I don't like hit-point based systems

Now matter how skilled you are, arrow through the head will take you out

By on January 29, 2012 6:17:24 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Kamamura_CZ

Join Date 03/2006
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I even read a rant from famous Peter Molyneux on the topic, let me search it, oh, here it is:

During a Leipzig GCDC briefing, Lionhead boss Peter Molyneux laid out some ideas on how to change the way combat games work. According to Eurogamer, Molyneux said combat games have the same issues among them, in that they are all about the same thing: hit points, weapons don't do much damage and the environments mean nothing. 

Molyneux proposed that fighting in games should be more like the combat seen in films (using Kill Bill as an example). He said that game developers "do not treat a sword like a real thing; it's like a big squashy thing. And that's not what we want to present, or what Hollywood presents as combat." He said that he'd like to see more one-hit kills instead.

I have read some AAR on FE here about how the blood course allowed his Sov to raise hit points from 80 to 1050, which emphasises the ridiculum of the system. More skilled characters should not be that much harder to kill. Sure, trained body absorbs shock better, the muscles can soften impact, good physical condition can improve healing, but let's admit it - if someone run you through with a spear, you are done. 

The best system ever saw is in Dwarf Fortress. There are no hp at all, the body is modelled in quite a detail, with bodyparts having skin, fat, muscle, bone layers, organs are in place too, and each successful blow has a chance to penetrate and do damage - the greater the blow, the better the edge of the blade, or density of a blunt weapon, the greater the damage. Muscles can be bruised, but also cut open, bones can be crushed, and if a cut is strong enough, limbs and heads go flying. Organs can be pierced, sensory and motor nerves can be severed, causing permanent loss of mobility, and the game even has a wrestling system where you can proceed to dislocate joints, break bones, or throw, choke or trip your foes. 

Even though the game has no graphics, the combat logs are brutal, captivating read, and combat is what it should be - unpredictable, bloody, and with lasting consequences. One cut to the leg, and you will need a crutch to walk for the rest of your life. However, crutch-walking is a skill that can be trained, and legendary crutch-walkers are sometimes as nimble as healthy people.

What are the disadvantages? Main disadvantage is that the game does not pamper the high-level characters - an arrow to the eye kills them as quickly and as surely as green recruits - which is as it should be. But today's RPG players are spoiled, they think that if they invested enough time in their characters, they have a "right" not to lose them to an odd blow. But that led to inflation of combat - in real combat, everyone risks everything, but in RPG combat, high-level characters risk very little. That's why it's less thrilling than it could be.

What do you think?

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January 29, 2012 7:27:40 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

I like it.   In my late teens I briefly GM'd a D&D campaign and used a system similar to what you describe from Red Dwarf.

People hate waiting for their shiny toys and after they do, they hate losing them.

You'll have a hard time getting players for such a game but if it's uniquely stand out it might work.

Similar problems are games where you can slay NPCs with impunity and thumb your nose at the concepts of police or governments you'd have to answer to in real life.

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January 29, 2012 8:58:03 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Speaking of police, I hate it how RPG games allow you to rummage other people houses, looking into chests and drawers and taking anything you like, with owners sometimes standing next to you, doing nothing. Notable exception was Gothic, where entering other people houses was sometimes enough for them to threaten you with a naked blade. 

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January 29, 2012 1:24:44 PM from Demigod Forums Demigod Forums

There are fighting games without hitpoint systems.  For example, I believe that the UFC Undisputed series does not use hitpoints and it sells pretty well.  Its hardly a new idea to get rid of HPs, but the bottom line is that HP systems are usually more fun to more people than other systems.  Its a fairly determinimistic system (which people like) and its quantifiable, which people like.

 There are also plenty of RPGs where you can't loot wherever you want without penalty.  The Oblivion/Fallout/Skyrim family of games models all that were people react if you loot their house.  Fable does the same - I could probably think of more if necessary. 

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January 29, 2012 1:31:17 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Extra Small rat hits your Legendary Lord Overlord Supreme Champion in the head, glancing the brain!

Your Legendary Lord Overlord Supreme Champion falls down dead.

 Considering the resistance people had to this thread http://forums.elementalgame.com/416217 I doubt you'll ever see this game leave the HP system.

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January 29, 2012 2:15:07 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

obviously, he didn't know there's a fighting game series that does pretty much the same thing already..... some japanese thingy in ps1 (Bushido Blade 1, 2)

pick a samurai or some such, pick a weapon and bash away at each other... with various stances.

