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Fradno

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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