I actually prefer the ugly bleeding screen. It’s a little annoying, I suppose. But then, shouldn’t being about to die be at least annoying? A health bar in the corner of the screen is incredibly hard to focus on in the middle of a firefight. You have to completely shift focus away from aiming and avoiding enemy fire in order to look at a tiny health bar in the corner of the screen. That’s distracting, at best, and game breaking at worst. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve died in a game with a health bar simply because I was too engrossed in the battle to realize my health had depleted.
In a game that has a bleeding screen, that never happens. You know when you’re damaged because you have to look through that damage to continue playing. That’s an immediate consequence to getting hit. It also means that you never have to shift focus from the center of the action. You can always focus on attacking and dodging and never have to take your eyes away in order to check your health.
There are other, possibly better solutions to the health bar problem. Dead Space put the health bar on the characters back, allowing you to always know your health without shifting focus, but also without bleeding out onto the screen. Wave built the UI in a circle around the player. I’m sure there are plenty more clever solutions.
But a health bar in the corner? No thanks. Thoughts?
For me, only have health bars/counters when you have at most health enough to count on your fingers (count by number of hits you take, most probably). If you can’t keep track of it yourself, having to pull your eyes away from the game and into a health bar breaks the experience.
But, at the same time, you have to know how to pass it onto the player that they are in a bad health state/taking a hit. Going too far on the “red vision” effect frustrates and takes your attention away from potential danger you could be facing. Instead, why not go lighter on that effect, and add something else, like changing the character animation (if in third person), or adding some heavy breathing? Blurring the corners of the screen? Lots of shooters these days show a red marking around the croshair that roughly indicates the direction the hit was taken from.
Honestly, health bars aren’t all that bad. But they shouldn’t be used as the single indicator of health state, and the red screen effect shouldn’t as well. The key here is multiple subtle stimuli, to make sure the player gets at least one of the hints that they should back away from combat for a moment.
So, now properly addressing the original tweet that sparked all this: “Why did you even have to choose? Have both! And a lot of other sensorial cues too!”
EDIT: Amnesia played with the red screen pretty well, using its feature of reducing the player vision in order to make them even more disoriented and helpless while facing an enemy. Extra points for building the mood right like they did.
4 Notes/ Hide
- monsieurbombardier answered:I prefer having both, so I can tell exactly how much health I have, but also have visual cues like blood when I’m not paying attention.
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- lessie2d reblogged this from gamedesignnovice and added:
- spruebox answered:ghostbusters the video game (PS3/Xbox 360) had the health on the character’s back as well. Worked fine.
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