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Old 12-01-2011, 06:46 AM   #1
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Dev. Journal: squeek. (2011-11-30)

I thought I'd try something out. I'm going to talk about an idea that we tried for a while in the beta but ultimately scrapped, why we ending up removing it, and what we replaced it with.

One thing that we try to do is look at every mechanic in the game and form some sort of consensus on it with regards to the following questions: Is it good for the game? Does it need to be replaced or removed? If so, what is worth keeping about it? And other questions along those lines.

In this process, some mechanics stand out in terms of needing replacement. One such mechanic was the soldier's nail grenade, which stood out because, essentially, the correct use of it was spam. There was no depth, no interactivity, and no skill involved both in its use and its avoidance. This is a huge problem, because it means that it's not fun to play against, kills that were netted from it didn't feel earned, and therefore it would primarily cause frustration. This is a post from a thread on the beta forums about it:
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeek.
1. The nail pattern isn't interactive. To avoid damage you just can't go near it.
2. The explosion at the end is only effective against people that accidentally run into it. Running through a nailgren is a gamble; sometimes it explodes, sometimes it doesn't, and it's not dependent on anything the soldier is/was doing (when he threw it he never could have predicted [even with wallhacks] that you'd go there at that specific time, he was just guessing).
So, we went about thinking of replacements. There are a few criteria for class-specific grenades: that it conforms with or strengthens the role of the class and/or that it creates a deep moment-to-moment choice about which type of grenade to prime (the Medic choosing between frags and concs is a good example of this type of depth).

Our first idea was called the vert grenade. It converted horizontal momentum into vertical momentum; in other words, it slowed people down and popped them up in the air. This works quite well with the soldier because it creates an opportunity for a rocket airshot, buys time for reloading, creates an easy rocket shot when they land, or creates an easy opportunity for getting a few shotgun blasts in.


the vert grenade in all its glory

This was all well and good. It was interactive, it created some amount of depth in grenade choice, and it conformed with the role of the soldier. But, it was not as thrilling in practice. The huge, glaring problem was that it was really, really difficult to use because of the 4 second grenade timer. Elmo summed it up well in a post on the dev forums:
Quote:
Originally Posted by Elmo
[If you think,] "Someone should be coming around the corner soon, it's been a while. I'll prime a vert gren"

With the vert grenade, the effect is so quick that the chance of getting someone with it in this way is very low. (it's wasted)

[If you think,] "Aha a victim, I'll prime a vert gren *primed*"

The chances are that they will avoid you (wasted) or frequently the fight is over in under 4 seconds (wasted).

So to make this grenade work (as it is now) you either have to....
  • increase the duration of the effect in the hope it will get someone (likely that you didn't intend to hit)
  • OR
  • Reduce the timer so that you can hit the intended person before the fight is over.

Neither are good solutions...

Say you primed it AND you actually hit them - woo about fucking time....

Most maps have a low-ish roof, especially in CTF around choke points that a soldier would be defending. I DO NOT believe maps should be made FOR vert grens, we need to make a gren that can be used in multiple spaces and surroundings.
With low approval by beta members and playtests with the vert grenade not feeling quite right, we decided to try something else. That something else ended up being the laser grenade.


an early/alternate version of the laser grenade with nails for arms

The original idea, suggested by caesium, was for a grenade similar to the original nail grenade but with defined arms. After some discussion, we settled on an idea that we could work with and got to coding it. Both nails and lasers were tried, but we ended up going with lasers because the nail version was simply too expensive. Lasers had the added bonus of being really simple to team-color, among other small benefits.

Luckily, the laser grenade worked as well in practice as we thought it would in theory. It solved all of the problems with the nail grenade while retaining the nail grenade's area denial ability. Removing the explosion at the end solves the nail grenade's need-for-spam/luck. Making the arms of the laser grenade dodgable creates a level of interactivity that the nail grenade could never have dreamed of attaining. It conforms with the soldiers role and was fun to use and play against. It ticked all the boxes and after extensive testing we decided it was worthy of inclusion in patch 2.42.

