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Zombie Hunter University, Fairview

Dr. Raglan's Scientific-Minimalist School of Dead Frontier Weapons, Builds & Boss-Hunting

The Scientific-Minimalist Guide to Dead Frontier Weapons: Introduction

The Scientific-Minimalist Guide to Weapons will help students decide which tools are suitable for which purpose, answering the question: Is it possible to rely on current equipment, or is it necessary to upgrade to something better?

Weapons in Dead Frontier fall into two categories:

  1. Looting Weapons - used to pick off one or two zombies at a time.
  2. Grinding Weapons - used to fend off swarms of zombies.

Looting weapons include Melee, Pistols, and Rifles. These weapons tend to fire or strike slowly, delivering maximum impact with a single blow or shot to a single zombie.

Grinding weapons include Chainsaws, Shotguns, Machine Guns, and Grenade Launchers. These weapons tend to fire or strike quickly, spreading their damage out among several zombies.1

  • Note: Some guides refer to Looting Weapons as “silent weapons,” which is a misnomer, since pistols and rifles are not silent. Although these weapons will not attract swarms of zombies from off-screen (a process known as “Aggro”), they can draw the attention of any zombies visible on screen.

Students will need a mix of both types, but that mix depends on preference and playing style. Generally, students should begin their builds with a quiet looting weapon in order to loot effectively and earn money. Next add a grinding weapon, both for self-defense and for exterminating zombies to earn experience points and level up. Finally, add a third weapon later in the game, to add versatility.

The effectiveness of these weapons will be improved by raising stat points in certain areas, but different weapons require different stats (which is discussed in Dead Frontier 101 and subsequent courses).

Footnote:

  1. In the interest of accuracy, we should point out that Shotguns and Grenade Launchers are not, strictly speaking, rapid-fire weapons; they shoot at about the same rate as rifles and pistols. However, Shotguns fire up to 12 pellets per shot; a fragmentation grenade will impact up to fifteen zombies per blast. So in practical terms both weapons are disseminating damage much more quickly than Looting Weapons.

A NOTE ON TERMINOLOGY: ELITE VS. EPIC

The School of Scientific Minimalism sometimes refers to weapons as "Elite" or "Epic."

  • "Elite" once referred to the best weapon of a particular type, usually with 100-proficiency.
  • "Epic" was used to distinguish the even more powerful next generation of weapons, with 105, 110, or 120-proficiency.

Although these terms are mostly archaic now, we continue to use them as convenient shorthand to refer to high-end weapons.

"Elite Weapons" serve students well during senior semester at Fort Pastor. They are effective but affordable, because prices dropped when they were surpassed by more expensive Epic weapons.

"Epic Weapons" - once unnecessary luxury items - have now become vital equipment for graduate students exploring dangerous Black and White Zones in the far eastern corners of Fairview and the Wastelands south of Precinct 13.


DISTINCTIONS BETWEEN
LOOTING, GRINDING & CROWD CONTROL

To a certain extant, the distinction between different weapon functions is arbitrary. For example, with enough space to maneuver, students could grind their way through a small crowd of zombies with a Looting Weapon, such as a rifle or a pistol; even a rifle with a Very Slow Firing Speed could grind through a crowd of zombies trapped behind a fence.

In other cases, distinctions are more substantial, such as the one between Grinding and Crowd Control. Chainsaws, Shotguns, Machine Guns, and Grenade Launchers are all loosely defined as Grinding Weapons, yet the function somewhat differently: some are better at grinding; others are better at crowd control.

The distinction is fairly simple: "Grinding" means killing; "Crowd Control" means self-defense.

The distinction is most clear when comparing Shotguns to Grenade Launchers:

  • Shotguns spray a multitude of pellets at zombies, knocking them back; they have comparably low DPS, so they do not kill zombies quickly.
  • Grenade Launchers have high DPS, so they kill zombies relatively quickly; they have no knock-back, so they are poor weapons for self-defense. 
  • Conclusion: Shotguns are better for Crowd Control; Grenade Launchers are better for grinding.

Depending on their type, Machine Guns can handle both Crowd Control and Grinding. Heavy Machine Guns and Mini-Guns will knock zombies back and knock them dead quickly. Low- to mid-level Sub-Machine Guns and Assault Rifles loose their effectiveness at Grinding when they come up against large crowds of stronger zombies. The 120-proficiency Hammerhead assault rifle delivers as much DPS as some Heavy Machine Guns and Mini-Guns, but its slower rate of fire will not provide as much protection as a super-fast-firing Mini-Gun.

