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 Post subject: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 2:15 am 
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So all due credit to wake (full disclosure: actually my younger brother) for helping me suss out the last of the planning stages for this thing and for realizing the most elegant way to visualize it.
I am hoping to prototype this within the coming days... a health system that isn't regen/halo shield health, nor is it a regression to 100 point health with health packs. Or even the hybrid regenerative block health from Riddick/Far Cry 2.

What I wanted to accomplish was a simple, elegant system that abstractly represented multifaceted aspects of surviving instead of dying. Because that's really the key point with a health system, isn't it? How does it behave exactly at that precipice between life and death? Does it make any kind of sense? And can we do anything that isn't just a one dimensional life meter?

As perfectly workable as the traditional 100 point plus health pickups system is, one of the major and legitimate complaints to be made about it is that damage is undifferentiated.
It's entirely possible to take several short, lightly damaging falls (or pinprick wounding damage) to the point of death, which seems absurd. A common point well for bullet wounding,
drowning, falling, fire damage etc. seems too simplified. Some things do actually regenerate, don't they?

But going over to a fully regnerative health model as has been en vogue for years now is hardly better, and in many ways worse. Largely seeming to be a solution to not wanting to balance out health pack drops in levels, or to help create a propulsively cinematic forward momentum (as in COD2, which to be fair, the system works rather well).

Without making this its own essay, regen health has become the de facto choice without most of the devlopers who adopt it stopping to think about whether or not it fully integrates with the rest of their particular game's systems. Suffice it to say here that regen health is clearly not satisfactory given that any possible obstacle is surmountable given but a few seconds' breathing room. It strains credulity.

So perhaps we'll get simulative, something like Fallout: New Vegas and its survival mode. It's got many stats that effect health, isn't that better?
Yes and no. My issue with it, beyond the fact that I'm not building an RPG, is that all the stats are one dimensional linear factors and largely decoupled from one another (though most healing items do effect multiple stats).

So what do I propose instead?

Image

An abstract but multifactored health system, representing three broad facets of health. Heart(or bodily integrity, generally what is represented in most health systems), Will, and Stamina.
Stamina is folded into health because to me it stands to reason that at the liminal point of near-death wounding (again, the most important cases for how a health system behaves in a game), two characters with similar near-mortal wounds, but one with full stamina and the other completely exhausted, it stands to reason that the exhausted man would perish before the other. In most games with a (separate) stamina bar, it doesn't factor at all in critical cases; merely as a way pump the brakes on the player's progress.

But let's not get hung up on stamina. Here's how it works: the bodily integrity, the "heart" factor is the base of an inverted triangle, upon which rest Will and Stamina. They overlap, as in a Venn diagram, circles with their centers at the three points of an equilateral triangle.
Their intersection represents these three aspects of health being fully united. Depleting/taking damage to each represents a decoupling of one from another, which is what creates vulnerability. Just as health in reality has a certain robustness to it, the system does have a certain "elasticity" to both Stamina and Will; chickenshit damage isn't permanent to these, though chipping damage will effect the Body.


Image
HUD mockup

But that elasticity is lost the moment one factor loses tangency with the other two factors. This represents a "bleedout" state: I am completely exhausted/winded (Stamina), I can't fight any longer/too scared to press on (Will), or my body is too broken ("Heart"/Bodily Integrity).
But a bleedout of any one factor does not mean death (though it might mean some severe movement/performance penalties). you need complete bleedout of all three factors to die. Implemented correctly I believe this will lend the gameplay a satisfying set of harrowing firefights and close calls, far more so than the moment or two that a regenerative system can, and without the arbitrary razor's edge of clinging to life that the old 100 point systems made for.

Some examples:

Image

The trick of playing the game with this system is to finesse the three systems in relation to each other for the greatest overall net gain to health. "Pure" buff items are scarce, and by pure I mean items that only positively benefit one factor without hurting the others. Most items feed into the balancing act. Cigarettes, let's say, might provide a nice boost for Will (pleasure giving a boost to wanting to survive this ordeal), but with an attendant hit to Stamina, or a tiny sliver off of Heart. Other items work similarly but with different tradeoffs.
You might willingly take a strong hit to one factor or another in order to give yourself that critical edge in a particular combat scenario--as the natural corollary to this system is that different enemies would prey upon different factors.


Thoughts?

