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.

Fear Effects Fear gauge did this, and it worked really fucking well.

Though I don't think it's appropriate to all games, I think regenerating health is a good system. Games that rely on you having low health, horror games, for example, lose a sense of thrill if it's so easy to regain health. Other games like shooters benefit from it greatly, I think. It allows the developers to balance the each encounter by knowing exactly how much health you're going to have previous to reaching it. It, coupled with a good auto-save, also encourage gamers to try new approaches to a situation, since, if it doesn't work, there's no real loss (this is the issue people opposed to the system think is the problem), and they won't be punished for one rash or experimental strategy.

While games shouldn't always be about challenge, the ones that are should be fair in their challenge. The regenerating health allows developers to create a fair challenge and gradual increase in difficulty by knowing what health you will be on at the beginning of any given section. This, of course, would be the same as having the health regenerate only after an encounter or, even throwing health packs around at the end. But if the player's going to be collecting them after every fight, anyway, it may as well happen automatically.

I am not a big fan of heath regeneration either, you can just throw you ass into the wind get as much damage down range as possible then dive back into cover.

I also find a lot of games now really obscure your vision when you get hit, I understand the idea behind it but you only take a couple hits and you cant see. Trying to find the guy that killing you, becomes impossible.

I miss the heath bar.

Nothing was sweeter then beating a boss with one notch of heath.

Gotta disagree with you on this one Yahtzee. I remember playing bushido blade where you were legitmately hurt in battles and it was the LEAST FUN GAME EVER.

I mean, when we talk about adding realism to a game, perhaps we could move out the part where your average "hero" kills more people than Gilles de Rais?

If you're gonna do some killin' you gotta have a lot of health.

play flashpoint dragon rising or just get FP: red river when it comes out if you want a health system that affects your movement and ability to fight depending on where you're hurt

Regenerating health has made multiplayer so much slower because after each skirmish you sit behind cover and wipe the strawberry jello off your face.

I miss the days when you were down in the red on your health gauge (remember those?) and had to fight the way back to your command post through the squad of clones trying to capture it so that you could maybe heal a few seconds from the medical droid before they respawned.

Things were so much faster and games encouraged epic ballsyness versus pansying around after every engagement. We had jetpacks and dodge-rolls! We literally pitched C4 at each other we were so manly. Cover? Chest-high walls? What name so?

Don't get me wrong. I don't mind a slow, tactical advancement across a three mile long map from Bad Company 2 now and again. I just wish that Battlefield and Call of Duty hadn't choked out the entire rest of the shooter industry.

In other news totally not related to the second and third paragraphs: Where is Battlefront 3? :(

I've always thought the best health system was in Resistance: Fall of Man (not to be confused with that abomination call Resistance 2), where you had 4 health bars next to each other. If you took damage, you would lose health in the first bar. Should the first bar empty out completely, health would start being deducted from the second. If the first bar did not completely empty, it would regenerate after not the player didn't take damage for a few seconds, but if it did, health would not regenerate in that bar, and could only be restored by finding health on the ground, which was few and far between.

Because Hale was infected with the Chimearon virus, this system actually made a lot of sense. Before he was infected, health did not regenerate at all. Of course, Resistance 2 came out with the standard "go suck your thumb in a corner while your health is restored to 100%" system; at least it atill used a health bar.

I actually don't mind regenerating health in most games. I don't remember ever looking back at a game and saying, "man, that was a great game, but I really wish I'd spent more time on health management."

A also take a certain amount of umbrage with Yahtzee's argument that regenerating health provides a disincentive to exploration. If the only rewards a developer can provide for exploration are health packs and ammo, then they're a pretty lousy developer and the game is probably deficient in other ways as well.

