Extra Punctuation: Why Regenerating Health Sucks

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Hmm, I don't know. When I think of it, my favorite games have always been those of health bars. But I don't like the idea of dissmissing the whole thing just like that. It does give for some moments, and god know that I don't want to hear that fucking noise whenever my pokémon is low on health.

This has probably been said, but, in many many games WITH health bars (eg. Half life 2), I end up constantly quickloading every time I lose more than about 20 health, which is a bit like having regenerating health but more boring and cheat-y. Perhaps I'm a bit obsessive, but there are no end of games in which this is almost necessary, I'm reminded of Max Payne where towards the end getting hit at all meant you either died or were so close to death that you had to reload. I'm not saying regen is better, but it does allow for a better flowing game in many ways, the need to explore can be given in other ways. Prototype had a good system in my opinion.

I've become so used to regenerating health that my current playthrough of Fallout 3 is being quite the challenge, especially when I respawn at the start of an area with the same amount of health I had when I first entered. Really shows how much developers treat us like goldfish these days (I'm looking at you, FFXIII).

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.

Kind of similar was a regenerating "force" bar in Star Wars Episode 1: Jedi Power Battles (that's a mouthfull huh..). You could hold down a button to automatically deflect incoming laser shots but it got depleted very quickly and you were pressed for action so often that you couldn't let it regenerate much, if at all. I thought it was actually a good game mechanic (in a game filled with alot of bad ones like forcing both players to accurately jump over chasms and killing you both if either missed). Level ups would expand the bar too a little bit.

Shinobi, for the PS2, had a similar system, you character's life is depleting and the only way to regenerate, or at least keep playing for a bit longer is by killing enemies, the more you killed at once, the more health you gained and more blood got splattered everywhere.

I miss that game. So fucking hard.

I honestly hope developers start using the Just Cause 2's style of a health regeneration system: if you're only given small wounds in combat, your health will regenerate over time. But if you're given a serious injure, you're health will be fixed at that point until you use a health pack. That way, you can still keep charging into battle, but still get killed if you aren't careful enough!

There was literally zero problem with the old Doom system of just having medkits on the ground. Is there a mod for bulletstorm that replaces regenerating health with medkits?

You could argue the regen' health bar is a luck bar (with a twist of imagination). I always remember getting hit in Rainbow Six and dieing after one hit, really satisfying to complete though.

Oddly I saw a fat girl fall over today, she did cry.

I suppose regenerationg health is an easy way out. It is true that it can make the pace faster but it also takes away the consequences of the player's previous actions. It's like "Okay, that didn't go so well but hey! Your healthbar is full so you can try again in the next room with a better luck!"

Just read about the new Deus Ex game where they decided to implement regenerating health to boost the gameplay rather than making the player backtrack the area in search of a healthkit. To me that is a terrible choice since Deus Ex was never a fast-paced action game but one where you needed to think things through rather than just endlessly blast your way through of semi-detached sequences of enemy troops trying to kill you.

I agree with Yahtzee - Regen health is just a fucking bad idea.

I realised I haven't really played any shooters in the last 5 years, and then suddenly that that was one of the main reasons why...not fun.

Sure you can obsessively reload - which is basically regeneration by mashing the quickload button. But at least this makes you replay some content. And it's optional. WHen I first played through Doom 2, I did with quickload mashing after losing 5% HP. When I became a more mature gamer, I played through without reloading unless I died.

So it leaves the player to decide the experience.

Segmented regenerating health, like Condemned, still reigns as my favorite.

Steve the Pocket:

Triforceformer:
In Duke Nukem Forever (This is a bit speculation, but bear with me), health regen would work because it helps the player feel as powerful as Duke is; able to take bullets like they're candy...or some other metaphor. It also helps that the health bar is named an "EGO" bar. Duke Nukem's huge-ass EGO can deflect bullets and lasers, and absorb pipe-bomb explosions. That alone justifies the regenerating health. For me at least.