Finally, to sum up:
Quote:
Originally Posted by squeek.
The laser grenade is similar to the nail grenade, but also entirely different. It does damage in an area, making people want to avoid it. But, the damage is dodgable if you behave in a certain manner. This creates an interesting dynamic, because if there is no one around, you can dodge the damage fairly easily (meaning spamming is less effective, and damage from it always feels deserved [you failed to dodge it well]); but, if there is someone around (say the soldier that threw the grenade), your movement as you dodge the damage becomes MUCH more predictable, making it easier for the soldier to hit you. Once you get into that loop, there is a lot of depth and interactivity (avoiding damage makes me easier to hit with rockets, should I take some damage from the laser grenade? should I hang back and wait? etc...) All are viable and potentially logical choices, dependent on both the situation and the actions of each player. That is what we are looking for.

Anything can be made effective. We want to try to make our mechanics effective, interactive, deep, and fun wherever possible (and jump roping laser grenades is rather fun ).
And so that's that. Let me know on the forums if you'd like to see more of this type of dev journal.

P.S. Be on the look out for a hefty laser grenade damage increase in patch 2.44 (coming soon!).
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Old 12-01-2011, 04:08 PM   #2
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P.S. Be on the look out for a hefty laser grenade damage increase in patch 2.44 (coming soon!).
Assuming there are servers that have the grenade enabled. Heeeeyoooo!
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Old 12-01-2011, 05:10 PM   #3
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Yes yes moar squirk this was great. I tweeted about it so hopefully we'll get some more views. Should probably post about it on the official twitter account.
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Old 12-02-2011, 11:58 AM   #4
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Really enjoyed the insight. Seems like a very logical improvement. Maybe more servers would have it enabled if they took a second to think anout the points you've listed here.
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Old 12-02-2011, 04:56 PM   #5
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I was talking with the OT people about this last night, and we all agree that we are more then willing to give it a try.

Only reasons why they reverted back to the nail grenade was because it was far more useful and did more damage.

As a spy/demo/pyro/heavy, the nail grenade made me think, it made me want to get out of the area (large area). It made me not want to attempt jumping past it because I have no idea when its going to go off. The laser grenade however, just made me laugh as a spy/demo/pyro/heavy. The lasers didn't go out very far. I hardly took any damage from them, and as long as I jumped over the lasers I didn't have to worry about any explosion taking me out.

If you really believe all it was used for was spam, then thats sad. It was a good area denial feature.

Changes I think that would make players happy would be...

Make the lasers do more damage (you've already said you're doing that, so thats good)

Make the grenade float up and down a little (maybe 3 or 4 in game feet) This would make it harder to jump past it or over it.

Extend the lasers out further (2 or 3 times their current length) This would help making it an area denial device again.

Have it do something at the end, explode or maybe cause a mini emp effect. (1/10 the damage of the engi emp for the whole radius of the lasers reach (over top and below the grenade too)) Lasers get sucked in, then half a second later boom.

And remember these suggestions are coming from someone who hardly ever plays soldier, I'm always going up against the laser/nail grenade.

It just does not make me want to avoid the area as it is right now. Maybe with the damage increase it might, I will give it a chance and so will the OT people.
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Old 12-02-2011, 08:09 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gwarsbane View Post
If you really believe all it was used for was spam, then thats sad. It was a good area denial feature.
I think this just comes down to the definition of spam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by AfterShock
any time you place/prime/throw/fire any weapon without knowledge of where your enemy is, hoping to do damage by pure luck, that's spam.
There was no other way to use the nail grenade. The way it got kills was with the explosion at the end. There was no possible way you could throw it to intentionally kill someone with the explosion. It's simply not possible to see that far into the future. You would throw the grenade and just hope someone is unlucky enough to run into it as it explodes. Almost no one that I've ever seen even primed the nail grenade at all, they would just toss them into high traffic places and (more often than not) run away from them, just hoping they'd be useful.

