Sign in to follow this  
kingy

Grinning and bearing it - Permanent injury

Recommended Posts

Would it be interesting if a hero's serious wounds cannot be healed? I am building a fantasy game that so far has no magic in it. The basic background to the game is that the hero is found guilty of a crime and thrown into the Pit of Penance, exiling him from society, where he is expected to die. I have a hit location system and a critical hit system that reflects real world injuries. Do a lot of damage in one go to an area and it will get really messed up; e.g. broken or severed limbs, brain damage and so on. Superficial wounds can be healed with such items as bandages or by eating things, fairly standard staple fair for roleplaying games. I was thinking about including a surgeon type character in the Pit, as other criminals would be down there, trying to survive, the hero will not be alone although most of the other occupants will be hostile, the surgeon would not. He would be able to sort out most injuries the hero had suffered. However, I am now thinking, wouldn't it be cool if the hero (when he escapes) emerged limping, battered, bruised and with a broken body, by the skin of his teeth, so to speak? For this scenario to exist, I would likely have to make serious injuries as incurable. But then I got thinking; if heavy wounds are permanent then players must just quicksave before every battle and quickload afterwards if one was inflicted. So maybe some reward should be given for sticking with a injured character. Like improving the experience points or some such. Anyway, I wanted to run this idea past some other designers to get a take on it. Its obviously very different to how other games work. Is it too different? Or could it work?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
In a roguelike, it would work. In fact I don't think it's uncommon for roguelikes to have detailed injury systems, with permanent effects. I know Dwarf Fortress's adventure mode does.

In a more conventional story based RPG game, I'm struggling to imagine how it could be anything other than annoying and horrible. Who is going to want to play half way through the story with a permanently gimped character? How can you balance the game so it doesn't become impossible to complete, given that by the end the character might be completely limbless and crawling along using only his tongue?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Permanent or not, I already have the removal of both arms, or both legs as a game over condition. I think that is fair enough, as the hero's ability to defend himself is practically non existent in that state.

Something that occurs to me is that permanent injury could actually lead to players avoiding combat unless necessary - isn't that a radical idea hehe. Maybe they would try other options to resolve conflict, like bribery, distraction, sneaking or dialogue.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
There are countless interesting gameplay possibilities that are made pointless with unrestricted save and reload. This is one of them.

My advice is to dump it off. Let the player quit and resume whenever they want, and remove "game over", but make their experiences in the game permanent and unchangeable. Now things like permanent injuries seem reasonable. In addition, every decision the player makes in the game has more meaning when they must continue with the consequences.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I don't think that having a permanent disability is as heroic as you think it is. I mean, other than in the Paralympics sense of "heroic".

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
So essentially, as long as the player can quicksave and quickload at any point, permanent injuries are generally seen as being ok.

If the experience reward was high enough, maybe I could encourage the player to continue playing and not reload (e.g. 300% experience bonus for being severely injured, or something like that), perhaps. I suppose I could also fudge the injury chart rolls when the player already has a severe injury, rerolling future ones to make them less likely to occur.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by kingy
So essentially, as long as the player can quicksave and quickload at any point, permanent injuries are generally seen as being ok.

No. The way I see it, if you can quicksave and quickload at any point, permanent injuries are kind of pointless. Most players will be reloading once they lose a limb. You might as make it a game over scenario or not include it as all

Quote:
If the experience reward was high enough, maybe I could encourage the player to continue playing and not reload (e.g. 300% experience bonus for being severely injured, or something like that), perhaps. I suppose I could also fudge the injury chart rolls when the player already has a severe injury, rerolling future ones to make them less likely to occur.

Now you'll be getting into weird scenarios where it might be advantageous to hack your own leg off. I could see giving strange bonuses if it were part of character creation; that might be interesting. But it gets a bit strange if you make things lucky for crippled characters.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Instead of making the injuries permanent, why not allow the surgeon to heal them but provide the player a bonus in xp, items or something else for playing the game with the injuries?

This way you'll still get the players emerging all battered and bruised but those who would find it annoying can still play your game and not have to constantly save / load.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Reaching the end of the game with a bruised and battered hero dragging himself over the finish line will give the player a huge sense of achievement. Having to drag the hero through the last 20 levels, movement reduced (leg missing), unable to fight (arm gone) might get a bit annoying.

I like the idea of permanent damage, but would divide things into two parts. First there would be the cosmetic damage - if the hero ended the game covered in scars and with a bit of a limp then this would provide good feedback to the player and add to the sense of achievement - the hero had been through the wars and had the wounds to prove it.

Secondly for performance affecting damage I might add difficulty levels so the hardcore player could happily drag the half dead hero through the game after that first bad encounter with a giant rat. For the more casual player permanent injury might only result in a 10% drop off on performance.

Also make sure that the player can finish the game with a beat up hero - imagine the hero having to make a last heroic jump across a wide chasm when both legs are broken.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Thats an interesting idea; not making it quite so black and white.

Quote:
Now you'll be getting into weird scenarios where it might be advantageous to hack your own leg off.