I know it was just the result of a poorly designed realtime menu system, but I think the first Kingdom Hearts game kind of stumbled onto brilliance with its health system. Healing restores HP, but costs MP. You gain MP by attack -- which means you're probably going to take some damage. And the actual act of healing is this difficult little button maneuver you're struggling to perform at high speed (shifting through a mini-menu with the right analog stick) while sprinting away from the boss. It made for a very good tug-of-war between attack and defense, and I don't think I've seen anything that was quite as deep and elegant since.

The luck system sounds kind of interesting actually, in a way it's similar to Sonic in that you collect large amounts of luck(rings) and if you would be hit and killed, you'd instead lose luck(rings), I suppose holes are very unlucky things then, as the amount of luck(rings) would be irrelevant.

I think a semi-realistic system based mostly on stealth in which you would die from one or two gunshots but you have a cloning device nearby would be cool :D

I have played with three health systems that I think work pretty well:

1. Halo 1 and Halo: Reach. This was mentioned before, but I think its good to have partial regeneration, but also health packs. In Reach especially, I liked how your health could essentially be rounded up to the nearest quarter or so, and you had shields, so that you would definitely feel the effects of consecutive combat, but it wouldn't leave you with those annoying scenarios of being stuck in a fight with 1 health and no way to get it back.

2. Resident Evil 4. I loved the herbs and health sprays. In fact, I loved everything about RE4, but the health combined with the inventory system really was great. You could compensate for a lack of skill by having an abundance of health items, but supplies were ultimately limited, and so was your capacity to carry. You would also have to make decisions between ammo, guns, and health. I won't mention Resident evil 5, because that game took the inventory system I loved and murdered it...

3. World of Warcraft/TF2. You have a health bar that, in WoW at least, is capable of recharging itself, but very, very slowly. The process can be sped up through items, like food or bandages, as well as potions or healing spells in combat. Team Fortress 2 actually is somewhat similar to this, in that medics can heal you, you can pick up health packs, or, in some cases, use class specific weapons or items to regain health, but at a cost.

I will say that I appreciated recharging health when it first started out, just because games always used health packs before then and it got a bit old. Now, however, we once again see the industry largely showing no creative spark and just using the most common techniques.

Recharging health can be good, but you need to be creative with and critical of it, rather than just making the same old system that has been used in nearly every fps since 2004.

I'm inclined to agree with this opinion. Even when it comes to online multiplayer. I think I enjoy CS:S hitpoint system a lot more than COD's regenerating health. I mean there were those moments when you were down to one hitpoint, last man on the team and manage to defuse a bomb or something. Very exhilarating and rewarding. You don't get that with regenerating health. Or if you wing someone, you can hunt them down and finish them off and have the advantage, which means your initial winging wasn't a complete waste. In COD if you don't finish someone off within a second or two of winging them, it's as if you never even hit them because they next time you meet they will have full health, which feels very cheap.

Far Cry 2 had it right. You could pull out bullets, clean your wounds, pull out shrapnel and take pain relief drugs.

Far Cry 2 had it right. You could pull out bullets, clean your wounds, pull out shrapnel and take pain relief drugs.

EDIT: Double post

Falseprophet:

JMeganSnow:
I'm not terribly fond of the instant-regen-at-end-of-combat in the Dragon Age series, personally. There's absolutely no incentive to try and push your party to the limit so that you're not taking massive damage during the fights, because you only have to make it to the end of THIS fight and everything's fine.

Contrast this with other games where you have to use potions or rest (although the resting mechanic has been mangled in some games to basically be a post-combat reset button, so it's little different from instant-fix) in order to restore lost health/mana/whatever. Taking a lot of damage in THIS fight can mean you'll be ill-equipped to handle THAT fight later on. So it's a lot more fun to look for strategies where you don't get hurt.

And the thing is--games that push you into "I must prevent myself from getting hurt" have a gameplay mechanic that actually increases immersion to a certain degree. Because all that damage you've been taking MEANS something. Some of the pain of combat gets communicated. It's not all completely detached.

