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Making a Gun Come to Life

Showcasing what it takes for the simple act of firing a gun feel good.

Showcasing what it takes for the simple act of firing a gun feel good.

This week’s post is inspired by this fantastic tweet:

We chose to show what it takes to make the simple act of firing a gun feel good. It’s more modest than the above tweet that shows what is basically a full combat encounter, but we hope it’s still interesting for people who want to know more about the way that games are made.

Obviously, what we show here is not the end of the story. Sounds, the way the weapon handles pre and post shot, enemy reactions to being hit or killed, or even the controller vibration curves are all important as well. But this time we focus just on gun itself.

Here goes (here’s the direct YouTube link, will open in a new window):

Step by step:

Hand animation

The basic core ADS (Aiming Down Sight) animation of the gun spitting out a bullet. Note this is literally a hand animation: the gun is an immobile object, it’s the hands that move.

Weapon animation

Now the gun comes to live, more or less behaving like a proper revolver.

Weapon kick

Note how the camera shakes a little when the gun is fired. This works towards that visceral feel of firing a weapon.


Recoil – notice how the camera is kicked upwards – exists for two reasons. One, because recoil exists in real life. Two, the speed and precision of repositioning the crosshair back onto the enemy is an element of skillful gunplay.

Recoil smoothing

There are two elements to recoil: vertical kick, and horizontal kick. Notice how the gun resets horizontally a bit faster than vertically. This is to make the spamming with max or near max rate of fire just a tiny bit easier. In result, the last split second of the recoil is purely vertical.

Muzzle FX

Muzzle flash is quite similar to recoil. It exists in real life, but also disorients the shooter for a split second, requiring subconscious re-assessment of the situation after the shot.

Muzzle Smoke FX

Just like the gun animation, it helps the gun feel more alive. Real life smoke lingers for much longer but that doesn’t work well in a video game. A keen eye would spot the smoke already present in the previous section (Muzzle FX) but that’s just because we forgot to separate the two for the video.

Impact Decal

A confirmation of where the bullet went. A generic effect for most surfaces, but obviously varied when hitting an enemy or when the bullets have special properties.

Impact FX

A subtle but effective effect. The smoke lingers a bit longer than the Muzzle Smoke FX and is a bit more condensed so the player can – at least subconsciously – distinguish between the two.

ADS Depth of Field, ADS Blur, Vignette:

The last three effects are all to simulate the real life focus on the sight and target. The ADS Blur simulates the peripheral vision, the Vignette (darkens the edges) gives the central area the feeling of a higher contrast, and the ADS Depth of Field gives the feeling of focus. The effects in the video are slightly exaggerated to showcase the features. Still, you will be able to disable all such effects if you prefer your ADS untouched visually.

Fail of the Week

We have to delay the combat preview by a week (so now it’s the beginning of April instead of March 28th). No drama, it’s just that I forgot that soon we lose both of our programmers for an entire week. Thanks, Game Developers Conference!

Sorry about that, hashtag sadpepe.

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