Hello all and welcome to another edition of antiherogaming!
Today, while fighting the battle between mankind and the common cold (it’s kicking my ass, seriously a BFG 3000 wouldn’t go amiss here), I’m going to speak about my feelings about regenerating health. As you will come to learn over getting to know me through these blogs, I’ve been gaming for the better part of 20 years and as such as seen a lot of trends come and go. However this one seems to be more resilient then a case of herpes. Recently we’ve seen a few games move away from it, but it’s still knocking around and I’m going to give an overview and an opinion on the whole thing.
To start with let’s look back at when this all began. Due to it’s commercial success (no im not sure why either) people regard Halo:Combat Evolved as the first time a regenerating health system was used in a game. While it may seem that I’m pedantic when stating this I don’t believe it to be the case. Halo had a regenerating shield bar and a separate health bar that you could get health kits for. While it may of also made the concept popular, the first game to actually use this was Faceball 2000 originally for the Gameboy then later ported to SNES. As the Halo series grew in size, the health system under went many changes but I believe they all featured some sort of shield / health balance, according to Bungie.
The first Halo game was released back in 2001, and as we draw to the close of 2010, we have seen an explosion in the use of regenerative health / shields in one of the corner stones of gaming; the First Person Shooter. Attaching itself to one of the most popular forms of gaming has allowed this form of health system to spread to other well known franchises such as the Call Of Duty and Gears Of War series. If it’s so popular why do I think it’s a bad idea?
For a start I believe it heavily impacts the fun factor of gaming. I understand that there are different roles within shooter games today. There are your Serious Sam’s who wade in all guns blazing. There are your Theif’s who have to sneak around and not get spotted. There are literally hundreds of ways of playing today’s games. However the fun factor is hampered when gaming becomes a task of returning fire, taking damage, then hiding behind a rock for 5-10 seconds. It just isn’t realistic. People will say that not all games are realistic. Fine, but if I’m playing as some hulking space dude who’s circumventing Saturns fourth moon, while riding my chocolate and swede rocket ship, I want to be able to shoot at the evil space slugs of the planet Lorn, without having to worry that I need to go hide behind the nearest Asteroid Belt, incase I got shot a bit to much. I appreciate that the future of mankind may allow us some sort of regenerating health, so maybe that fits well with those sorts of games
However if I’m currently playing a game set in Medieval England, or out in latest nameless country some ones invaded in some shooter, and the developers are trying to portray “real war” I don’t count getting shot with a rocket, and then quickly scurrying behind the nearest car to regenerate my left arm and right kidney totally correct for the style of game I’m participating in. I just don’t feel it has a place there in the context of the situation. It breaks immersion in my opinion, and immersion is the reason why games work so well.
Secondly I believe regenerating health impacts the skill factor involved in gaming. Unless the game in question has particularly gifted A.I there is nothing to stop the player from hiding behind the nearest solid object and slowly picking off the opposition. I would much rather know that after I get shot a couple of times, I’ve either got pull off a massive win and cap the last two guys without dying or make a dash for that health kit. It does not enable the sort of player development that I found crucial five – eight years ago as you can literally wait each fire fight out. I find that in order to make games for difficult the ‘hard modes’ of today’s main stream games just propose to throw more and more bodies at you, and you succumb to the fact that too many people are shooting at you at one time, in an attempt to sap your super human powers.
Linked to the skill factor, is a lesser point of fairness. Now don’t get me wrong, at this stage your probably thinking that this is a rant because I suck at games. While I am by no means as amazing as some people I know and have watched, I am not the worlds worse gamer. I played with a successful clan for the better part of three years and enjoyed winning a lot of matches and competitions. However the use of regenerating health in multiplayer has a negative effect on the experience. If I’ve spotted you, shot you and you manage to get behind cover, well done. Have a cookie! I, however have injured you, with my deft shooting and as such you should now be at a disadvantage because you were busy being about as self aware as an banana. What I propose to be totally annoying and down right agitating is that when said banana pops his head up and starts blasting away at me, he’s returned to full health, and me, the total mug in the open, making a mad dash to get to him before his magic health bar refills, is now totally and utterly screwed. People will say I should of killed him first time, or I should of waited, but why should I? This is a game, I want to get over there and finish the git off.
“So if not regenerating health then what else CptToffer? “You can’t be critical without some sort of better option.” Luckily my dear fellows, I have one. Far Cry 2 represents this better option. For those not familiar with the concept it uses a mix of regenerative health, segmented health bars and health kits. This means that perhaps the health bar will be split into four, twenty five percent bars. If your health empties out of the segment, it can only be regained by a health kit. If you take a slight hit and it knocks a little bit out of the segments then given a few seconds it will refill. Lose the majority of your segments and first aid will have to be used, perhaps by removing a bullet, or setting of a broken bone?
I’m not saying that this is perfect nor is it above criticism. If I thought pulling a bullet out of my leg would solve any health issues after being shot over thirty times then I would of picked up a real gun long ago. It is however I think a step in the right direction.
In closing I leave you with this thought, and something that honestly only struck me while writing this article. I’m currently playing a lot of Call Of Duty: Black Ops (and to be honest the only people who aren’t probably don’t have electricity) which has a regenerating health system. Grenades regularly get thrown at me because I’ve got into the habit of killing people. Now with a health pack system, I would be running and diving for cover, grinning like a madman if I managed to survive with a small piece of health. However with the regeneration system I view this grenade, this rolling ball of death as nothing more than an inconvenience. I can’t kill it, it will be gone soon, and there’s a good chance it won’t kill me. I watch it roll near to me and wait. It explodes, I take damage, I wait, I move on. The grenade might aswell not of even existed. This reaction (or lack there of) is created by regenerating health. It totally removes the fight or flight response that gaming brings out in me and for that, I find regenerating health is slowly killing game.
I welcome any feedback both via comments or email at firstname.lastname@example.org Thanks for reading and see you next time.