On the contrary, I like that system. It's best of both worlds. It means each individual fight can be tailored as a challenging tactical encounter, instead of having most fights be throwaway random encounters with disposable mooks. And I still needed to stock a big chunk of my inventory with healing potions with this system; imagine I needed five times as many plus a bunch of Phoenix Down-equivalents. It was a refreshing change from almost every other RPG I've played.

And there have been plenty of times in tougher fights where I was down to one party member, who couldn't spam healing because the potion or spell was on cooldown, and basically had to kite (or engage, if a melee character was the sole survivor) the remaining enemies with hit & run attacks, hoping to drop them before they got in the killing blow. I was on the edge-of-my seat for those.

It has its benefits, but the only times when I ever got down to just one party member, it was always because I'd done something dumb, and I find that I enjoy the games that encourage you not to do dumb stuff much more than the ones that let you get away with it indefinitely.

Actually, a main reason for regenerating health's popularity is it let the developers know exactly how much health you had at any given moment. I must say though, Half-Life 2, F.E.A.R., those games with non regenerating health are systems I miss. It's just so stupidly unrealistic most of the time, getting pumped full of lead and then not dieing. The biggest culprit of this was Army of Two. It just didn't seem... right. Two regular guys taking on armies and getting shot to shit without trouble. The ruff and gruffness of Gears of War sorta made the regenerating health... natural. It doesn't feel off. You're simply too much of a badass. Uncharted 2 did it in a way that it seemed more like you were getting close to hit rather than actually hit, so it felt pretty good there too. The only games I really think make sense using regenerating health are the Halo games. It's just technology! Reach and Halo 1 have medkits too, and one shot to the head kills you once your shield is gone. It's as realistic is you're gonna get while still allowing the player to run in and kill some aliens with little worry.

Health regeneration isn't inherently bad, its just done to extremes. Recovering health rapidly after a battle is fine, recovering health slowly during battle is fine, what isn't fine is recovering all your health super quick after not being hit for 2 seconds.

With regard to the points about different healing systems games could implement, i think Vampire the Masquerade: Bloodlines has a very good system, combining two possible methods, in that game your health regenerated by itself, slowly and this was supplemented by feeding on humans or blood packs.

Yes, having a few hitpoints remaining and getting scared over dying soon because there might not be some medipacks nearby was nice and thrilling.
But so was having just one more life in the 9th world in Super Mario Bros, with your lose of that life signifying going all over again with your game, but I don't see Meat Boy or any recent platformer doing something like that. The point I'm making is that even if the challenge was good, it was cheap and frustrating to many people.

Yahtzee Croshaw:
Extra Punctuation: Why Regenerating Health Sucks

Yahtzee thinks waiting a few seconds to be at full health is bad.

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You forgot to mention the effect regenerating health has on multiplayer games with regard to "reset after each fight". Use to be that if you lost a fight, the opposing player would still walk off with all the damage you inflicted...thereby assisting your teammate in completing the kill himself...

Nowadays, its not progressive, its all or nothing. Wait a few seconds and your back to full health...

what i heard is that regenerating health is great in a developer perspective because if not they won't know for example how much health you have before a boss fight. for example they must either hope you're a good player or place a stash with health weapons and ammo right before the boss which hints the player that a boss fight is up.

i'm not at all saying this justifies regenerating health and it feels like the developers just hopes we would be fine with it. and sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn't.

i also think regenerating health goes hand in hand with a checkpoint system (which is a console offspring) opposed to quick saves (that is more of a PC thing).

Nice article, VERY nice ideas! I would love to see them being used someday, like luck bar, walking it off, and more health stations. That would add more strategy and thinking, planning and, for me, fun to games!

I think the 'Health by station' idea would work, but not in games like COD where you die insanely quickly. Unless they put a health station around every corner.

Hey Yahtzee, check out Amnesia: The Dark Descent. I think you may enjoy it; it's an interesting puzzle game. Also, it is pretty scary/creepy.

