Extra Punctuation: Why Regenerating Health Sucks

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thereverend7:
Believe it or not, i had a similar idea to yahtzee's about that "luck" system. you could have a character who is considered "very lucky" and as he's getting shot at, the bullets whiz by or he happens to dodge them. once your luck bar runs out though, its close to curtains for you. you would have a very limited health bar and once the bullets started hitting you, it would be realistic and you would die in one or two shots.

FiendishFu12:
I'm genuinely distressed that Yahtzee has thought of my 'luck' system to replace health. For years I thought I was terribly clever to be the only person to have come up with it. Damn you, you behatted semi-Antipodean.

This "Luck" system is nothing new. Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway uses it. It does give the Red Screen effect (not bloodspatter or so though, it's just red to show the threat you're in), but you can turn it off (and it's forced off on Realistic). Basicly, the more dark the red screen goes, the more likely it is that you're going to get hit by that one bullet with your name on it.

"Evidence": Check this video at 2:30-2:45 and 4:05-4:15

It certainly is a nice system instead of the regenerating bullet-sponge health system.

I believe one of the best additions to gaming as a whole was regenerating health.

It allowed game designers to carefully craft epic battles as they knew how much life the player had when they faced each encounter, one of the reasons that the first Halo game revolutionised the First Person Shooter genre.

That said, in it's current form many people miss the old days of grabbing health packs, a "luck meter" in my opinion is exactly the same as a health meter, it's just like Duke Nukem Forever's "Ego meter" replacing the original health bar. In the end it's the same thing, just a re-branding.

One of the best ways of implementing regenerating health was Ninja Gaiden 2. They knew that their game was hard and so they could make much more challenging fights in the game, your health regenerated to a point after each major fight depending on your performance. To get back to full health you'd have to use consumable items to top it up.

Why not have something like that in an FPS? it stops the player from hiding behind walls to get their health back and they'd be forced to run around the battle field looking for a medipack or medic. It would mean that they'd have to fight their way out of each confrontation effectively so they could continue to the next area.

Personally I think that would be a much more effective solution.

I have to disagree, I prefer it, it makes games feel less playable and it lets me have more fun with it rather than getting stressed out, pissed off, and not wanting to play anymore. Maybe that's just me. Also, some games do it right, like Bulletstorm, where you lost health very quickly, and Two Worlds II, where the more health you had, meant longer regen time, and you could only do it while your weapons were put away.

I think the best health bar I've seen was from Condemned 2. It regenerated, but it was divided into segments and you could only regenerate health within the segment you were on. If you wanted to restore lost segments of the health bar, then you had to use a med kit.

It made it so that if you just barely made it out of a fight alive, you'd still have a fighting chance against the next enemy you encounter, but you'd still be punished for taking so much damage, and you'd still have to scout around for med kits and manage your health.

I could have told you the regenerating health was overrated and overused a LONG time ago, I miss Health packs and body armor

I always thought that the original Ghost Recon games were great about health. Your characters couldn't take more than a couple of bullets to the torso, and if you got shot in an extremity it'd affect you besides a health hit. Shot in the leg, you move more slowly. Shot in the arm, your aim is thrown off.

believer258:
it isn't good tension when you're at the tail end of Half-Life 1 and you only have 1 FUCKING HEALTH and you fall just little bit and you lose that 1 FUCKING HEALTH. Did that the first time, I hate the last little bit of HL1.

you know there are little pools of sparkly water everywhere that heal you forever without running out all through the end of half life, right? because i can imagine how that would have really sucked if those didn't exist, or, you know, you didn't know they were there.

Extra Credits did a good defence of regenerating health lately. Their point was that it allows you to string together the gameplay more effectively. That is, the devs always know how much health you'll have when you're in the fray (all of it) so every encounter has the desired impact. Is that a bad thing? Insofar as you're comparing it to the 'games allow you to create your own stories' philosophy, yes, it's bad, but I think the problem isn't so much that everyone is doing it but rather than everyone is doing it and forgetting you need to cramp up the difficulty.

Personally, I think Alan Wake did it well. Oh god, regenerating health in a horror game? Really? But since you don't have any green herbs to concern yourself with, when your health is dropping you're toast. Either win the fight already or get the fuck out. Or die, that's an outcome.