Based on this information, what conclusions do we reach? With three weapon slots available, it makes sense for a build to incorporate a quiet Looting Weapon and two rapid-fire weapons, one for Grinding and one for Crowd Control.


JUDGING WEAPON EFFECTIVENESS

Weapon Effectiveness should be calculated by five standards:

  1. Damage Per Hit
  2. Damage Per Second
  3. Damage Per Clip
  4. Knockback
  5. Firing Speed

These five considerations are to some extent interdependent:

  • A weapon with high Damage Per Hit can have low Damage Per Second and Knockback if its firing rate is slow.
  • A weapon with low Damage Per Hit can have high Damage Per Second and Knockback if its firing rate is fast.
  • A weapon with low Damage Per Hit can have high Damage Per Clip if it has a large ammunition capacity.

The Importance of Damage Per Hit:

DPH is most important when targeting individuals: the fewer hits to kill a target, the less likely a weapon is to attract nearby zombies. Damage Per Second is more of an issue for Grinding Weapons spraying hundreds of bullets into crowds, though it is also a factor when fighting a Boss with 30,000 Health Points.

When judging a Looting Weapon (which needs to kill individual zombies quickly and quietly), consider how well it handles the Common Zombies in the area where you are looting. If a weapon can one-hit-kill each Common Zombie in a zone, it is very effective.

If a weapon cannot one-hit-kill each Common Zombie in the area, the next best option is to kill each Common Zombie in one second or less, with two or at most three hits (depending on the speed of the weapon).

It may take four or five hits to kill the Uncommon Zombies, but if they are appearing on screen only one or two at a time, this is not a problem - as long as the weapon can kill the zombie with a single clip.

The Importance of Damage Per Clip:

Damage Per Clip becomes important when a single clip is not enough to kill a zombie (or in some cases, a pack of zombies). The weapon will pause to reload, creating a window of vulnerability. This is less significant for advanced students with maximum Reloading Stat, but for freshmen and sophomores, these pauses can have lethal consequences. Therefore, it often makes sense to stick with a lower DPH weapon if it can deliver more DPC.

For example, consider two rifles, the SL8 and the M24.

SL8                                   M24                               
Proficiency: 20Proficiency: 30
Average Damage Per Hit: 54.6Average Damage Per Hit: 63
Clip Size: 30Clip Size: 7
Damage Per Clip: 1638 Damage Per Clip: 315

At first glance, the 30-proficiency M24 looks like an improvement because it delivers more Damage Per Hit. However, the M24 holds only seven rounds, so its Damage Per Clip is low: 7 rounds x 63 = 315. That is not enough to kill a Brute or a Leaper. The 20-proficiency SL8 offers more Damage Per Clip because of its larger ammo capacity: 30 rounds x 54.6 = 1638. If there were more than five zombies on the screen, a student with low Reloading stat would have an easier time handling them with an SL8 than an M24.

Students should note that Damage Per Clip becomes less significant as stat points are added into Reloading. Also, DPC is never an issue for Melee and Chainsaws, which do not pause to reload – another advantage they offer for lower-level students.

Three Questions

When deciding whether a looting weapon is effective, a student of Scientific Minimalism should ask three questions:

  1. Can the weapon kill a zombie with a single shot?
  2. Can the weapon kill a zombie in a single second?
  3. Can the weapon kill a zombie with a single clip?

Ideally, the answer to #1 would be yes, but this is not always possible. For successful looting, #2 is important in most cases, allowing for occasional exceptions. As for #3, if a weapon is so weak that it cannot kill a zombie in a single clip, its owner may find him/herself in serious trouble.

When deciding whether a Grinding Weapon is effective, a student of Scientific Minimalism should ask:

  1. How much DPS doe sit provide?
  2. How much Knockback does it provide?
  3. How much DPC does it provide?

We will apply these standards in subsequent chapters recommending weapons by type. To see some of the math underlying these recommendations, students are advised to examine our Weapon Effectiveness Charts.


WEAPON PROFICIENCY PARADOX
Bigger is not always better

While leveling up through Dead Frontier, students may be tempted to acquire a new weapon every time they have accumulated the necessary proficiency points. This is not always a good idea. Though weapons with higher proficiency requirements are usually better, there are exceptions, depending upon what the weapons will be required to do.