 

apparently something from the same dev called Kengo.. though not sure if it does the same thing

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January 29, 2012 5:16:09 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Oooh, you mentioned Dwarf Fortress so I immediately agree.

Actually, I don't think there is a way to properly eliminate HP. Dwarf Fortress is an amazing game with an amazing combat simulation BUT it has it's own faults. How often do you accidently lose that awesome bad-ass Militia Commander? Additionally, most games have very complex graphics systems that couldn't possibly render all the details (I'd LOVE to see one try though).

Regardless, I doubt we'd see Elemental leave HP behind... it just needs balancing.

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January 29, 2012 5:23:53 PM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

Would you rather it be called endurance points? Where every attack gets blocked visually but depletes the endurance meter, and once its fully depleted the next attack actually hits for the killing blow? Doesn't change the game mechanic but is a bit more realistic, so you don't get your "squashy sword".

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January 29, 2012 5:24:02 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting alaknebs,
obviously, he didn't know there's a fighting game series that does pretty much the same thing already..... some japanese thingy in ps1 (Bushido Blade 1, 2)

pick a samurai or some such, pick a weapon and bash away at each other... with various stances.

 

apparently something from the same dev called Kengo.. though not sure if it does the same thing

Bushido blade was awesome.

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January 29, 2012 5:42:39 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

To be absolutely clean - I would never, ever dare to propose that FE should leave HP system. The game is in Beta, it means major features done and frozen, and it's only about balancing, tweaking and polishing. 

That's why I posted it in a forum about PC Gaming, not in FE Beta thread. 

But it has led me to think about what I like and dislike on games. 

I know D&D rules tried to mitigate the problem with critical hits concept - under special circumstances, you take extra damage (stunned, sleeping, not ready, backstab, etc). But that is not enough, IMO. If someone slits your throat while you sleep, you should be dead, even if you are King of Five Realms, on level 35. 

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January 29, 2012 5:50:22 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

D'oh... so many FE posts at the moment, they just zoom past. Didn't notice it was in PC gaming.

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January 29, 2012 6:08:31 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Peter Molyneux is an ass.  I have no doubt that he is brilliant and he's very good at marketing his brand.  But he doesn't make fun games.  And every time he says something about video games it reveals that he has no inkling that games should be fun.

Games use hitpoints, not because their developers lack creativity or are too stupid to do something better, but because they are a great abstraction for a complicated idea.  Hitpoints (or health-bars) are immediately readable, reliable and authoritative.  Yes, a sword to the neck should kill even the beefiest fighter, but unless your game presents the user enough information to avoid the blow to the neck, dying that way will seem cheap to the player.

Dwarf Fortress is cool, but it's also a maelstrom of activity.  A battle is a confusing mess, stuff happens, and things die (or don't) in interesting ways.  But the player has vanishingly little control over how the battle plays out.  And thank goodness, because navigating through the dense thicket of text that DF throws at you would be overwhelming.

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January 29, 2012 6:57:44 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

How much control do you think a middle ages era commander had over his troops?

And developers use hitpoint systems and level grinds because it's always easier to mimic a successful predecessor than to risk trying something new. Then someone sells 8 millions of Minecraft copies and suddenly, there are dozens of blocky-graphics clones trying to do the same. If you told someone a two years ago this would happen, he would laugh.

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January 30, 2012 12:52:22 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

An alternative to the hit point system is the Silhouette system (for pen and paper RPGs). It's primarily used for DreamPod 9's tabletop warfare games (and the associated RPGs): Heavy Gear, Gear Krieg, and Jovian Chronicles.

Silhouette is modular, extensible, fast, and, to put it mildly, unbelievably hard-core. It contains rules that can be effectively applied to almost any campaign setting, from high fantasy to gritty cyberpunk. The core rulebook also contains rules to convert characters to and from D20 settings.

Silhouette is D6-based, and players "take the highest" result when throwing multiple dice, so as to narrow the probability range.  Example: I roll 3d6; I receive a 2, a 4, and a 5. My result is 5, since it is the highest result.  If I roll multiple 6s, each extra 6 is converted into a +1.  So if I roll 3d6 and receive all 6s, the result is an 8 (6+1+1).

