As of 18.104.22.168, manually cycling firearms requires the player to press specific keys,
(either pressing the [Reload] key or the [Primary Attack] key,) cannot be initiated while aiming down sights, does not have any effect on point of aim, is not impacted by skill levels, (as these are not implemented yet,) and will still chamber a cartridge and be ready to fire even if the animation is skipped.
Each point listed above should be changed to some degree, and some of these changes may already be planned, expected, taken for granted, or seemingly inevitable, but will be listed regardless.
I am perfectly fine with requiring player input in order to cycle firearms, which can be used to facilitate changing ammunition types, nerf high tier sniper/anti-materiel rifles, require player skill (skillpoints and/or actual skill) to make certain low tier weapons as effective as higher tier weapons. What I would want to change is what buttons are pressed to cycle the action; [Primary Attack] is fine to cycle the action with, but [Reload] has another function that it should fill regardless of whether you have a round chambered or not. Having an additional keybind to cycle the action with is definitely an interesting option, that allows tryhards and roleplayers to do specific weapon manipulations, and helps those who physically struggle to rapidly press the same key, but this should definitely not replace the ability to change magazines, atleast not with default controls.
It should be possible to cycle the action without releasing/toggling the [Secondary Attack] key, atleast under some circumstances. Perhaps, only certain weapons should be able to do this (which is a buff some games give to straight-pull bolt actions,) perhaps it should require a perk to do (a paragraph on skills is forthcoming,) or perhaps the player should always have the option to either cycle the action while aiming down sights, (which would keep the weapon shouldered, reducing the time it takes to go back to point shooting/aiming down sights and maybe the amount point of aim gets displaced) or to cycle the action while not aiming down sights, (which would cause the weapon to be pulled away from the shoulder, where better leverage could allow the action to be cycled faster and maybe more reliably, but would be extremely inaccurate to fire in the moments it is being brought back up to the shoulder.)
In the case of weapons that lack a stock, the difference wouldn’t be between shouldering the weapon or not, because they cannot be shouldered, but would instead be a difference between supporting the weapon with both hands and moving one of the hands to get better leverage.
The reason that cycling the action should be able to displace point of aim is for balancing weapons against eachother. To exemplify this I will use single- and double- action variants of a hypothetical revolver item, because the lack of variables will aid in rational comparison. It is generally agreed that lighter single-action triggers are easier to shoot more accurately than double-action triggers, which could handily be a way to balance out the inconvenience of having to manually cock the hammer between each shot, but would actually make the single-action lockwork a direct upgrade, no matter how it is used. By causing the point of aim to be displaced by cocking the hammer, we make it so the player can’t take advantage of the single-action accuracy buff unless they take the time to correct their aim after it is displaced. Of course different weapons might be balanced to cause extreme, minimal, or even nonexistent displacement of point of aim, and that’s fine, so long as other features or context balances this out.
Once skills are implemented, they should have an impact on the speed, reliability, and aim displacement of cycling actions, perhaps with specific skills for specific types of actuation (i.e. lever-action, single-action, pump-action.) In addition to skill levels based on doing actions, Nelson has also expressed interest in a Path of Exiles type skill tree (I’m not really advocating for it, but) if this skill tree were implemented, perhaps perks on this tree could be what determines what kinds of action a player can use while aiming down sights or gice the player the option to cycle their weapon without manually pressing a key to do so.
It was fun to do in the demo, but I don’t think I should really have to explain myself when I say that you shouldn’t be able to just skip or cancel the cycling animation to shoot faster. It would be nice, however if the other extreme, (that it is to say always having to completely restart your progress toward cycling the action when interrupted,) were avoided as well.
One additional thing that might be worth changing would be the fact that the action always cycles 100% reliably. Now I’m not saying that we should constantly be plagued by bizarre and dangerous malfunctions simply because of bad luck, but the combination of bad ammunition with unclean/tight chambers of poorly-maintained/extremely-accurate barrels should cause malfunctions in manually actuated weapons, just as they should in semi or fully automatic ones. Perhaps it should take multiple attempts to cycle the action, perhaps it should take a longer cycling animation, or perhaps the player should be able to either try spamming the button until they successfully cycle the action or hold down the button to force the action out.
Let me know your thoughts especially about the parts where I listed multiple ways something could be handled, because these are the parts I’m less sure about.