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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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HP is about the most simple abstraction, so, its not strictly possible to remove it entirely, its too fundamental. Its like trying to remove the Circle.

As for improvements... It really depends on need. See, you take the PS2 game Front Mission 4, and you have 4 life bars, Body, Left Arm, Right Arm, and Legs. Technically, Body is all you need to eliminate to take out the enemy, but taking out Legs, for instance, will ruin his ability to dodge and restrict his movement range to 1 square per turn.

A list of 20 life bars is too extreme, but you can simplify it to a smaller set and have a good effect.

While on subject, I always thought Super Smash Brother's percentages were cool. No life bar, just a ranking of how much damage you've taken and it reflects the throw distance when you get smacked really hard.

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Quote:
Original post by Inmate2993
HP is about the most simple abstraction, so, its not strictly possible to remove it entirely, its too fundamental. Its like trying to remove the Circle.

You're right. I guess this would be the engine with a car. I don't see much wrong with making it the whole body. But you could take it further and make it the heart and brain, or chest mid-section and head. So you could have two or more vital parts that need some HP to keep the character alive.

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I wrote up an idea for a game a couple months back that had similar elements in the gameplay design to what you describe. It was a strategy/tactics game where all characters were customizable robots (along the lines of Front Mission.)

Every part--
Head, Chest, ShoulderL, ShoulderR, ArmL, ArmR, Legs, various parts in the head (controlling things such as the ability to see (accuracy, dodge), the ability to sense heat (accuracy, dodge: if you can't see, you can still sense them), sonar (similar to heat) and a processor (sort of like stamina meets agility and dexterity, it affects a wide array of things)), and a part in the chest called Life Disk (destroy this and mech=dead, Life Disks also determine your mech's class, it keeps a log of your mech with things such as battle xp and so forth, transferring this life disk to another body is possible, etc.)
--could be customized.
A head might be made up of 32 pieces of Arhym Metal for example, which has a heat rating of 6, a strength of 12 and a weight of 4 (all per unit.) Basically as far as I can remember, strength = Hit Points in this context. So a head of this type would have 32*12 HP.

So as I said, destroying the Life Disk is the key to killing a mech.. whenever you target and attack the Chest area there is a chance (based on how much HP the chest has remaining) to deal some damage to the life disk. The same happens with the parts in the head. Doing enough damage to any part will disable it.

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Well, no matter what you do to the HP system for the health system, the entire thing is still pretty much quantitative. So, there's always a value attached somewhere, like how badly your limbs are damaged, numerically out of 100 or something like that. So, what if we went the other extreme and went completely qualitative representations.

I know, somewhere in the back, there's still some numbers involved, but the players don't need to see for feel that. So, for example, like in Silent Hill 3, and other games in the series, I think, you only know how much you're hurt by how violently your controller vibrates or how much of a limp your character has. Something along that line.

So, say you had a fighting game that has no health meter or onscreen health display whatsoever. Then the only way you can tell how hurt your character is is by looking at his physical appearance, actions, and maybe responsiveness. I guess the really ties into the "limb-based" damage system.....

Oh well, just a thought I guess....seems I actualy went full circle and came up with minimal results...

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Deus Ex used a mechanism similar to this. Your character had health points for each major portion of his body: torso, left leg, right leg, left arm, right arm, and head. Smaller parts of your party were harder to hit, but had less hit points; larger parts were easier to hit but had more hit points. Reducing your torso or your head to zero hit points killed you; damaging your arms or legs decreased your accuracy and movement capabilities. I thought it was a nice balance between the two "HP == overall health" "every single cell of your body has hit points" abstraction extremes.

Your health was displayed as a superimposed image of the human body. The more damage you took, the more the color changed from green to yellow to orange to red, and finally to black. Completely disabling your legs reduced you to crawling at a very slow speed; disabling your arms made it impossible for you to wield a weapon.

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Quote:
Original post by kSquared
Deus Ex used a mechanism similar to this.

Wow. I just realized that every point I've brought up was used in that game. Even the Destruction Derby type damage display and two vital parts. Well, I guess it didn't have bleeding :)

Haha, I still laugh when I think about what happens when your legs go. I can't count the number of times a bomb went off and I was hugging the floor as a result.