To think of it now it seems unlike X-Wing/Tie Fighter's systems management subgame, now that I think about it, though with less of a direct control mechanism. Much like the proposed amendments to gun handling, I think it's success is going to depend on calibrating other core interdependent systems and pacing in a manner that makes this elaboration makes sense, because it is more elaborate than standard health systems these days.
Also I don't think it's going to be playing nice with my recent flirtations with Doom style movement, but that's a different topic.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 2:40 am 
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I like it, but I don't see how it addresses the "series of minor falls" problem you mentioned. Perhaps you could also separate (behind the scenes, of course) permanent from temporary damage? Or would anything that minor simply constitute damage to Will/Stamina? Pain really is more of a willpower issue, now that I think of it. I suppose I answered my own question.

Does Overlap represent anything but a comfortable buffer between a relaxing day and a loss of Tangency? It only seems very slightly more complicated than the already bog-standard HP/SP/MP split, and the interactions between them appear intuitive enough to compensate.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 3:14 am 
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I didn't want to go into any more detail for a single post but the chipping-away-damage is addressed by the essential aspect of tangency and what it represents. When all three factors are touching it's an abstract way of saying your character is homeostatic; there's a kind of self-reinforcing bonus because your overall "health" is united.
In concrete terms it would mean that both Will and Stamina do gently regenerate (though at different rates), but so long as tangency is preserved. Heart will not regenerate on its own, but it will not lose points unless decoupled entirely from both Will and Stamina. The case I just described (bleedout Heart, tangent/overlapping Will+Stamina) is, say, a character suffering a massive physical trauma or gunshot, but remaining extremely focused/energetic.
Also, tangency is "sticky" between factors. Picture water droplets and cohesion. Once they separate, they separate, but even pulling apart droplets still maintain a tenuous bond even when the bulk of the two are further away. Applied to this system it means that while you might lose points from a factor at the higher and lower ends, at that critical point of tangency the bond is tougher to break.
But once broken it is much harder to recover from, because a decoupled factor will not regenerate, it will actively shrink.

So I think it's fair because it affords the player a nice bonus and incentive to regain peak health, because it gives a buffer that allows a patient player to save on health items.

I'm also excited about the possibilites opened by different enemy types. I hadn't gone into exploring Cthuluesque horrors showing up in a game, because I've never been all that convinced by sanity systems etc. Just another reskinned health bar next to your other health bar, or something less fair than that even. But with this, an enemy/monster type that works primarily on the Will factor but minimally on others becomes a really interesting concept, especially if presented in combination with other more traditional monsters.
Recall the Arch-vile in Doom 2; a clever enemy design (non-projectile line-of-sight fire attack, can ressurect fallen monsters) that is perhaps most interesting because once one appears it almost always goes straight to the top of the priority target list. You have to fight and kill the Arch-vile before he rezzes half the monsters you've already dispatched.
Similarly, in AM you might be faced with target prioritization based explicitly upon what you know you're capable of sustaining/healing against (well I've got all these cigarettes and stims but no _____ ) and what kind of damage is dealt by enemy type. The riot-control robot that truncheons you into submission. Etc. etc.



One scenario I discussed with wake is plugging some gameplay into the soldier's adage "never look at the downed man," an old phrase telling soldiers to be careful not to look at the bodies of their fallen comrades lest it break their fighting spirit. The time for mourning will come later, but it is not now.
So picture a sort of quivering effect on the Will factor in the HUD, as the player begins to pick around to loot corpses. If the player character is in confident command of themselves this can be weathered; steer clear of that grim tableau for spell and the Will naturally recovers to full. The same player however, fresh from some traumatic experience or heavy combat, would do well not to go and plow into some fresh horror, mutilated corpses and the like, or looting the dead up close and personal. I wanted to approach some of these effects before but never found a satisfactory way to design it in a way that could be anything like fun.

I am very excited about this system because it gets back to so many of the games I have enjoyed playing but have been ultimately disappointed by because they introduce novel systems that are tenuously related or not at all integrated into core systems. Psyche meter in MGS4. Various "sanity" meters, the aforementioned hunger/thirst mechanics in New Vegas. I mean it adds some nice complexity but they are really just reskinned health items that refill extra health bars of yours; they are not closely linked in meaningful ways. And almost always they are presented as bars, too. The triangle seems elegant, non-numerical method for presenting fairly complex relationships within the body and mind.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 3:21 am 
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Well I'm sold on it.

What's the opposite of [-]r :cod: :custer: ?