Consider this example:

  • A 50-proficiency Shovel  takes longer to kill a Burned Zombie than a 60-proficiency Trench Knife.
  • However, the results are reversed when fighting a Blood Dog, which is a stronger zombie. In this case, the Shovel will kill the Blood Dog faster than the Trench Knife even though the later has higher DPS. 

This seems counter-intuitive, but the apparent paradox is explained by the fact that the higher DPS of the Trench Knife is an average based on faster striking speed. Averages can be misleading, because no weapon ever delivers an "average" strike; each blow is either critical or non-critical. 

What matters is how many blows it takes to kill a zombie. If both weapons require two blows to kill a target, the Trench Knife will kill the zombie first by striking faster. On the other hand, if the Trench Knife requires more blows to kill the zombie than the Shovel does, then the shovel may kill the zombie faster.

Let's analyze the differences between the two weapons:

  • The Shovel delivers more Damage Per Hit: 53 points for each critical. Two critical hits add up to 106 damage points.   At one hit per second, and averaging in non-critical hits, the Damage Per Second is 44.52.

  • The Trench Knife delivers less Damage Per Hit: 41 points for each critical. Two critical hits add up to 82 damage points. At a rate of 1.5 hits per second, and averaging in non-critical hits, the Damage Per Second is 51.66.

This means that both the Shovel and the Trench Knife must deliver two critical hits to kill a Burned Zombie (which has 80 health points). Assuming two critical hits in a row, the Shovel takes a full second (the first blow lands instantly; the next blow one second later). The Trench Knife delivers those two critical hits in .66 of a second (the first one instantly, the second .66 of a second later). In this case, the Trench Knife is clearly superior, because it delivers the damage more quickly.

This situation reverses with the Blood Dog, which has 100 health points. As noted above, two critical hits from a Shovel will deliver a total of 106 damage points. Assuming consecutive critical hits, two blows will kill the Blood Dog in one second (the first blow landing instantly, the next blow one second later).

The Trench Knife, on the other hand, needs three critical hits to deliver enough damage to kill a Blood Dog: the first blow lands instantly, delivering 41 damage points; the second blow lands .66 of a second later, raising the total damage to 82; and the third blow lands after 1.33 seconds, for a total of 123 damage points. 

The Trench Knife may be delivering more Damage Per Second, but numbers are deceptive because much of that damage is wasted (three critical hits from the Trench Knife deliver 123 damage points, but only 100 are needed to kill the Blood Dog). Effectively, both the Shovel and the Trench Knife are delivering only 100 damage points per dead Blood Hound, but the Shovel spreads the damage over two blows delivered in one second, while the Trench Knife spreads it over three blows delivered over 1.33 seconds.

  • Note: The probability of delivering three consecutive critical hits is considerably lower than that of delivering two consecutive critical hits: about 51% instead of 64%. The Shovel will kill a Blood Dog with two hits more often than a Trench Knife will kill a Blood Dog with three hits. 

To some extent, whether a student kills a zombie in one second or 1.3 seconds is a negligible difference; the distinction becomes more important in Yellow Zones and beyond, where Sirens provoke aggro by screaming. A 30-proficiency M24 rifle, which delivers enough damage per critical hit to kill a Siren with a single shot, may be preferable to a 75-proficiency SIC 550, which takes two shots to kill a Siren. Like the Trench Knife in the above example, the SIC 550 has the advantage of faster firing rate and higher DPS, but if the goal is to instantly silence a Siren, a single shot from an M24 is sufficient. 


SPECIAL WEAPONS
(Updated April 25, 2019)

While reading the Scientific-Minimalist Guide to Dead Frontier Weapons, students will note some gaps in our weapons coverage: Scientific Minimalism generally eschews Dusk, Limited Edition, and Unique weapons.

The reason for this is that we advocate using the minimum necessary weapon that will do the job; special weapons tend to be luxury items, out of reach to lower-level students for reasons of cost or availability. 

These weapons fall into four categories:

  • Dusk Weapons 

These are available only to survivors who earn entrance to the Dusk Shop (by earning the most experience, killing the most opponents, or reaching Level 220). Dusk weapons and armor used to be the cream of the crop, but over the years the original batch of Dusk items has been surpassed by subsequent releases; a new wave of X-Dusk items ranks closer to the top, but even these are not necessarily the best that money can buy. The older Dusk items still have an advantage of lower proficiency requirements (e.g., the 100-proficiency Dusk Razor can one-hit-kill a Long Arm - same as the Sharktail and the Dual Blade, both of which are 120-proficiency).