Quote:
Original post by WeirdoFu
So, say you had a fighting game that has no health meter or onscreen health display whatsoever.

Operation Flashpoint did this. It was limb based and had most of the ideas we've just brought up. It also had no health display. The unfortunate thing is that it was nearly impossible to determine if you were badly injured or not, unless your arms or legs were hit. If you were shot in the chest, there was no visible clue other than a blood stain. IRL, you feel the pain of organs failing. Heh. It's difficult to represent pain with graphics.

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Original post by kSquared
Deus Ex used a mechanism similar to this.


Did this make it into the sequel? Just curious, I never played the first, and can't get the 2nd to install. I'm wondering if it stood the test of redesign.

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The player has a 60 second counter, every hit takes 15 seconds out of it and you are supposed to take 1 and a half minute per level ;)

Enemies have a time counter, from 5 seconds to 15 seconds. Hitting an enemy gives you the remaining seconds they have.

Hitting bosses take 15 seconds out of their counter, and they too have a 60 seconds counter.

Each enemy and/or boss have a weak spot. You have various different moves to aproach the enemy. You just have 1 attack, sucking energy, when you are next to the enemy, and you will attach to the part you of the enemy you are touching. Trying to suck energy from a non-weak spot takes 5 seconds out of your counter.

Only bosses may have close range attacks.

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I can't comment on the second Deus Ex, but it worked great for the first. There were no numbers on the main display. Just a simple body shape with arms, legs, torso, and head. Healthy was transparent and damaged was red.

It's a really simple concept. I can't imagine any reason they would remove it.

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Hi there, a quick point first, and then a sample solution.

Covering up the problem (changing health from quantative to qualative) isn't the solution, much like covering up a pile of dog poo with a pretty carpet isn't the solution to a similar problem. The problem is ... the system is crap. A baseline is created for damage increases and health increases, and you variate from that baseline to create varying techniques that do damage. The problem is all the damage goes to the same place.

Now to find a simple (sample?) solution to the problem. By just adding 1 bar of an alternative resource can greatly increase strategy.

The Setup: You have a health bar and a suit power bar. The percent of damage you don't take is equal to the percent of power left in your suit. 59% power left = 59% damage taken. Your suit regenerates power on it's own, when not being hit. There are various classes that can use different weapons and armor, and have different life totals.

The effect: Choosing weapons now has an additional tag (besides damage:accuracy:frequency) and that tag is (power-damage). Weapons can do ranges of damage to either, from 0 to X. You realize that you must do some damage to power, otherwise you won't be doing any damage at all, but you could hold that job off for a teammate. Suits can also come in varying strength of Capacity and regeneration rate. Armor could do better against shell or energy damage. Ammo prices, weapon prices, armor prices... they all have more meaning now. NPCs could say "People from Town X often use energy weapons" and you could alter your equipment to adjust for it.

The Conclusion: Even just one extra bar adds variety and strategy to every other option. It doesn't even have to be that special. A simple stamina bar, or fatigue bar, or anything else. The fun part comes in when you meet someone to fight, and realize that your combination doesn't do well against theirs, but you win anyhow or you realize your combination DOES do well against many people. You just can't have that level of customization with a single bar and any conception of balance.

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Vagrant Story (ps1) used a system that is almost exactly what you are talking about...

It did it very well actually...

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Quote:
Original post by KingRuss
The Setup: You have a health bar and a suit power bar. The percent of damage you don't take is equal to the percent of power left in your suit. 59% power left = 59% damage taken. Your suit regenerates power on it's own, when not being hit. There are various classes that can use different weapons and armor, and have different life totals.

Sounds like Halo.

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Guest Anonymous Poster
Has anyone here ever played Bushido Blade?
Admittably not an RPG, but it's a sword combat game. If you slash someone's arm, they won't be able to use that to swing with. Nail their legs, and they have to walk on their knees. If you get them in the vitals, they die. Other spots are less important, but the general idea I think is good: you're either dead or you're not. In reality it doesn't matter if you get your jugular vein sliced through three times or four, 'cuz either way you're done.

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Original post by KingRuss
Hi there, a quick point first, and then a sample solution.