P.S. Play it with the lights off and volume up. It will test your mind and scare you.

Funny. The "luck" thing sounds similar to Naughty Dog's explanation to the regenerating health in Uncharted.

I've been noticing a disturbing trend recently Yahtzee, for the last few months you've been saying a lot of stuff that I completely agree with...

Either you're turning into a proper hardcore gamer or i'm going soft ;-)

oh yes, the joys of having 10 Hp going into a fights that takes 20 away from you in the first microsecond and having to restart the level beacose the developers were too stupid to put a med pack somewhere

fuck this shit, I <3 my regen HP

and the whole realism argument is a just a red heering, no one invented regenerative health to make it more realistic, they made it to avoid the bullshit I mentioned above

I know that I'm straying away from the discussed genres here (and that my examples have probably been mentioned already), but both Shadow of the Colossus and Portal have pretty impressively fast health regeneration - and I don't think it affects gameplay negatively *at all* in either case.

id say there is only two situation in which regenerating health is acseptabl and that is in multiplayer first person shooters and the second is rpgs (with a regen skill) i hate it when helth regen is in a sp game it ruins the chalange if you make a mistake in hl1 you pay for it if you do it in call of duty 4 onwards you are rewarded there is no chalange in that (i seem to recall the first 3 usin health packs but might be thinking of medal of honor) oh and Yahtzee if you find your self in a dry month or want to iratate dragonage fanboys pleese review system shock 2

I agree completely. It's somehow not as challenging if you can duck and cover and heal automatically. All of your suggestions on how it's been done better can be easily adapted into shooters. Also that luck system sounds pretty cool!

Regenerating health, by itself, really isn't so bad, nor is it a bad concept, by default. The problem is that the system has been inappropriately shoe-horned into so many games where a much different health system is needed(game developers decide to be lazy and just copy-paste a gimmick that worked in one top selling AAA game; go figure), or at least modify the rate of regeneration to be consistent with the requirement of maintaining challenge within the game. Honestly, I don't think there is a single health system that works universally. The best health system to implement will depend on the nature and strategies specific to the game being developed, not what wasq used in the last AAA blockbuster.

Off-Topic Rant: I am increasingly of the opinion that the game industry, as a whole, really needs to divorce itself of this AAA blockbuster mentality. It is a model of game design, development, promotion, and experience that, in my opinion, has only served to substantially increase cost(to the publisher, developer, and gamer), completely destroy creativity, and create a burden of risk that only the largest, most consolidated game development conglomerates(like EA) can actually bear. Also, given the cost and time commitments necessary to many of these AAA games, it seems increasingly more difficult for gamers to deal with more than a handful of games, either because they just can't afford them or they just don't have the time to play them. The model was fine years ago when only 1-2 such games would appear in a given year. But, now that this is the expected norm with almost every release and there being 4 or more such releases a year, the whole thing just seems to be collapsing under its own weight. I feel that the idea has just been extended beyond its regime of applicability.

and where did all of this start? Halo!

another reason why Halo blows.

Halo: Taking mediocre to the extreme!

1) I prefer regenerating health system, because I suck and I need it. Even with regenerating health, I often end up pushing daisies more often than not.

2) The "luck" system isn't that novel. That's how D&D games are--while you have high defense, you only have something like 2 hit points as a hero unit. Most of the attacks rolled against you will end up "missing" in one way or another. Once it actually connects, you're generally dead. This is the origin of the hit point system--it's your spare "luck", and once you're truly hit, you die.

I liked Far cry 2's system. 5 small bars, you lose one if you are hit. If you have only one bar left, you will "bleed out" until you fix yourself. You regain bars by sleeping/Using a syringe you find from health boxes. The amount you can carry depends on difficulty level.

He forgot the segmented regen health model, as seen in Halo, Far Cry 2 etc etc, which sort of combines regen with a health bar, taking good elements from both.

Generally I find regen works best in sandbox games, with a fixed health amount in everything else.

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