Player Health: Balancing Fun & Challenge

A core staple of any action game is health, or HP.  This is the essence of the player and how far he or she has gone into a level or challenge.  Health is a measure of how far you can take your character while maintaining a progression within the game so as a developer it’s extremely important to note that how you decide to let the player gain health, and how fast you want them to lose it is going to have a massive impact on how your game is perceived.

In the NES days, and even today with games like Demon’s Souls and Dark Souls among others, you can have an extremely vicious system of death and health loss and still have a great game.  What’s important is how solid your game is first, in terms of how well it handles and if it would still be perceived as fair even after failing to complete a level several times.  And on the event of a complete loss of player health — or what I like to refer to as dying — where should the player start at?  A checkpoint?  The beginning?  Is it healthy to not only lose progress through the dungeon or world, but what about XP loss?

In the mobile world, difficult games are not nearly as popular as the more casual games are.  This is the very nature of mobile for several reasons.

  • For one, mobile controls — especially being all touchscreen — are just not there yet when compared to a mouse or console controller, even an NES controller.
  • Mobile gaming is huge and the audience stretches beyond what some would classify as “traditional” gamers.  Generally, those who are playing games on their phone are not going to be as committed to a game as someone who would be in a home setting and being placed in front of a TV or a desktop computer.  Mobile gaming has become somewhat of an outlet to cure boredom in non-home situations, and as such, time is somewhat more limited than in a home setting. Because of this, play time intervals is much shorter than traditional console or even PC gaming can be.
  • And while it’s definitely a boon to mobile gamers, the huge selection of games available for low prices — and free — is a major impact on keeping the attention span of a gamer.  A lot of people played those stupid hard games on NES because THEY HAD NO CHOICE.  That’s what their parents got them, and they’ll be happy they got anything gosh darn-it!

So, all of these variables and conditions led me down the path of a more lenient health system with multiple avenues of restoring player health when necessary.

There will be a “Health” attribute which can be raised with XP that will not only increase your maximum health but also increase the rate at which you passively regenerate HP.

One of the key avatar powers in Raid Encounters is also the Life Weapon, which very slightly damages the enemy but restores that amount in full to the player.  The amount of damage dealt by this weapon is the lowest out of all the weapons to ensure it doesn’t become the only weapon the player would use, but if they wanted to they could and they’d be very hard to kill, but also take a very, very long time to kill enemies.