Now, by this definition, the laser grenade could also be considered somewhat spammy. But, the difference is, laser grenades do not become more useful when spammed, they become a lot less useful. Throwing a laser grenade or two in a high traffic area and moving away from them makes it very easy for enemies to dodge that damage. Laser grenades are most useful when you are nearby to take advantage of the predictable movement of someone dodging the laser grenade damage, forcing them to take the damage in favor of unpredictable movement, or influencing their decisions in a myriad of other ways.
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Old 12-02-2011, 08:18 PM   #7
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Oh, and I think the damage increase will make the stakes a lot higher when dealing with laser grenades; it will nearly be doubling next patch.
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Old 12-02-2011, 08:43 PM   #8
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Idk squeek. I've never thrown out a nail hopping for a cheap kill with the explosion. I'm usually hoping the nails themselves softens up the next guy coming through. It's hard to lable area denial as 'spam' because, in nature, you should never be directing it at a person, but rather an area. I think of spam as more "excessive, un-directed fire". But a ng is usually directed at something. I'd go as far as to say that it's less spamable than other grenades.

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Old 12-02-2011, 09:05 PM   #9
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I'm not saying getting a kill with the explosion is necessarily a conscious goal when using the nail grenades (because, as I pointed out, that can not be planned or intentionally worked towards, it can only be hoped for), but it is the most effective way to use a nail grenade, in that nail grenades do the most damage when their explosion hits an enemy.

What is the best outcome you can hope for if the explosion does not hit an enemy? If they intentionally wait it out, they have likely made an incorrect decision (unless they are a heavy class that takes a while to move through the explosion radius). The few points of damage the nail grenade would have done if they went through it is likely worth it when the alternative is wasting time. If they have a grenade or conc primed, this becomes even less of a choice, as wasting a grenade or conc is far worse an outcome than running through the nail grenade (even with the risk of it exploding).
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Old 12-02-2011, 09:29 PM   #10
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If they wait it out, then good, area denial successful. If not, then I have a rocket launcher two shotguns and some frag grenades to stack on what ever damage they took from my nails. Seems good to me.

I don't feel like the laser does much different than make it easier to get past.

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Old 12-02-2011, 10:08 PM   #11
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Yes, if they wait it out that's good for the soldier/defense. But it's essentially always the incorrect choice for the offense unless they are certain it would explode if they went through it. For example, imagine a nail grenade without the explosion. Under what circumstances would the correct choice be to wait it out instead of run through it? I can think of a few very specific and rare instances such as there being 20 seconds left in a 1v1 (so there's no chance a teammate could help you) and you have 2 hp and are carrying the game winning flag but there is a nail grenade in a choke that you need to get through and you have no concs left. That's a pretty narrow set of circumstances, though. The explosion at the end is the thing that makes the choice more ambiguous, but the depth it creates is not ideal. Your choice (wait it out or risk it exploding while you run through) is influenced by information that you don't or can't have, and you are just putting your fate in the hands of pure luck.

With the laser grenade, that choice becomes MUCH more deep (especially once the damage gets increased). Waiting it out may become the best option in certain circumstances, like if the soldier is there waiting to take advantage of it; or, it could influence you to back up and conc over the soldier+laser grenade; or, you could choose to try to dodge both the lasers and rockets, and, if successful, you can feel a legitimate sense of accomplishment.

That said, there is also the possibility of both removing the explosion from the nail grenade and increasing the damage of the nails, which would potentially create a situation similar to the laser grenade (the choice of running through it or not would not be dependent on luck), but it is still inferior due to the interactivity of each mechanic. Running through a nail grenade is basically just accepting the damage that it will deal to you. Running through a laser grenade is much more nuanced than that, and is dependent on both your own execution/actions/decisions and the execution/actions/decisions of any enemy around you, which is much more interesting.
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Old 12-02-2011, 10:28 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by squeek. View Post
I think this just comes down to the definition of spam.



There was no other way to use the nail grenade. The way it got kills was with the explosion at the end. There was no possible way you could throw it to intentionally kill someone with the explosion. It's simply not possible to see that far into the future. You would throw the grenade and just hope someone is unlucky enough to run into it as it explodes. Almost no one that I've ever seen even primed the nail grenade at all, they would just toss them into high traffic places and (more often than not) run away from them, just hoping they'd be useful.

