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- The kind of weapon (including the hand) you are currently using
- The punch interval of the weapon
- The time since the last punch
- The damage type of the weapon and the armor of the victim
If you hold down the punch button, even the strongest weapon will only deal rather low damage. To fight efficiently, you have to wait before punching again.
A punch can only deal its full damage when the time since the last punch was equal or larger to the weapon's punch interval (this is the time it takes for the weapon to return to its original position in your hand after a punch). If you punch earlier, you will deal reduced damage or even none at all. You can see this effect in the animation of your wielded weapon. Only if the weapon has returned to its original position in your hand, it will deal full damage again.
This is a rather advanced concept which is rarely used extensively in games.
A punch only deals damage if the victim has an armor group which the weapon has as a damage group. For example, if your weapon has the damage group “stone” and you attack an enemy with the armor group “flesh”, it doesn't deal damage, but enemies with the armor group “stone” can be harmed. In games, armor groups and damage groups are currently rarely used.
In Minetest Game, you don't have to worry about armor types. All players and weapons have the armor/damage type “flesh” which means everyone can deal damage to everyone.