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No More Health: Combat Alternatives?

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This thread spawned from another post I had: http://www.gamedev.net/community/forums/topic.asp?topic_id=336298 How does one make an RPG that does not use only health as a factor. Specifically in combat oriented RPGS (MMOs in peticular), what other ways could you determine the outcome? The only RPG that I have seen that does this is the MMO Star Wars Galaxies (before their "Combat Upgrade"): They had 3 'pools', Health, Action, and Mind. Every damaging ability one had would affect either of these pools, which start out at a certain way at character creation and can be slowly modified over time (with no penalty for doing so, unlike a World of Warcraft like talent respec cost). If any of the three pools is depleted, your character would get incapacited, and if the creature was extremely hostile, would deliver the killing blow. This creates a certain balance among the stats; if your abilities all used the action pool, you would assume you would want a higher action pool, but the other 3 are then less because of the balance..this makes your character more suseptible to attacks in these other 2 areas. Thoughts?

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What about ditching summed up health completely? What if every aspect of your character had it's own health? His mind, every limb, even his organs. Add a little collision mesh where the heart is. A sword in that area might kill him, but jabbing his left arm has little effect on his heart. It just makes his left arm less effective. Bleeding might drain heart health, but a patch up could fix it. Being beat in the head with a club might temporarily or permanently reduce intelligence, or cause a knock out, or death. A good incentive to wear helmets :)

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Well, first of all SWG's method is just a small disguise for health bar racing, you are still trying to reduce a bar quicker than they can reduce one of yours, and last time I played you could target a certain pool.

There's literally tons of ways you could go about not using the health bar race, usually exploring them makes you realize why the HBR is so popular. You could make individual body parts attackable and "killable," the ability to disable your enemy's weapon wielding arm could be more useful than going for what does most mortal damage. You could also base more emphasis on dodging/etc, if dodging could become a technique just as usable as slashing your sword, then that could keep you alive more often than a stronger weapon.

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You both bring up excellent points which me and a friend actually thought about a while ago that I had forgetten. It wasn't the focus of combat (although I think I might try to develop a system where it was) but basically you could take damage in a certain area to the point of making it less effective. The game was you playing a monster of sorts, think the Tyranid race from the Warhammer 40,000 tabletop game or a Zergling from Starcraft, but with so much of our own original content you could have easily called it something else). You could gain limbs or add implants into those limbs to make you more effective, if one was damaged your implant risked being damaged too. Heh, just talking about it makes me want to attempt the idea again...

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Quote:
Original post by Jiia
What about ditching summed up health completely? What if every aspect of your character had it's own health? His mind, every limb, even his organs. Add a little collision mesh where the heart is. A sword in that area might kill him, but jabbing his left arm has little effect on his heart. It just makes his left arm less effective. Bleeding might drain heart health, but a patch up could fix it. Being beat in the head with a club might temporarily or permanently reduce intelligence, or cause a knock out, or death. A good incentive to wear helmets :)


This is scary. Imagine:

You've just scapped with a dozen bad guys, some monsters, and in the process fallen off a short drop. Here's your summary:

Head: Small hairline fracture, -1
Left eye: Swollen, -1 Appearance, -1 Perception
Nose: Destroyed, -4 Perception
Neck: Damaged vertebrae, can't turn head, limited field of view
Heart: Bruised sternum, shortness of breath, -50% Combat Energy
Left Arm: Bicep damaged, can't lift more than 5 lbs.
Right Arm: Burns, minor cuts, -5 Dexterity
Left Leg: Knee joint swollen, -12% Running Speed
Right Leg: Ingrown Toenail, -5 Appearance (without shoes), Stunned when stepped on

etc., etc. Just imagine a screen that has to show all of this. Then imagine having to keep track of it. Yikes!

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Haha, that is scary when you take it that far.

Note: You forgot: Nose: Destroyed, -2 Appearance

With simple individual healths, it wouldn't be much different than showing a car damage system in a destruction derby game. No one expects you to explain to a player with flat tires that his performance is hindered. It's a given.

