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Author Topic: Healing in computer RPGs  (Read 2743 times)

Offline DrMike2000

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Healing in computer RPGs
« on: October 19, 2009, 02:40:10 AM »
Ive been playing Freedom Force again a bit recently, and it got me thinking about healing, and its notable absence in FF.

To get a bit abstract, consider a game level as a series of encounters which the player(s) have to survive in sequence at their own pace. This applies to FF, City of Heroes and Diablo II as three examples.  If the game includes healing (like CoH and Diablo do), then they allow you to forget how badly you did in the last encounter and reset the game state for the next one. Take that away and you have a more demanding experience where you can't afford to get sloppy on any single encounter.

Vanilla FF had two healing mechanisms - Fast Healing and Mercy. Both deliberately appear to be designed to still consume something - Fast Healing has a limited pool fo 100 points it heals, and Mercy takes HP off the user. Having two characters on the team with mercy allows you to generate HP out of thin air, but thats bordering on exploit status in terms of the spirit of the original design.

FFX added a few things that broke this rule - healing power swaps and Superregeneration that turned energy points back into health both allowed HP to be made out of thin air indefinitely.

The lack of healing has two advantages - its true to the genre and it presents a challenge.
The downside is that it also introduces "framping". This is "first ramping" ie the tendency to restart the level if you fluff the first encounter, because you'll be penalised for the rest of the level. It also introduces a much more conservative gameplay style. In CoH I find I tendto rush in and focus on surviving the alpha strike, without any fear of what happens during the encounter. Worse case I can use rest afterwards.
Playing FF I feel like I approach each encounter with caution, even on big tough tanky characters.

So, would FF have benefitted from at least some passive regeneration, if not from slightly more widespread healing abilities?
I think so, what do you guys say?
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Offline detourne_me

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #1 on: October 19, 2009, 04:18:20 AM »
I actually like having finite health points, and it makes sense as FF has finite levels, while diablo and COH are more geared towards longer-duration playing. It's an open world, and you want people to play as long as possible, hence the automatic healing.

It's funny though, i do consider myself a "framper" - i never knew such a term existed - in many games.  If i can't get past the first encounter with most of my health, I will just reset the level.

I like the system set up in the Grand Theft Auto games,  where you do not automatically heal, but you must consume food/drink in order to heal.
(i'm planning on replacing the red health cannister with a pizza for something ;)

Since the superhero genre varies so widely, from Daredevil to Wolverine, someone with limited to unlimited HP, it's hard to design the game properly.
A would have loved for another option to be put into passive defence, where heroes absorb HP from certain attacks.




As a side note, another game power set that FF tends to lack is the buff/debuff system.
Found in games like X-men Legends/MUA/COH/CO self and team buffs are indespensible. We really only have Rally, and the mental attacks...

Offline bearded

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #2 on: October 19, 2009, 05:07:39 AM »
i hate healing in coh.  cause the character has to be totally devoted to the healing class.  and this is supposed to be a comic book game.  how many healers can you think of in the books?  i think the xmen had a morlock, but never a mainstream healer in any team i can think of.
for me, the power ups in freedom force as well as the heroic attribute fit the bill perfectly.  however, i do have a custom power in a lot of my own ff games for the hospital building.  it costs some prestige, but hospitals heal states and some damage.

Offline DrMike2000

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #3 on: October 19, 2009, 07:01:24 AM »
Yeah, realism is a big problem with healing in any genre.

I remember having a laugh when I realised how all my Diablo characters must be glugging away on those red potions behind their shields as they fought.

I initially thought the abundance of healing in CoH looked a bit crap, because as you say, there have been probably less than 10 healers in mainstream Marvel and DC ever - the Morlock guy, Xorn (kinda sorta - I always loved how he jumped the possessed Xavier shouting "I can heal you!"), umm... Dagger? Does she heal or just invigorate people? Scramble in Alpha Flight...?
But I came to love it, just because it keeps gameplay rolling.

And Detourne - you're right about the lack of buffs too. I added a few like speed boost into FFX, but its still a pretty slim list. FF really is light on support roles within the team, I guess control powers are the closest to team support we have.

On a side note, did you know that Rally The Troops augments rally powers in FF1? Make two characters with a cheap Rally power. A rallies B, B rallies A and back and forth, and when one of them eventually attacks it does an awesome amount of damage!

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Offline Epimethee

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #4 on: October 19, 2009, 12:32:30 PM »
Interesting question. You're leaving out the two main ways in which characters are supposed to be healed, though: hero point use and, as DT mentioned, the health cannister. Like the rest, both are consumable, however.