It's true though that it's a sign of larger laziness on devs, but it's not to be entirely dismissed.

cke:

thereverend7:
Believe it or not, i had a similar idea to yahtzee's about that "luck" system. you could have a character who is considered "very lucky" and as he's getting shot at, the bullets whiz by or he happens to dodge them. once your luck bar runs out though, its close to curtains for you. you would have a very limited health bar and once the bullets started hitting you, it would be realistic and you would die in one or two shots.

You mean like Brothers in Arms:HH ?

Yeah I stand corrected by 2 people. I never played the BiA games so I wasn't aware of that. Was it done well?

Yaht, regenerating health means either the player can stand about bored or move on very carefully. Its designed to keep the action fluid and put the choice into the hands of the player as 'player choice' is key to making the game fun, you idiot.

You keep commenting on design principles you don't actually understand. These things exist for a purpose, not just cus some 'idiot' professional AAA developer whose job it is to intrinsically understand games had a brain fart.

I like your reviews, but I'm gaining the opinion that for all your acerbic and admittedly hilarious commentary, you don't understand the systemic design behind the products you review.

As mentioned I love how Far Cry 2 did this, especially in MP Get critically wounded? You take care of the wound or die!

to the people complaining about reaching a checkpoint at low health with no healthpacks or whatever around... that's just poor game design. half lifes (all of them) knew to put a health station or a bunch of kits right before a fight where they knew you'd probably take a lot of damage, or right after a big fight. the devs don't need to "know" how much health you have before a fight, they just have to provide you the tools to make sure you have it.

this works especially well when you lose access to the charger when the big fight starts so you can't recharge to full mid-fight and trivialize the encounter. it's not difficult to manage the placement of health kits, so if you found yourself in that 1 health no kits can't go back situation blame the developers

that said, it's also possible that you're just playing poorly and if you stopped getting shot so much you wouldn't die. just saying

You know, I'm rarely a person to do this kind of thing to people whom I consider actually know what they're talking about BUT: Wrong. Guess again.

Two main flaws in your reason:

Yahtzee Croshaw:

No, health systems are probably never going to be realistic, because in a truly realistic game you wouldn't be able to continue after getting shot once, and any game that doesn't let you make any mistakes isn't going to be much fun for anyone except insane obsessive no-hit-runners.

This is absolutely right, which further confuses me on how you seem to ignore it for the remainder of the article.

Being punished for experimenting or having fun doesn't seem like a good mechanic does it? I can go through most games barely taking a hit, most of them I can go through barely using healthkits (I remember getting to the end of Max Payne and constantly full of painkillers). However that forces me to play defensively. To play it carefully, and safely... and what the fuck is the point? Honestly if I wanted to play "safe" I'd go outside. What the fuck is the fun in playing a game designed to let you do crazy shit... so you can be afraid of doing said crazy shit? It's like letting you drive a Ferrari that'll self-destruct if you go above 60...

That's one thing the original Assassin's Creed did better than ACII. Despite having to sit through a fucking 10 minute long speech every single fucking time I wanted to play the game, when I did, I never felt I was being punished for actually having fun and experimenting in the game.

There are few things more utterly rage inducing in a game than the feeling that you're suddenly screwed by a mistake you did 5 minutes ago... Or for not having the clairvoyance to know what you should expect before finding a new health pack/station/source. What's that, you didn't think you'd need more than 45 health 2 rooms ago? Well fuck you then, here are 10 elite soldiers. Either cower like a motherfucker or GG. What? You had the audacity of trying a different approach than cookie cutter safe approach? Ok then, here are your options: a) Reload your last saved game (IF you have one) and play it our way, or b) go suck nuts and bolts, and try to slog through to the next health source with low health!

If you're gonna punish someone for doing bad punish them WHEN they do bad. If they're not performing up to standard kill them and let them try again. Don't just let them push along for 10 minutes until they realize that they're suddenly fucked (extra fucked if they didn't keep a previous save). How much would you enjoy it if your mom walked into your house right now and slapped you across the head over something you did 20 years ago?

I honestly don't see why in the world you'd think this is "fun".

The other advantage of having regenerating health is that it lets the developers pitch more intense and harder encounters at the player, knowing that:

a) They can't simply press an item key or run over an item and instantly reset whatever damage they've taken. While you're in the fight, you're in the fight. You can't regen health while taking damage, so you have no way of recovering during an encounter. It's do or die.

b) They can punish the player as much as they want at the moment, knowing they can regen it for the next battle. There isn't a "wait, if we throw this shit in now, most of them will get stuck later".