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Quote:
Original post by Jiia
Note: You forgot: Nose: Destroyed, -2 Appearance


[lol]I was going to correct that.


Quote:

With simple individual healths, it wouldn't be much different than showing a car damage system in a destruction derby game. No one expects you to explain to a player with flat tires that his performance is hindered. It's a given.


Actually, I think your system would work if you could visually relate it in enough detail. The main challenge, even then, would be in how anal to get about every possible level of detail (for instance, do you need to go get a CAT scan to tell how badly you're messed up?) You probably don't want to have to rotate a player model 360' just to check if he has blood coming from the back of the head.




BTW, I meant to respond to the OP with this: What if you broke down the gameplay experience you want the players to have into categories that were very close to the level of detail often created for different classes/races, then attached rules and resources that determined when each would kick in?

For example, you'd have the perfect play state that you generally want the player to be in. Then you'd have other states, such as near death, enraged, panicked, etc. Each would be playable, so you don't run into "I'm trying to race the health bar so that I'm not incapacitated." Rather, you might be thinking, "I'm trying to keep in the perfect state, but if I run out of resource X, my gameplay will suddenly morph into type Y"

Type Y could be near death, where you do horrendous damage but can be felled with a single blow (kind of like SHMUPs where you can't get hit by a single bullet). If you're enraged, you might move around faster and hit harder, but also miss more often as well as attract tons more enemies onto the screen. etc.

While you're still racing health bars, I think one thing that makes it more interesting is that you don't just die (immediately, anyway). Rather, the game takes on a different tone. And you can get away with it not being perfectly fun because it's a failure state.






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if you had a system with a bunch of injuries it would be interesting to have a sort of stamina system with the more hits you have taken (and how serious they are) reduce your stamina.

head (small fracture) - -1(??), -10 stamina
arm (broken) - can't lift/attack with that arm, -5 stamina

charatcers with low stamina are less powerful and accurate, less likely to dodge and take more damage. When a character runs out of stamina, perhaps a pass-out scene, that could be taken for death by some monsters.

This gives you a different system that combines HBR with another system and could work rather well.

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Quote:
Original post by Wavinator
Actually, I think your system would work if you could visually relate it in enough detail. The main challenge, even then, would be in how anal to get about every possible level of detail (for instance, do you need to go get a CAT scan to tell how badly you're messed up?) You probably don't want to have to rotate a player model 360' just to check if he has blood coming from the back of the head.

I guess the bleeding thing would be a bit tricky. If every cut and bullet that bypassed your armor started a little bleed, it wouldn't take long to pass out in most game designs. It really would put a large emphesis on armor, though. And it would change the "doctor skill" from a secondary low rate ability to your new best friend.

You could also be a bit generic if you wanted to go through with it. Just let the player know he's losing health and design the heal spell, doctor skill, or medic to just fix whatever is messed up. It beats dying and reloading because you got whacked in the finger fifty times. With this type of setup, you could give the player intense willpower to struggle through any kind of damage, making death very rare.

Imagine a battefield full of fallen enemies, with their limbs broken, rolling around in the dirt writhing in pain after a battle.

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Having a measurement system with a few values is better in terms of reading/understading. So it is more fun.

Taking the "car damage" as a visual representation you may find 3 levels of dmg (standard green, yellow and red) enough for head, arms, torso and legs. Why bother you character has a broken nose which gives -x appearance when a simple injury to head would be enough to scary people (considering this a part of your game mechanics).

Now, we only fixed the problem of 'reading information'. Now we should interpret it really fast. Bind effects as natural, using the strongest fact that lies in our heads for each body set:

- injury to head affects sincronization or sight
- injury to legs affects movement
- injury to arms can affect aiming (and this should be some pseudo pattern in target movement so player may counter it with skills)
- injury to torso can have random effects like sudden target smash or else.

Keep it simple and fun. Don't introduce new things just for the sake of new.

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