Extra Punctuation: Why Regenerating Health Sucks

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And if there wasn't a source of health nearby, you just had to be extra careful. And weren't those the most exciting parts of a game

This is very true for me. Playing Doom back in the day and playing half-life I always secretly loved those times when I screwed up and had to be extra careful until my health/ armour was back to a more agreeable quantity. All the while keeping my eyes peeled for even the tiniest boost I could find to keep me standing upright in-game. When the regen system was brought into games I thought it was an interesting take on things, but overall I do still prefer the old health bar/percentage system, where hiding for a few seconds didn't completely repair any mistakes you made. To me that has always felt like a kind of exploit. As long as you don't die, and can find a quiet spot to chill out for a bit, you're fine just doesn't agree with me.

Yahtzee "stole" my health idea. Of course, since I've never told anyone it's more likely he just came up with it on his own. Plus mine is a bit different, instead of "luck" it would be "
stamina" or "concentration" where whenever a hit would be registered you've automatically dodge said hit. This would work well in Star Wars games, where it is really unrealistic to pummel a Sith or Jedi with your lightsaber any more than once. No one in any of the movies continued fighting after even a glancing blow from a saber, let alone getting slashed to bits. It also has the added penalty of interrupting attacks.

Irridium:
I still don't know why developers don't use the segmented health as seen in Far Cry 2, Resistance: Fall of Man, and Chronicles of Riddick.

Your health bar is divided into smaller bars, and each bar regenerates, but only until that bar is full, and never more than that.

Basically, if there's some health left in the bar, the bar will regenerate, but it will only regenerate that bar. That means developers know players will always have at least one bar of health, and can plan accordingly.

I remember seeing Medal of Honor: Airborne try that once, and they executed it so poorly...possibly because the bars themselves were so small.

I agree with you on the segmented health. Perfect Dark Zero (though nowhere near as good as its predecessor) and Halo Reach have implemented this extremely well.

In PDZ, if you're punched, take fall damage, or playing the campaign on Agent, you only take "shock" damage that will recover; play on a higher difficulty or get shot, you take shock damage, but you're health bar also decreases. After a long and brutal fight, you could be left with a small sliver of health where the next attack will kill you.

In Reach (much like in Halo 1), your shields will take a few shots to allow you to get into cover, but if you can't escape they'll shatter, leaving yourself wide open for assault. Although there's a little health regeneration, you're only allowed to heal up to three bars instead of the whole thing. Plus the medpacs and Drop Shield are always a nice reward for a long and tough battle.

Being a long-time tabletop gamer, my first introduction to any sort of health management was through hit points in D&D, which immediately seemed both arbitrary but also the easiest way to manage damage infliction. It did lead to some silly situations where special rules had to be made regarding killing otherwise helpless enemies, or you'd have to sit there and hack at a fellow with a broadsword for several rounds before he was truly and finally dead. Also, it didn't matter how hurt you were, as long as you weren't below 1 hp, you were still functioning at the top of your game, but below that, you were dead. Plenty of other games since have added all sorts of methods for tracking damage, some much more realistic but most of them fairly forgiving because, as noted, unless you're really hard up for some gritty gameplay, dying every time you're shot isn't all that fun.

I think the current trend of 'recover in cover' allows a player to more easily navigate the game based on his or her skill level. That is, the game difficulty setting effectively controls how many hits you can take before you have to go to cover, and once you're in cover you're able to regen without worrying about whether or not you've already exhausted all the consumables in a given room or map. If I ever feel like I'm not being challenged enough in a game, I simply kick the difficulty up a notch, and I've yet to feel like I breezed through without having to put in an adequate amount of work.

Speaking of work, it does all boil down to what ends up being the most fun. Some people hate checkpoint systems, for instance, and want to be able to save their game wherever, and others think that saving your game too often ruins the immersion. I think health systems are a lot like that, and they've done what they can to both control the user experience and allow the most people to have the most fun.

I suppose a game could always introduce an option or two regarding health, in addition to difficulty, and even give you an achievement, a la Fallout Las Vegas, when you complete the game on 'hardcore' or 'too much time on your hands' mode.

It depends on the game and whether a regenative health system makes sense. I kind of like games that combine the two systems (example: Halo Reach and the first Resistance).

