Extra Punctuation: Why Regenerating Health Sucks

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I've never talked to anyone who dislikes the segmented health regen approach. Best of both worlds. You've got room for error and punishment for mistakes. Being hurt doesn't mean you're screwed, but you need to play more cautiously until you find an item to top off your health. That's real "pace" based on player skill/preference rather than developer expectation.

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 think it could be argued that this is more an issue with quicksave systems. As much as I was thankful for quick saving in say, Tomb Raider 2 I ended saving every minute of playtime and reloading every time I took a smidge of damage. Definitely didn't play that way in the first game!

I think giving the player at least a bit of regeneration is good so they don't get stuck in a screwed situation. I agree that everyone using the CoD system of take 5 bullets at once, die, take 4 bullets then hide for a few seconds = perfectly fine, is getting pretty old from its overuse recently

IMO Halo CE was my favorite way to manage it. You've got your shield bar which can regenerate, then your health bar which ain't coming back. I think a lot of modern shooters could go with Reach's example where if you lose health, it'll regenerate only to certain points (in Reach every third is a permanent loss until a health pack is picked up) so you won't ever face a one shot dead scenario but will still face consequences for getting shot/hurt too much that last encounter.

You know, at least in Halo (all the titles) the regeneration made some sort of sense. It wasn't Master Chief's health that regenerated, it was his suit's shield. His health was pretty much always really terrible, as he could only take a few hits after his shield was down. In the first game, he actually did have a health bar separate from the shield that did require health packs, but I think they got rid of it in favor of crappier health and a better, faster regenerating shield.

All the other FPS's that have regenerating health systems don't really make sense, I agree. It is mostly in shooters that this occurs, but I think MGS 3 had my favorite ever

Edit: AAAAANNDDD, ninja'd

I honestly don't think that this is a cut and dry kinda thing though. Health regeneration really, really effects pacing. It's practically the difference between a first person action game and a first person survival horror game. I love survival horror, and I know yatz' does too so I understand the bias. but it IS a bias!

Say what you will about the Halo games, they definitely have some solid pacing. Better pacing than a LOT of FPS games and that's in large part due to the regen health.

I don't know man, personally I like me a good health bar system. Maybe a good middle ground would be a dual health bar system, one represents your health and then a longer one representing the health you can gain back if you can just stop being a fucking bullet sponge for like a minute.

I agree with most of that.

I first noticed how annoying regeneration could be by playing the Vanquish demo. For one thing when you're just about to die the entire game slows down except for the player. Giving you time to jump behind cover and just blast the enemy to hell that shot you. Hell, you could just not get hit which was easy to do when the bullets slowed down and healing only took not getting shot for a few seconds whether you're behind cover or spanking your bottom at the enemies in the open. That and dodging made you nearly invincible from almost any attack, whether it was casual gunfire or a swarm of missles blasting your position.

The game looked cool enough but the gameplay and generic main character made it very boring to me.

EDIT :: However, I don't really think it was even worth it to post an article about such an obvious thing.

Yeah, In the Halo games, when Things were frantic, they were Frantic as all hell. Except on the easier difficulties, There was practically nowhere to hide at all. You can't even take more than a few bullets to the body and even fewer to the face.

Actually, I can't really see a game like Modern warfare effectively progress without a regen health system. You don't have much health to work with. And, like in the Halo games, your enemies won't stop attacking you if you take cover, so in hectic gunfights, if you were wounded, it was usually more worth it to just push through them to get to cover, than to look for cover to regenerate during the fight (at least, that's how it felt >_>). In games where you ARE a veritable bullet sponge *Cough*gearsofwar*cough* regenerating health does take away from the experience, and health packs make a lot more sense than to just regenerate it.

In RPGs, regenerating health kinda defeats the purpose IMHO.

I don't know if it's been said yet, (and it probably has) but yahtzee, you didn't mention a good point that Extra Credits made in favor of regenerating health. It removes a key factor of unpredictability from fights. A developer knows how much health a player has when he is going into any given fight, and so it's easier to design a fight with the health factor taken out of the equation.