But it's not like DNF just gave up its exploration factor by going with EGO. Searching around for interactive novelties, executing "bleeding out" enemies, etc, inflates the overall EGO. So rather than searching for health packs to mend your wounds, you find say for example, a "Balls of Steel" pinball machine. If you get the high score, your overall EGO becomes larger so that you'll have a better chance at surviving future encounters. Yes it's still regenerating health, but it's regenerating health that accounts for the lack of depth that would come from just having the system and nothing else.

Pity this is all speculation; that would be a very interesting use of the ego bar. Having it go up whenever he does something cool, like a health bar tied in to the achievement system.

Well when I said "Speculation" I meant that the fine details were still a bit hazy. But the EGO system is very definitely the following. It's a health bar, which goes to a Critical Health mode if its depleted. You can take quite a beating, even if you're a modest Duke. The EGO Bar regenerates to full after 5 short seconds without being hit. If you do something cool or Duke-like, Gearbox calls these "Duke-isms", the overall EGO bar increases. Admiring yourself in the mirror, bench-pressing 600 pounds, executing (Mighty Boot) an enemy, etc, all inflate your EGO.

Health Bar
Critical Health
Regens quickly
You can take alot of hurt
Duke-isms inflate your EGO

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qxKL1By-6j4
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=u139BR_abK0

The first video shows the basic idea and just how fast health regenerates. The second video shows just how much Duke can take.

It's just that the fine details of what exactly constitutes a "Duke-ism" is unclear. I'm guessing any of the many interactive novelties in the game will count towards your EGO. But, Yahtzee will probably still bitch about it just because it's health that regenerates.

The Extra Credits guys made a good point about regenerating health recently - it allows much more predictable level design. The game designers know when you enter an area that you will have a certain amount of health, and can plan the enemies accordingly.

Of course, putting a health pack outside the door would probably cover this too...

Brothers In Arms: Hell's Highway uses the "luck" justification for why you get your "health" back. Basically, the more Baker sticks his neck out the more likely he is to get shot by a Nazi. If he gets back behind cover and moves it comes back quicker. It's essentially like the more obvious you make yourself the more the bad guys zone in on you for the kill.

Naughty Dog used a similar reason for Uncharted's system, which makes sense given how insanely lucky Nate is story-wise as well.

michael87cn:
Shooters have DIED. They've become military training simulators, and that's great if you're gung ho about the military, but what about those of us that want to play a good old fashioned shooter? Now a days you can't make mistakes or you get the dreaded game over screen, you can't go in guns blazing and just enjoy blasting everyone around you away while managing your health, and you can't play a game in a different way. It's always the same game of ducking behind cover, making a popshot/burst fire then duck back and heal up , twiddle your thumbs, go bake a cake, etc come back and move to the next cover; oh look a quick time event killed you because you were so BORED you weren't expecting something crazy to happen.

We're at the point where games are dipping their feet into the story telling swimming pool, and regenerating health allows for a flow of gameplay and thus a flow of narrative.

A lot of people (me included) have said how regenerating health lets you run into a fire-fight with full health before every confrontation, allowing devs to make epic fire-fights every 5 minutes for the player.

Back in the old days I remember before every large confrontation you'd have what I used to call the "prelude room"... usually a hallway littered with health packs, weapons and ammo. I'd always think "Uh oh... the shit is about to hit the fan" and be prepared for a big fight or boss battle to unfold.

I prefer regenerating health for one reason, it means that you can set up a large battle without the player being able to guess that one's around the corner. making the game more exciting, more suspenseful and ultimately more fun!

Regenerating health isn't a perfect system, of course not. It's barely evolved since its first implementation in Halo, and most game developers decide to shoehorn it into any AAA title.

But devs have started to tweak it here and there with games like Escape from Butcher Bay, Far Cry 2, Condemned 2 and Ninja Gaiden 2 into something less boring. (Christ so many sequels!)

