How is Ammo Different from Cooldowns?

You’ve said cooldowns are uninteresting. Isn’t the stamina in SoulsBorne essentially that? just it’s shared between defense and offense, which makes it a more interesting dynamic, but it’s still about controlling your opportunity cost, which I think is the criticism you’ve made against cooldowns.

I said they were uninteresting because when you design with cooldowns in mind, you don’t typically design moves with good counterplay. Dark Souls attacks have very obvious counterplay in the form of startup and recovery times. You can counterhit people, and whiff punish them. So even without stamina, the system would work (except blocking would be OP). Beyond that, stamina in dark souls isn’t a pure cooldown, it’s a resource. Because it’s not made in that particular way, you’re not getting essentially risk-free chances to do a ton of damage that you either spend at the right time or don’t. You’re not being asked to essentially choose the optimal time to use the attack or lose the opportunity to do it then (this wording is weird, and might be a bit hard to understand what I mean by this). Cooldowns are essentially about saying, “I have to choose to either use it now, or hang onto it.” Dark Souls lets you attack twice in a row, the question is more, “Okay, I can attack and do moves now, but as I attack more, I’ll eventually have to pay the price unless I rein it in a little.”

Similar to this is Ammo in FPS games, which is MUCH more similar to a cooldown than dark souls stamina is, because there usually isn’t much counterplay in FPS games besides utilizing the terrain to move into a position where your weapon’s DPS is higher than your opponent’s. I’ve gone over the whole DPS problem in FPS and MMOs before though.

Though reading this question makes me think of Parries in 3rd strike. Those are essentially cool-down abilities. You use them, then they have a lockout period, and they don’t require you to commit to anything, so there’s no downside to using them except missing the chance to use them for the next 19 frames (and of course being hit in the wrong parry zone or thrown, so there is still some counter-play there, and the parry window being smaller than reaction time means there can be timing mixups in the form of early and late attacks that can beat out a parry defense). So parries are essentially a cool-down type of system, just also designed with counter-play in mind.

Also in my Halo 2 review I’m going to complain about how arbiter’s cloak is a cooldown instead of a stamina-like resource. I really need to stop putting off that one level design section.

Your distinction between cooldown and resource doesn’t seem clear? Seems like you consider something that can be gradually spent a resource and something instantly spent a cooldown? Also, ammo seems much more like a resource, because you need to gather it, not just wait, so it has tactical weight.

Ammo is more like a resource, just it’s functionally more similar to a cooldown (because there’s no penalty to shooting a bullet like startup, or recovery time, and shooting can’t be interrupted or punished) than attacks in dark souls.

If you spend something, then have to wait a non-negotiable amount of time before it comes back, it’s a cooldown. If you can spend parts of something, and wait variable amounts of time for variable amounts of it to come back.

Also, you don’t need to gather ammo in all games, such as overwatch, but it’s still not like a cooldown, because you can choose to reload now or later, and while reloading you can’t do anything else, which leaves you vulnerable, unlike a cooldown, which is totally unrelated to the character’s animation state.

So would you consider that Souls games could be better games without the stamina? They’d have to be redesigned to account for that of course, but do you think stamina adds significantly more than what a stamina-less approach could have accomplished?

I think it does add more than a no-stamina approach. I wouldn’t advocate it for every type of action game, but in the case of dark souls I think it serves a few useful purposes. For one, it naturally limits combo length based on how much stamina you have. For two, it limits your ability to run away from enemies. Three, it creates a connection between your ability to attack and defend in a game where finding safe opportunities to attack is already difficult due to the slow speed of your attacks. Four, it’s literally how the whole shielding system works. You’d need a guard gauge or more unblockable attacks without stamina. Fifth, it’s an interesting constraint to manage because it’s connected to all your actions.

You could totally build a souls-like game without stamina, but I don’t think it would be as good a game, and blocking would need to be reworked. By contrast, you could build a stylish action game with stamina, but I think that would be really lame and I’d hate you (of course if one makes a good attempt, then I’d be surprised/impressed).

One thought on “How is Ammo Different from Cooldowns?

  1. Lucas February 15, 2017 / 7:11 pm

    What about other games that use ammo like Zelda, Metroid, Castlevania,etc Do these games handle ammo well?

    I think you said in your Link between worlds post that the purple energy bar is good because it saves the hassle of farming resources, but at the same time it makes the game very unbalanced because it’s basically “infinite ammo”, so you can spam your best tools (like fire rod) without any thought or wall merge to avoid almost any attack.

    How would games like Metroid and Castlevania change if they had cooldowns instead of ammo? It might kill the resource management but it would make it more convenient and prevent the player from spamming the strongest thing.

    Could a mix of ammo and cooldown do the trick? Like say, what if Samus missiles and Richter Subweapons had ammo but Super missiles and item crashes were on cooldown? It would keep the resource management but prevent the player from abusing it.


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