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HP displays on enemies or visual indicators?

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When playing a platformer or action game, do you prefer enemies to have an HP bar underneath them, a visual indicator of their health{a robot cracking and spewing fumes at increasing frequency the more damaged it is.}, or no indicator at all?

 

I remember in Sega Genesis, playing Sonic and not really knowing how much life Robotnik had while jumping on him.

 

Although in those days, it was just 8 hits and he's defeated, while most if not all henchmen just blew up in a single hit.

 

I prefer a numerical indicator, such as HP: 100 right below the enemy. I'm probably going to pick the method that has the least strain on performance, (visual indicator is actually the least vexing on performance at this point.}

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I also like the idea of both.  There's something very satisfying about watching an enemy become damaged, but I also like to know how close I am to defeating them.

 

Maybe go simple first and see if it feels like something is missing, or hand it to some friends/play-testers to garner feedback?

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I kind of have a thing against the basic Hit Point model in general.  I think its overused.  And I really hate damage numbers and healthbar clutter.  I understand why they are there, they're a very easy way to tell the player if they are doing damage, and how much damage they are doing.  But it's also a really lazy way to do it, and turns the game into a very discrete numbers thing, and people end up staring up at the health bar and obsessing over the numbers more than they do over watching the actual attacks and hit reactions.

 

Sometimes this is good, certain games, and certain players really need or want perfect information being displayed.   I think it's important to consider how important it is for your player to know that it will take exactly 3 hits to kill enemy X.  If you're doing a random amount of damage anyway, then a health bar with no damage numbers can work fine.  Especially for an action game, where the player isn't going to be doing a lot of the math in their head to calculate how many swings it will take to destroy something.

 

And if you're low budget, and don't have an easy way to convey how hurt/damaged something, and need to convey that information, by all means, use a health bar.  (If you're a 2d sprite based game, you might think about just blending the sprite with black or red as an easy visual indicator of damage)

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I kind of have a thing against the basic Hit Point model in general.  I think its overused.

 

What alternatives do we have?

 

I can only think of:

A) One-hit kill (2% of games)

B) Health (98% of games)

C) Independent limbs having health (Vagrant Story / Deus Ex)

 

You can mix it up a tiny bit by making enemies immune to certain types of damage, or damage from certain directions, but these are just mechanic "decorators" on top of the basic systems.

 

There's probably more mechanics to be invented. Do you have any ideas?

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As a visually impaired gamer, I always appreciate it when there's an easier-to-see indicator than tiny numbers or health bars. Still, if you can do both, I think that's the best way to do it (this depends on the game, but in general). Baten Kaitos (Gamecube JRPG) had damage numbers and health bars, but each enemy/character had a separate idle animation for when they were healthy/<20% health.

 

In Super Metroid you can tell how close a boss is to dying because their sprite gets redder the more damage they take. Certain bosses in A Link to the Past get faster the more damage they take, so you know when they're speeding around the room that victory is near.

 

It certainly depends on the game/genre, though. If it's a platformer and everything's dying in 1-3 hits, a healthbar or damage numbers would feel like overkill (maybe stick a health bar in for bosses).

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In my game I have a huge health bar and level indicator above the npcs head as a billboard, and when hit they react with sounds, flinches and blood spurts. Some enemies move differently when close to death.

 

I find the combination works well. This is in an action RPG...

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why not both?

 

Health bars give a good quick indication of how much health is left while damage as a visual cue just adds to immersion, they work great together as a pair imho...

 

I strongly prefer both myself. Showing your current health point amount and not just a bar is crucial. Usually you see enemies dealing a certain range of damage to your characters, and you use that information to gauge about how many more hits they could take before the character is knocked out. But you also want an idea of how much health you are missing because you want to know if your health restoration abilities are going to recover enough. Some games just use raw current / max numbers, like "HP: 1362 / 2058". I don't like this because it's more difficult to read and figure out (okay, I have roughly 60% health right now). Plus if you have all your character's HP amounts next to each other in a little menu, it's even more difficult to read.

 

We recently wrapped up some work to improve the health information interface in our battle system (for a JRPG). This is the result of a lot of back and forth.

 

battle_character_status_redesign_05.jpg

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That's a solid suggestion. We did something similar to that in the past (the numbers sat in the middle of the bar and were drawn over the top half of it). We recently changed to this scheme because we added a new feature to our battle system which included some additional information to the bars (the darker section you see in the above screenshot), and this information was obscured by having the numbers drawn over the bars. So in this case doing that wouldn't work well for us, but should work well for most other games.

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I'd say for a platformer or action game, you probably don't need any health indicators for the enemies (except bosses). It should probably only take a few hits to beat them, so the player can keep track of that without any extra clutter. It's just important that you can tell when the enemy took damage. 

 

For bosses with more health, I prefer a health bar, unless there are RPG elements that allow the player to increase their damage. If a player is adjusting their stats to do more damage, it's good to see those numbers in action. But if the game doesn't have that kind of RPG element, adding numbers to their attacks just seems like extra stuff the player doesn't need to think about.