You won't be able to do that in the game. I could justify an experience bonus for being injured as an Injury Survival bonus or something like that perhaps.

Quote:
But it gets a bit strange if you make things lucky for crippled characters.


That's how games like half life work; the enemies do less damage when you are critically injured, because dying generally sucks from a player's point of view.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
At any time, the player has a handful of choices, and will generally choose the path that offers the fewest frustrations.

The player may:
- continue playing
- revert (either starting a new game, or load a savegame)
- ditch the game and do something else.

Any kind of permanent disadvantage will discourage the player from the first option. A certain school of game designers then respond by making #2 even *more* painful* (remove the ability to save/load. Make you watch a 20 minute cutscene! Force you to delete your current character if you wish to start over".
And what they forget is that this just encourages the player to go for #3. You've made it doubtful that #1 will pay off, you're doing everything you can to punish the player for #2, so.... they go off to play another game.

So, why should I as a player choose to continue my game once I get permanently crippled?

Quote:
However, I am now thinking, wouldn't it be cool if the hero (when he escapes) emerged limping, battered, bruised and with a broken body, by the skin of his teeth, so to speak? For this scenario to exist

Would it? How come? Would it be cool in gameplay terms? Would it feel more satisfying than escaping intact?
Remember, you're not writing a novel or making a movie. And your users are not spectators who want to know what happens next, they're cast in the role as the guy whose life just got a hell of a lot harder because he can no longer use his leg, is blind, and has only two functioning fingers left on his right hand.

It might be cool to watch a movie where the hero "emerged limping, battered, bruised and with a broken body, by the skin of his teeth". But how do you think the hero himself would feel about it? Would he think "Hey, that was awesome, a real kick. Getting crippled was totally worth it"? Does the hero himself feel it's a particularly good outcome? Wouldn't he jump at the opportunity to redo his escape if given the chance?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Hey, that was awesome, a real kick. Getting crippled was totally worth it"? Does the hero himself feel it's a particularly good outcome?


I would imagine the hero is quite happy he survived, as the alternative was death in the Pit. I would imagine, to extend this a little further, the player is happy too, as he completed the game.

He may well wish that he wasn't crippled and so the player may reload his save, I can definitely see that. And no, I'm not trying to make reloading difficult, the whole time I'e been talking about quicksaves and quickloads - it doesn't get any easier than that.

So Im thinking, if the reward for sticking with the injury was good enough, maybe the player would think, OK, I can cope with that and I'll carry on; which for me would make such a system worth implementing. It's not about *forcing* the player to do anything other than make a *choice* - continue or reload.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by Jon Alma
Reaching the end of the game with a bruised and battered hero dragging himself over the finish line will give the player a huge sense of achievement. Having to drag the hero through the last 20 levels, movement reduced (leg missing), unable to fight (arm gone) might get a bit annoying.


Exactly.

I think 'the entire game' is far too long to be playing with a crippled character; there might be a tremendous sense of achievement from doing it, but the vast majority of people will get fed up before they get that far. Why not break it down into smaller chunks?

If the player can be cured by the surgeon, he'll get that sense of achievement every time he fights his way out of a dungeon to get patched up again. No need to force him to struggle through the entire game with twin peg legs, hook hands and an eyepatch looking like some kind of cartoon pirate before he gets that sense of accomplishment.

You could make the availability of surgeons contingent on difficulty level. So the really hardcore players could, if they so wanted, play the entire game with permanent damage. But at least you wouldn't be turning away the less hardcore as well.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
That could work I think. My game has a single dungeon - the Pit, which is quite large - and escaping it is the goal of the game.

A very large experience bonus for fighting with a severe injury (something like 300%) but the option to find a surgeon and get your arm stitched back on (which is in your backpack, providing you've not thrown it away) or something like that.

I also considered having a needle and thread the hero could use with his severed fingers to sew them back on too at one point.

*Edit*

Another thing occurs to me, I could actually limit the permanent injuries to just limb removals and some of the other nasty ones, like brain damage*, and have the system only allow the hero to lose an arm and no other limbs. That might also work.

*Not sure how I'll implement that one yet, but I have some fun ideas with random gibberish dialog ;-)

*Second edit*

I could also make permanent injuries rare on the hero.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Consider how the fifth time a character breaks his leg will be different from the first time. The first time is a Dramatic Event. The fifth time is a Movement Speed Multiplier Condition. I'd be tempted to work it into a multilinear level design. Jump out of the fifth floor window into a dumpster to escape the cops? Fine, but don't expect to just jog away.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I have that in already, its perfectly acceptable in my game to use your own arm as a weapon against an opponent; the game has quite a dark tone to it. It wont be the best weapon by any stretch but could be satisfying to the player.

Im now backtracking and going back to my original point.

I think I should probably either include permanent injury, or not. A player can lose one limb and losing another is a game over condition. That includes breakages too.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by kingy
So essentially, as long as the player can quicksave and quickload at any point, permanent injuries are generally seen as being ok.