I remember when Extra Credits argued that regenerating health allowed for better level design, since you always knew how much health the player would walk into any given room with. Reasonable argument, but I still wasn't sold, since you could still (as Yahtzee put it before:) just hide in a corner and suck on your thumb and then you'd be back to max.
Then I played Red Steel 2.
Talk about compromise. Regenerating health, but your health doesn't regenerate during combat! The level designers always knew what your health would be at in any given point in the game, but you couldn't go hide in a corner and suck on your thumb. It worked really well, and allowed for some challenging fights.

tweedpol:
This has probably been said, but, in many many games WITH health bars (eg. Half life 2), I end up constantly quickloading every time I lose more than about 20 health, which is a bit like having regenerating health but more boring and cheat-y.

See, this right here is the point where it's gotten ridiculous. I don't consider myself hardcore by any means, but I think if you can't force yourself to continue in a game, any game, when you've only lost 20 health out of 100 (good God, that's less than two health packs - and those things ain't scarce!), you really need to man the fuck up. Seriously, people like you are the reason developers are scared to make games where hiding in the corner sucking your thumb doesn't make everything all better.

Triforceformer:
Well when I said "Speculation" I meant that the fine details were still a bit hazy. But the EGO system is very definitely the following. It's a health bar, which goes to a Critical Health mode if its depleted. You can take quite a beating, even if you're a modest Duke. The EGO Bar regenerates to full after 5 short seconds without being hit. If you do something cool or Duke-like, Gearbox calls these "Duke-isms", the overall EGO bar increases. Admiring yourself in the mirror, bench-pressing 600 pounds, executing (Mighty Boot) an enemy, etc, all inflate your EGO.

Ugh. What's the point of all those fancy ways to earn EGO if it just jumps up to full by doing nothing? That's worse than plain old regenerating health in my opinion; it means they went to a lot of trouble to include a feature nobody will use because by the time they even get to a point where they can, they'll be back to full EGO already.

What they should have done was make the EGO be tied directly into how much he rules at any given moment. Dealing damage slowly restores it; running away and hiding like a scared bunny actually makes it go down slowly; successfully finishing off a room full of baddies brings it back up to full, like in Arkham Asylum. And so on.

i think duke's ego system is awesome. i think the best health system is the one that increases whenever you take out bad dudes. wait, has this system actually been utilized before? i'm sure it has. has it? hmm.

I actually really liked Halo: Reach's system (ironically), where you had a recharging shield, but a typical health bar underneath it that got damaged when your shield ran out. So hiding in cover for your shield to recharge was viable, but you still had health underneath it that you needed healthkits for.

I'm not a Halo fan by a long mile, but that was an interesting shake-up to the formula, I thought.

I really liked what Assassin's Creed 2 did. There you've got a bunch of health check-boxes, each worth about 4 of the smallest type of hit, if I remember correctly. Thing is, you don't die immediately when you hit 0, you just enter a "Sudden Death" mode while your last health check-box regenerates. So in a game where you have somewhere around 100 hp towards the end you regenerate up to 4, which means you have a chance to make it to a doctor, but without really being a in a position you wanted to start a fight in.

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.

I've seen variations of this idea in indie tabletop RPGs and the likes. The reason I think it's never really caught on is that in the end it's pretty much just that you change the name of the red bar in the corner and remove a little effect that adds drama. And it gets a bit weird in some situations with stuff like fall damage - you land totally unscratched twice when jumping out of a window on the third floor and then you instantly die when stepping down from a table.

Steve the Pocket:

Triforceformer:
Well when I said "Speculation" I meant that the fine details were still a bit hazy. But the EGO system is very definitely the following. It's a health bar, which goes to a Critical Health mode if its depleted. You can take quite a beating, even if you're a modest Duke. The EGO Bar regenerates to full after 5 short seconds without being hit. If you do something cool or Duke-like, Gearbox calls these "Duke-isms", the overall EGO bar increases. Admiring yourself in the mirror, bench-pressing 600 pounds, executing (Mighty Boot) an enemy, etc, all inflate your EGO.

