Health Systems in games

old games have lives then we’ve got health box then we got regenerating out and now it seems as though health bars are making a comeback again don’t get me wrong I know this isn’t a hard and fast rule there have always been games they’re stuck to a health

system that benefits their particular style of gameplay but I want to talk about mainstream first-person shooters and the dramatic shift they made in the early 2000s before then you had a health bar that would go down every time you were shot crush chewed etc you could restore your

set health by bumping into health kits let it around the levels this was typical in games like Medal of Honor quake doom and half-life but then it began to change it started arguably with haloes armor regeneration makes a hell of a lot more sense than health I guess

but I really felt the transition was with Call of Duty 2 when it ditched the visible health bar entirely this was a new experience for me custom to older ways I was genuinely confused when I couldn’t find my health bar it was only through trial and error over

I discovered the new system and began to watch out for the classic big hard throbbing red vision warning system that signaled to me when it was time to hide for a while you know how you obsess about stuff a lot more when you were younger yeah I did

this with health it was a big thing to me I wouldn’t be surprised if I had long discussions with friends at school about how silly the system was shot in the face don’t worry just squat in that dark corner for a few seconds it’d be right as rain

again what were we Wolverine come to think of it instant health kits aren’t very realistic either are they but it pays not to be too critical of such a system and instead to try and see why the system is in place add regenerating health was a solution to

a problem you see old games have a habit of being hard and unforgiving developers didn’t bother catering for all types of gamers back then it was the Wild West of game dev ice whereas some levels weren’t even play tested a death in the oldest Medal of Honor switch

send you straight back to the start of the entire level don’t get me wrong I beat those games with controller nervous but the most unfair deaths and freakish grenade blast still haunt my mind to this day when you’re shut down to one HP have to limp to the

end of the level wave even the slightest fart from a German officer could kill you you see with the standard health bar you’re punished for your mistakes which is better enough but what’s less fair is how long that punishment will linger it will affect your experience either until

you find your next health care or until you die now checkpoints save games or even the tiniest bit of thoughts about health care placement could help to balance this kind of mechanic but it was early days for that kind of stuff as well for all you know you

could be limping along at one HP with an error after ahead of you that assumes you’re a hundred screw you you’re going to die regenerating health on the other hand doesn’t have this issue on its own yes it does make the game easier but I reckon they ramp

up the difficulty for each enemy encounter to balance this out a bit whether it’s easier or not it certainly changes the feel of the games challenge I stopped caring about the bigger picture about myself free to focus solely on taking out the bunker ahead of me with all

the resources at my disposal and honestly I find this more fun and it certainly reduces how long your past mistakes will haunt you for which I think benefits game series like call of duty call of duty call of duty call of duty so I can be obsessed with

the series right now it makes sense to cover it though firstly because it’s a popular influential one and also because I got a router playing through the latest World War two one recently which is relevant to this topic as many of you will know by now this is

the first game since the original full duty to not have regenerating health it’s interesting to see how the health system for the series has changed over time they didn’t just make health regenerate end of story they tweaked and balanced it over the thousands of games they’ve made for

the series since so after all this time just suddenly remove it completely is quite a statement now it’s not exactly like all the games again as well as kits littering the levels and very regular checkpoints you also have a guy who tosses you health packs from time to

time which is what I want to talk about now and what difference I think it makes the gameplay I can see what they’re trying to do with this new system you’re supposed to like this guy for the sake of the story and having him look the most valuable

item in the game at you is one such way to an FPS players heart though the reality is that they may have underestimated how jaded we gamers are I don’t see Sussman the kid throws a guy who’s doing me a favor I see him as a medic who

gets off on being withholding I know you have one down your pants mister and I know you’re waiting until I’m gagging for it before giving it to me this system of dispensing health also has another purpose it ties to a reward of more health directly with you making

progress in the game this is the opposite of the regenerating health system which rewarded you for hiding I mean surely you spend enough time behind cover already why would you also want to take regular timeouts simply to regenerate health the health system is being used to manipulate player

behavior in this case to make them play more of the game with less downtime than with earlier titles but wait a second if it rewards you for being good surely it punishes the kind of players who need it the most what if you’re a noob who takes a

lot of damage and who kills fewer enemies never fear the bars do indeed recharge a lot faster of your health is lower I would have been more surprised to have this not been the case the Sussman balances your experience by dropping more if you’re struggling and fewer if

you don’t need them he is getting often being withholding we gamers were right to be cynical well we still occasionally find health tips within the levels I’m wondering if this will be phased out further with future titles this new approach hints at whether Ceres is heading it’s not

trying to get harder or easier but merely more consistent to keep a challenging but never infuriatingly so no matter what skill level you are it must be a nightmare to try and balance the same level for a million different players with a million different play styles and Sussman’s

health pants or the latest attempt to cater for this variety of players to keep hardcore players entertained while stopping new players from getting themselves stuck in impossible situations faul have done this for years half-life 2 didn’t have regenerating health but did have supply crates that would clearly drop

stuff depending on what you need it though on health here have some health kids got lots of health have some ammo instead these would be found around almost every corner and I think did a great job of retaining the best of both worlds and what about left for

dead once again you don’t have regenerating health but you do have a mysterious director watching over your game dropping health kits when you’re struggling before summoning a horde of zombies to take it all away rinse and repeat regenerating health can be seen as a stopgap while developers looked

for a better solution health systems may have started off as a way of challenging players and to get keep later stages of the game but I think the purpose of health has changed in a series like Call of Duty is now being used as a system to regulate

the experience in a way it can be seen as a player’s friend quite apt that they make your buddy the guy who gives you the health kits really there’s still a place for fiendishly difficult games the call of duty isn’t trying to be there it wants to be

a quick highly polished cinematic experience that any skill of compete simply by sticking at it for long enough provided you choose a suitable difficulty level then the built-in balancing should tailor the experience to remain challenging whilst avoiding excessive frustration and I think the latest game in the series

has a system that’s as good as it’s ever been the more I think about it the more difficult it must be to come up with a perfect health system it’s strongly tied to the saving system the difficulty of each encounter and the resources available to the player in

dealing with them I would deem myself a quicksave addict and yet in newer games I barely have that problem at all even if I were to die over and over at points in world war ii i didn’t find myself wishing for a quick save feature didn’t even know

there wasn’t one until i’ve beaten the game i know there will be people out there to dismiss it all as new games getting easier but I propose a controversial alternative maybe they’re just getting better

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