Combat is fast and simple, as described by this example:

Attacker weapon: 9mm pistol
Weapon damage multiplier: 9x
Attacker's Firearm skill: 2d6+1
Defender's Defense skill: 1d6
Defender's Stamina: 10/20/30

Attack roll: 7
Defense roll: 6
Margin of success: (7-6) = 1
MoS x damage multiplier: 1x9 = 9

9 is less than the defender's base stamina, so no damage is done: the slug flattened on the defender's armor, grazed his shoulder, etc.

  • If the MoS on the attack roll had been 2, 2x9= 18, which is between 10 and 20, so that would have been a light wound: -1 to all subsequent dice rolls for the defender, -1 to base stamina (making it 9/18/27), and -1 to system shock (which is usually single-digits and represents bleeding out); additional flesh wounds are cumulative and their effects last until the wound is treated and healed
  • If the MoS on the attack roll had been 3, 3x9 = 27, which is between 20 and 30, so that would have been a deep wound: -2 to dice rolls, stamina, and system shock
  • If the MoS on the attack roll had been 4, 4x9 = 36, which is greater than 30 -- the defender is killed outright.

Silhouette works the same way for machines, but instead of Firearms you're rolling Gunnery and instead of Defense you're rolling Piloting; instead of wound penalties to all actions, a light or heavy damage hit has a chance of destroying internal systems: weapons, sensors, movement systems, life support, etc.  There is, of course, the same chance of overkill in a single attack. In general, vehicle-scale weapons tend to have 10x the damage multiplier of personal weapons (so if you're using a 155mm cannon that does 26x damage to vehicles, it would do 260x damage to a human being -- the only way to survive THAT is to avoid being hit by it!)

There are endless variations on the above, but the overall theme is as follows:

  • Fast
  • Scalable
  • Extensible
  • Zero-average (the average attribute is 0; a +3 attribute is considered the peak of human achievement)
  • Exponential (point costs, damage multipliers, and probability ranges all change exponentially)
  • No levels or classes: players use XP to "purchase" increased attributes, skills, and Emergency Dice, and costs are always exponential

I've had fun with Silhouette before, and players quickly learn to tread cautiously.

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January 30, 2012 8:56:19 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums
The problem with what you propose is threesome: 1. Hit points represent more then just taking direct damage and living through it. It represents luck, stamina and barely deflecting blows. It represents flesh wounds and once you run out of HP you get stabbed and die. 2. RPG games mimic heroic movies and in those movies main character does not get a stray arrow through the eye. 3. Also high level characters don't exist in our world. There are stories of those that might have been, people like Merlin, Hercules, Achilles and those people were special and almost unkillable at their time. You talk about high level people but you actually in you mind imagine random Joe that survived some war as part of a special forces team. Yes they can die by a random bullet but they are still low level and not even heroic
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January 30, 2012 2:12:28 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think that the problems with hitpoints are far greater - you absorb blow after blow, but your ability to fight is unaffected. In DF, fleshwounds are well-represented - you can have skin on forearm "cut open". You can have a bruised arm. Perfect fleshwounds. 

Not all RPG games want to mimic heroic cliche (especially Hollywood cliche), some aim for greater realism.

And lastly - high level combatants exist and existed in real world. Just read some war literature, the difference between green, low-morale troops and battle-hardened elite veterans are emphasized often. I have read that the survival rate of troops increases dramatically even after one battle. 

Also, during middle ages, where combat was more melee oriented, individuals of exceptional skills with good equipment were almost untouchable. Famous knights like Polish Dobesh Puchala, or Ian Zavish, or John Luxembourg were all real. For a skilled knight, who practiced all his life and had good armor and horse, it was not uncommon to kill dozens of ordinary footsoldiers. Elite European knights achieved some amazing victories against the Saracen during the first crusade. 

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January 31, 2012 3:30:01 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


Despite the (valid) criticism of Molyneux in this thread, he and the OP make captivating points -- points that scratch an itch I have been feeling since the late 1970s when I grew up playing D&D.

I believe part of the problem is the need for narrative cohesion, primarily in Hollywood and secondarily in PC gaming, although for RPGs this might be raised a notch. Unless the narrative is a bizarre sub-genre (in which case it might not be Hollywood at all, although exceptions prove the rule more often than not), we are trained to expect our hero (protagonist, main character, whatever) to survive. Otherwise there is no narrative, or it becomes a post-modern or eclectic one, which does not sell. Consider what most of us might call "the roots" of modern Hollywood (fantasy) combat films or PC games: LOTR. The characters don't die, ever. If they do, they were meant to (Boromir), that is part of their script. There does not seem to be a good way of replicating this in PC games other than HP. In Hollywood, Bruce Willis simply does not get hit by deadly weapons, much like the protagonists in LOTR. (And yes I am talking about the BOOK, not the godawful films.)