  • Limited Editions 

These are weapons that were available for a limited time. No new ones will be made, but used ones are for sale in the marketplace at each outpost. Limited-Edition weapons tend to be expensive - because of their rarity, they retain their value as collector's items, even after they have been superseded by more powerful weapons. Like Dusk Weapons, Limited Edition weapons retain some advantage because of proficiency requirements.

For example, the "Corpse" line of weapons (Corpse Blaster, Corpse Ripper, Corpse Shooter, etc) require proficiency of 100/105/110 but perform almost as well as 120-proficiency weapons. These can be useful for survivors after Level 50, when raising proficiency to 120 for a third weapon can take quite a while. Corpse weapons also tend to have larger ammo capacity than similar non-Corpse weapons, and usually feature Fast Reload Speed (the Corpse Blaster shotgun being an exception).

  • Unique Weapons 

These may still be purchased in the Credit Shop but not looted on the streets of Fairview. The Rebellion rifle, the Titanium Blades, the Gau mini-gun, and the Wraith Cannon fall into this category. They are worth owning for those with the cash to afford them, but they are not necessary.

The big advantage of the Rebellion and the Titanium Blades is their proficiency requirements, which are very low compared to how effective the weapons are: the Rebellion requires 40 proficiency points; Titanium Blades requires none at all. Therefore, these weapons can be equipped much sooner than comparative weapons with higher proficiency requirements - but only if the hefty price tag is not a deterrent.

  • Crafted Weapons (added April 25, 2019)

Since December 2018, it has been possible to craft weapons that are almost as effective as X-Dusk equipment. Essentially, a student takes an inexpensive, low-level weapon and supersizes it in the Crafting area of an outpost by paying a fee and supplying some required items: a blueprint, some parts, and some Devil Hearts - all of which can be looted from Devil Hounds that spawn in the Inner City every few days. Crafted Weapons can be purchased in the marketplace, but like all specialty weapons they are extremely expensive. Students of Scientific Minimalism are advised to avoid these weapons until they have reached Post-Graduate levels, when they can expend the time and effort necessary to loot all the necessary items.


WEAPON STAT REQUIREMENTS

Weapon Proficiency requirements are straightforward: a student needs 30 proficiency points to equip a 30-proficiency weapon such as a Gramm M11 submachine gun. Stats requirements are less obvious. What is the difference between High Critical Chance and Very High Critical Chance? Or between Very High Accuracy, High Accuracy, and Average Accuracy?

In a nutshell, these distinctions indicate how many stat points are necessary to optimize a weapon.

There are four stats that affect weapon use:

  1. Strength
  2. Accuracy
  3. Critical Hit,
  4. Reloading.

The maximum Strength is 100; the maximum for the other three is 124, with added points from Mastercrafted weapons.

Only the first stat, Strength, is a necessity; the others are helpful but not necessary.

If a weapon has a Strength requirement, a student must have at least that much Strength to equip the weapon; with any less, the weapon simply will not slip into one of the three weapon slots among Inventory & Equipment. In the case of all other stats, a weapon can be equipped without the proper stat points; it simply will not work very well.

Some stats have a cap; others do not.

  • Of the other three weapon-oriented stats, Reloading will continue to improve as long as points are added, until the maximum of 124 is reached; the only cutoff is personal preference.
  • Accuracy and Critical Hit have some instances in which there is a threshold over which additional points will not increase performance. 

We can illustrate this with two charts. First, Accuracy:

ACCURACY TABLE

WEAPON ACCURACY

RELIABLE AIM

PERFECT AIM

OFF-SCREEN*

Very High

40

60

80

High

60

80

100

Average

80

100

124

Low

100

124

Not Possible

Very Low/Ultra Low

124

Not Possible

Not Possible

*Off-Screen Aim is useful for pinpointing humans, whose off-screen location can be detected on the Dead Frontier GPS monitor in the upper-right corner of the screen. Off-screen aim can deliver a kill shot to a zombie that has been knocked off-screen by a previous shot. Off-screen aim can also be used against zombies that betray their off-screen presence in some way (the glow from a Flaming Zombie, for example, or the projectile vomit from a Mother).

Weapons with Very High Accuracy, such as Long Range Rifles, require only 40 stat points to achieve reliable aim.

Students reach this amount without adding base stats at all, only M.C. stats. This makes Rifles appealing for low-level students beginning work on a build.