Although i do have to agree, this doesn't excuse regenerating health, it just makes the developers look lazy. And now that you mention it... it would be fun if self regenerating health was done away with. I tend not to care when i get shot because i know that as long as i don't die flat out, i'll be fine in a few seconds. I end up playing much worse when know i'll be fine soon.

Most actin games have a cool down/build up period between action sequences, which I guess is the time that health is meant to regenerate. I isn't, but still. You could achieve the same goal better if you allowed players to conduct a healing action when they were out of combat. The action needs to not give health until completed (like reloading) and make the player very vulnerable while being conducted. Likewise you could program the enemies to attack when the player is healing so that they can't do it in combat and to pursue players if they try to flee. This creates a stronger sense of tension because the player's needs to check that there are no enemies around before they can heal and if they need heal mid combat they need to escape pursuing enemies leading to tense chase sequences before they recover health. It would also meaning that recovering health would be an exercise in tension building rather than breaking up the excitement as the player would be worried about being attacked while healing rather than waiting to get back into the action. The system would work better in stealth, horror or games with lower player power than damage tanking games, but I think it's a lot better than needing to make a cup of tea mid fight while waiting for one's health to come back.

Halo Reach is one of my favourite shooters BECAUSE of it's quality health system complimenting its mechanics for risk vs. reward game play and hilarious AI.

It's a comfortable merge of auto-regeneration with health pack use and on harder difficulties makes you manage your health, as sometimes a tiny bit of health can save you. The difficulties are well scaled and you could also use the "skulls" (mostly difficulty multipliers but other fun stuff as well) from any point to mix up the mechanics, strategy and game balance. Lastly for those with immense self-hatred, crazy skills and/or Bungie love there is Mythic difficulty (max difficulty with all skulls on).

Edit: Also the health regeneration is in the form of a energy shield system which works with the science fiction setting.

Full health regeneration of a regular human in a regular setting is just strange IMO.

It really depends on the genre. Regenerating units in RTS's can make sense and in RPG's. But I'm going to assume that you're talking about in FPS's and I'd still kinda disagree with you. It always works in some situations. Why do you think COD is so popular? Because people enjoy it. Why do they enjoy it? Because of the way it's designed.

I would most certainly rage if the next Half-Life had regenerative health, but it does work in some situations.

When the regenerative health feature first appeared, my interpretation of it was pretty much excactly like the the "luck system."

I didn't imagine it as getting shot repeatedly in vital organs then regeneration like Wolverine. I thought I was in danger and being grazed by bullets. The longer I stayed in the open, the sooner it was for a well aimed bullet to hit me.

But it made a lot more sense then because it was only used in first person shooters then. Now third person shooters show the contrary.

No realistic health systems eh? What about Dwarf Fortress? The only game I know of where being hit by a cross bow bolt will give you details about exactly where it entered, the tissues and organs punctured, the blood vessels that burst, how much blood is lost, and the over all negative effects of it all. Be prepared to loose a lung and slowly bleed to death or not being able to get any air because of all the blood in your lungs. Of course, Dwarf Fortress is a game that is 100% in ascii characters that still manages to slow modern computers to a crawl so...

I think Metal Gear Solid 3 was mentioned, and I agree it has a great way of balancing regeneration. Would be even better if you needed to actually get your wounds treated somewhere rather then just doing it yourself with a easy to use menu that took no time, but still. So yeah, Health systems CAN be made interesting and more realistic without being overly frustrating.

But I guess thats not really the point of health regeneration anyway. It's just there to make it so you don't have to run around with no health all the time. I always thought the "exciting" parts of half-life and such were more tedious to me then anything else. Not that I think health regeneration is a good idea, but in half-life at least you could just save scum your way past all the really hard bits any way. Honestly thats the thing I didn't like about half-life. And while I loved Dues Ex because of the more open talky parts, I never finished because after a while the game degenerated into almost the same kind of situation. But I guess I am not an action guy, and wouldn't think it was any better with health regeneration either.