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 3:40 pm 
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no we want :custer:


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 7:53 pm 
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I applaud the system, but it seems like it will be difficult to get a read on it in the middle of a pitched battle, with myriad orther stimuli competing for the player's attention. One of the benefits of the regenerating health model and jam screen is that it's simple and easy to ascertain at a glance - without proprioception it's difficult to design something that has a satisfying amount of depth (as in this model) and also can be assessed easily on the fly.

I'll think about some potential constructive things to say as well.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 8:09 pm 
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Screen jam with multiple elements is a possibility though (I'm not against screen jam if it's handled right). Several games have tackled that as well. Maybe have screen jam with the neat icon idea tucked away in the inventory screen or sometin'?


(and slowly this game becomes LURK mod for stalker)


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 10th, 2011, 8:13 pm 
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Yeah, I think this is cool. It makes sense to pick one core system, and make your game about that. This would be a great one because your current stats could factor into performance (aim/reload, movement and recoil bonuses?) and as you already elaborated, could add a lot to enemy variety.

I played a few games recently that reminded me that good design often comes down to doing interesting things with old gameplay systems (VVVVVV in particular).


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 12:15 am 
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Screen jam can't really be blamed as actually a pretty elegant visual design element, it's just associated with a overdone mechanic. I think something similar could be easily replicated with this system, throwing a large but transparent streak on the screen, color-coded to show the damage being done. That's one idea. I'll end up massaging all the display stuff later, once the actual mechanic shows it has legs in the prototype phase.


And Ninjas is right, I like games that sensibly extend a core system. Which I think this is a major one. I am even thinking about enemies getting their own three-factor system, which makes weapon use more universal. Again, to the prototype.

Luckily I'm going through an Unrealscript tutorial that uses a health regen script as the tutorial bit. It shows how simple operations there are, and with some concentration and planning I think I might actually be able to code my own system, given how clearly established it is in my mind and on paper.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 9:00 am 
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This is pretty neat. I made a simplified, 2 component diagram of how I understand it. The stickiness, or homeostatic part where you regen is nice and reminds me of how great it is to be a full-hearted Link, shooting swords all over. KA-PWAING.

Image


Because I am a huge nerd, I was reading A treatise on the tactical use of the three arms: infantry, artillery, and cavalry and also some Civil War history, and it seemed like the deciding factor in tactical warfare is the WILL to continue fighting. I am curious about how you will incorporate that component. I like your "atrocities of war" idea. You could treat close contact with corpses like lava, and slash the player with a green slash when they spent too long looting. It's a potentially brilliant way to force the player to be emotionally involved. I propose making the player retch when their Will reaches zero.

Outlander mentioned "HP/SP/MP," but Will seems different than MP. So, is Will like "morale," whatever that means? It seems like Will is generally intrinsic to the user. A lack of will from the user means that they turn off the game and go play outside. Decoupling that to the avatar might be frustrating when the user's will is high, but his lazy avatar won't get off his ass.

One idea would be to tie Will to a kill bonus. When you defeat an enemy, you get a Will increase. I can't think of what other games call it.. "rampage" bonus maybe. I think this would add interesting balance to the tri-force (what else you gonna call it).

Not sure what a Will buff would be: fingering rosary beads, looking at a picture of your girlfriend, flash-back to that speech the Gipper gave you on his deathbed.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 10:10 am 
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johnb wrote:
Not sure what a Will buff would be: fingering rosary beads, looking at a picture of your girlfriend, flash-back to that speech the Gipper gave you on his deathbed.

green tea and church every sunday
http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ZzJEtM02I2A


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 5:59 pm 
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Really nice post, johnb, glad to see someone else can redraw an illustration of the system and also show it working correctly. It also helpfully illustrates how much richer potentially the three factor version of the system is compared to 2. Chances are you can lose tangency on one factor quickly in certain cases, but to go from full to two bleedout factors would be fairly severe.

The factors are somewhat arbitrarily divided ("will" and "heart" are rather synonymous, but "bodily integrity" is kludgy) and the whole thing is abstract by design. Health systems immediately get into tricky territory once anything becomes less than general in my opinion. Survival-type stat breakdowns simply become series of loosely coupled health bars, and the more specific you are about something I think the less it makes sense, the less the modeling really captures it.