How about a system like in farcry 2? You get shot, you retreat for cover and remove the bullets and apply a bandage and morphine injection.

How damaged and/or severe the wounds are depends entirely on several circumstances; the location of the wounds, which organs might be hit, the ammo used, the distance you were shot from, the amount of times you have been shot, etc, etc. The game will then calculate how impaired the character will be from the wound and what amount of care is needed to fix the wound.
If you were shot in the shoulder then you will only use the other arm for your rifle and be very inaccurate when firing and if you were shot in the leg then you will be limping and if you were badly shot then you will be crawling on the floor, if you can get to safety and apply first aid then you can get back up again. If you were shot in the head then you're dead.

However, I can't see this working with how modern-day fps enemies react and shoot, so we will have to write them to be shooting at a fair level of accuracy instead of an impossible to beat one and make the accuracy of the weapons more fair to the player. The enemies work on the same health mechanic as the player too and you can have like a system where the game randomly decides if the npc can still crawl around or take out a firearm when you look away (depending on their condition, of course).

It's difficult for me to fit and explain the whole spectrum of this idea in one post but basically you just play around with what I mentioned and keep adding things to the game to make the health system more engaging like only being able to use certain kinds of first aid for certain wounds to name but one example.

Without health restoratives, you're also limiting the means by which the player can be rewarded for exploring or finding secrets.

And getting severely injured and possibly ending up in a no-won situation is definitely an incentive to explore.

I have to admit the "walk it off" system would work well in multiplayer by discouraging camping.

what about Operation Flashpoint; Dragon Rising? that is about as realistic as it is ever gona get.

I like the idea of the luck system, which could be mixed in with who is actually shooting at you--wheteher its a regular grunt who might be more interested in keeping his head down, or Mr Super Sniper who's up in That Building Somewhere. it would affect the way you behaved to certain AI.

I like the old fashioned health pack--I know it's unrealistic when Lara is lugging 99 health packs around with her, but considering that she's already got 25 types of guns in that tiny backpack anyway. But I remember first playing Tomb Raider, and health being a vital part of how I played the game, deciding when to use and when to wait and hope I found another one.

Regenerating health is good for a cowardly gamer like me, who finds that she likes hiding under tables anyway, but I agree with what you say, it takes that knife edge addition to the game, of looking after yourself. I found in the Assassin's Creed games that I could simply run around the enemies and let my health regenerate if Iwas in danger of being bumped off. Fun to do as 20 saracens chased me in a circle, but ultimately as much fun as plagiarising someone's work and taking the credit.

My problem is that in most games of this type, 'running out of health' really isn't a failure condition anyway. It's not game over, you just start from the last checkpoint and try it again. You could easily make a game with fixed health, no healing whatsoever, and rely completely on checkpoints. But personallY? I'd like to see more games that take it to the other extreme and make it so the protagonist /can't/ die.

This was sort of referenced earlier with Crysis. Your character is so hardcore that he re-sets his own broken fingers, pulls a bullet out of his leg with needle-nose pliers, and keeps fighting. And plenty of games have had injury systems, where you get your legs blown off and drag yourself back to the extraction point (I remember this happening with some frequency in Deus Ex).

How many action movies and with the protagonist being loaded into an ambulance on a stretcher at the end? I'd try to emulate that in a game. You fight your way through, maybe patching yourself up a bit as you go, and then at the end of it you get carted off to recover.

So, like I said, 'you die' isn't a failure point so much as stalling point. You're stuck there until you do it without dying. So allow the character to survive everything and pass the level, and make the failure point something else. Secondary objectives, like 'rescue the hostages' where failure has consequences further into the game without halting your progress.

Definitely agree about how exciting a game gets when you're down to a little nubbin of health and there's no healthpacks nearby, leaving the ONLY option as pressing forward and praying you come across some health soon.

Seeing as you mentioned Half-Life 2, that's one game where I experienced that quite a lot. In particular, I recall going through a hefty section of Nova Prospekt with my health under 30 the entire time, occasionally dipping down to the teens. Combine occasionally drop those ten-point health packs, but I couldn't find either any big ones or health stations on the wall. That was an intense part of the game--I'd send my antlions forward and fire madly, trying desperately to kill whatever new enemy I'd come across before they knocked me down any further. Finally made it to some proper health but... it was rough! And I loved it, of course. :D

For once, I disagree.