I know you're not too fond of the whole arcade-ish cannister idea, but when used correctly in level design, they add to the strategy. The Tales of Patriot City campus level is a recent example of this.

BTW, those exploits you mentioned are big enough to fall into the land of evil nastiness. Truly. :P
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Offline tommyboy

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #5 on: October 19, 2009, 01:40:02 PM »
I think what distinguishes FF from other, more "heal-y" games is the timespan of the missions. In most games which have healing you are in the game world for days, and since most living things do start to heal after a few days, "auto-heal" is a sort of exaggeration of the real world. As those day and nights cycle through, your character should heal.
In FF, on the other hand, each mission typically is set over a short period of time, and you heal between missions, unless you are wilveroon or teh Bullet. No "normal" character could or should auto-heal from a bullet wound in an hour or so, so they don't in FF.
Now, when we move on to the Patriot City and freeroam FFX type Mods, where you can actually have a day and night cycle through, I think a slow-ish auto-heal would work well for all characters (maybe quite slow indeed, like a full 24 hours to recover 25-50% health, otherwise you'd just stand about after every fight, which would be tedious).
 
 

Offline detourne_me

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #6 on: October 19, 2009, 03:33:54 PM »
Now, when we move on to the Patriot City and freeroam FFX type Mods, where you can actually have a day and night cycle through, I think a slow-ish auto-heal would work well for all characters (maybe quite slow indeed, like a full 24 hours to recover 25-50% health, otherwise you'd just stand about after every fight, which would be tedious).
That's why I love the fact that you actually HAVE to go to your apartment to heal from your wounds.  It makes the freeroam game so street level. i like taking my battered hero back home and trying to avoid a mob!

Offline AfghanAnt

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #7 on: October 19, 2009, 04:50:23 PM »
i hate healing in coh.  cause the character has to be totally devoted to the healing class.  and this is supposed to be a comic book game.  how many healers can you think of in the books?  i think the xmen had a morlock, but never a mainstream healer in any team i can think of.
for me, the power ups in freedom force as well as the heroic attribute fit the bill perfectly.  however, i do have a custom power in a lot of my own ff games for the hospital building.  it costs some prestige, but hospitals heal states and some damage.

Besides the ones Dr Mike mentioned Elixir of X-Force and Raven of Teen Titans are mainstream healers both of which featured in popular books. Also Archangel had healing abilities but I'm not sure what the status of his powers are at the moment.

Edit: Eddie Brock as Anti-Venom and basically any magical character ever.
« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 04:55:10 PM by AfghanAnt »

Offline yell0w_lantern

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #8 on: October 19, 2009, 04:52:39 PM »
I actually like the fact that healing is somewhat rare. I also appreciate the FFX modifications for heroes like Wolverine and the Flash. The FFX healing swap is utilized by my green lantern characters.

Now, to be fair to FFv3R, there is a restoration power. I'll even be making use of it for a hidden character in my campaign, mi amigo.
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Offline cmdrkoenig67

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #9 on: October 19, 2009, 05:24:22 PM »
Awww...You guys forgot Topaz (from Werewolf By Night and Dr Strange)...She's a powerful empath/telepath/telekinetic/Magic-user's familiar who can also heal others (I never realized how powerful she was, until I just typed all of that...LOL).

Then there's Raven from DC comics (whoops...As AA pointed out above, while I was typing).

Besides the folks mentioned above by DrMike, I can't think of any others.

Although, If you want to use D&D style characters like Paladins and Clerics, you'd need them to have some sort of healing powers/spells.

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« Last Edit: October 19, 2009, 05:26:14 PM by cmdrkoenig67 »

Offline Epimethee

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #10 on: October 19, 2009, 10:38:03 PM »
Still, for all your examples, Dr. Mike point still stands, as a dozen or two (or three) characters across two companies' universes for 45 to 70 years is not a significant percentage.

Back on the main point, this lack of healing probably contributes a fair bit to the feeling I often have that some missions are too long and should have been segmented. Maybe you should gain a few HPs and EPs after each mini-encounter based on the defeated enemies prestige value and type?
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Offline DrMike2000

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #11 on: October 20, 2009, 01:29:13 PM »
The Instant Action modes on the Rumble Room do this, Epimithee - your team heals and revives for each wave to make it a set of mini-encounters. Iron man doesn't - which one do people play more I wonder... ?
And I can think of a few Strangers missions that were way too long in that regard. Playing the final Pharoah mission the other day left me thinking "What was I thinking? Why did I hate you all so much?" :)

TommyBoy - really like your point that when you can recover, its often tedious to stand around and do so. I defintiely had that in my early CoH days, and still do a bit with lowbie characters. Its like the two evils - no passive regen leads to framping and resetting, passive regen leads to rewarding the player for doing nothing for a minute between encounters.

