Gamasutra: The Art & Business of Making Gamesspacer
View All     RSS
October 31, 2014
arrowPress Releases
October 31, 2014
PR Newswire
View All
View All     Submit Event

If you enjoy reading this site, you might also want to check out these UBM Tech sites:

Profiles in Gonzo Guns: Land Shark Gun
by Nathan Fouts on 02/12/13 10:33:00 am   Expert Blogs   Featured Blogs

The following blog post, unless otherwise noted, was written by a member of Gamasutra’s community.
The thoughts and opinions expressed are those of the writer and not Gamasutra or its parent company.


We're releasing Serious Sam Double D XXL on XBLA Feb 20th and it has lots of "gonzo" guns. Before the release, I thought it'd be fun to dissect what makes crazy guns fun in other games. This is a design exploration as to what it takes to make a successful "gonzo" gun. I like the weirder guns in games and hope more games use them since they often push designs in new directions. 


Armed and Dangerous was a funny, third-person game by Planet Moon Studios released on the Xbox back in 2003. The game followed a group of misfit rebels using some basic and some not-so-basic guns to save the day.


The Land Shark Gun in Armed and Dangerous is great because it brings to life a hilarious concept and is well fleshed out.




Concept: The concept is solid, easily understandable, and based on some extension of reality. It expands expectations of what could happen. People have always been safe from sharks on land, what if a shark could reach you even on land? It also helps that it works off a popular, existing media character (the SNL skit from the 70's) and is in the public's mind.


Gameplay: The gameplay is satisfying, while it is basically a fire-and-forget homing missile, it is still very effective and you're able to fire several at once. It takes out basic enemies (most of what you fight in the game) and occupies their time before killing them. It can take out several enemies in succession.




Visual and Audio: The execution is great as a whole. The shark is launched, the fin is clearly visible. When it's close to a target enemy, the enemy stops what he's doing, animates to look around, and even calls out with voice. A pregnant pause as the shark has disappeared underground, and then BOOM, the shark bursts high into the air, devouring the enemy has he screams. (Wow, that sounds terribly gory, but in the context of the game.. it's funny!)




Why It Works in This Game: Armed and Dangerous has many humanoid enemies which can emote fully. They can speak English and animate like humans. This is the quickest way to get ideas across about enemies, and generally hurting/interacting with something. Do it with humanoids. It's much harder if you have complete aliens. Designers and artists usually pull from any human qualities they might have when animating and giving feedback. (That may sound discouraging--and I wouldn't want to discourage designers from exploring more alien designs--but it is an issue if you are trying to convey more human emotions with very alien-like enemies.)

The most common enemy in the game is a soldier type. This is means the shark gun can be used on many enemies effectively which is important to have the player care about it. If the gun is too specialized, it can be something of a let down to use since you'd be restricted from using it as much. If there weren't as many soldiers, or you had to wait for too uncommon of a moment, it's tougher to make that appealing.

The gun is powerful which helps its appeal. That's not always necessary, but it helps. Being able to fire several at once adds to the feeling of power for the player. If you were confined to only one shark, it wouldn't have been a failure but it would have lessened the feeling of sending forth this crazy attack force fighting for your side.

Obviously at some point, the shark has to stop eating soldiers or it would then be too powerful. The animation time the shark spends eating the soldier also helps throttle its kill rate, if it attacked and killed too quickly it would be more powerful but without the payoff. Limiting ammo drops also helps control the power as deemed necessary in the given level design.


Bonus: In the comments below some of the inimitable staff of Planet Moon Studios have explained the origins of how the designs for the Land Shark Gun were formed. Check them out--it's interesting stuff.

And here are some more gun images shared by Planet Moon Studios art director, Ken Capelli:

shark model


shark gun model


Next Gonzo Gun: Morph-O-Ray

Related Jobs

Next Games
Next Games — Helsinki, Finland

Senior Level Designer
Magic Leap, Inc.
Magic Leap, Inc. — Wellington, New Zealand

Level Designer
Grover Gaming
Grover Gaming — Greenville, North Carolina, United States

3D Generalist / Artist
Demiurge Studios, Inc.
Demiurge Studios, Inc. — Cambridge, Massachusetts, United States

Lead System Designer


Gawel Ciepielewski
profile image
I love quirky weapons like this in games. For this very reason Painkiller and its successors rank among my favourite shooters. The degree of absurdity they provide, coupled with their power brings a sense of satisfaction that no assault rifle, handgun, or even RPG can provide.

Tim Williams
profile image
Great to see that people remember our good ol' Land Shark gun. I think this was probably a natural extension of the crazy weapons we had in our previous games, MDK and Giants: Citizen Kabuto. When designing "out-there" weapons, we always tried to make sure that, first and foremost, they had a practical purpose, and then let the craziness follow :)

Jamie Mann
profile image
Ah, MDK. The world's most interesting bomb was definitely a genius idea ;)

Ken Capelli
profile image
(Here's the working video link -

Yow, I built that over a decade ago. Eep.

If I remember, the design of the gun preceded its function... Bob concepted a gun that looked like a shark's mouth with a missile that had a fin on it because, why the fuck not (we had one that looked like a tuba as well), and later design (drunken riffing) resulted in the projectile tunneling into the ground and an actual shark erupting under the targeted enemy, gobbling him up horribly. I loved it.

I got to make weird shit at Planet Moon.

For funs:

Here's the shark model -
Here's the gun -
My crap magazine cover -
625724641724/ (I don't recall if this was ever used anywhere except here)

Tim Williams
profile image
Ken, I actually started it as the "Rabbiter," a weapon that would fire crazy rabbits at the enemy. Rabbits that would burrow towards it, attacking when they got there. From that it eventually became the shark gun, which caused the gun design to change to that of the sharks mouth, which was done so brilliantly :)

Nathan Fouts
profile image
Oh my gosh.. Ken, Tim, (+Planet Moon team) you all are amazing. I loved Armed and Dangerous. Thanks for the origin stories! Fascinating to read; I love design evolution stories. (Ken I updated the post to include the extra pics you shared--thanks)

shawn Nelson
profile image
So my son found my old copy of A and D loves it. He favorites are the Shark Gun and the Topsy Turvey Gun and the Black Hole Gun and the exploding sheep and anything Rexus says. Its cool when you get to re-vist something through fresh eyes.