Now, by this definition, the laser grenade could also be considered somewhat spammy. But, the difference is, laser grenades do not become more useful when spammed, they become a lot less useful. Throwing a laser grenade or two in a high traffic area and moving away from them makes it very easy for enemies to dodge that damage. Laser grenades are most useful when you are nearby to take advantage of the predictable movement of someone dodging the laser grenade damage, forcing them to take the damage in favor of unpredictable movement, or influencing their decisions in a myriad of other ways.
Going by that definition then I guess you should get rid of all grenades and all weapons because all of them can be used as spam.

I've seen people just "spam" with all their weapons including grenades. (all versions)

Just because something is good at area denial doesn't mean its spam. Its all how its used. People who know the game, know how fast paced it can be, will save their grenades for when they believe someone coming (good communications helps here). Noobs do spam a lot. They don't know the game well, they don't know the other players, they don't communicate well or what ever. But they learn.

Again anyone telling you that the nail grenade is only used for spam is either lying to you, or playing on a server where thats all they do, or playing with a bunch of noobs.

There are lots of regular players who use the nail grenade pretty effectively to slow me down, or stop me dead in my tracks. They have figured out my timing (which I then change up) or someone says incoming spy, or says spy around. If someone tells you there is a spy in the area, a nail grenade is a decent way to find out if they are actually there or not. Chances are if you toss it in just the right place the spy will have to move, or get hit, or at least again makes them wait and think.

Biggest difference between the laser and nail grenades is that people will just run though and hop over the lasers taking no damage or taking very little damage. The nails almost seem to be all over the place and you don't want to chance running past the grenade itself in case it goes off close to you.


Me guarding an area and tossing all my grenades, thats spam. Me guarding an area and tossing a single grenade when I suspect someone might be there or might be coming around the corner is not spam.
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Old 12-02-2011, 11:00 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Gwarsbane View Post
Going by that definition then I guess you should get rid of all grenades and all weapons because all of them can be used as spam.

I've seen people just "spam" with all their weapons including grenades. (all versions)
I've never said any weapon that can be used as spam is bad. I've not even said that spam itself is bad. What I'm saying is that when a grenade/weapon/etc is best used as spam, it is a problem (the blue pipe launcher fuse being shortened was done for similar reasons). The best soldiers in both FF and TFC spam their nail grenades. The only situation you've presented in which the nail grenade is not used as spam is for damaging a cloaked spy. Fair enough. That is one situation in which a nail grenade is used for something other than spam. Everything else is definitely spam.

Quote:
Me guarding an area and tossing all my grenades, thats spam. Me guarding an area and tossing a single grenade when I suspect someone might be there or might be coming around the corner is not spam.
How about spawning as a soldier on openfire, priming a nail grenade and grabbing the gren pack, then throwing the primed nail grenade onto the water ramp, throwing another onto the water ramp, and then throwing one on the battlements steps. This is a very viable and useful tactic that could be seen in pickups by the best soldiers, but it is still spam.

Here's a response in a dev forum thread about spam by AfterShock to Scuzzy, who had a similar view to you:
Quote:
Originally Posted by AfterShock
Maybe we have different ideas of what spam is. You seem to define spam as people mindlessly priming and throwing all their nades as fast as possible. That's spam, sure, but spam encompasses a wider range of situations - any time you place/prime/throw/fire any weapon without knowledge of where your enemy is, hoping to do damage by pure luck, that's spam.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Scuzzy
The people that go on suicide runs for spamming aren't looking to be better at combat, they're looking for spam kills.

The only way to prevent that type of spam, which is really what you want to prevent
This is where you're assuming incorrectly. That's not really what I want to prevent. First and foremost I want to prevent spam from being an optimal tactic (and used consistently in competitive play). If you think it's only "spammers" that employ spam as a tactic, then you're wrong.

In many cases, spamming is the optimal way to play (for example, nail grenades are 99% thrown without knowledge of whether any enemies are incoming).