I play RPGs mostly and they generally have a cooldown- or mana-restricted healing system. Since mana regens for free and cooldowns pass for free, you could heal yourself up between fights anyway by standing around doing nothing. so when I noticed the free health regen system in dragon age 2 I was relieved. if it's going to happen anyway it might as well be pretty much instant

HankMan:
'Health by walking it off' would be a nice addition to a Kinect game.
"Oh no I've been hit by a rocket." "Quick do the funky chicken! Flap those arms, Flap for your life!"

I'd pay for a game like that with people serious about winning.

civver:

Without health restoratives, you're also limiting the means by which the player can be rewarded for exploring or finding secrets.

And getting severely injured and possibly ending up in a no-won situation is definitely an incentive to explore.

I have to admit the "walk it off" system would work well in multiplayer by discouraging camping.

It would also put you in more danger as a punishment. Interesting :P

Yeah,but it just don't sound fun when you spend 6-8 months in a hospital for several shots and a dis-limbing.

B1i nd Luck:
what about Operation Flashpoint; Dragon Rising? that is about as realistic as it is ever gona get.

Yep, in the old Flashpoint even one bullet could kill you. If you were luckyĻit only crippled you in some way (hit in the arm = can't aim properly, hit in the leg = inability to run or even stand). It was brutal, but also very immersive.

I personally can't stand health regeneration, any of the alternatives Yahtzee proposed sound better than... well vampirism. "Oh look: bullets in my lungs, spleen, and eye. Let me just sit here for seven seconds and I'll be as good as new." For example Bulletstorm could have benefitted well from the "health for murder" system, when so much emphasis was placed upon dispatching your enemies - why not tie player's health into it?

Scow2:
I like Halo: Combat Evolved's health system for console shooters, devised to help compensate for the lack of pinpoint-accuracy of a Dual-Shock controller. The hybrid of regenerating and non-regenerating health I find to be a great system, because it still gives you the low-health thrill and challenges, but ensures you at least have enough health that you don't get stuck going into a battle where getting hit is guarenteed with only 1 hit left.

Playing Half-Life, I got frustrated by the number of times I really screwed up a battle, and was forced to continue with >15 health throughout an entire mission. Of course, the fact that the Half-life engine somehow gives me motion sickness (I think it's the too-noninvasive HUD) doesn't help.

In short... I'm trying to say regenerating health is good, as long as it's not complete. It serves as a "Heads up" at high health, allowing developers to implement nasty surprises for the player without being a cheap YASD, and as a reprieve at low health, giving you the breathing room to overcome challenges if you're careful enough.

Prince of Persia: Sands of Time had a good health system as well for the game style, where you had to be careful with your health in combat and platforming, but the unlimited-use health stations allowed you to fully heal at the right times, instead of having to force the developers to guess how much health you'd need at that point.

If the few posts above me were trying to agree with Yahtzee, they completely missed his point: The idea isn't to punish the player further for having low health, since that's just frustrating.

And to the guy directly above me... OUCH! IGNORANCE IS PAINFUL! I'll have to straighten you out. The reason DOOM had the most intrictate level layouts compared to modern shooters (And the reason levels in general are getting straighter and smaller) is because of the sheer amount of resources needed to make a level, and make it look good. It comes down to the strain of modern graphics. In the first DOOM, anyone could make a map in a matter of minutes, hours at most. Now, it takes WEEKS to make even a simple level, and developers don't want to waste that time on content very few people are going to see.

I blame the decline of proceedural generation.

I was going to say something similar about the first Halo, the health/regenerative shield system worked well and made sense in the context of the game so it didn't break immersion.
Also I always wonder what it is about the source engine that gives me a headache when I play for to long. shame coz they're all good games.

What is missing in my opinion is eating tons of "Painkillers" like in Max Payne. Wasn't that kind of realistic ;)

I like partial health regeneration schemes like Just Cause & Assassin's Creed.