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If a player is adjusting their stats to do more damage, it's good to see those numbers in action.

 

Alternatively, make sure any changes to stats make very meaningful changes to damage, then any changes can be reflected more easily through just a health bar. 

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I always think that a health bar is the most intuitive thing. It's great to see how much damage you're doing as well. Visual feedback on the state of your enemy's health is good fluff but less important for actual game play I think.

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I always think that a health bar is the most intuitive thing. It's great to see how much damage you're doing as well. Visual feedback on the state of your enemy's health is good fluff but less important for actual game play I think.


The general appearance and theme of the health bar is important. For example in diabolo 2 the health meters were potion bottles that emptied as you took damage. Eventually I want to do the same in my game with the "skin" of the fluid bubbling and moving gently. The more damage you take the more it will bubble violently giving the impression that your very life force is boiling away.

Also remember the kids tv show Knightmare? The health bar was originally an adventurers face fully helmeted. As time progressed the helmet corroded and fell away revealing flesh, and then the flesh fell away revealing muscle and bone. Eventually the pieces of skull tumbled away into the void and when all were gone the player was dead.

It's all in the presentation.

Although it was obviously a timer made to appear as health points the way it appeared on screen was everything...

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A lot of interesting suggestions, especially putting numbers inside an hp bar, which brings back memories of Warcraft 2. I do agree that there is an excitement to not knowing how much hp the enemy has left, as long as you know they are being damaged.

 

I never played D2, but I played the original, really digged the glass sphere holding red liquid for life and blue liquid for mana.

 

The I'm working on is mainly intended for smartphones, and since the action is already pushing the limits of my android's phone, back when I use to run visual indicators of hp in the form of numbers, it created significant lag. Thus the possible move to a visual indicator via the sprite changing in some way the lower hp is. Right now, the enemy just flashes on hit. {The white box and colored numbers that appear are related to a test involving the enemy x,y. when I was trying to implement a particular feature}

 

https://youtu.be/zMwk-0ERtoo

 

https://youtu.be/K1Dd9Zd6VwI

 

The footage is from the desktop version, which is why it runs smoothly. My goal right now is to just have something universal in regards to health/damage display, that can run on smartphone as well. I have yet to implement the smoke method I was planning as I had been working on reducing load times since my last post.

Edited by Fradno

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In League of Legends, the HP-bar is cut into pieces of 100HP each, as a character levels up more pieces are cramped together,

additionally, when taking damage, the amount of HP lost turns red before disappearing(i believe most fighting games do this as well)

(damage numbers can be turned on/off through the options-menu)

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At this moment in my game (JRPG with turn based battles) I have a health bar for friendly characters, but not for enemy characters.

 

I do however have a number display for how much damage is done from both sides for each action. 

 

The reasoning behind this is to strike a balance between information and tension- the player knows which actions are effective and can therefore make informed strategic choices, but does not know how close they are to winning an encounter, and must gamble on if they should stay longer and fight or flee as their own health drops lower and lower. 

 

I hope this dynamic pays off. It is also a personal artistic choice to have as few numbers and indicators as practically possible so the focus is on immersion rather than math and number crunching. For example I always disliked in the Pokemon games how you could see the enemies' health bar and their level, which always made me feel more like I was "playing a game" instead of supporting my immersion by hiding elements I realistically shouldn't know. 

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Most important is to give good feedback to the player. He must know is his attacks are effective or not so he can adjust his strategy appropriately. The best approach depends on how long it takes to kill enemies and the type of game you're making. If enemies take one or two hit to kill, then you could get away with no feedback at all (the death of the enemy is the feedback). If it takes a few hits to kill enemies, then visual feedback can be more immersive and prettier. If it takes a lot of hits to beat the enemy (e.g. a long boss battle), then visual feedback alone becomes problematic because going from one visual state to another might take too long, or the visual change may be too subtle. In that case a health bar gives better feedback, and even more specific with a number on the health bar.

 

The real question is how abstract you want your game to be. Numbers are accurate but not very immersive -- it's best to use them for more abstract games where decisions are made based on specific values (e.g. games with a lot of strategy). Visuals are not very accurate but more immersive and realistic (real sword don't damage with numbers) -- it's best to rely on them for immersive games where the player focuses on the action rather than precise planning.

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When playing a platformer or action game, do you prefer enemies to have an HP bar underneath them, a visual indicator of their health{a robot cracking and spewing fumes at increasing frequency the more damaged it is.}, or no indicator at all?

 

I remember in Sega Genesis, playing Sonic and not really knowing how much life Robotnik had while jumping on him.

 

Although in those days, it was just 8 hits and he's defeated, while most if not all henchmen just blew up in a single hit.

 

I prefer a numerical indicator, such as HP: 100 right below the enemy. I'm probably going to pick the method that has the least strain on performance, (visual indicator is actually the least vexing on performance at this point.}

 

I prefer a visual cue as part of the sprite such as how Final Fantasy: Mystic Quest did it, which could easily be incorporated into an action game.

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