Hey there! Welcome to Mechanics Monday! A weekly piece where I (Blaza) discuss various game mechanics.
Today we will be talking about regenerating health and it’s history, rise to popularity and more importantly, how it affects the games it is implemented in.
Where did regenerating health begin?
Recharging health has been around pretty much forever, even having mechanics in Dungeons & Dragons. But the first game to use a regenerating health style was Punch Out! in 1984. The first game to implement it mechanically as we know today however was a Japanese role playing game called Hydlide.
What made it so popular?
In today’s games, first and third person shooters are linked with regenerating health. Shooters such as Halo (which uses a hybrid of old school health packs and regenerating), Call of Duty and Gears of War. But what drove this mechanic to be used in shooters? Halo: Combat evolved, released in 2001 is credited with rocketing health regeneration into the mainstream along with several other mechanics such as the two weapon carry limit. Once these kinds of ideas were popularized, other games were almost pigeon holed into follow the same trend.
How does it affect gameplay?
The primary use of regenerating health is to simply keep you in the action and reduce downtime between fights, which is the primary reason action games such as shooters have adopted the mechanic. It works, and it keeps the fun coming. By not worrying about scrounging around for med packs you can easily just keep on fighting monsters or demons or whatever.
But like all mechanics it also has a downside. By having the player regenerate health by simply ducking out of the way of harm, it does reduce the importance of strategy and maneuvering in combat. Why be tactical about how to approach a situation if you can just hide behind a wall for a few seconds and be as healthy as you were before you did your impression of swiss cheese? Or, if the game is going for realism, why would you coordinate with team mates and take your time?
Of course the appropriateness of the inclusion of the mechanic is totally dependant on the game itself. In Battlefield or Gears of War? Very appropriate as they’re action games and want you to be fighting again as soon as possible. But in games like Dark Souls regenerating health would detract from the experience. The fun and challenge of Dark Souls is learning the areas enough to where you can get through them on your limited number of estus flasks (health potions) and having regenerating health would cheapen the whole experience.
Regenerating health is a fun mechanic when used appropriately, and can provide a fun alternative to grabbing health packs. However it would not be suited for all games such as Dark Souls.
What mechanics would you like to see covered? Let us know in the comments below!