You'll always have just enough health to get through an area... but you still have to play conservatively. Seems you could also set up the amount of health regeneration based on the skill level being played. If you select the easiest setting, you'll get the lion's share of it back from hiding being a wall. Normal, something like 25%. On hard, none.

Irridium:

Or you could go the Brothers in Arms route and if a player hits a checkpoint with no health/ammo left and they die a few times, they get the option to restart at the checkpoint with full health and ammo. Since, you know, even though war isn't fair, a game should be. And thats the actual message when Brothers in Arms gives you the option. In Road to Hill 30 at least.

That's actually not a bad idea. Maybe not a full health/ammo recharge (except on easy), but just give them that little extra something to keep them pushing forward.

I like the notion of tying in how much of a boost a player gets being dependent on the difficulty they're playing at. If you're playing on the highest difficulty, I think the game should eliminate all the hand-holding bullshit. You can either do it or you can't.

On Normal, the help should be just enough to keep the average player from getting frustrated. Think of it like a weight lifting spotter. Like in Bioshock, it would have been better if there were a limited number of uses on a particular Vita-Chambers. That way, you can't just keep attacking a Big Daddy with a wrench until you resurrect yourself to victory.

On Easy, the goal should just be doing whatever is necessary to get the player to the end of the game with as little frustration as possible.

Chrinik:

So, like Brothers in Arms: Hellīs Highway?
The british character even proclaims "Youīre a lucky yank, Baker!" Whenever you get shot at while out of cover. (along with other Characters with their phrases, like "BAKER, get behind something!" and the like).
You actually donīt get hit as your screen turns red and blurry, you get hit when you lose health or just fall over dead...because WW2 riflecalibers tended to be big enough to do that.
While it is cosmetically equal to, say Modern Warfare 2īs Strawberry jam, it is logically different.
"You donīt get hit...yet...but move your ass behind cover you twat, you are about to DIE!" instead of "You just got hit 5 times by a dude with a machinegun...get behind cover and wipe your intestines off your goggles, you are fine..."

Something I've noted before, games are really awful at making you feel a near miss. You can't physically feel a bullet impacting into the wall you're leaning against. You can't feel a bullet whizzing by your head.

So when I played CoD4, I pretended that all those hits I were taking were near misses... and it worked brilliantly that way. I think you could even express it as tunnel vision or graying out.

The strawberry jam thing has got to go. It's too damn distracting in gameplay.

brinvixen:

duchaked:

brinvixen:
I like what Yahtzee had to say here. I don't play many games with regenerating health systems (I've only played Halo once or twice)

can't say Halo would be the best example for you to be saying, well okay Halo 2 and 3
the first game and Reach had a health bar with a recharging shield (altho they are weaker in these games)

if you haven't played Call of Duty, that's where it's completely all about recharging health. screen turns reddish/bloody...wait a bit and it goes away (oh and Gears of War) haha...at least it keeps the action going idk

I'm not really into the God of War genre, but I remember the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game :p that's the only game where super fast regeneration truly fit hahahaa

I've played a bit of CoD as well, so I know about the "reddish/bloody" screen you're talking about. To be honest, I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea of regenerating health, I just think that more often that not, people wait around (in hiding) for their health to come back, as opposed to moving forward, and that could slow up the action. At least, that's my first response whenever I play those kinds of games.

Then again, since I don't play many FPS games often, I guess the RH issue doesn't really affect me. I could just understand where Yahtzee was coming from in his article =P

yeahh it is a trade off between the whole "hide behind wall waiting to heal" slowing down the pace versus the "oh god I only have one bit of health left must run around looking for health pack" situation

there's trade offs for both, although maybe if us all just got better at games and never got in those kinda situations it'd work things out :P lol

While I think the article makes a solid argument, my experience is almost the opposite: I enjoy games with health regeneration more. That's not to say I don't remember the glorious moments of frantically strafing around a Cyberdemon with one health remaining.

The point is that if there is no way to regenerate health other than being in a shielded position for a certain amount of time, then tactics are more about holding positions than moving between them, and therefore more about figuring out which positions one *should* hold and when. They can additionally be more about stealth, if the game allows for that.

Note that I do understand that games that require you to move to regenerate health also include tactics, and can include a stealth element. It's just that the balance is tipped towards making snap judgements rather than sitting back and thinking stuff through. I much prefer the latter.