Covering up the problem (changing health from quantative to qualative) isn't the solution, much like covering up a pile of dog poo with a pretty carpet isn't the solution to a similar problem. The problem is ... the system is crap. A baseline is created for damage increases and health increases, and you variate from that baseline to create varying techniques that do damage. The problem is all the damage goes to the same place.

Now to find a simple (sample?) solution to the problem. By just adding 1 bar of an alternative resource can greatly increase strategy.

The Setup: You have a health bar and a suit power bar. The percent of damage you don't take is equal to the percent of power left in your suit. 59% power left = 59% damage taken. Your suit regenerates power on it's own, when not being hit. There are various classes that can use different weapons and armor, and have different life totals.

The effect: Choosing weapons now has an additional tag (besides damage:accuracy:frequency) and that tag is (power-damage). Weapons can do ranges of damage to either, from 0 to X. You realize that you must do some damage to power, otherwise you won't be doing any damage at all, but you could hold that job off for a teammate. Suits can also come in varying strength of Capacity and regeneration rate. Armor could do better against shell or energy damage. Ammo prices, weapon prices, armor prices... they all have more meaning now. NPCs could say "People from Town X often use energy weapons" and you could alter your equipment to adjust for it.

The Conclusion: Even just one extra bar adds variety and strategy to every other option. It doesn't even have to be that special. A simple stamina bar, or fatigue bar, or anything else. The fun part comes in when you meet someone to fight, and realize that your combination doesn't do well against theirs, but you win anyhow or you realize your combination DOES do well against many people. You just can't have that level of customization with a single bar and any conception of balance.


Isn't this extra bar just a glorified Armor slot? I mean all you're still doing is trying to reduce your enemy's health bar to zero before they do it to you. There's really no extra strategy here, just hit them until they die. If their suit makes them strong against weapon A and weak against weapon B, then use weapon B to hit them until they die. How is that much different from wearing Armor in an HBR game that has Protection from Fire and +50 Defense.. it slows damage down and prevents certain attacks..

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IIRC SoF had such a system for the player, but they ditched it and choosed the regular hitpoints system, since "walking aroung and beeing damaged(less accuracy and speed) isn't fun". It may work in a RPG, simulation or in a stealth-game, but having to loose precious "gameplay-points" because of I got damaged doesn't seem like a good design.

That being said, here are some systems:

1 shot 1 kill:
You get damaged (enough) - you die

Bleeding system:
You get damaged - you bleed or die(depending on the damage). Bleeding could be internal(from falls) or external from wounds.
External bleeding can be stopped with bandages. Internal bleedings(and external) can be stopped with potions and/or a doctor.

Sort of realistic system:
Damages to the head: causes visual problems(blured vision perhaps), and decreases most of the attributes.
Damages to the arm decreases your aim. Damages to the leg decreases stamina and such.
Every damage increases your pain-level. Using something(a hand for example) that is damaged increases your pain-level. The pain-level slowly reduces. If you aren't damaged. When the pain-level-maximum is maxed, your awake-level decreases rapidly.
When your awake level is low - you fall to the floor(either to sleep or by "pass-out"). You can increase your awake level by sleeping. Your awake level steadily decreases.
Your "objects" (libs, head, torso) have 3 states. Healthy, Damaged, Dead and Lost. When it is damaged it looses 1-many states. Health can be used, Damaged can be used with penalties, Dead and Lost can not be used. Each object has a govering attributes that decreases when the object is damaged. It may also decrease the maximum level of some attributes. Beeing damaged in the head may result in some inteligence loss and beeing damaged in the arm results in accuracy and strength loss.
Something is damaged it looses blood. When the blood is low(below 70%) your awake-level decrease fast. When the blood is extremely low(below 50%) you die.

Probably more rules apply, and itsn't a life-copy sollution but I think it would look realistic and IMHO pretty boring.

Not mine:
The latest metal gear(MGS3: Snake Eater (thanks ferr)) had some way to do it. IIRC you had to eat and do some surgery when damaged.

Rimworlds A role-playing sci-fi core that is pretty realistic.

edit: corrected game name

[Edited by - sirGustav on August 4, 2005 10:11:29 AM]

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