I like to play football at least once a week. I’ll admit that I’m not all that good, or even particularly good. However it’s fun to have a bit of a run out, and some friendly competition is generally fun. Unfortunately while playing this morning I twisted my ankle, leading to the most concentrated period of swearing in my entire life. It’s never good when walking becomes a challenge.
This did, however, lead to me thinking about injuries in games and how health systems work. I suppose it all comes down to the problem of how realistic games should be. There’s obviously no-one size fits all solution, but it would be nice if some games did take a slightly more realistic or interesting approach to injuries.
I mean I like recharging health systems at times but they do seem like they’ve become the obvious choice don’t they? They seem to be the automatic decision in shooters now, and although there’s obviously some work that goes into getting the balance right for damage inflicted and recovery rates, they don’t seem all that challenging as an option.
DmC's mixture of regenerating health and health packs is a nice twist.
You obviously don’t have to go that extreme, even games without regenerating health feel like they add an extra level of danger. Games that force you into the collection of some kind of health pack just feel like they’ve got this added level of danger.
They remove the possibility of using your inherent ability to regenerate health in a tight spot, making the whole thing feel slightly tense.
Take DmC, a game that actually has a nice combination of health packs and regenerating health. The game features demonic looking sacks on the wall from time to time, slicing through them improves your health. Not only to these fit in nicely with the game’s setting, but they really do bump up the difficulty level.
However, if you get into a tricky situation then there is a way out. If your Devil Meter is sufficiently full you can use your Devil Trigger to not only hamper your enemies, but to also regenerate your health. This limited regeneration adds a layer to the game’s difficulty but gives you an out if you really need it.
The hybrid system is a great touch, and introduces some tactical thinking into a system that’s become completely trivial in modern gaming. That’s all I’m really asking for here, for developers to try and make us think about how we manage a character’s health, much like we would with any other resource in a game.
Take the injury scenario from earlier. Wouldn’t it be interesting to consider whether it’s worth continuing through a scenario with a limp, or double back to find something to treat your wounds?
No, you don’t want that in every game, but it’d be nice if more games took this approach. Off the top of my head the only games that feature that kind of mechanic is the Operation Flashpoint series, and even then I’m not entirely sure it’s integrated in quite the way I’m thinking of.
I suppose this is really all about variety, and not just borrowing the most common system that’s available. I can only see that improving games as a whole.