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Health regeneration ! Shoot to live !

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Joined: 01 Jul 2007
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PostPosted: Sun 20 Feb - 23:24 (2011)    Post subject: Health regeneration ! Shoot to live ! Reply with quote

Wes Paugh wrote:
I'd consider it an inevitability, the existence and prevalence of health regeneration. In fact, I'd argue that the mechanic can be made to work incredibly well.

Halo is probably the best example for both the inevitability and practicality of the mechanic and is, being the one to popularize it, the most laudable game to use the mechanic (as much as I don't enjoy actually playing the games).

The big-budget feel saw the creation of enourmous levels, which bred lots of lengthy encounters, which compounded into a very long time getting from start to finish on a given level. Long enough that playing perfectly throughout would be an exercise in frustration as much as it would be skill. Checkpoints can be used to alleviate this frustration, but still do nothing to help with the frequent and epic encounters. "One man, struggling alone against incredible odds!" Sure, it's a trope, but it's a valid one.

So, with a traditional health bar, how does the player succeed in defeating an entire army single-handedly? Either he avoids losing health or he gets lost health back. The former option requires the player to replay through the scenario until he learns to play at a sufficiently high level of skill to avoid dying. This style of play has worked since the early days, but relies on shorter, burstier sessions of play for which I laud Goldeneye but is less pragmatic when levels exceed a certain size or time threshold. Heck, there are individual encounters in Halo that take more time than some Goldeneye levels.

The latter option, getting health back, *can* be more forgiving, and does not require Halo health; peppering each arena with health-packs achieves the same goal but is harder to fictionally justify in the long run. The design also inserts more uncertainty for the designer to have to balance around. I recall games using the health-pack model in which suicide runs to locate said packs became a time-saving mechanic, substituting actual mechanical skill with the knowledge of a level. Halo health just brings emphasis back on the game mechanics by comparison.

I should clarify that I do not think health regeneration is a "good" mechanic in and of itself. Any mechanic needs to be implemented with care. But fun, challenging games can be designed using health regeneration as a model. For example, no amount of health will accommodate shoddy aim or ammo conservation skills. And it is certainly no use hiding behind cover if the enemy has its own shield it can regenerate, or can kill you in just a few hits.

One mechanic can make or break a game depending on how it is balanced and implemented, but few are so fundamentally flawed that their existence mars an entire genre, and Halo health certainly isn't one of them.

And the reason I don't enjoy the Halo series? Too difficult.

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