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Improving compression blast… usability.

In Team Fortress 2, the Pyro class has a rather special ability to–through careful timing–reflect enemy projectiles. Since Valve seems to be trying to further emphasize this role, I think it would be a good idea to address some issues with the compression-blast’s usability. Why usability? Because the compression blast (or “airblast”) is one of the most ping-sensitive mechanics in the game, requiring both a fine sense of timing as well as being not compensated for lag effects.

There are some good technical reasons for it to be ping-sensitive, but at the moment is lacks important feedback to users so that they can judge an correct for the effects of internet latency. Read on for pictures.

If you clicked too soon or too late, you can now know.

Audible Airblast

Have you ever thought: “Damn, I was sure I clicked at the right time…”? You’re not alone. The first suggestion involves audible feedback, and should be pretty easy to implement. On each side of the normal reflection zone, another two triggering areas exist which will not actually reflect projectiles inside them, but will instead make a noise. This greatly reduces the effect of blind guessing, especially if you visit servers which give you varying pings.

For coding complexity, I think this would involve very little work to bolt these triggered areas on the existing reflection code. In terms of media, it would require two new inventive noises, probably based on the existing “whoosh” sound, perhaps with the noise cutting off with an upward or downward note.

Visible Airblast

While I prefer the audio approach, another worthwhile fix would be visual. Currently there is no visual feedback from the airblast which is not a client-side prediction. That is, when you click to trigger the airblast, you see it happening immediately even if the “real thing” occurs a split-second afterwards. The only way to tell when the airblast really occurs (and thus, what kind of lag-delay you are dealing with) is from already-successful reflections.

Soldier rockets offer a useful comparison here: While the muzzle-flash and sound occur immediately, there is a detectable delay before the rocket itself spawns in the game world. The airblast needs this same kind of feedback. It only needs to be visible to the user, and could be demonstrated by some sort of distortion or puff of particles in the air.

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3 Responses

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  1. Jeziah says

    Have you shown this to Valve? because do want.

  2. Darien says

    Once I get PackBsp out of Beta, I plan to put on my ninja gear, scale the exterior of Valve HQ, cut a precise hole in the window with a diamond-tipped cutter, and leave it on Gabe’s desk as a mysterious letter, smelling faintly of jasmine.

    But not actually handwritten, because that’d just be extra work for everyone involved.

  3. Darien says

    No response from Mr. Walker… :/