So yes, Will is like morale, willpower, will to live, etc. Aggregate mental/spirit factor. And while you're right that at some level this is a meta-factor (I don't want to play this game anymore, I shall resume browsing facebook), I think you can distinguish your character's limits from your own. You're not actually experiencing the reality of the game insomuch as the character is, so we can tell you things about the world by applying them to the character.

And to that end, buffs for Will would be more materialistic as well I think. Daddy's little helpers. Cigarettes, booze, perhaps other drugs, but also things that are simply the stuff of living the good life, even if in a meager subsistence sense of "the good life".


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 11th, 2011, 6:39 pm 
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Yes, the "liquid courage" shot of tequila buff makes sense. I like the idea of incorporating some of the standard good/evil choices into the Will. Taking the moral high ground might give you actual advantage.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 12th, 2011, 1:56 am 
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gauss wrote:
Screen jam can't really be blamed as actually a pretty elegant visual design element, it's just associated with a overdone mechanic. I think something similar could be easily replicated with this system, throwing a large but transparent streak on the screen, color-coded to show the damage being done. That's one idea. I'll end up massaging all the display stuff later, once the actual mechanic shows it has legs in the prototype phase.


Different colors for different health effects sound slightly confusing (though I am red-green colorbilnd, which may affect this). I wonder what would happen if one damage was shown as a screen jam (heart), another as out-of focus vision (will) and the third with a sound cue like panting (stamina). Might make player conditioning easier, but might also end up as a mess.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 12th, 2011, 2:11 am 
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dare wrote:
Different colors for different health effects sound slightly confusing (though I am red-green colorbilnd, which may affect this). I wonder what would happen if one damage was shown as a screen jam (heart), another as out-of focus vision (will) and the third with a sound cue like panting (stamina). Might make player conditioning easier, but might also end up as a mess.

It's a good idea, except for the will thing would just be frustrating after awhile, but I suppose that would be kinda the intended effect. (?)
I've seen an alternative handled alright before, with different effects as well. The example I can think of is pulsing red gradient around the outside for bleeding, regular blood splatter for health, black grunge looking filter around for stamina, and a slight green gooish thing (I think?) for radiation. It was decent for telling the different needs apart when you had multiple things that needed attention. Also I know this sounds -completely- terrible but it's more one of the things you would have to see before you decide. :|


Last edited by pariah dog on August 12th, 2011, 2:53 am, edited 1 time in total.

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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 12th, 2011, 2:48 am 
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dare wrote:
Different colors for different health effects sound slightly confusing (though I am red-green colorbilnd, which may affect this). I wonder what would happen if one damage was shown as a screen jam (heart), another as out-of focus vision (will) and the third with a sound cue like panting (stamina). Might make player conditioning easier, but might also end up as a mess.


Colorblindness has been an interesting issue--the first really big high profile game that had an toggle option for it was L4D. Was really interesting to see the kind of color shift it introduced--didn't look completely different to my eyes but I wouldn't know.

Another option is to simply change the green color of the health display to yellow, and make sure they're differentiated significantly enough value-wise? Anyway I am very amenable to making sure once the HUD is going to make sure it is playable for colorblind players. Thanks for the input. I'll get back to on that when it's time :)


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 13th, 2011, 3:40 pm 
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This is all very nice Gauss.
I like how this system is very similar to what I described in an earlier post in a long lost thread on this forum, except my idea had mental health instead of "will".

Instead of visual cues that bugger up the screen please consider the other ideas.
Bleeding? Character makes pained noises when moving, grunts at the discomfort, leaves bloody trails.
Heart damage must also lower your maximum stamina. Low health gives low stamina regeneration. Low stamina and will gives slow health regen, because an exhausted person won't be healing wounds very well.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 13th, 2011, 4:38 pm 
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zombieOnion wrote:
Instead of visual cues that bugger up the screen please consider the other ideas.
Bleeding? Character makes pained noises when moving, grunts at the discomfort, leaves bloody trails.

These should happen anyways just for the sake of happening anyways, I always liked that in CSS that when you start to bleed on the floor depending on how much health you had. Not that it was something that you ever really noticed except from time to time when it happened in front of you.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: August 31st, 2011, 10:25 pm 
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gauss wrote:
Another option is to simply change the green color of the health display to yellow, and make sure they're differentiated significantly enough value-wise? Anyway I am very amenable to making sure once the HUD is going to make sure it is playable for colorblind players. Thanks for the input. I'll get back to on that when it's time :)

There are so many different types of color blindness it would be hard to account all with wise color choices. What you can do is give each a symbol which makes it recognizable or use a fixed order (like the trafic lights are always in the same way).