Ugh. What's the point of all those fancy ways to earn EGO if it just jumps up to full by doing nothing? That's worse than plain old regenerating health in my opinion; it means they went to a lot of trouble to include a feature nobody will use because by the time they even get to a point where they can, they'll be back to full EGO already.

What they should have done was make the EGO be tied directly into how much he rules at any given moment. Dealing damage slowly restores it; running away and hiding like a scared bunny actually makes it go down slowly; successfully finishing off a room full of baddies brings it back up to full, like in Arkham Asylum. And so on.

They tried that in Manhattan Project, without the "Lose health by hiding" thing, I think. It was alright, but a bit frustrating if there weren't alot of enemies around. Also, the point of all the fancy ways to earn EGO is so that later parts won't totally kick your ass. Sure your base EGO can take quite a bit, but DNF ain't gonna be a push over based off the comments who got to play the first 90 minutes. Besides, I'd be worried about Duke's mental health if his EGO was fluctuating that much. :P

I think you may have mis-interpreted DNF's EGO system a bit. It's not that Duke-isms restore your health, it's that it makes the overall bar larger. Yes, it jumps to full pretty quick, no that ain't gonna help when there are 5 pig cops and an Assault Commander coming after your balls of steel simultaneously. The enemies in DNF aren't just glorified whack-a-mole like CoD. They're constantly pushing in on you to kill you as quick and hard as possible. Duke-isms help give you a much needed edge when things get hectic.

You see how big the EGO bar is in those videos? That's not how big it is at the start of the game.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0-97N6jNKb4

About 3 or 4 minutes in is when you see Duke's starting EGO bar. That shit ain't getting you past level 15, which is much bigger when you get there in that demo. You're going to need every mirror, weight bench, pinball machine, and powerup you can get to make your way through. Not that a "MODEST Bar" challenge where you NEVER use a Duke-ism wouldn't be interesting.

Veterinari:
I really liked what Assassin's Creed 2 did. There you've got a bunch of health check-boxes, each worth about 4 of the smallest type of hit, if I remember correctly. Thing is, you don't die immediately when you hit 0, you just enter a "Sudden Death" mode while your last health check-box regenerates. So in a game where you have somewhere around 100 hp towards the end you regenerate up to 4, which means you have a chance to make it to a doctor, but without really being a in a position you wanted to start a fight in.

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.

I've seen variations of this idea in indie tabletop RPGs and the likes. The reason I think it's never really caught on is that in the end it's pretty much just that you change the name of the red bar in the corner and remove a little effect that adds drama. And it gets a bit weird in some situations with stuff like fall damage - you land totally unscratched twice when jumping out of a window on the third floor and then you instantly die when stepping down from a table.

I think it could be done in a game like devil may cry or something really well. what i mean by that is you could have an over the top character- someone who does things that you couldn't even dream of doing at all times, so why not throw in dodging bullets and calling it luck? or "slickness" or something.

Ok so I have been working on a Rpgish map for StarCraft 2 for the last few months. It's kind of an homage for the "NOTD" maps with more Diablo 3 like abilities. My health system is kind of a hybrid. First there is no heath regen, but every class has shields that do regen so its like to health bars. And I liked the idea Blizzard had for D3 to curb potion spam with the God of War heatlh orbs so I put that in my map as well. Now in my map some enemies have a higher chance of dropping health orbs and the others are good at keeping you away from them, which I think works pretty well at least in my map where I am trying to encourage teamwork. A good team can pick off the "health droppers" then work their way through the others to make quick work of a mass of enemies. While a crappy team will get separated and over whelmed with no chance of reaching the health orbs.

The death system is also a Diablo rip off when you die you drop you gear and a naked clone is created at the last cloning station then the clone must make his way back to your equipment to have a chance of continuing on.

