I was always fascinated by the handling of health in games. How do you honestly convince someone that the damage they take, no matter how severe and utter it is, can be treated with a simple med-kit that can be found in the next room. It’s something that eventually grew old in games. Then someone had the brilliant idea of changing it. Instead of having the player collect health packs, the player’s health would regenerate if they avoided any kind of damage for a certain period of time. It first appeared in a game called Faceball 2000. Many think it was first introduced in Halo, but that’s not right in more than one way.
It’s a feature that can help the surprise aspect of the game. In games that do use normal health, more often than not I found myself running into a room and finding med-kits, of course the next thing I though was that something up ahead was going to make me need those. And more often than not I was right. Which kind of broke the surprise aspect of those encounters.
Regenerating health on the other hand, doesn’t cause the same problems, though it does emerge some of its own: How the hell can the player take so many bullets and heal himself. Or how can he fall from such height and heal his ankle out of nothing. For me, regenerating health, or realth as I’ll be calling it from now on, has always been misused and misinterpreted. If it were up to me, and it will be soon enough, I would use realth not as health, but regenerating focus, or stress. For me, realth is more about being able to consciously avoid, not evade, bullets and damage. And when that realth is completely lost the player is susceptible to damage, like being pumped and unfocused enough to forgot make that rolling move when you jump from a certain height, or becoming sloppy when performing that disarm on the opponent. Forgetting to jump for cover when thugs make a corner and start unloading their automatic weapons on you and that kind of stuff. Something believable enough. After all, in my mind, if a bullet hits you, it’s over or at least the beginning of the end.
It’s that kind of thought and experience I would like to pass to players in games. Something believable and still fun. Many developers get to the point of neglecting a certain aspect of a story or a reality for the sake of gameplay. I believe the true challenge lies in creating something good enough that can please both hardcore fans and casual gamers alike.
I’m currently thinking about the possibilities for the combat gameplay in my Game² project. I’m pretty sure I’m going to use a realth system, the details are all in my head, somewhere, I just can’t get around putting them into paper yet. I feel like a long path extends into the horizon ahead of me, I’ve never been so excited to find out what’s on the other side.