general isn’t a very good strategy against them. A good strategy is killing whatever’s about to shoot at you before they can, and popping out of cover occasionally to take a potshot before going back into cover. Also occasionally moving up.

It certainly promotes taking cover, but that’s about it. It makes it so you continuously take damage when out of cover, which necessitates either extremely careful healthpack placement or regenerating health, the latter of which causes all sorts of other problems. Cover is useful versus Vortigaunts too and those are more fair than your average FPS enemy.

Maybe my solution isn’t the most interesting thing in the world, maybe there are better solutions, however we’ve only arrived at a fair implementation of hitscan enemies in modern shooters by sacrificing everything else. The design space of the game is limited by this element. It becomes more difficult to implement a wider range of options because of this element and its dependencies. Yeah, maybe it creates a unique dynamic unto itself, but we’ve had dozens and dozens of games that have explored this dynamic already.


3 thoughts on “Hitscan Solutions and Drawbacks

  1. Gilgamesh310 November 10, 2016 / 11:06 pm

    Would you consider the laser beams the sniper rifles emit in the Uncharted games, before a shit is fired, to be a good example of hitscan done right, in a similar way to the vortigaunts? Some people actually say this is cheap, but I’d say it’s actually fairer than going against the standard hitscan enemies with weapons that have no give away of you being shot.


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