I'm thinking you just left yourself open for my random balance ramblings. ;)
Any thoughts on this?
Been brainstorming slaughter-oriented dehacked changes of my own for a while, although I've ultimately moved on to ZDoom in the last months. Agreeing with you on most of your thoughts and conclusions.
I didn't understand the 2 shells drop per sargeant thing. You can make them drop 4 shells instead of their shotgun by switching the ID (DoomEd?) number in DeHackEd, I've done so and it works fine; or perhaps it was .bex and not .deh? I get confused between the two, but given that most slaughtermaps are at least Boom compat you probably could go for .bex without trouble.
My own plan was to go with:
- slot 1, fist. Swapping the animation so the damage hits when the fist connects (purely cosmetic). Thought about making it perhaps faster, but didn't push the idea any further. No chainsaw.
- slot 2, shotgun. Same reasoning as yours - pistol sucks, shotgun is a great early game weapon, useful for sniping to an extent and fighting small amounts of low-tier monsters.
- slot 3, chaingun. Twice the "damage", with 0 duration frames. Brings its theorical DPS right about where the SSG is; which might seem OP at first glance considering the CG has also much less spread, but in actual gameplay burst damage turns out to be a significant advantage, as you only have to focus on your aim for a minimal amount of time, leaving you more leeway to focus on moving around.
- slot 4, SSG. No change either.
- slot 5, RL. No change.
- slot 6, PG. I went back and forth a lot on this and am still not sure I ended up with the right numbers, but after much tweaking I bumped the projectile damage to 200% (from 5 * 1d8 to 10 * 1d8) and slashed the firing rate to 60% (from 3 tics per frame to 5 tics per frame). This makes the plasma gun a viable alternative to the BFG against tough mid-tier targets, as well as an interesting option at mid-range against cybies and spider MMs in situations where getting in close would be too dangerous.
- slot 7, BFG. No change.
The idea between putting SG and SSG in slot 2 and 4 is so they can use bullets (renamed "shells", obv.), and so picking ammo when you're out makes a switch to the appropriate weapon. Having the SG as slot 2 and SSG as slot 3, with both using shells, means you never get a switch to the SG by picking up shells (and might get a switch to the SG by picking up bullets), and running out of shells with the SSG will make you switch to the SG if you don't have the chaingun yet, forcing a second weapon switch in a row to a weapon you can actually shoot!
The downside of my solution is that the SSG will happily shoot with 1 bullet left, ending up with -1 "shells". It didn't seem to break anything during testing, just looks odd on the HUD.
As for plasma/BFG, I felt something needed to happen there - the BFG being so much more ammo efficient in almost every situation. The gap is so wide most slaughter players will conserve their cells until they find a BFG, sometimes even when the level is positively filled with ammo. Trying to rebalance this is a fine line to walk, though, overbuffing the PG can turn it into the go-to option for boss fights. The BFG being such an outlier, it would make sense from a game design perspective to nerf it, but so much of the Doom gameplay, especially slaughter gameplay, is based on player familiarity with the arsenal and monsters, it's hard to scale back without messing with the feel of the weapon, and as a result, the gameplay itself; i.e., I toyed with changing the amount of cells per shot so the PG would be relatively more efficient and the BFG would have less shots at max ammo, and even changing it to 12 max (as opposed to the default 15 max; 40 per shot with 600 cells), I found my doomguy lowering down his BFG at times I didn't expect. It seems easier to adjust to something being stronger than it used to be than something being weaker, so buffing the PG it is.
(Also, why only 7 weapons? In slaughter gameplay reactiveness is key, and I feel having to press the same hotkey twice to get a particular weapon is undesirable. Vanilla slaughter "alleviates" this problem in a way because you don't often want to use the shotgun, and the chainsaw is, against slaughter hordes, generally speaking, so weak you can just avoid picking it up and hold out for a berserk pack, but having better, higher priority weapons in slot 1 and 3 can make this bothersome. Of course, I am limiting my options by doing that. DeHackEd forces a lot of tough tradeoffs.)
In an earlier version of my mod, I went with the auto-shotgun idea as well; although I opted to replace the shotgun with it directly. I figure if you're going to have an auto-shotgun using the exact same attack but faster, there is little point in keeping the regular shotgun around. That is, given my reluctance to fully use slot 3, so you might not be in the same boat. You could have a chaingun or machinegun in slot 2 as an extra weapon, though - a weapon that would use the appropriate kind of ammo for its slot. I went with 12 tics per shot, which feels admittedly slow for an auto-shotgun, but at 8 tics per shot it felt too easy to lock anything into its pain state, up to and including a cyberdemon. Then again, as you mention it *does* eat ammo like candy.
Likewise, experimented with a sniper rifle for a while. Twenty shots at once (similar to a perfect SSG shot) seemed just about right for me, with a slower reload than SSG. The SSG is so well balanced against mid-tier monsters, giving a second option in that same damage range opens up interesting dynamics. The annoying part is having to devote an entire ammo type to this weapon, or live with funky results when you use it at low ammo.
Ultimately, you'd probably want to make some decent maps with your mod as a showcase. I'm guessing there would have to be some kind of momentum to get people to try mapping with such a mod.