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In virtually all shooting games that use ammo, there is also a maximum ammo limit, which often varies between different ammo types. One obvious advantage of using ammo limits is to control the scarcity of ammo, so that players cannot excessively hoard it and drastically affect the game's difficulty.

What factors affect the size of ammo limits? An obvious factor would be the rate of consumption; if an ammo type is used by rapid fire weapons, the limit for this ammo type should be higher. But it should be obvious that there are many other factors, since some types of ammo quickly run out and others never seem to. As a designer, what factors should guide my decision for ammo limits, and when/why would I deliberately constrain or expand an ammo type's limit?

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  • \$\begingroup\$ ... this is probably something best identified by testing (ie - you have to use rockets to kill enemy X, but you can only carry 12 and there are 13 in the next area...). It's not just the max limit, but also the rate at which replenishment occurs. Then there's other, story-related reasons; in The Last Of Us there's a sequence where you're hung upside down (by an ankle) and have to shoot incoming zombie hordes - you're given unlimited ammo during this time (in a game that otherwise has rather limited ammo). \$\endgroup\$ – Clockwork-Muse Nov 19 '14 at 12:38
  • \$\begingroup\$ I think this is one of those problems that's solved differently for everyone. Either through playtesting, arbitrary decision or following the example of other games or real life. This makes the question primarily opinion based. \$\endgroup\$ – MichaelHouse Nov 19 '14 at 15:12
  • \$\begingroup\$ The main issue to avoid here is too little ammo, a good fail safe can be to give the player a weak weapon that never runs out of ammo. Alternatively too much ammo can make ammo seem useless and simply weak, ammo should be valued as a resource otherwise why have it? As already said, its hard to know how these things will play out in your game without testing. \$\endgroup\$ – sydan Nov 20 '14 at 0:17
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The higher the damage output per second of a weapon, the more should you limit its ammo. Otherwise you give the player a too powerful tool to solve situations too quickly.

Let's say you have a huge boss monster. You invested plenty of time and resources into giving it lots of cool animations. To make sure that the player sees everything, you want the fight to take at least 60 seconds.

  • You give the boss 1000 hit points.
  • You give the player a pistol with 10 damage/s and a BFG with 100 damage/s.

When you give the player enough maximum ammo to use the BFG for a full 10 seconds, the fight will only last 10 seconds which would be too fast.

So you give the player enogh ammo to use the BFG for 4 seconds, which brings the boss down to 600 hit ponts. The player now needs an additional 60 seconds to kill it with their pistol, unless you allow them to scavenge for more BFG ammo during the fight.

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This considerations Philipp brought up, while absolutely correct, already assume what kind of game you are talking about. As alluded to in the comment about Last of Us, different games are going for a very different feel, and ammo limits play into that. If the player feels very constrained by ammo limits, the game will feel more tense and claustrophobic. On the other hand, looser ammo limits make the player feel powerful and encourage more frantic gameplay.

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