Yahtzee Croshaw:

And weren't those the most exciting parts of a game like Half-Life, when you've scraped through an encounter with several organs missing and your arms hanging off so now every health point counts and your wit must be about you at all times?

No. I just reloaded the scene and played it "safe mode" so I could go through mostly unharmed, so I could be sure not to get locked out of the rest of the game due to not having the clairvoyance of knowing I'd need more health up ahead.

Not much of a strategy involved in planning for something you don't know. The only strategy is "try to have as much health and ammo saved up as you can". Not exactly strategy...

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.

I agree with this completely. Halo 1 really did have the best health system and while it's not entirely realistic (as Yahtzee says, that's a BS argument anyway) it makes perfect sense within the game world.

I like the luck idea. Brothers in Arms Hell's Highway already has something rather similar. You can only take one shot, then you're dead. Instead of health, the screen will turn red. The redder it gets, the closer you are to finally getting hit. Now if you want a REAL challenge, turn off the red screen and play the game on hard. No hint as to when you are about to be hit, so you better be good at covering fire.

I've always thought hank-n-slash games suffered from this too. Instead of constantly beating an enemy with a sword that can slice them in half in a cutscene, how about in the actual game you have to break their guard--as in the guard is their life bar. Once broken, one hit from the sword/spear/whatever, will kill the enemy.

ssManae:
I'd like to see a system where the AI gets bolder as your health drops, such as being willing to leave cover and hunt you down after your health drops below a threshold. So, you can stay in a firefight and risk dieing, or cower in cover whimpering to regen but risk enemy soldiers showing up to deliver the coup de grâce.

YES! I love this idea... somebody make it so!

I think health packs are fine for linear games, but for open world games like GTA, it gets really frustrating to have to go sleep off a wound or chow on a burger every so often. When you're on a linear path, you can guess at how much health a player will have at any point, but with sandbox games all players play differently. Some might be careful and take almost no damage in between missions, others like to drive like crazy and occasionally smash through a windshield. In the case of the reckless windshield smasher in GTA 4, he gets money taken from him for dieing, and in the case of GTA:SA and all other previous games, he also gets all his weapons taken away. I can't imagine playing Just Cause 2 without the partially regenerating health that it had, unless they made the health bar 5 times as long.

First off, I really like the "luck" system proposed in the article, as well as a handful of examples and ideas in the various comments.

That said, I don't think that the idea of regenerating health is inherently bad. It's just been lazy in its implementation so far. Sucking your thumb behind cover for a few seconds to regain your health kills tension at any difficulty level other than insane, and discourages exploration for medkits and whatnot.

Poor Bungie. They go and make the concept of regenerating health popular, expecting other developers to adjust and improve on it. Instead, they all do it worst than the first attempt, and THAT was far from perfect.

Some ideas for improving it.

1) Make it *slow*. The article gave inFamous as a positive example. If you recall, there was automatically regenerating health; however, it regenerated at a snails pace, especially if you were in combat. If you were desperate and wanted to regenerate your health, you had to run, and the army of mooks would *chase you.* All of the tension of limited health without the stupid flow-breaking back-tracking. This could also be combined with the "walking it off" concept.

Oh, inFamous, you are so awesome :-).

2) Reward the player for excess health. This article also gives Prototype as an example, but this concept probably would work best in a third-person super power game, rather than the shooters that really screw the concept up. In Prototype, your health slowly regenerates. Like inFamous, this is not tactically useful, forcing you to either eat people or do a tactical retreat. However, at full health (beyond which you had no regeneration) you could eat people to boost your health over 100%. Besides acting as an additional buffer, this extra health was a resource for the super moves that could kill a ton of enemies and save your ass, at the cost of making you more vulnerable.

This is easily applied to shooters. At full health, or even bonus health, your speed and accuracy can get a boost. You could use bonus health as fuel for bullet time or whatever gimmick you want.

There are a whole bunch of other ideas that I could base around these concepts. Perhaps at full armor, you are slower and pack more of a punch, and then when your armor breaks, you become faster, weaker, and gain regenerating health. In this fragile state, you are then forced to find armor so to continue to have a chance.