Griefers or "suicide run spammers" who spam simply because they are bored or want to grief are a different matter entirely. If spamming is a route to failure then getting spammed isn't so bad; its when they spam and win that the problem is worst.
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gwarsbane
Biggest difference between the laser and nail grenades is that people will just run though and hop over the lasers taking no damage or taking very little damage. The nails almost seem to be all over the place and you don't want to chance running past the grenade itself in case it goes off close to you.
That is precisely the point, as it decreases the effectiveness of spam and creates infinitely more interactivity. See my last post.
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Old 12-03-2011, 04:54 AM   #14
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I've never said any weapon that can be used as spam is bad. I've not even said that spam itself is bad. What I'm saying is that when a grenade/weapon/etc is best used as spam, it is a problem (the blue pipe launcher fuse being shortened was done for similar reasons). The best soldiers in both FF and TFC spam their nail grenades. The only situation you've presented in which the nail grenade is not used as spam is for damaging a cloaked spy. Fair enough. That is one situation in which a nail grenade is used for something other than spam. Everything else is definitely spam.
If thats the only place you can think of that a nail grenade would be useful, then you really need to open your eyes or play more.

Here a couple off the top of my head...

On Shutdown 2 (or really any other map) "Incoming, main door"
Soldier watching main door tosses nail grenade, door opens person gets hit with lots of nails. Possibility of it exploding in his face. Even if they make it into the hallway, they still get hit by nails all the way down the hall way.

Soldier watching main door tosses laser grenade, door opens, person gets hit by maybe 1 laser, jumps over the rest or runs with them to avoid them. Only has to go so far before lasers can't reach.


Drop down.
"Incoming water" Soldier runs from main entry to water entrance and tosses nail grenade into the water. The person swims into the spinning nails, tries to get up out of the water and gets a blast up the back side.

Soldier runs from main entry to water entrance and tosses laser grenade into the water. The person swims into the spinning lasers, tries to get up out of the water and takes no further damage.


Aardvark
"Incoming button" Lasers go down, soldier watching flag area primes a nail grenade, tosses it onto the flag, pyro that was coming in from the vent who is damaged from running across the yard waits while nails go just over his head, scout come flying in from button side, just about to grab the flag when the grenade goes off in his face, doesn't kill him but stops him dead in his tracks, soldier finishes him off then sees pyro and finishes him off.

Lasers go down, soldier watching flag area primes a laser grenade, tosses it onto the flag, pyro that was coming in from the vent who is damaged from running across the yard continues to come in due to the lasers only reaching so far, soldier sees him and fires at him. Scout come flying in from button side, grabs the flag and continues of his way out the other side while taking very little damage from the lasers. Soldier is unable to kill him because hes moving too fast and he didn't see him till it was too late due to being distracted by pyro.

All those events have happened while playing in pubs.


Quote:
Originally Posted by squeek. View Post
How about spawning as a soldier on openfire, priming a nail grenade and grabbing the gren pack, then throwing the primed nail grenade onto the water ramp, throwing another onto the water ramp, and then throwing one on the battlements steps. This is a very viable and useful tactic that could be seen in pickups by the best soldiers, but it is still spam.

Here's a response in a dev forum thread about spam by AfterShock to Scuzzy, who had a similar view to you:
And the same thing can be done with the laser grenade, so whats your point?

No matter what the weapon is people are going to "spam" it for what ever reason. Besides I haven't actually seen anyone in pubs do what you said. Seeing as how pickups have all kinds of rules to them why not just add in no spamming of grenades. I have seen people prime a grenade and run out of spawn but its because they just died in or near the tunnel and are trying to stop someone.


Quote:
Originally Posted by squeek. View Post
That is precisely the point, as it decreases the effectiveness of spam and creates infinitely more interactivity. See my last post.
So to remove the effectiveness of what you consider spam you made a grenade that did less damage, that people ignore and jump right past because there was no worry of it blowing up beside them, or doing anything to them once they were out of is very small range.

But well they can still spam the lasers grenades so it seems like you nerfed them for no reason at all.


Again this is why servers put the nail grenades back, because the laser grenades are nerfed to the point of uselessness.
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Old 12-03-2011, 05:31 AM   #15
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If thats the only place you can think of that a nail grenade would be useful, then you really need to open your eyes or play more.
I've never once talked about the usefulness of the nail grenade in this thread. It was indeed useful, but it was also a flawed mechanic that rewarded spam and created frustration. The two are not related. For example, an ability that instantly kills every enemy on the map would certainly be useful, but it wouldn't be a good thing to put in the game.

