attack type: projectile splash
rate of fire: 1 shot/0.2 seconds
damage per shot: 50
ammo type: cells
ammo on pickup: 15
HUD slot: 9
select command: impulse 250
special: won’t fire underwater, gibs zombies, plasma climbing
Designed to be an inventory-topping weapon, the plasmagun is a powerful yet non-gimmicky tool.
It’s characteristics make it mostly similar to the PGs appearing in id’s other games: the DooM 1/2/3 and Q3A versions. It isn’t quite as fast firing as those, but its greater damage puts it comfortably higher than them.
The most powerful aspect of the PG is not any of its individual characteristics, but the overall ease with which it can be wielded. The .2 ROF is fast enough for rapid spamming of groups of weaker monsters or fewer, stronger monsters but is also slow enough for controlled shots against lone weak monsters. Although projectile, the plasma bursts travel at a good speed, enough to hit flying monsters even at longer ranges without too much effort to compensate for movement. And the small splash radius is enough to further compensate for aim, as well as being ideal for groups of monsters as are likely to be thrown at the player in the latter stages of a map.
In simpler terms, the PG sits almost exactly between the SNG and RL. And this is a good way to think of the weapon.
The use of cell ammo for the PG, rather than a new ammo type, is a less obvious but perhaps more important characteristic to understand with regards your map. Because the LG is expected to usually not appear until the final stages of a map, and has clear pros and cons as to when to wield it, cells also are not expected to appear very often. The PG, however, with its ‘1 cell per individual projectile’ functionality can make more efficient use of available cells and can use those cells to resolve a far greater range of combat situations. Providing cells for the PG instead of LG becomes more like providing nails for NG and SNG. In fact, with a map design carefully oriented towards it, the PG can actually become a ‘main’ weapon – one that the player will choose to wield most of the time and use at the opening of combats until circumstances incline them to switch to another gun.
Also of interest to the issue of cell ammo is the possibility of the player carrying both the LG and PG. The weapons are still different enough – more so than the NG and SNG, probably more so than even the GL and RL – that they offer a good choice for the player. The problem is that the way in which they translate cell ammo into use and damage is quite different. A nail is essentially the same non-splash projectile, whether it is fired from the NG or SNG. An explosive is still the same large splash attack whether it is fired from the GL or RL. Not so for the LG and PG, and this produces a discrepency between use of LG and use of PG that can be harder to account for. Take into consideration the choice of monsters and combats the player will face if they have both LG and PG, and also consider the option of having only one or other weapon in your map.
I may be overstating the issues with the PG somewhat. It is a fun and easy weapon to use; just take these issues into consdieration for your map.
There are also some specific idiosyncrasies with the use of the PG.
Similar to the LG, it cannot be used underwater. Unlike the LG, it does not discharge and kill the player; it simply will not fire. As well as making thematic sense, what with it also being an electrical weapon, it adds a minor and very clear limitation to the benefits of the PG. Make of this what you wish, but bear in mind that players can easily become frustrated if such mutually-exclusive gameplay elements such as PG and water are unavoidably close together.
The PG also gibs zombies with one shot. Having a higher ROF and far less danger from self-inflicted splash damage, this can be an enourmous benefit. In some situations.
Finally, and we find it amusing that this did not occurs to us at the time, the Quoth PG now allows for the same trick jumping maneuvers as the PG in Q3. Plasmaclimbing. A single shot from the PG can be used to plasma-jump, exactly like a rocket-jump but with a much lower altitude; about 64 units, twice normal jump height. However, its much higher ROF allows a cumulative effect whereby players can aim at an angle of about 45° while facing a wall, hold down fire and rise. The maximum height I’ve ever managed is 128 units, though I’ve never been much of a plasmaclimber in Q3. Still, that’s enough of an advantage above normal jump height to potentially short-circuit the route through your map. To say nothing of speed running. Be warned ;)