Thursday, February 3, 2011

A look at Regenerative Health

You find yourself in a seemingly empty giant room. You slowly make your way across the dark room, but your spidy sense starts to tingle… something is not right. Suddenly a giant flash light paints over you and cuts through the darkness, after a few seconds of silence you are greeted by razor-sharp gunfire. You dash to find the nearest cover; your reflex was good and managed to save 50% of your health. You keep your cool and manage to pick targets off 1 by 1.  Are things always that easy? No. You soon realize that staying in one place for too long is not a good idea a cover is not only fragile, but scare and you need to end the fight as soon as possible if you want to survive. The battle ended with you saving only 2% of your health, with no health-packs or checkpoints near the vicinity; victory suddenly doesn’t seem all that glorious. You try your best to be as careful as possible, however accidents happen; you missed one corner and a foe blasts you off with a shotgun. Now you need to play the entire section all over again. Most gamers here have two options:

A: Play the difficult section all over again
B: Throw down the controller and call it quits.
C: Use cheats

You go with option A and no matter how much you tried; you just can’t progress much because the last checkpoint starts with a very low health. You get frustrated and eventually forced to opt for either option B or C. Any gamer worth his trophies will tell you it will be a cold day in hell if you go with option C.

The above scenario was all too common in games during the early and mid-90s; architected with a combination of poorly placed checkpoints / save points and scarcely placed health-packs. Often the means to rectify those situations from happening were manual save system and more health-packs.
The idea of saving when you want sounds all to comforting, however it won’t take long to find yourself saving before every room you enter. It not only feels like a chore, but also breaks up the immersion of the game. 

Placing more health-packs is another solution to the problem, however it is also feels ‘gamey’ considering how you magically heal when you just walk over it. One of the major draw backs is that it just breaks the pacing of a game with high adrenaline action like the ever popular Call of Duty games; the games encourage fast moving action set pieces instead of taking pot-shots from your cover until it is safe to run over the health-pack. However, survival games like Dead Space and Resident Evil series makes perfect sense for the system. When you know health-packs are scarce, it adds a lot to the tension to the world the games try to create.

Then came a certain game called Halo Combat Evolved. In my opinion is one of the best FPS ever made and best in the series. Not only the game introduced use to a brand of combat which showed the bad*** Master Chief gunning down aliens from another planet by on-foot and vehicle combat, but also a entirely new concept to gaming: Regenerative health.

This opened the doors for a whole new dimension for games. Developers and gamers alike no longer needed to worry too much about checkpoints and not at all for health-packs. Basically players with low health just need to lay low for a few seconds for the health to kick back in and then they are good to go! There are lots of great things about the system:

1: Less worried about health and more on the action
2: Try out new things you otherwise wouldn’t because of your fear of loosing health
3: Casual friendly, more people will be encouraged to finish it

Life is short, regenerative health makes it little longer :)

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