I guess I just rather for to be treated less as a resource to spend to get though an area (there are plenty of those with ammo and items already). I rather it be so it only factors into surviving intimidate danger and is easy to replenish between segments (like health pickups a plenty before and after a boss), or it's guarded as such that if you lose any at all, you must have screwed up badly. Not the chipping slowly away until there is nothing left, and not the content regeneration in the middle of a fire fight.

I really would like Yatzee to shut up for just a few weeks and not sound like a 40 year old man child complaining about life. More and more of his posts seem to be aging him, as he is coming off as an old man asking for the "Old Days" in gaming back. You can see it in his reviews as well.

I would like to see more health systems that make you work to keep you alive. The cover system was a good start, and I enjoy the idea of healing yourself like in Metal Gear Solid Snake eater. Perhaps long term damages require diff ways of healing. Dragon Age did that as well as numerous other games. I think keeping the action up is far more exciting than looking for a health pack on the battlefield.

Done correctly I think that regen can make the experience of "near death" better, or at least more frequent. If a game were designed so that you could only take a small number of hits before dying then you could have a player constantly at a point of near death without being crippling.

While regen isn't a perfect system I enjoy it more then the alternatives. On one extreme theres the original golden eye where you can't regain any health at all, and other systems that allow you to regain health for back tracking or going on a scavenger hunt break flow horribly.

"Well i guess I could go fight the boss, but first I'll empty every trash bin in a three block radius and if that fails I'll walk back through the swamp to drain the last bit of that health station."

I did like the health system from doom three, every 5 enemies you kill recharges a weapon that, when used, replenishes your health (This was in addition to wall mounted band-aids and scavenger hunt mechanics).

I don't know if it's been said yet, (and it probably has) but yahtzee, you didn't mention a good point that Extra Credits made in favor of regenerating health. It removes a key factor of unpredictability from fights. A developer knows how much health a player has when he is going into any given fight, and so it's easier to design a fight with the health factor taken out of the equation.

Although i do have to agree, this doesn't excuse regenerating health, it just makes the developers look lazy. And now that you mention it... it would be fun if self regenerating health was done away with. I tend not to care when i get shot because i know that as long as i don't die flat out, i'll be fine in a few seconds. I end up playing much worse when know i'll be fine soon.

Well Agreed

A developer knows how much health a player has when he is going into any given fight, and so it's easier to design a fight with the health factor taken out of the equation.

This. The best parts of Halo (where the regenerating health made sense, and also the first mainstream example of the mechanic I can think of) and its sequels made use of the fact that every single battle could be a set-piece. No longer did you have to have crappy rooms that posed no real threat, or have to ease off on your nice, big battle because you were unsure how many health packs your hero was carrying.

When the developers make good use of their health system, each and every battle can be hair-raising, oh-my-god-I'm-going-to-die, manic fun. This often requires the difficulty to be on a higher setting than "Normal", but Halo was always designed for "Heroic" (the difficulty description states this). I can remember hundreds of tense gunfights listening to that "bipbipbipbipbipbip" of the shield warning system, followed by the welcome, loving, charitable "dooooOOOOO" of the shield regen. It characterised Halo for me. I felt like the a Spartan, moving tactically, attacking at the right moments and hitting cover as appropraite. It made those "Rambo" moments where you just had to run out and kill every last *cough* in the room exciting to get through because you didn't have a large pool of health, you had a small pool that forgave minor hits. Standing amongst your fallen foes, breathing a sigh of relief, listening to the "bipbipbipbipbipbip" that said "You know, that was close". It was exactly what a shooter encounter should be like.

I had problems with Half-Life in that I would often find if I was at full health/suit, I was unstoppable. Eventually I would be whittled down by stray shots and this piddly room with nothing interesting in a long corridor of nothing interesting would take half a dozen tries because I only have 20 health. That's not fun, that's frustration.

For a better implementation than Half-Life, see Max Payne - it's "Health by station", but the stations carry an amount of health relative to your performance: Doing well? There's only one pack of pills here, doing badly? There's a whole bag-full to perk you up. The net effect is to keep the player at an "average" health that the developers can exploit for exciting set-piece battles.