Anyway I love the system. I like how it can simulate a multitude of different conditions from - using Willpower to kick ass Teddy Rousevelt style or relying on your health and stamina.
That being said what is the difference between health and stamina? What is the difference between a person on high Stamina and low all else and high Health and low all else?


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: September 1st, 2011, 12:03 am 
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-Y- wrote:
There are so many different types of color blindness it would be hard to account all with wise color choices. What you can do is give each a symbol which makes it recognizable or use a fixed order (like the trafic lights are always in the same way).

Anyway I love the system. I like how it can simulate a multitude of different conditions from - using Willpower to kick ass Teddy Rousevelt style or relying on your health and stamina.
That being said what is the difference between health and stamina? What is the difference between a person on high Stamina and low all else and high Health and low all else?



Glad you dig it, I'm pretty excited to get it implemented. As to the nuances of the system, like the case between low heart and stamina, I think that's going to be an interesting thing to tease out. Part of the draw for an abstract system is that it doesn't strictly correlate to set things (like limb status or the like) so it invokes a kind of imaginative element (reading his health status bar the player might be invited to imagine what that feels like? What this status represents?), but also so that you don't end up with nearly so many annoying/dissonant cases. Such as fall damage creating a permanent dent in a 100 point health system, allowing moderate recovery from a health pack or a beer, equally.

So to answer your question low heart is a more serious case since it generally represents body integrity; but I don't know just yet how specifically this will manifest. Whereas extremely low stamina would have the naturally associated debuffs (probably cannot spring etc)

You're right though, the color blindness issue does present an issue for that HUD concept, but I think I will mostly rely on just the three-factor HUD element.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: September 1st, 2011, 5:37 am 
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The way I understand it. Low stamina would make controls more difficult (you are crippled or your arm is shoot?) low health would then be I guess impaired vision like in CoD. I think health thing invokes the same trope you are in some serious mess but it's salvagable although players might try ducking to regenerate health.

As for color blindness I think the three circle system is Ok (play testing is only way to know if people like/see it). IMHO you'd need some kind of a border so color blind players can tell the difference between three circles and the background. I could be wrong though. Something esthetically pleasing, but unobtrusive. Can you hire some colorblind playtesters?
Speaking of ethically pleasing could those three circles interact with each other (e.g. when health and stamina get damaged and willpower fills them) by pulsing into them or forming a liquid connection or even tiny arrows flowing into the tangent areas.


PS. Moved.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: October 4th, 2011, 1:38 am 
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I think the 2 bar system is much more readable... I didn't really understand the 3 circles. (And if it takes this long to understand a health system...)

However I do think you need to consider methodology a bit more in this:

Halo's shield came about when they were testing combat encounters and realized they needed to give the player a stabilizing buffer / super-damaging NPC melee attacks to discourage gung-ho assaults and exploits. They already had core combat designed, they just changed the way they divided and managed player health.

So I don't think now is the time to think about health.

Instead, I'd just prototype a level and some NPCs, consider what kind of dynamic / pacing will fit in your production and engine constraints, and THEN design and prototype a health system to serve that dynamic.

Is this a cover shooter? Is this a Doom-style shooter? Go prone in the bushes-shooter? Constant run around and spray, or methodical sprint and crouch? Or support all these play styles? I think those larger strokes will determine the smaller ones.

Put out a crappy build that uses stock UDK stuff and untextured blocks. We're your faithful supporters, so you can abuse us with it and we'll duly playtest and offer criticism. Because let's face it, we can keep talking and arguing, but you won't know if this health system actually works until you play several different levels against several different enemies.


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: October 5th, 2011, 5:04 pm 
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Generic Animal Memory/open development link:
http://zenhabits.net/god/

Quote:
Become a God of Learning Your Trade
...
Do it in public, and get immediate feedback.

[via drawn.ca]


Keep working and sharing Gauss. Dance for us. Dance like a street performer!


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: October 5th, 2011, 6:34 pm 
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and wouldn't you know that I just posted some more screenshots in the screenshot thread before clicking over to this one. here I go a jig-jig-jig


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 Post subject: Re: three factor health system: beyond throwback and regen
PostPosted: October 7th, 2011, 12:16 pm 
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Design suggestion: Use interlinked rings to reinforce the 'stickiness' discussed above.

http://www.beamrider.com/songnest/graphics/3rings.gif


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