Variable Accuracy

From gdp3
Jump to: navigation, search

Game mechanics to simulate differences in the difficulty to hit what one aims at.

In real life, hitting what one aims at is quite difficult. This is however not the case in games since the granularity of game worlds and the rather simple physics needed to create a basic combat system can result in players always hitting what they aim at. When this is seen as a problem, Variable Accuracy can introduce to make hitting what one aims at depend on more gameplay factors.


Perhaps not too surprising, Variable Accuracy is often found in First-Person Shooters focused heavily on combat, e.g. America's Army and the Battlefield, Far Cry, Left 4 Dead, and Red Orchestra series. However, they are found in games which combine this with roleplaying elements, e.g. the Borderlands, Deus Ex, and Fallout series.

More restrictive version of Variable Accuracy - for example those that limit movement or perception - can be found in horror-oriented games such as the Resident Evil series and Silent Hill series. This also occurs in games rewarding stealth (e.g. the Metal Gear Solid series).

Using the pattern

Variable Accuracy requires the presence of Weapons (conceivably other devices such as cameras could use the pattern as well). That given, three main ways of creating Variable Accuracy has been identified: Wobble Aiming, Iron Sights, and Stationary Aiming.

Wobble Aiming[1], found for example in the Left 4 Dead series, the Deus Ex series, and the latter installments of the Fallout series, is simply that the Crosshairs either move slightly or that players are presented with a circle showing the potential hit area of a shot. While the latter makes use of Randomness, players are often able to lessen the movement or circles through doing Extended Actions (aiming) or acquiring better Skills or Upgrades for their Weapons. Wobble aiming is very often affected negatively by player Movement, but can also be affected by taking Damage (either in itself or as extra consequences of Critical Hits besides taking Health reductions) or as part of Near Miss Indicators.

Iron Sights[2], used in the Far Cry series, Red Orchestra series, and America's Army among others, is support of aiming by letting players use the actual diegetic aims and scopes of the Weapons. What this means typically is that players have an additional action letting them look through their sights, and if they do not do this they may not have Crosshairs or may have significantly less chance of hitting targets.

The previous option for Variable Accuracy typically affects Movement, but Stationary Aiming[3] takes this a step further. Found for examples in the Metal Gear Solid, Metroid, Resident Evil, and Silent Hill series, this only allows aiming when players are stationary and may even hinder unaimed firing while moving.

These techniques can be combined, e.g. Borderlands and Battlefield series uses both wobble aiming and iron sights.

Diegetic Aspects

Variable Accuracy is often introduced to increase Thematic Consistency, and as such, it is typically also important that the ways players can affect the Variable Accuracy, e.g. the Skills, Upgrades, and Weapons available fit the setting.

Interface Aspects

Variable Accuracy typically requires some work on the game interface, especially concerning how Crosshairs can be used to indicate the level of accuracy one currently has.


Variable Accuracy is a way of modifying Weapons so that Aim & Shoot action, and thereby Combat, becomes more difficult. The level of accuracy attained in games using the Variable Accuracy is often displayed through a visual change in the Crosshairs presented to the player. When the Variable Accuracy depends on Skills or Weapons the players has, this creates Player/Character Skill Composites, and these can be further modified by Upgrades. The use of sights that have to be activated (i.e. the iron sights option mentioned above) make players limit their perception. This may cause both Disruption of Focused Attention and Surprises if this means that other events are unnoticed and then require them to react quickly. The Stationary aiming option for Variable Accuracy imposes Movement Limitations as well as making Movement and aiming into Incompatible Goals.

The introduction of Variable Accuracy, and potentially the addition of Skills, Upgrades, and actions that affect this can make for both Challenging and Complex Gameplay. This is however often a side effect of trying to create Player Balance by balancing the different Weapons against each other, most often trying to reduce the effectiveness of sniper weapons. Indirectly, this means that the presence of Variable Accuracy in games reduces the usefulness of Sniper Locations.

By making it less certain that one will hit what one aims at, the pattern works against Predictable Consequences.


Can Instantiate

Challenging Gameplay, Complex Gameplay, Incompatible Goals, Movement Limitations, Player Balance, Thematic Consistency

with Damage and Health

Critical Hits

with Skills or Weapons

Player/Character Skill Composites

Can Modulate

Aim & Shoot, Combat, Crosshairs, Disruption of Focused Attention, Movement, Sniper Locations, Surprises, Weapons

with Upgrades

Player/Character Skill Composites

Can Be Instantiated By

Extended Actions Randomness, Weapons

Can Be Modulated By

Damage, Movement, Near Miss Indicators, Skills, Upgrades

Possible Closure Effects


Potentially Conflicting With

Predictable Consequences


New pattern created in this wiki.


  1. Page on the GiantBomb site describing Wobble aiming.
  2. Page on the GiantBomb site describing Iron Sights.
  3. Page on the GiantBomb site describing Stationary Aiming.