With 60 stat points, Very High Accuracy Rifles achieve Perfect Aim.

There is little reason to add more points. Off-screen aim is more luxury than necessity, except in the case of PVP - a past-time of which we thoroughly disapprove.

80 stat points are necessary to achieve Perfect Aim with High Accuracy weapons, such as Close Quarter Rifles.

  • 100 points are necessary for weapons with Average Accuracy, such as Revolvers and Grenade Launchers.
  • 124 points are necessary for Low Accuracy Weapons, such as Submachine Guns.
  • No number of points will achieve Perfect Aim with Very Low & Ultra Low Accuracy weapons (e.g., Heavy Machine Guns).

Next, a look at Critical Chance:

CRITICAL CHANCE TABLE

WEAPON CRITICAL CHANCE

MAXIMUM CRITICAL HIT RATE

Very High

80% @ 80 points

High

80% @ 112 points

Low

20% @ 124 points

Very Low

4% @ 124 points

Very Low (Mini-Guns)*

2% @ 124 points

*Note: Both Heavy Machine Guns and Mini-Guns are designated as "Very Low," but there is a difference in their Critical Chance performance.

This chart illustrates that weapons with Very High Critical Chance and High Critical Chance can reach an 80% chance of delivering a Critical Hit; the only difference is the number of stat points required. This is similar to what we saw in the Accuracy Table: weapons ranging from Very High Accuracy to Low Accuracy could achieve Perfect Aim, depending on that stat points invested in Accuracy.

What lesson should students drawn from this?

Weapons starting from very different baselines of performance can be made equivalent through careful allocation of stats. Therefore, the choice of a weapon does not necessarily limit the potential performance possible in the final build.

To give a concrete example:

An Alpha Bull revolver and a VSS Vintorez Rifle can be made to perform almost identically to each other. The difference is that the Alpha Bull revolver (with Average Accuracy and Very High Critical Chance) will be optimized with 100 Accuracy Points and 80 Critical Chance points; the VSS Vintorez rifle (with High Accuracy and High Critical Chance) will be optimized with 80 Accuracy Points and 112 Critical Chance points.

This brings us to Reloading.

In the example above, the Alpha Bull and the VSS Vintorez perform identically in terms of Accuracy and Critical Hits; however, the Alpha Bull will pause more often to reload, because of its smaller ammo capacity (5 rounds instead of 20). When picking off zombies at at a time, this may not be noticeable, but it will become apparent when firing continuously:

  • Since the VSS can fire 20 times before pausing to reload, it can squeeze off 17 shots in 10.67 seconds (keeping in mind that the first shot fires the instant the trigger is pulled)
  • During this same period, the Alpha Bull will reload three times (after every five rounds). With maximum Reloading (124 stat points), the Alpha Bull will pause for .25 of a second for each reload, adding three-quarters of a second to its firing time.
  • The math can be a little confusing, but it works out that the Alpha Bull will fire its 16 shot after 10.75 seconds.
  • Therefore, by the time the Alpha Bull is firing its 16th shot in 10.75 seconds, the VSS will have fired 17 shots in 10.67 seconds. In other words, the VSS will be one shot ahead of the Alpha Bull.

One bullet is not much, but  over a prolonged street-cleaning operation, it could add up. If the VSS has maximum Reloading, the discrepancy will only continue to grow as the fight wears on.

What This Means Regarding Stat Allocation:

This means that the VSS does not need maximum Reloading to keep up the Alpha Bull. In fact, the VSS Vintorez could match the Alpha Bull shot for shot with only 100 in Reloading. In this case, the rifle would pause for one full second after 20 rounds while the revolver paused for one-quarter second after every five rounds.

For the mathematically minded student planning how many stats are necessary to perfect a build, this means that the VSS Vintorez and the Alpha Bull will give virtually identical performances when the rifle has 292 stat points (80 Accuracy + 112 Critical + 100 Reloading) and the revolver has 304 (100 Accuracy + 80 Critical + 124 Reloading).

Of course, in the real world of Dead Frontier, these mathematical distinctions are less important than they seem in the study hall of Zombie Hunter University. On the streets of Fairview, students will learn through experience how much Accuracy and Reloading are suited to their style of looting and grinding. 

Note: For a further examination of the significance of Reloading, check out this lesson: A Lesson in Reloading: Greyhawk vs VLock.


WEAPONS BY TYPE

The following chapters offer recommendations for each type of weapon available in Dead Frontier.

 

Matriculated

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