I have a lot of hope for health orbs, it works really well with a group of people that work together with the bonus of getting rid of the need for a medic I never liked playing a healer, I wanna kill stuff and with this setup everyone is the healer and no one is the healer. The best strategy seems to be when the team is at full health they should focus on killing enemies when shields start getting low and the group starts taking damage let guys with full shields move up and cover while the other let their shields regen, and when the team needs health cover the guy closest the the health orbs while he picks them up. Once the team is back to full health it's back to killing and covering who ever has the lowest shields.

But the best part of all this is it lets me send a small group of heroes against 1000s enemies, and a good group can smash their way through them in no time by taking turns covering and picking up heatlh to keep the team at full health. While a bad group has to pull little groups of enemies and wait for their shields to regen between pulls and the health orbs go poof before they were anywhere near them. Plus the more time you waste the harder everything gets and you eventually die because you couldn't work together. But thats just what I like.

thereverend7:
I think it could be done in a game like devil may cry or something really well. what i mean by that is you could have an over the top character- someone who does things that you couldn't even dream of doing at all times, so why not throw in dodging bullets and calling it luck? or "slickness" or something.

It's certainly not that it couldn't be done, it's more of a question of why it should be done. I've only played one game that used a "luck" system (Called Advantage there, but it was the same thing) and it was a pen-and-paper RPG, and it took about half an hour before everybody were just referring to it as "Health" anyway.

It's also less intuitive than a straight-up health system. In the system Yathzee describes I can well imagine that many gamers would be pissed off that they lost "health" for shots that "obviously" missed.

In the end, as long as you're going to have the same type of "countdown" mechanic that current HP systems use you're essentially talking about a minor Visual change. A minor visual change that might be totally negligible or even frustrating to the player. The chances of it actually adding anything substantial to the game is slim.

Health systems to me are fine the way they are, for games that need immersiveness and planning out attacks (Dead Space 2, Bioshock) and have lulls in combat and exploring (FarCry2), it works well.

For games which need run-n-gun non-stop pacing, the regen health system works well. For those kinds of games (Vanquish, Gears of War), to have to stop and think and worry about health kits/healing just takes away some of the action.

Although it seems a few more games are gravitating towards this these days, I'm not complaining. Enemies getting more brazen to come and finish you off when they know you're wounded, and responding like so is a nice touch.

I remember those games on the other end of the spectrum, 2 shots max and you're down. Bloody Rainbow Six: Raven Shield was tough as hell, I could finish almost all terrorist hunt maps. Now, after finishing R6: Vegas 2 terrorist maps all on 'Realistic', I go back and play that and can barely get past 2 levels =S

I've been saying this for years. Regenerating health dumbs down the overall experience. It reduces the thinking part of gameplay by at least 60%
If you don't have to worry about your health then what else is left for you to worry about in a game?

michael87cn:

Xanadu84:
Bullshit. Entitled to your opinion sure, but frankly, Yahtzee is just plain wrong here. Regenerating health is a great idea. It resets every challenge, giving a fresh perspective each time. No artificially difficult sections where you have extra low health, no resource management to distract you from the action at hand. There are PLENTY of other ways to add narrative continuity besides a big red bar. Not every game should have regenerating health: Games like Half Life, Dead Space, etc get a good deal of improved pacing and tension from a health system. But honestly, I can't name a game with regenerating health that should have used hit points, or vise versa. For all the design mistakes out there, the health system choice is not one of them. Maybe video games just need more games that have a slower pace, and less focus on manic action. Maybe we need less games that benefit more from regeneration. But that's a completely different aissue. Regenerating health is here to stay. And you know what? Regenerating health may not be realistic, but it FEELS more realistic. Because if you don't die, you can simply assume that whatever happened was an ignorable flesh wound. That feels a lot more reasonable then getting shot in the face, being fine, then dying from a paper cut.