In the end, the change makes for a different playing style; calling that a loss shows your preference in playing styles, but that's not a preference I share.

I think Duke 3d had it right years ago. You could find medkits that were portable, and keep them with you. I realize D3d also had stationary health pick ups in two varieties, but I think the traveling kit solves this complaint effectively. Resident evil had a similar approach by pretending marijuana was a 'healing herb' and that burn spray worked on zombie bites.
Games like Rainbow Six had a decent mechanic, but those are scenario driven environments where the mechanic wouldn't transfer to most other platforms. In halo, you're waiting for your shield to recharge. I honestly didn't have a big problem with that. It's much more believable than standing on a red cross box. Honestly the real solution to this is the game play archetype itself. Instead of thralls of fearless enemies showering your delicate body with lead, perhaps situations involving only a few aggressors, who are just as afraid of holes as the rest of us, and who will die just as easily as the game character if a bullet grazes them.

Another excellent mechanic, one that I feel holds the most potential, is armor. A magic/technological marvel that converts energy into not getting hurt at the cost of a timed energy bar or battery pick ups or charging ports. I think Crysis does this in about the same way. Magic/power armor is really the best blend of believable and playable you're going to be able to shoehorn into an action shooter.

This is why I liked Sniper:Elite (lovely retro-game from 2005), taught you to be really careful about diligent searching, random shooting and taking damage.

Sod all health packs to pick up around each map, and what stuff you can scrounge from dead bodies is usually near to nothing.

duchaked:

brinvixen:

duchaked:

can't say Halo would be the best example for you to be saying, well okay Halo 2 and 3
the first game and Reach had a health bar with a recharging shield (altho they are weaker in these games)

if you haven't played Call of Duty, that's where it's completely all about recharging health. screen turns reddish/bloody...wait a bit and it goes away (oh and Gears of War) haha...at least it keeps the action going idk

I'm not really into the God of War genre, but I remember the X-Men Origins: Wolverine game :p that's the only game where super fast regeneration truly fit hahahaa

I've played a bit of CoD as well, so I know about the "reddish/bloody" screen you're talking about. To be honest, I don't think there's anything wrong with the idea of regenerating health, I just think that more often that not, people wait around (in hiding) for their health to come back, as opposed to moving forward, and that could slow up the action. At least, that's my first response whenever I play those kinds of games.

Then again, since I don't play many FPS games often, I guess the RH issue doesn't really affect me. I could just understand where Yahtzee was coming from in his article =P

yeahh it is a trade off between the whole "hide behind wall waiting to heal" slowing down the pace versus the "oh god I only have one bit of health left must run around looking for health pack" situation

there's trade offs for both, although maybe if us all just got better at games and never got in those kinda situations it'd work things out :P lol

HA! SO TRUE! XD

I totally disagree. Nothing is worse than the pyrrhic victory in a video game: you beat the boss or fight, and then are left too wounded and/or out of supplies to continue. Even worse is if there's a save point/check point right afterwards.

While generally any game with fixed health systems will resupply and heal you after a boss fight or a fight designed to be hard, it means that any bad fluke that still leaves you alive can doom you at any time. I'm thinking in particular of Half-Life 2's grenade-wielding suicide zombines. Get hit by one of those guys when you're not looking at it's entirely possible to be left horribly injured, away from a medkit, and with more targets to fight.

From a design standpoint, it also eliminates the element of surprise. How can you tell when there's a big fight coming up? Fresh supply of medkits. In my opinion, it's bad when I'm worried by the sight of a medkit pile. This also kills the element of surprise; you knew things were about to get bad before it happened.

With any form of regeneration, at least you can know how much (at a minimum) a player will have, and design around that. With fixed health, you have no guarantees (you can leave medkits, but you can never guarantee a player will find them or will not have used them already). You can guess, you can try, but by god the pyrrhic victory will always be possible.

I thought Far Cry 2 did it good.

I think it would be interesting if you got shot up pretty bad, somebody could drag you to cover and you just lay there for a while with your pistol drawn, shooting around the corner while you wait for the medic guy to come fix you up.

