Health recovery mechanics in games. Understanding how health works (Topic)

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Health recovery mechanics in games. Understanding how health works


The health mechanic in games is one of the basic elements in any game, next to the death mechanic. It depends on the presence of health and the ability to control it whether we are going to restart the level, mission or even the game. In case of loss of health, we have the motivation to revise our strategy. Developers love to experiment with health in games, so that its control is not just part of the gameplay, but also fits into what is happening. We will talk about what types of health control are in the industry and in general about this mechanic.

Degree of incandescence

A character's health is not what we perceive him to be in life. Unhealthy is when, for example, the temperature is 39, and you ate walking. In games, the health mechanic represents the amount of room for error before making you do it all over again. This is best shown in older 2D platformers, but let's take a more modern example - Cuphead.

You have five health cells, and every time you make a mistake [they didn't have time to dodge a blow, or they pressed the wrong direction], one cell is taken away from you. So, you had the opportunity to learn from the last mistake and not repeat it next time. It also adds a degree of intensity to the game, because you cannot return a lost cell, and when you have one, the situation becomes more tense.


After all, the less health a player has, the more attentive he will be to his actions. The pace of the game slows down significantly at this point and then a thoughtful passage begins. In the same Cuphead, with low health, players often switch to conditional observation or evasion mode, trying to study the enemy's attacks in more detail, because if you catch the wrong moment, you are finished and you will have to do everything all over again.


This is a real challenge that will not let the player get bored. However, developers need to understand that if the game is completely merciless to the player and does not allow him to think over the strategy of victory, he will simply get tired of dying and he will turn it off. So, in Cuphead, you can increase a special indicator that will help you carry out a super attack. It is quite strong and allows the player to decide to pass it by placing the last health cell on the line.


Or the game designer should think about how to make it easier for the player to play through if he often dies. For example, in Resident Evil 4, the game analyzes the player's actions: how often he dies, loses health, and starts to let only a part of the enemies on him, or makes them weaker.


On the other hand, if the player is omnipotent, he will also lose interest in the game, as he will simply get bored with killing enemies. In the same Resident Evil 4, if the player does an excellent job, the game lets more enemies on him, who are smarter and stronger.

So, health can limit your actions and force you to change your play style. Much still depends on how this health looks.

Health types

There are four groups of health mechanics in total:

Health Bar is a red life line that gradually decreases as you take damage. It clearly shows how much health you have left, without specific numbers or designations. She is one of the most popular, and often appears at bosses. You could see her, for example, in Darksiders, Dishonored or GTA V.


Health point - or HP. Displays health in specific numbers from 0 to 100. This approach is often used in shooters, especially in the classic Serious Sam or Doom. At the same time, in some games it can be temporarily increased by several units, such as in Shadow Warrior or in the recent DUSK. Interestingly, The Elder Scrolls series, namely the last three games, has connected the Health Bar and the Health point. In fact, your Health point is visualized as a Health Bar, and you can find out the exact value of how many health points you have in the buildup menu. Borderlands has followed the same path.


Segmented health bar is a health line broken into cells that best visualize your chances of error. In some games, each such cell can be a miniature health bar, and will decrease in part. An example is Assassins's Creed. Sometimes, if such a cell is not completely empty, then it can be restored.


HUD-less health bar is an indicator of health in the game world itself. For example, in Fallout New Vegas, if your leg is injured, you will limp until you heal it. In Dead Space, we constantly see Isaac's health on his back. And in Fallout 4, when you sit in power armor, your health is presented as part of the armor management interface.

There are times when low health is visualized as redness, blinking of the screen or the appearance of rapid breathing in the hero. This was the case in Uncharted and Bioshock Infinite. In Assassin's Creed, your screen starts blinking as syncing with your ancestor is lost. This often interferes with play, but makes you feel in danger.

As with The Elder Scrolls and Borderlands, games can combine several different health mechanics. Bioshock combined a red flashing screen and a health bar system.

Mechanics of recovery

And of course, the second important part of the health system is the mechanics of its recovery. There are quite a few interesting solutions, but they can be grouped.


First aid kits. In most games, first aid kits are really a first aid kit that you pick up, and it partially or completely restores your health. It all depends on the setting. In Wolfenstain it is a first aid kit with a cross, in TES - a health potion or any food, in Fallout - stimulants.


Moreover, first-aid kits are both disposable [raised - cured], and portable, which you always keep in your inventory. You always have quick access to them. You click on a specific button to apply them, or do it through your inventory. There is such a system in Silent Hill and in order to heal, you have several types of portable first aid kits, which are applied through the inventory.

Capcom went next, because if in Silent Hill you are limited by the number of medicines, then in Biohazard you also have inventory. For treatment, you use special plants. They need to be mixed to get the best recovery effect, and at the same time all plants take up a lot of space in your inventory, where you still need to stuff weapons, cartridges and items. This adds value to your medicines and makes you think about how to stock.


Stationary first aid kits. Less common in games, but still available. Half Life illustrates them perfectly, where you can only heal near apparatus that are attached to the wall.

Autoregenerate. Got your hand off? Sit around the corner, wait a bit, it will grow back, and you can go straight into battle. Something like this looks like autoregeneration in games. On the one hand, it allows you to maintain dynamics, but on the other hand, it removes some of the complexity in the game and the value of this resource. Therefore, on the part of game designers, it is much better to make two scales, one is regenerated, and the other is restored only by first aid kits. This was the case in Hallo, and it allowed the game to remain dynamic, but also not to throw itself at the bullets thoughtlessly. Also, if there is autoregeneration, the game should have an appropriate level design, in which there will be enough cover, where the severed arm will just recover.


Gameplay Healing. Finally, I would like to highlight healing that is woven into the gameplay. So in many fantasy games like TES, you can heal yourself with a spell. The very process of your game and the style changes, we talked about it in detail here.


In Vampire: The Masquerade Bloodlines, you can restore health by attacking people to drink their blood. This mechanic significantly affects the gameplay, as you restore health, mana, and you can also use it as a hidden method of killing.

Or remember the last Doom or Warhammer 40,000: Space Marine, where you can restore your health by colorfully finishing off enemies.


The mechanics of health and its recovery play a significant role in the creation of the game. It affects the gameplay, and can not only exist, but also be part of it. Depending on it, the level can be built. This directly affects our experience, can lure, infuriate, or make us overcome the difficulties and challenges that the game throws us. This topic is so multifaceted that it's just fun to understand.

The Topic of Article: Health recovery mechanics in games. Understanding how health works.
Author: Jake Pinkman