Bullshit? Hardly.. I see regenerating health as boring as turning on God mode. Let's look at Call of Duty as an example. You can die very fast, but you heal very fast. It's very easy to become punished by the game, but also very easy to finish the game without any real challenge( when it comes to shooting at things atleast ). Basically, as long as you don't run out into the open like an idiot, you'll NEVER DIE. To make the game the slightest bit challenging... ENEMIES NEVER MISS. Pop your head out for a second? TATATTAT BAMBAMBAM you've been sighted with terminator like efficiency and shot at before a single second can tick by. BUT, all you need to do to survive is make pop-shots or throw grenades over cover and slowly, oh so very very slowly crawl from cover spot to cover spot to finish a mission..

Shooters have DIED. They've become military training simulators, and that's great if you're gung ho about the military, but what about those of us that want to play a good old fashioned shooter? At least in Halo 1 it was just a weak shield that regenerated, that was cool because you still had to manage your health blocks and it gave you a little freedom to make some mistakes. Now a days you can't make mistakes or you get the dreaded game over screen, you can't go in guns blazing and just enjoy blasting everyone around you away while managing your health, and you can't play a game in a different way. It's always the same game of ducking behind cover, making a popshot/burst fire then duck back and heal up , twiddle your thumbs, go bake a cake, etc come back and move to the next cover; oh look a quick time event killed you because you were so BORED you weren't expecting something crazy to happen.

But you're no longer talking about regenerating health. You are talking about badly done regenerating health. Anything poorly design is going to be dumb. Or it might just not be to your taste.

There are plenty of factors to include that can tweak regenerating health: Speed of regeneration, how quickly you hit regeneration, and the like. I just think its a little silly to complain that regenerating health punishes you to strongly for a mistake, and then turn around and say its too easy. Its neither. It's a design choice. People have different tastes, it doesn't mean one or another is inherently bad. If you don't like regenerating health, maybe you prefer slower paced game with less twitch and more resource management. If you do, you might like something more fast and furious. That's a matter of taste, not a failure of the mechanic. But regardless, there is a very good, legitimate reason why Call of Duty has regenerating health, while Dead Space has Health Packs. They compliment the game like White Wine compliments Fish. Maybe you just don't like white wine.

I'm surprised he didn't mention L4D at all. That game would be absolutely wrecked if it only required hiding for a few seconds to recover from a tank causing a car to run you over.

I have a feeling that somewhere in six pages, my thoughts have been fairly thoroughly ninja'd. I'm okay with that.

Anyways, I just started playing Uncharted 2 today, and I found myself using the 'near death cover moments' to employ distraction techniques, disrupt the field of battle, or simply take a second to look over the field before I make my next move, something that would be next to impossible in a limited health scenario.

I love Half-Life, and I'm always amused (after the fact) of the lengths that I'll go to to retrieve a health vial from across the room without exposing myself to gun fire when my health is in the single digits (grenades + gravity gun can get you damned near anything you could possibly want from anywhere, in case you were wondering), but I don't really have a problem with a game that lets me have a breather while I try to decide what I need to do next.

Besides, if I had limited health, I'd be SO much less likely to just dive from cover to cover, grabbing dudes and punching their lights out while using them as shields until I can find more cover. Good times, I've saved so much ammo with that tactic. =D

The idea for a "luck bar" is BRILLIANT. I like it.

Honestly, I liked Just Cause 2's health system. It regenerated, but every time you took damage, your maximum health went down. Basically, screw up too much and you only have HALF the health you normally have. To recover that, you need a medkit.

It was a good idea, and if the idea were take further and properly hybridized with the right way to recover health (item, attacking, health station, etc), it could be a GREAT idea.

Can't say I inherently agree. I can think of plenty of situations where health pack systems were simply tedious, particularly if the last health station/pack/whathaveyou is several rooms back; I was one of the paranoid players of Duke Nukem who would sit at a drinking fountain or toilet for two minutes until my health returned to full, and those weren't in every room.

For that matter, I consider paranoid defense and health conservation to be far more of a break in the action than dodging behind cover for however many seconds, then leaping back into the fray.