There's a reason why designers got rid of health kits. While the exploration, tension, and use of health as a resource were awesome, it really screwed up flow, balance, level and encounter design. Simplifying that by making health regenerate is a step in the right direction, but without finishing the concept, it just makes things patronizingly simple.

man i /agree so hard it makes my pants tight

regenerating health is so lazy it hurts my feelings

halo 1 did the hybrid system more or less right, you had a health bar and a shield bar, shield regenerated, health required pickups

halo 2 screwed it up by having an "elegant" system with no visible health bar and everything regenerated

americas army had (still has?) the realistic system where you die in 1-3 hits, if you get hit and don't die your movement rate is slowed and your aim starts to suck (more), and it was extremely fun

Hear this man; he is talking a lot of sense.

Each time I play a game with regenerating health, I just don't want to come back to it. It's that boring.

A health system that I've seen a few times is one that slowly regenerates only the bottom 20-30% of your health. for example, after a big firefight, the player would be left with only 10% health, over 30 seconds it would regenerate to 25% and stop there leaving the rest to be healed by health packs. it gave a sense of danger and caution when you were wounded without the feeling of despair when you have only 2% health and anything larger then a mosquito will kill you in 1 hit (mosquito would have to hit you twice at that point).

The game that I think has the most annoying regenerating health is Alpha Protocol. the player's "Endurance" (Armor) seems to take a long time before it even starts coming back but this was not the big deal for me. The big deal was that the Bosses had the same regenerating armor. I remember fighting the Russian boss and getting frustrated because I'd take down his armor and start doing actual damage, then he'd chase me around the room some, I'd get blinded, and he'd back on the balcony above with his armor back.

But my problem with the "traditional" health system is that I'd find myself back tracking every time I got seriously wounded. it wasn't so bad when I needed to go back down the hall and down the stairs, it was when I was near the end of the level and the only health packs left in the level were the ones I passed at the start.

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 rather have the option to rub some dirt in it to be honest...

You know, I actually do agree with you mostly, shooters with regenerating health sure seem popular at the moment, and I never minded the Health Meter, t'was great fun in Bioshock.

Only thing is that's just for shooters. I think there are some games where it fits. Look at TWEWY, you got all your health back at the end of a battle, but you were severly limited to how you could heal DURING battle. Plus, it meant the developer could make the battles tougher.

I feel the exact opposite. Regenerating health is a godsend for letting me get through a game with a consistent difficulty level.

Managing health was the worst part of Half-Life: always being afraid there wasn't a health station anywhere near me, or even worse past a fiddly jumping section that was going to get me killed anyway. Down to 15% health? Better reload, because there is no way I'm leaving the next room alive. Goodbye, immersion!

When you play a game with limited health, you are magnifying the player's skill level. A very bad player who just barely clears every encounter will find himself trapped in a huge difficulty spike, while a very good player will think "Another health pack? This game is so easy! I don't have to use your cover mechanic / creative weapons / etc. I can just stay on the assault rifle forever. Lame!"

Ultimately, the choice is whether your game is about the difficulty of individual encounters or cumulative encounters.

When I started thinking about how health( or lack of it) added to the experience and how regenerative health would have ruined the game I instantly thought of the Max Payne series. Regenerative health would have destroyed the meaning behind the constant downing of painkillers and when you were low on health you knew that it all it would take is one of the pellets from a baddie's shotgun hitting their mark to take you out. While regenerating health would be useful, I fear it would end up becoming just as much of a crutch as quicksave and quickload thus killing the experience.

heres ideas(realistic death if these arent available/used):

TELEFIELD that ports bullets on the other side of you when theres enough phlebotinum

INFINITE REWIND

DEFLECTIVE SHIELD that doesnt autoregen.

ACTUAL FRAKKING ARMOR with pieces that need to be replaced when damaged

you guys here are right, I absolutely hated that bulletstorm had autoregen as much as i hate it elsewhere, wraps the gameplay around the cowardy stuff. Perhaps the skillshots only fulfill the same role of not having autoregen.

Serious proposal: we gotta make a show on gametrailers where we discuss all the possibilities that are blatantly ignored, in the face, lazybrains!

I totally agree.
In Fable II, my character was a fat mother fucker because I always used to eat whatever I could get my hands on to re-gain health.
But in Fable III, they introduced gaining health by waiting, so I never ate, and my character looked exactly the same as everyone elses.
I literally just rolled around until my health was full.

Fable III was so goddamn shite. ¬_¬

ssManae:
I'd like to see a system where the AI gets bolder as your health drops, such as being willing to leave cover and hunt you down after your health drops below a threshold. So, you can stay in a firefight and risk dieing, or cower in cover whimpering to regen but risk enemy soldiers showing up to deliver the coup de grâce.