I guess the only way to avoid both is to detect that the character isn't enagaged in combat and give them a big passive fast heal at that point. Or something like CoH's Rest power but without the long recharge.

Question for any Champions players - how does that handle healing?
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Offline Epimethee

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #12 on: October 21, 2009, 04:59:18 AM »
The Instant Action modes on the Rumble Room do this, Epimithee - your team heals and revives for each wave to make it a set of mini-encounters.
Not really the same thing. Instant Action completely resets your characters' health; de facto, unless you die or spend a hero point, you're basically playing the same mission multiple times (or different missions on the same map); theres no reward for surviving the encounter. (As an aside, I just replayed a few rounds of FFvsTTR to check how the Instant Action etc. game mechanics felt, and it's hard not to notice the lack of polish in the skirmish missions themselves.)

To expand on my earlier suggestion of getting back some HP/EP based on defeated enemies, a more FF-ish (or Diablo-ish) approach could be to give you loot instead of straight points. Maybe a single energy cannister for weak enemies or a couple of health cannisters for strong ones. This adds an interesting choice: who do you heal? And do you use it now or later? The loot should probably not be limited to cannisters; Trick Shot (for example) already gives a assortment of items to get started, plus a way to use the items. Pan's flute, anyone? ;)
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Offline detourne_me

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #13 on: October 21, 2009, 06:55:42 AM »
oh man, Epi, great ideas for loot drops... maybe a mod of kamikaze that spawns cannisters based on the enemies prestige points? a random mix of energy/health/prestige cannisters would be good.  This would make the game a lot more like the Marvel Ultimate Alliance games though.  more action oriented and less strategy oriented.

RE Dr. Mike's Champions question.  There is passive healing, sometimes it stops altogether though (no idea why) as I've been stuck on a sliver of life before and had to die.
Usually there are power-up drops during a fight though ... energy/health boost, or power/defense boost.
When taking on a mob i usually don't notice the drops,  i just get health after defeating a few enemies.

Offline tommyboy

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #14 on: October 21, 2009, 08:29:48 AM »
Mount and Blade (just play it, you can get it dirt cheap now) uses "auto healing" but you can assign points to three attribute/skills too:
Surgery: the more points you have in this, the more likely your men will be knocked out rather than killed.
First aid: each point in this gives 10% of health back to a character entering a battle.
Wound healing: party healing speed increases by 20% for every level of this.
You also heal more quickly if staying in a tavern rather than sleeping outdoors.
This system works out very well. No "healing potions" or "magical healers". It's slight downside is the "wait to heal" aspect, but since the game is an action/strategy game, you cannot always wait to heal everyone, as your own forces may be attacked, or your own territory taken whilst you wait. So you have to balance the need to ride into battle healthy against saving your hard won castle which is being besieged now.

Offline bearded

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #15 on: October 21, 2009, 08:36:55 AM »
Loot; very groovy idea.
another idea, what if on villian death, each hero gets a small portion of health back?  it would be explained as morale boost/it was only a flesh wound.

Offline GogglesPizanno

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #16 on: October 21, 2009, 05:02:42 PM »
I think a simpler approach in games is less about the mechanics of how the health works, but how the health is applied within the game itself. I don't mind a silly mechanic or something totally unrealistic if it makes sense within the context of the game. Kinda like how GTA will give you health by getting in an Ambulance. It's really just a powerup system, but it makes sense in the logic and flow of the gameplay.

I did an FFX plugin that simulated getting healed at a hospital by adding a Heal menu option to the building.

But the object list as to what was considered a "hospital" and how much health it gave you was editable. So rather than drop health canisters around, you could apply it to vehicles or characters or whatever. Still basically performs the same effect as a canister, but allows it to be integrated into the flow of the story better.

Offline Gremlin

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #17 on: October 26, 2009, 10:47:17 PM »
I think a simpler approach in games is less about the mechanics of how the health works, but how the health is applied within the game itself. I don't mind a silly mechanic or something totally unrealistic if it makes sense within the context of the game. Kinda like how GTA will give you health by getting in an Ambulance. It's really just a powerup system, but it makes sense in the logic and flow of the gameplay.