I realize I'm certainly not a majority opinion-holder, but I'm far less of an "oh my god I can die at any second, this is so cool!" person than I am a "HOLY SHIT I AM FIGHTING THE ENTIRE ARMED FORCES OF TURKEY AND WINNING!" person.

It's all been down hill sense Heretic imo.

But yeah I understand completely on the healing thing, it makes games like halo waaaay to easy. I miss the frantic and panic dash for cover...it seems it wasn't just me sucking but a universal experence :) which makes me feel better.

OH also Dark Forces 1 was really good too.

One system that I've appreciated...the honor system. I've noticed that in many RPG's (Pokemon *cough, cough, hack, wheeze, hack, cough*) you can stock up on items as if they're Big Macs. I.E. a Full Restore for $3,000 doesn't mean all that much when you have $200,000 on you; plus if you are going off against the Elite Four, buying as many health supplies as possible diminishes any challenge they should have. So, if the game has a frustrating health system, create your own restrictions.

For me, I implemented some modified Nuzlocke rules for me, including limiting myself to 5 total healing items (plus anything I find on the path) for when I'm off exploring the world of Unova. Although this was already in store, I could see an honor code being used in other games. If I'm exploring one of the many rings of Halo (with regenerating health), just keep track of how many times you start blinking red (say 3 times in between checkpoints) and if you hit that number, kill yourself off and start over. For games like Splatterhouse that has you using an in-combat move to heal, just limit how many times you can use that move between checkpoints. For games like Super Mario Galaxy 2 (which has more available lives than stars), limit how many lives you can use per level.

Of course there are games that can't use an honor code, yes it doesn't work for everyone, and yes it is easy to break the honor code. With that said, I've found myself enjoying the extra challenge of self-restrictions. For me, self-restricting health items lets me enjoy more game for my money, and while all of my friends are sailing through certain games as if they were part of the development team (they weren't), I've found myself having a new appreciation for games, and finding the wait in between games to be much more enjoyable.

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.

Someone who has been shot in the leg, foot, or arm would most likely be able to continue but with considerable difficulty, such as decreased agility or loss of the ability to aim properly. Games that come close to simulating the actual effects of bodily damage in combat are few and far between, excepting the "get shot in the head, you are dead" rule. But realistically, not all head-shots are immediately fatal.

As for realism: yes, games will never perfectly depict absolute realism when it comes to health systems, and games aren't stopping to ask to directions to get to that destination. Games shouldn't be absolutely realistic, and most of them don't want to be.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
I do not know how anyone could have thought that regenerating health would enrich that experience. When your health can regenerate, all you need to do is, as ever, hide behind a wall and wait for a bit.

Regenerating health was a measure enacted by developers to meet players halfway in terms of game difficulty. Before 1996, I had never completed a Doom game while the difficulty was above "I'm too young to die", the lowest difficulty level, without cheating. All other times (on "Not too rough" up to "Ultra-Violence") I enabled [iddqd] from the start, and occasionally [idkfa] when hunting for keys in monster-less corridors became incredibly boring. I assume developers used regenerating health to discourage this kind of play, which is exactly the wrong way to play a game. It wasn't until the summer of 1996 that I had seriously attempted to complete the three episodes of Doom on UV without cheating. Two years after the sequel had been released. Call me risk-averse.

My complaint with regenerating health is that it regenerates far too quickly in most games: hide behind cover for a moment and half of your total vitality it restored. It's as if god-mode was built into the lowest difficulty levels of most modern first-person shooting games.

Health by station games tend to become slightly less boring than playing a game in god-mode due to the backtracking. When it was released it played Half-Life for the interesting level environments and horrible voice-acting (in the tesssst chamberrrrrrrrrrr), not the difficulty level, because interesting level environments and horrible voice-acting were things that the original Quake did not have.

Health by murder is interesting in that it encourages players to actually play the game and proceed forward rather than hunt for health packs that haven't been collected in the far corners of the current map.