All of this said, the worst implementation is Fire Warrior - dull corridor crawling with regenerating health is missing the point of regenerating health completely.

Tl;dr - regenerating health is not a bad mechanic, because it allows developer freedom - they can choose to make great battles with that, or dull work-a-day rooms of mooks. That's their call to make a dull game, and our call to pull them up on it.


I've been saying this for years and people always call me a cunt. Thank you for saving me typing time as I'll probably be linking to this a lot.

My 2 favorite uses of health bars would have to be ninja gaiden 2 and U.N Squadron for the SNES.

ninja gaiden 2, take a few hits, lose health bar, red bar slowly fills up as well as you take damage. clear the room or immediate area of enemies, health refills to red bar, red bar can only be removed by healing items or statues that double as save points. I like it because it is both forgiving and demanding, which is the reason i also like U.N. Squadrons. Get hit, invincible for a second or two (arcade style plane shoot em up game) and then your health bar blinks "danger" for a short period of time, during which if you get hit, you die immediately. after a few seconds of not taking damage, your health bar is restored with a little chunk missing, so its a series of getting hit, getting out of the danger zone (lol reference to danger zone in plane game lol) and getting your health bar back.

As far as good immersion goes, i never played far cry 2 all that much, but i always loved watching my friends play it and pull bullets and shrapnel and stuff out their bodies during a firefight. real intense and keeps the flow and pressure up to maximum.

Personally, I loved health as numbers like in SSHD. I remember one of my favourite bits was trying to fight a handful of kleers, usually easy, with only a teeny bit of health. Greatly amusing to show me how dangerous the baddies can be sometimes.

I think that "Luck" system would actually work well in Halo, both from a gameplay and narrative perspective, seeing as Master Chief's only distinguishable feature from other Spartans is being luckier than them.

Don't get me wrong, the narrative is still as stoopid as before.

I thought of Yahtzee's luck system when I was trying to think of a way to make a Spirits Within game, since touching a ... hell I forget what they're called now, I'll call them phantoms is instant death. Your 'health' bar represents the character's ability to dodge a phantom's attack at the last second, and it's not until their HP hits zero that they've failed to dodge said attack and go down with phantom poisoning, or whatever it's called when a phantom merely wings someone and infects them.

Instead of a health-bar, a luck-bar?
Hell, I had a plan like that... maybe have it that you jealously hoard four-leaf clovers as a form of health pick-up?

Oh, regenerating health can work perfectly well. Was probably mentioned before, but look at MGS3. Health regenerates, but so slowly that it can't be exploited that much. Also, when you get badly injured, you health won't regenerate fully anymore. Yes, there are items that will restore your health instantly, but you can only find a handful of these in the entire game, so you'll think twice about using them on a whim.

I still think the best health system was Condemned 2. Three red squares. When you got hit it emptied a square, as long as there was some red in the square and you had a quiet moment you regained health, but you emptied the square it would only refill with painkillers. So you could go through an area with 100%, 66% or 33% of your health depending on your previous fights. You wanted loot and to play it safe. Another nice thing is while checkpoints could be harsh, you always got full health if you reloaded, it stopped you being stuck in unwinnable situations.

I only checked the first page so it may have already been mentioned but I'm fairly sure Brothers in Arms: Hells Highway had something resembling a luck based system. It was more of a case of when you were getting shot while in cover the screen would get redder and redder. The redder the screen was the more chance you would get sgot when you peeked your head out.

Its been about 2 years since I played that game so I'm not 100% sure about this. ^^

Hard to dissagree with any one who can write that much! But his best point is that regenrating health does turn a game into nothing more than a sequence of the same events..
Atleast if you play through a game without generating health more than once you have a better chance of experiencing it in a whole different way, It can turn a simple stage of point and shoot into something of a fight to survive.
And a True gamer would appreciate that more than playing the same thing over and over in the same way, the only difference being more bullets will hit you and you'll spend more time ducking behing stuff. Thats not what I would call a different setting atal.