I did an FFX plugin that simulated getting healed at a hospital by adding a Heal menu option to the building.

But the object list as to what was considered a "hospital" and how much health it gave you was editable. So rather than drop health canisters around, you could apply it to vehicles or characters or whatever. Still basically performs the same effect as a canister, but allows it to be integrated into the flow of the story better.

...that's incredibly awesome. You could even adapt that to different powerups, too, like a healing kit or something.

Offline stumpy

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #18 on: October 30, 2009, 08:54:28 PM »
This is a great topic. I noticed similar differences now that I have installed a second game on my PC, Neverwinter Nights and am playing through the original campaign. It does change FF gameplay when you know you can't heal after each encounter, but for FF-style gaming, where there aren't many healers in the genre, it does seem more realistic. As tommyboy points out, in missions that are supposed to take place in a time span of a half hour or maybe a couple hours, it doesn't seem as realistic to have the characters resting between each room. If they are stuck in the woods for days, then healing via rest makes sense. Potentially, Patriot City campaigns could do a little healing whenever the light setting changes so simulate something like that, but I do like going out on patrol and cracking skulls until I am worn down and then going back to the apartment.

FF has never been a loot-colllecting game, because the reward is leveling up the characters after the missions. But, I have thought that it might add some variety to game play if canisters were collectible (keep track in the character's right-click menu or maybe they add hero points or something) and then you get a reward for getting through the mission without using them up, like an extra 5 or 10 XP per canister or something.

Ultimately, I never took the idea anywhere because it already bugs me that you have to have someone in the squad track down the green cans and there are missions where it's unrealistic that the hero (or whole squad) is taking a break from fighting villains to go treasure hunting. It was always an annoyance to me that one character gets more XP for the mission and it tends to be the character who has a good movement power so that it doesn't take forever to cross the map to get to a canister that's on a rooftop or whatever. Of course, the green cans are the only one's that are "physical", so at least you can have one character use a power with KB to kick the can off the roof so another character can use it, if needed.

I do like the idea of healing at hospitals or ambulances, though. A "Patch me up, Doc." custom action.  :P
« Last Edit: October 30, 2009, 08:57:01 PM by stumpy »
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Offline Tawodi Osdi

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #19 on: November 02, 2009, 07:27:11 PM »
I don't know if this is possible, but it would be interesting if you could designate a civilian, or other NPC, as a medic, and you could heal by talking to civilian.  It would give more incentive to protecting civilians without having a bunch power ups in the game.  Just how many Energy X canisters were dropped on Earth anyway?  And, they idea changing canisters to food makes me think of the old Gauntlet video games, and "Alcemiss needs food badly" starts playing in my mind.

This should probably be put in its own discussion, but on the subject of interacting with civilians, there is one old school comic book tradition that I haven't seen explored in  :ff:.  Where is the option to pick up civilians to carry them away from danger?  How many times did the Flash, Hawkman, and Elongated Man rescue civilians from collapsing and burning buildings while heavy hitters like Superman, Wonder Woman, and Green Lantern were walloping on this month's intergalactic beastie trying to eat Earth?

Offline DrMike2000

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #20 on: November 02, 2009, 10:52:23 PM »
Medical civilians isnt a bad idea, and would be very easy to implement in FF as it is.

Carrying civilians would be next to impossible in FF. I think I may even have tried this once by creating an FX based on the civilian mesh and playing it on a heroes various body parts to see if they could be made to look like they were carrying them.
Similalrly, wieldable civilians didn't pan out too good :)

But thats just me with my limited ability to do stuff in this game - setting it up in a game from scratch could be much more feasible.

Champions (played on the free weekend) has a mission where you have to destroy rubble to free civilians trapped underneath, they then get up and run off. CoH has numerous escort missions, and come to think of it I did the same thing at least once in the Strangers - where the team have to evacuate New Aeden and lead civilians to the portal.

Protecting civilians as an objective is always tricky. One of my top rule sof game design is "Dont let the AI lose for you" - it can be very frustrating for that to happen, and keeping civilians alive skirts really close to that.
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Offline GogglesPizanno

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Re: Healing in computer RPGs
« Reply #21 on: November 03, 2009, 12:11:42 AM »
Protecting civilians as an objective is always tricky. One of my top rule sof game design is "Dont let the AI lose for you" - it can be very frustrating for that to happen, and keeping civilians alive skirts really close to that.

Well the civilians in those cases clearly didn't really want to be saved. There's no need to penalize me simply because Larry had a death wish.  :P