Health by environment is mechanically identical to health by station, except there would be more health stations, and the health stations would become random terrain objects. Less boring, in a way, but eventually it comes down to players drawing health from whatever power lines/soda machines/lightbulbs are nearby. Too many or too few would break the game, and balance testing would be paramount in that kind of game.

Health by collecting second-chance flags (Sonic's rings) could be explored by first person shooter games, in a way. But really it would boil down into a combination of the regenerating health and health pack item pickup systems mechanically; start with health at 2, getting damaged reduces the health counter by 1, collect a health item or wait (run away) until the counter regenerates to 2, and when health reaches zero you're dead. This kind of system might encourage smarter play, such as not running in the open or between cover in directly front of enemies armed with automatic weapons, since "two strikes and you're out" will force players to take fewer risks.

Health by moving around isn't far from regenerating health by sitting still. Another aspect of regenerating health that isn't always taken into account by the player: why are you losing so much health? Are you running right up to the enemy instead of sneaking up on them? Not using cover effectively? Using the wrong weapon? Not using tactical retreat or grenades to lure enemies away from entrenched positions? Are you running into and through your teammates' lines of fire? Are you playing the game wrong (Commando-style*, instead of Rambo-style*)? Regenerating health time, the time players spend sitting still while they're health is restored magically, is almost never used by the player to reflect on why they were absorbing so many bullets/rockets/fireballs. Game instruction booklets have never contained basic infantry tactics. I see a few reasons for this, but will present only a three.

One: players don't read instruction manuals. That's a whole lot of trees gone to waste, and the paper is too rigid to be used as toilet tissue.

Two: learning movement and engagement tactics can become boring after a while. Who wants to study before playing a game? No one. They want the game and/or online opponents to teach them how to not die. And that's why modern games are composed of 10%-25% tutorial missions: because players don't want to read, and they expect games to hold their hands while they riding on training wheels that don't come off until the climax of the story.

Three: movement and engagement tactics that increase the likelihood of survival may make the game boring in the ways that cover-based shooters are boring.

In closing, I'll be playing some Metal Slug X after writing this junk, and dying a lot.

*Commando-style: reference to 1985 film Commando; running around shooting everything like an idiot.
*Rambo-style: reference to 1982 film Rambo: First Blood; using guerrilla warfare tactics.

The best known comics and game character with automatic health regeneration is Wolverine, and it used to make him formidable in a unique way. Now that it's being imitated by so many other characters in comics and games it's removed even the small amount of tension that came with the willingness to believe the hero might somehow lose. And that's what the shtick does to games -- it removes tension.

Without tension there's no drama and little emotional involvement by the player. But watching people play online and reading message boards it seems many players these days don't seem to want any frustration. They go through all games speedrun style, unlocking content in the most efficient and mechanical way possible. And that's like reading a book just to say you flipped all the pages.

I remember the intense disappointment I felt in "Kingdom Hearts II" when I saw that all the treasure chests were just sitting on the ground. In the first game there were many which you couldn't reach the first time you visited a level because you didn't have the needed jumping or gliding ability. Returning to open those chests after having powered up gave me a feeling that I/Sora had truly grown in power. But the sequel lacked that feeling. As beautiful (and weird) as it was, I felt very little sense of accomplishment in the entire game.

Granted it's frustrating as hell to "die" in a game, but it's supposed to be. It's only by feeling that you've overcome long odds that you get a feeling of victory. In reality the player always has infinite health and only needs to reload or restart to regain their character's health. The "hide and wait" method removes even that imaginary tension.

I'm sure I'm in the minority, but I like the health by checkpoint approach. As long as you finish the current level, or return to a base or house (GTA style) you're fine when you start the next section of the game. But I know many so-called "hardcore" players hate the inconvenience and frustration of checkpoints, apparently forgetting that that's the point. If you're low on health before you reach a checkpoint you're going to be emotionally involved in the experience in a way that you wouldn't be if you could just slowly "tank" your way through.

I want games to make me feel I've run a gauntlet, not just had a stroll in a park.

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