Ta Yahtzee

'Health' and arguably ammo levels / weapon availability are pretty much the only measures used to give players feedback about condition of characters.
Pen & paper games have most often taken a chance on what few variations there have been (to the best of my knowledge) but they seem to always end up either being unwieldy to implement & maintain from a game developers side of the fence or players have found it a challenge to understand the gravity of the more complex information that they need to make important decisions on either for the way it's conveyed or that the conditions can suddenly overpower an otherwise balanced encounter.

It can't be all that hard to come up with reasonable resources to manage, the other half of the answer though is to make encounters about more than applying your weapon to everything in sight.

Slow news week I suppose.

Nothing wrong with regenerating health. It cut out the old "reload to try and survive fight with full health" BS we had to go through with shooters-of-yore.

Does low health add more tension? Maybe. Depends. Perhaps.

Does regenerating health let you keep playing? Definitely.

That luck thing is a good idea. Im actually surprised Yahtzee left out the Healing system in Far Cry 2. that was an interesting way to go about healing yourself, dig the bullet out, inject some morphine into your arm and run away. Of course it still requires to hide behind cover and stand still, but at least your actually preforming some sort of action.

And while not realistic in the slightest, its at least more believable that your characters a drug addict, rather then wolverine with a gun.

Health by station is probably the best implementation I've seen, with maybe a few random health packs to be found - either off of enemies or in supply closets. It didn't seem bad to me in ME or ME2 when my health regenerated, future magix and all, but one of the many problems that led me to quit Gears before I even reached the half-way mark, was the fat space marine regenerating health.

Steve the Pocket:

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.

Aw, thanks dude, mature way of expressing your opinion! You just don't see it often enough on a forum. There are several reasons why I reload, unrelated to a failure to 'man the fuck up', maybe I thought I could handle that encounter faster, more cool-ly, without losing so many of those asinine allies, and these things usually correlate with losing less health. All of these except the last one would also apply to a regen system. I'm aware that I'm doing this to myself with my own perfectionism, and I don't remember complaining to any developers that it was ruining my game experience, but it is one more thing which triggers the dreaded quickload reflex. And, being okay with losing more than a bit of health in an encounter seems inevitably to lead to bits where you have only say 20 left, and end up doing the quickload spamming anyway. If you reply to this, try to refrain from ad hominem attacks on my manliness (hey, try giving it up for Lent or something!)

I really don't see what the problem is: I've played enough FPSs with my ass glued to a wall, bullets flying everywhere, shit exploding, etc., and all I can think is:

"Please don't let another bullet hit me! PLEASE! I'm so close to recovering health! If the Gods will let me live another half-second, I'd let a donkey ra--GODDAMNIT! WHERE THE FUCK DID YOU COME FROM, YOU ASSHOLE?!"

So I fail to see how regeneration must detract from congruence of gameplay or from his precious "eh-mur-shun." As he said, it's not about realism, it's about how well it's integrated into the game, and many games that I've played do this quite well. In fact, health packs can be positively detrimental to many combat-heavy games. The game that got me into next-gen FPS was Vegas 2. If I had had to look for health packs in that game, it would have been intolerable. As it was, it was fucking AWESOME!!!

I think that developers need to decide what works for the game they're making. And granted, most of them DON'T. That's the real issue. "Oh fuck! This crap game that sold well did it! We have to do it!" That brings everything down.

But Yahtzee knows that already.

I must say at first I was "what you talking about Yahtzee?" as I finished reading i understood what you meant, and was pretty similar to what I though already, also I think one could make a great game just taking little ideas of each of your EP and ZP.


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.

There are far too many posts to see if somebody else has mentioned this yet, but speaking of Brother's in Arms, Hell's Highway uses the exact system that Yahtzee describes. You don't have regenerating health, the screen just turns red to indicate that it's extremely likely that you'll get hit. I certainly hope that somebody mentioned this, given that there are 7 pages worth of comments.

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