Actually, that's the opposite of what I was saying. If you intend to apply long term negative afflictions on the player for short term mistakes, you can't provide an opportunity to undo the short term mistakes. Any sane person would do so. Providing a positive bonus for incurring mistakes in order to fix this issue is a horrible counter. It would be a really weird game if I must purposely wander into specific danger to obtain the effects I want on my character. Immersion goes right out the window, along with my character as he jumps to break his legs.

You also can't make these permanent changes negatively influence the gameplay. Especially if the game is decent in length. No slow limping or similar annoying gimmicks.

Finally, if you're going with a non-linear, open-ended environment, I wouldn't make anything that modifies gameplay in a choiceless manner permanent. Scars, replacement limbs, or cybernetics are okay, though. They show that the player has been through hell without hindering future endeavors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
For a role playing game, where the goal is character growth, it would be a horrible idea. It directly contradicts the player's goal of playing, interfering with the basic reward of the game.

I can see this working if the primary focus of the game is survival and not character growth. If the game is a series of scenarios that challenge the player to shepherd the character through tough odds to safety, this could be a very interesting game play choice. I am reminded of the popularity of television shows like Survivorman - enduring is the challenge.

Oregon Trail? :)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Same for me. As soon as I received a permanent injury, I would reload.

To say it a bit more drastic, you could as well let the game crash, display a game over screen or automatically load the last quicksave as soon as that happens.


Some players might accept this scenario if "replacements" were available (eg. when you lose your arm, you get a prosthesis, maybe with an integrated cannon, crossbow, chainsaw, whatever). It could also be presented as part of the story, eg. it has to happen in one of the boss battles.

But as far as I am concerned, I don't like this idea one bit. No matter the bonus, my hero comes out intact or not at all ;)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just out of interest, how different from the norm are your own game designs? Do you just reiterate what has been done in the past ... i.e. are your objections really based on wanting every roleplay game to follow the templates of the one before it, are you supportive of new ideas in general.. or are permanent injuries really a turn off for players and its just a plain bad idea?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I think the point everyone is making is that permanent injury is bad because the player is devolving instead of evolving over time and that while you can try to add rewards for the injury that really goes against what the player expects and breaks immersion.

I still think it’s possible to pull it off but you’d need to do something about quick save / load. Perhaps you take the approach of continuous saving (not checkpoints, but the game always maintains player state). Now the player can’t just load if they make a mistake. In this case you’d have to address the death condition as it could no longer be a “game over” since there is no loading.

As far as strength progression, you could do something like the following: Let’s say the character starts the game at a full health status with no real abilities to speak of. As the game progresses he gets physically weaker but he acquires abilities that offset this physical weakness.

Another option is to reverse the standard game progression and start the character out strong, along with all the enemies, and over time as the player weakens so do the enemies. In this style, rather than trying to become more powerful than your enemies, the player is focused on minimizing injury to stay more powerful than the enemies as everyone gets progressively weaker. While this could be fun, I think a lot of players would feel discouraged at always getting weaker. You’d probably need to introduce some type of system to keep players motivated.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by gxaxhx
In this case you’d have to address the death condition as it could no longer be a “game over” since there is no loading.
Or just let them die, and start over with a new character - most rogue-likes take this tack, as do diablo and escape velocity on harcore mode.
Quote:
Another option is to reverse the standard game progression and start the character out strong, along with all the enemies, and over time as the player weakens so do the enemies... While this could be fun, I think a lot of players would feel discouraged at always getting weaker. You’d probably need to introduce some type of system to keep players motivated.
Warcraft II - TFT did something like this for the undead campaign, where Arthas loses strength and abilities between every level. It quickly became very annoying, but the campaign was primarily story driven, so one tends to play it through anyway.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by swiftcoder
Warcraft II - TFT did something like this for the undead campaign, where Arthas loses strength and abilities between every level. It quickly became very annoying, but the campaign was primarily story driven, so one tends to play it through anyway.


Yeah, I played that undead compaign. The real problem with this system is that taken in it's raw form, you present everything to the player at the begining and then start taking things away. This just causes frustration and boredom since taking away often leads to fewer choices.

To pull this off you'd have to find a way to introduce expanded abilities as the player gets weaker. So, maybe the player starts off just punching or something but when you loose your arm you now have a weapon and it introduces a new style of fighting.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote:
Original post by kingy
Permanent or not, I already have the removal of both arms, or both legs as a game over condition. I think that is fair enough, as the hero's ability to defend himself is practically non existent in that state.


Whaaat? That just sounds like a flesh wound...

Seriously though I'm against permanent injury for any "serious" game. Your rationale is that it would be a great sense of accomplishment to emerge from the dungeon battered and broken... But that would only be because it was incredible difficult and frustrating to be battered and broken while in the dungeon.

If it was say, a flash game, where there was basically one long level to the game, and you only really had a playtime of like 10 minutes, then yeah it might be fun if you could lose an arm and a leg but somehow keep dragging yourself through. The frustration from being crippled like that wouldn't be as bad, because of the shortness and nature of the game

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now

Sign in to follow this