Should a head-shot always be a one-shot-kill?

yamy

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Aug 2, 2010
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So I've been watching some gameplay of Tom Clancy's The Division and at one point an enemy, wearing nothing but a head-scarf, was shot more than 10 times in the head before dying.

Another recent example is Fallout 4, where human enemies without head protection can often be shot many times in the head without dying.

Obviously in real life, people die when they are shot in the head. Seeing normal, unarmoured people being shot many times in the head without dying breaks our expectations of reality and breaks the player's suspension of belief. When the player character, who is usually weaker, dies from less grievous injuries, this can also lead to frustration, since it becomes more obvious that the player character is operating on a different set of rules.


From a RPG design perspective however, it can be seen why head-shots do not always kill in one shot. If player damage is determined by stats that the player can invest in, it becomes pointless to invest in these skills if the player can over-come any challenge by learning how to aim. This undermines the RPG system and creates problems of game-play progression. The difficulty cease to increase.

I think one way around this is to tie the player's stats with accuracy , rather than the damage. For example, increasing the sway whilst aiming or making the hit chance percentage-based even if the bullet connects. But this creates the problem of putting an artificial limit to a player's skill. Players can feel cheated if they feel like they have the skill to aim for a head-shot but are unable to do so in the game. This impacts the enjoyment and feel of the gunplay.

So my question is: In a first or third person shooting game where at least some enemies are normal humans and where some degree of realism is present, should head-shots kill in one-shot? Where should the balance be held between the player's expectation of realism and gameplay progression? What better ways are there to achieve both?

P.S I'm open to the idea of a 3 shot kill. Just not 2 or 4. 5 is right out.
 

baddude1337

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Jun 9, 2010
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Well, in an RPG, which the 2 games you mentioned are, no. While games are leaning more towards 'realism' these days, RPG's still need to have a semblance of balancing as they are generally stats based. To have an RPG with a deep levelling system would be a moot point if the basic stating pistol could 1-shot every enemy you come across. In this case, there will always be a suspension of belief, but it is because the gameplay requires it. This also brings in to your suggestion of weapon sway and things like that. RPG's are again more stats based than player skill (although action RPG's blur this line a lot), so having a deliberate sway just seems like an unnecessary handicap, when you already need to actually aim at the head for a hit.

In an action shooter that leaning more towards realism and you are fighting human enemies? Sure. It should be if the game balance suits 1-shot kills like that. Otherwise you will again be hampering gameplay for slightly more realism, which is a no-no in my book. I like to be immersed in my worlds as much as the next person, but solid and fun gameplay should come first over that.
 

Saelune

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People need to just respect what a game is. A lot of people complaining about this in The Division and I'm like "its an RPG..."

In RPGs, no. Should be bonus damage if your own ability to aim is a factor, but otherwise if its down to stats and HP, heads should not be one shot. Realism shooters, yes it should be. Though people complaining about realism, then being shot once ANYwhere should leave you heavily debilitated.
 

MysticSlayer

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It depends on the game.

RPGs (or games with heavy RPG influence) such as Mass Effect, Fallout, and Borderlands tend to make damage output and weapon power part of the progression and build of the character. Giving an easy out with headshots would take away from that and seriously hamper balancing and a sense of progression. Yeah, it is possible to include weapon accuracy in that as well, but that leads to its own set of problems. If it's possible to work around the bad accuracy, players will nullify it and come to see it as more of a minor annoyance than a real hindrance. If you make it impossible to work around, you've essentially taken player skill out of a combat system designed around other skill-based systems, and it just never feels right.

In general, though, I find bullet-sponges to be the least horrible way RPGs try to hold onto traditional RPG mechanics while providing an action-like combat system. At least there's a purpose, and if done right (i.e. not Borderlands), it shouldn't take away too much from the game.
 

Tayh

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I find it impossible to argue either for or against this, since it depends on the context and genre of the game. Some games need challenging bulletsponge enemies, other games are geared more towards quick, realistic kills.
It's not possible or viable to define one rule that all games have to obey without drastically and fundamentally changing games that fall on the wrong side.