Regenerating health is an awful system and it suites the bland modern gaming scene very well, it slows the gameplay down (take a few shots then hide while your health regenerates), it encourages people to play like wimps. FPS gun battles were awesome when the combat system revolved around you defeating opponents by out manouvering them instead of taking cover behind a pile of sandbags. Overall it was a system made to make games appeal to casual gamers and basically water down the FPS genre.

I love it when people say picking up health packs is fake, since when is taking hundreds of shots, a couple of grenades blow up beside you, then your health regenerates like some kind of superhero with regenerating limbs realistic?

It's nice to see I'm not the only one to have thought of the 'luck' thing. Though I suppose that it would throw off all of our current character archetypes. Suddenly the huge space marine encased in two Hyundai's worth of armor is less useful in a firefight than a Las Vegas card shark.

Actually someone implement this immediately.

I don't recall the last game I played that had regenerating health, but this is definitely true; when all you have to do is sit around fingering your own bunghole until you get back up to health, it takes a lot of the challenge out of a game. Yahtzee's alternatives to randomly spawned health items are good, but if it hasn't been suggested yet, I want to toss in my own suggestion: Health by Self-Medication.

This isn't an unexplored concept. The best example I can give right now is either Killing Floor or LFD/LFD2 on Steam. For those of you who haven't played the former game, every player starts out with a syringe that injects some sort of painkilling/health restoring drug (maybe there is a future in medicinal marijuana, ba dum tish.) When the players find themselves injured, they can use this syringe to inject themselves with drugs that will, after a few seconds, boost your health back up. You get an unlimited supply of vials of drugs, but it takes a while before you can use them again. Also, you can use the syringe on other players for even greater effect and vice versa.

I think this kind of system is a very good one; it's not effectively giving you unlimited health in the middle of a fight because the rate enemies injure you is a lot faster than the rate the drugs heal you. Plus injecting yourself requires you to put away your weapon and pull out the syringe, so while healing you can't fight back. The best strategy is to find a lull in the battle (often provided by team mates covering you) and either taking your meds or having someone else administer them. This kind of system seems like a great way to keep health item drops to a minimum.

If you want to have at least SOME health items, I would advise going the LFD/LFD2 route and be able to carry around first aid kits. To use them you have to stop and either bandage yourself or get someone else to bandage you. Now I sometimes find it a little surprising that the entire contents of a first aid kit would be used by one person, so maybe the system could be revamped more like Call of Cuthulu: Dark Corners of The Earth, where the first aid kit can be used more than once, but still a limited number of times.

Whatever the model, I think this method of healing would really work well. It could reduce or do away with having to drop health items like confetti all over the game while still not making recovery as brain-dead easy as just staring at a wall. You'd have to pick your time to heal up, possibly have to ration your carry-on healing supplies, and it could even involve a mini-game to determine how much health you get out of the experience. I know Yahtzee said he doesn't like quick-time events very much, but he did say once he could understand them as a core part of gameplay rather than a random, no-warning-dick-move sort of element. This could be a good place to apply that.

Idea: have a health system in which there is no bar, but physical indication of bodily damage (cuts, bleeding, limping, etc.) and let the player subjectively guess how much health remains. I think it would work very well in a horror game if well executed. One could even get extreme and have free-flowing blood, and howls of pain with each step taken. a dramatic spectacle cutting its' way into the interactive element my representing something meaningful.

I have to say, that luck meter thing is something I have wanted to see also for a long time. It's "movielike", you know how the heroes are never getting hit and are extremely lucky. Just makes sense. Other way around it is ofcourse to have your character loaded with some experimental tech, like in Crysis games. So you would have atleast some reasonable cover against bullets.

Another option of getting health back could be the Farcry 2 method of "Dig out the bullet and/or treat the wound". It leaves you vulnerable for a few seconds, you're actively taking care of your health, and most importantly it makes sense. Of course, it could make things more interesting in the otherwise boring FPS genre.

Guy 1: "I've been hit! Hand me the knife skipper!"
Guy 2: "You want a splint with that?"
Guy 1: "nah, just pass me the boot padding so I can get the foot working."
Guy 2: "I Think we're doing quite well."
Guy 1: "What do you mean?"
Guy 2: "we're in a squad of 20 and we've only got 16 major injuries, not bad for a Battlefield 6 deathmatch."

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