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And the same thing can be done with the laser grenade, so whats your point?
I basically directly answered this question in one of my previous posts:
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Originally Posted by squeek.
Now, by this definition, the laser grenade could also be considered somewhat spammy. But, the difference is, laser grenades do not become more useful when spammed, they become a lot less useful. Throwing a laser grenade or two in a high traffic area and moving away from it makes it very easy for enemies to dodge that damage. Laser grenades are most useful when you are nearby to take advantage of the predictable movement of someone dodging the laser grenade damage, forcing them to take the damage in favor of unpredictable movement, or influencing their decisions in a myriad of other ways.
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So to remove the effectiveness of what you consider spam you made a grenade that did less damage, that people ignore and jump right past because there was no worry of it blowing up beside them, or doing anything to them once they were out of is very small range.

But well they can still spam the lasers grenades so it seems like you nerfed them for no reason at all.

Again this is why servers put the nail grenades back, because the laser grenades are nerfed to the point of uselessness.
They are only useless if you treat them as if they are nail grenades. They are not nail grenades. You have to actually use them effectively for them to be effective (for starters, not spamming them and putting them in a location that you are near and can take advantage of). This shouldn't be a novel concept.

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Seeing as how pickups have all kinds of rules to them why not just add in no spamming of grenades.
It's sad that this belief still exists. The rules are: "No hacking, no griefing, no ruining/leaving early, no yard defense unless a flag is involved." End of list.
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Old 12-03-2011, 06:03 AM   #16
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Although I do like having no explosion to worry about, I do think the explosion had some level of skill to be able to kill someone with. Obviously you can't really time the grenade to explode where an enemy will be as well as a frag grenade, but to me that just makes it more difficult to get kills with its explosion. Some of the time if I am playing defense, I can hear an enemy prime a conc as they get ready to come into my base. This gives me a split second to react and throw a nail grenade, but I then have to throw it in a direction where I think they will be in when it either a) starts spinning, b) explodes, meaning I can throw it down a hallway, knowing they are going to come my way and it will explode by the time they get there if they get past me. As it stands now, you can simply bhop in most situations around the laser grenade.

Take Session for example. The upper hallway to flag room is usually guarded by a Soldier. If I hear a scout prime a conc, I prime a nail grenade, I can be in the middle of the hallway, throw a nail near the entrance to the flag room and if the scout happens to get past me, I have one last line of defense, the explosion to my nail grenade.

So in some instances, the explosion was useful. Maybe just make it not do damage, but a 1 second concus instead of just fizzing out?
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Old 12-03-2011, 06:22 AM   #17
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Skill at guessing seems like an oxymoron, does it not?

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Originally Posted by KubeDawg
So in some instances, the explosion was useful.
Again with this word "useful." Yes, the explosion was useful. I never have and never will argue that fact. That has nothing at all to do with why the nail grenade was replaced.

As a thought experiment, would there be any difference in your session example if there was a built-in 25% chance to do some amount of damage between, say, 40-125 to someone as they passed you? Is that a good mechanic to have in the game? Why or why not?
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Old 12-03-2011, 06:43 AM   #18
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Because that damage is initiated by me correctly priming and throwing a nail grenade, just for that purpose alone.
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Old 12-03-2011, 07:04 AM   #19
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But that choice was made 3 to 7 seconds ago (4 second prime + 3 seconds spitting nails). It's literally impossible to predict that far into the future, and you're just hoping that he is unlucky enough to run into the explosion at the right time.

However, there is one situation in which the nail grenade becomes interesting, and it's similar to the situation you described. If the offense sees the defense throw a nail grenade, then he can make an informed decision about how and when to get past it. Sadly, though, that was very uncommon.
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Old 12-03-2011, 04:52 PM   #20
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I guess I just don't understand why you keep pushing the laser grenade over the nail grenade because everything you say about the nail grenade and spam can be said about the laser grenade. The only difference is that the laser grenade is less useful.
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