Saelune said:
People need to just respect what a game is. A lot of people complaining about this in The Division and I'm like "its an RPG..."
The Division is not an rpg. It's a shooter with incrementing stats.
 

Erttheking

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Depends. Though regardless of context, if I shoot an unagumented, unarmored, unimportant human enemy in the face with a decent sized gun and it does,t at the very least, take off a good chunk of his healthbar...I'm annoyed.
 

Bad Jim

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Well how many shots should it take to kill you? Wanna be a one hit point wonder? Didn't think so.
 

Silentpony_v1legacy

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Jun 5, 2013
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Bare head? Yes. Helmet or something, maybe bring it down to critical 1% health or something. Desperate but survivable.
 
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For characters that are strictly human, in a human setting? Yes. My suspension of belief only goes so far. If the enemy are bullet sponges, fine, but you'd better have a damn good reason why. Saying "It's an RPG" is just not enough.
 

gargantual

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Yeah. Even if they don't die, sensitive mental faculties are up there. It'd be pretty incapacitating anyways. A bigger question here I'd posit is really the success of MMO'ing shooters from this and Destiny. Save for some exceptions like Deus Ex,Witcher and ME2 there are only so many games you can RPGify and get the same RPG experience.

Super Bunny Hop touched on this with his upgrade systems commentary. RPG conflict is more so about influencing abstractions that we the player have little direct control over. You're sacrificing direct control of combat over direct control of probabilities that influence the outcome of the combat. The part of rainbow six where you plan out the OP, and characters and let it execute, embodied this perfectly. Thats where the tension of an rpg is supposed to come from, in hoping that the resources you divided and the dice you rolled pays off. When real time aspects, like reaction time, and cover can save your ass, its not as much of a risk necessarily.

Thats different from direct combat, where upgrading and progression could naturally be linked to your direct performance in game. It can be as simply streamlined as the example gaining stamina in GTA by running more. Or getting better driving and flying levels by flying and driving well. Or if a single player mode wants to autoaim your accuracy, it can do so by rewarding that setting naturally after you take more successful shots, without a menu or GUI prompt to represent that in game reward. Then your avatar looks and plays like someone who earned their abilities.
 

WindKnight

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Unless we're talking some kind of insane armour, or a blatantly monstrous cranium, yeah. Or, at least make something you cant one-shot with a head shot LOOK like it could actively take a bullet to the bonce.
 

Odbarc

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For the Fallout example specifically, I would say that in a world of over 200 years of people shooting each other, it's likely that;
1) The guns aren't firing effectively or accurately to be as deadly as a modern day gun that hasn't been dragged through dirt and smashed against rocks all it's life.
2) All the thinned skulled people died leaving mostly Raiders with thick skulls that somewhat absorb the bullet and these people breed after surviving these types of attacks.
3) Difficulty modifiers excuse.

Borderlands doesn't have the #1 excuse and all it's weapons are high tech killing machines. I like how Borderlands handles headshots in that usually, it's a critical hit. Though no one ever starts to limp with knee shots as far as I know.
 

Something Amyss

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In the real world, the unarmoured gang bangers should go down with pretty much any shot to the vitals. Nobody seems to complain about this.

In the real world, being shot in the groin would probably have an effect. Hell, being shot anywhere is pretty impactful. Nobody seems to complain about this.

I'm always confused as to why the headshot specifically is so sacred in video games. And why in a world where I can instantly recover my health with super science a headshot even needs to be deadly. You can teleport from safe zone to safe zone, respawn after dying with only progress loss, and have a talking computer that not only tells you when bad guys are around but their general direction.

Where does the real world even come into this?

I really don't want realistic games. I don't want a stray bullet in my leg to take me out of the battle and require months of recovery, possibly rehab, and potentially PTSD to overcome.
Tayh said:
The Division is not an rpg. It's a shooter with incrementing stats.
It's an RPG in the sense Saelune is using it, the colloquial sense, and that's enough to make their statement valid.
 