That would be glorious and I second this idea.

I love it when enemies do more than pop up from cover and fire. I like it when my enemies are scary because they're smart, not because of some gimmick like having more HP.

HL1 marines were scary to fight because they flanked you and tossed grenades. Imagine behavior like that where if you took too many hits you'd hear them communicating to each other that they scored a hit and calling to their compatriots to press the advantage.

It'd combine the notion of regenerating health's "resets" while still providing the "get health packs" notion of "you're in a really bad situation, are you a bad enough dude to salvage this and survive by the skin of your teeth?" Because you're wounded and they're coming, but if you're good enough you can compensate for your earlier mistake and buy some breathing room.

Well, discussions like this get to the root of the whole problems with "casual" gamers and how much the lowest human denominator is getting involved. Simply put these guys want to play the same games as the rest of us, but don't want to have to get seriously invested in things to actually become good at them, backtrack, or manage resources. Regenerating health is a decent way of ensuring that any gamers who wants to be persistance is going to be able to finish the game, if nothing else through absolute dumb luck and atttition since he can regenerate while the enemies probably don't recover their health or numbers as as reliably. Regenerating health might make the game too easy, or seem ridiculous to serious gamers, especially when overused, but it let's casual gamers feel they they are doing really well as opposed to being held by the hand with their replentishing "I Win Button".

We're also looking at the issue of game development having become a sort of grindhouse. It's rare for companies to be able to focus on one project at a time, I mean even Bioware is being forced to keep a bunch of balls in the air at once. Replentishing health can be a design crutch because it means you don't have to take as much time to balance out all the encounters to be challenging, but not frustrating and unbeatable. Health regeneration means that they can skimp on the actual game design parts of the game since if they make things too hard or whatever they can rely on people being able to bull through with regenerating health. What's more people tend to think it's a sign of an intense fight when they are taking damage, regenerating health allows them to mine this feeling, giving the illusion of intensity,
when it doesn't matter so much because the health comes back.

To be entirely honest, I think the mechanic works in some cases, but it too frequently exploited. I think a lot of games use it well, but most suffer because of it. I'd like to see it done away with, because honstly it seems to make "shooter" games which were always kind of the ghetto of game design to begin with, even relatively easier to churn out.

I agree, I rememberd when I first played COD... uh 2 was it? that I thought "what the hell! this is stupid!" and from then on just got used to the fact that every new fps had it... Again its a matter of game companies going with "what's popular" even if its not that specific feature that is popular to us gamers...

I really can't say what was going through the devs minds when they came up with the regen idea... all I can think of is "its going to be a console game, which is harder to control.. so we have to make it easier"... or possibly that they wanted to throw more enemies your way and didn't believe a sustained fight like that could possibly be won without health kits... or like you said, maybe they just got annoyed with having to make healthkit items...

but like many things, game companies need to evolve, not just copy... so i'd say its about time to move on

Yahtzee..
You promised, no more rambling about Australia's R18!
...
But honestly, you are right, and you never should stop the crusade.

I don't see how the "Luck" bar is different from any current health system. All you're doing is taking out the blood and anguished grunts, and putting a new name on your health bar.

Most of the games that go for the regenerating health route are going for the competitive multiplayer scene as well, which regenerating health is vastly superior for. Otherwise, strategy revolves around farming easy kills at health-pack spawns, or dying simply because you'd already fought like nine people, so your health was simply too low to fight off the guy who spawned on top of you. PvP in MMORPGs are a great example of this. Unless there is a significant level difference or massive balance issues, you'll almost never see one guy fight off two players who are at least marginally competent, no matter how skilled the outnumbered guy is.

i really never thought i would say this but. i fully and 100% agree with him on this one

Maybe you don't know, Yahtzee, but Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway has luck system.

EDIT: Oh, i see some people already pointed it out.

I am a big hater of any game which turns my screen red when I am getting low on health and forcing me to hide behind whatever I can find. As Yahtzee mentioned, there are alternatives and they should be used more and more please. I stopped playing several games due to the annoying blur of my screen. Realistic games are fine, but what is realistic about bleeding for five seconds and recovering because you hide behind a box. Personally, I say fuck realism and give me something fun.

Halo Combat Evolved (pc) had a great life system. Halflife was another great example of a well-done health system.

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