Roboshi

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Whenever I see a professional reviewer complain about this it's always someone who has either; expressed a dislike for RPG's or simply hasn't reviewed an RPG (suggesting they avoid them entirely).

These people will never bat an eyelid at the sort of damage a sword would realistically do to any flesh (No one seems to sharpen they blades it seems), nor to the cartoonish way a head will pop like a balloon when they get the headshot they want.

It's the age old war between realism and fantasy in your setting. go to far with one is no fun and the other it's just ridiculous. The real problem is that so many people have different points on that scale they want to play at.
 

loa

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Yeah.
It's not like there's anything fun or clever about bullet sponges, they just waste your time.
A lot of rpgs could do with less tactics that only serve to waste as much of your time as possible.

If you can speedrun it, it is a better game and that's what I liked about dark souls.
 

Redryhno

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Captain Marvelous said:
For characters that are strictly human, in a human setting? Yes. My suspension of belief only goes so far. If the enemy are bullet sponges, fine, but you'd better have a damn good reason why. Saying "It's an RPG" is just not enough.
Yeah, I think this is part of why the Division isn't as welcomed as people think it should be. Borderlands is pretty much running on Rule Of Drugs and Unicorns, Warframe has a huge amount of sci-fi bullshit going on, hell even Elder Scrolls has the fantasy aspect that D&D carries where hitting a major artery largely doesn't happen in-universe, you just chip away at their defenses and inflicting largely minor injuries(HP) until the final blow.

Pretty much everything Tom Clancy has largely always been about sci-fi spy/future soldier stuff, but it's always been pretty down to earth on what's going on and the things happening are limited by what humans and guns themselves are capable of. It largely comes down to the themes and style not matching up all that well with the gameplay. Which is something alot of games have problems with. And especially in this genre.
 

008Zulu_v1legacy

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Against unarmoured human heads, one shot one kill. But with Fallout's roster including robots and Super Mutants, who's to say that a Mutant's skull isn't unnaturally thick and resilient? Or if a robot even houses it's 'brain' in it's head?
 

FirstNameLastName

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Nov 6, 2014
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Ahem ...

It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game! It depends on the game!

Okay, but in all seriousness, there really isn't an answer that fits ever game, and you more or less acknowledge exactly this.

yamy said:
...


From a RPG design perspective however, it can be seen why head-shots do not always kill in one shot. If player damage is determined by stats that the player can invest in, it becomes pointless to invest in these skills if the player can over-come any challenge by learning how to aim. This undermines the RPG system and creates problems of game-play progression. The difficulty cease to increase.

I think one way around this is to tie the player's stats with accuracy , rather than the damage. For example, increasing the sway whilst aiming or making the hit chance percentage-based even if the bullet connects. But this creates the problem of putting an artificial limit to a player's skill. Players can feel cheated if they feel like they have the skill to aim for a head-shot but are unable to do so in the game. This impacts the enjoyment and feel of the gunplay.

...
Having the gun-play be so inaccurate that headshots aren't really feasible would just make everything terrible, but allowing it and making headshots a one hit kill will completely ruin the game balance, so the answer in this case is an obvious no, headshots shouldn't be a one hit kill. Although, perhaps you could make unarmored headshots an instant kill and armored headshots take some other number, since that would be believable enough, but it depends on whether or not large numbers of armored opponents would make sense for the setting.

With that said, however, I do agree with the sentiment here. Despite my conscious awareness of the necessity for this balance, I still find a lot of RPG combat, especially gun combat, to be incredibly awkward feeling. It's honestly part of the reason why I'm getting a little sick of RPGs in general and their damage-sponge combat. Fair enough if it's a top down RPG, or something like DA:O, but when you give me full control over the combat and I see a regular human charging at me with several arrows embedded in their skull it becomes increasingly hard for maintain any suspension of disbelief. Despite my appreciation for RPGs in general, I'm beginning to feel the merger of the more action based combat systems and the more abstract, number based combat of RPGs is really not doing it for me. Although, I do find myself more able to suspend disbelief when it's a sword or magic, despite the fact that these would often be just as deadly, but when it involves guns it just doesn't work for me.