Unlike Hollywood's handling of unarmed combat. There, protagonists (and their nemesis... damn what's the plural? nemesises?) have unhuman amounts of HP. Bruce Willis and Sylvester Stallone and whoever can smash the bejesus out of each other, and not much happens.

(Excursion: In Real Life, it is actually possible to make this unhuman feat humanly possible, but it takes YEARS of dedicated, professional training. I am 42, I have been training twice a week competetive mixed martial arts for some time now, and I know what it means to get hit. After about 3 years of training, I can take decent body shots, but two weeks ago I got kneed in the face and I was out like a light. The people you see in the UFC getting smashed continuously are so far off the bell curve of what is possible for you and me, it isn't even funny, it IS like they have an extra 30d6 of hitpoints. In my dojo, I train with the current world champion in budo-kai at 85kg, and he can take a punch, I mean he can TAKE A PUNCH like no one else, but if you kick him full force in the head he still goes down. Unlike some sickos you can see in the UFC. But how many of those people exist in the entire world? I'd say less than 1000.)

It looks to me like the problem is one of applying the mechanics behind unarmed combat to armed combat (doesn't work, it's why weapons are called "equalizers", it makes idiots like me have a chance against people like Mike Tyson -- I'm not saying a great chance, but with a 25cm knife or a lead pipe I have, at least, a chance), paired with the necessities of sustaining narrative cohesion. I don't see an easy solution to this. As much as I'd like to.

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January 31, 2012 8:01:09 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

All our real-life attempts at fighting emulation aside (I used to teach swordplay when I was young, http://www.volny.cz/nakamura/gfx/7.jpg , would you believe that? , I think the approach to storytelling is not the only one possible - albeit adapted by Hollywood and many writers. The alternative is just to tell a story of a nation, or a tribe, or a fortress full of dwarves. Even there, in a world where stray arrow kills anyone, pretty impressive personal stories emerge, with militia commanders racking up kills, slaying a titan or two, only to lose a leg no random goblin halberdier and ending their life as hobbling smiths or cooks. The epic emergent stories are more impressive just because player knows they are deserved, that there is no invisible diaper protecting and pampering the heroes.

I don't know if you remember old Sierra game "Sword of the Samurai", and if not, I encourage you to try it:

http://www.myabandonware.com/game/sword-of-the-samurai-1us

It is a little forgotten gem, that mixes up various minigames flawlessly. You get to duel assasins, rival hatamotos, or wandering masters, you will have the opportunity to cut bands of ronin Musashi-style, you get to command armies, plot against your daimyo, arrange marriages, protect your lineage, and much more.

When your main character dies, or commits seppuku (willingly or not), he is replaced by his eldest son, who may have different stats, so you have to adapt your playstyle. But there death comes quickly in this game - four wounds in a duel, or two in a battle, and you are down. When you go down, there is a chance you will survive with an injury, otherwise end of the story. And the game, nor the immersion, nor the attachment to the characters don't suffer for it. Stats raise by using them, or by training, but no matter how attached you become to your avatar, he will eventually grow old and his stats will go down, so it's best to plan retirement in time. Beautiful, elegant solution.

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January 31, 2012 9:15:10 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

And also a lot harder to implement.

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February 1, 2012 4:08:37 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


That system does indeed sound elegant, if also difficult to implement universally.

I am not sure I could think of a single narrative of a "people" (or tribe or nation or whatever) that was not primarily the stories of individuals. Even strange narratives, like most of the Old Testament, is basically that. Perhaps I am biased theoretically; there seems to be lots of evidence that our identities are best understood as narrative structures (see Paul Ricoeur's latest tractates on that matter for example).

Be that as it may: Great picture above!!! Which one are you?!?

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February 1, 2012 8:44:49 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

Quoting onomastikon,

Be that as it may: Great picture above!!! Which one are you?!?

I am the guy on the right, or I was, since the picture is from 1996, I guess. The guy on the left is a guy who eventually hit me in the leg a year later, which resulted in a surgery and lasting problems with my knee. But we had our fun Here is the whole group a year later, I am the guy in yellow/blue with sword and dagger:

http://www.volny.cz/nakamura/gfx/1.jpg

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February 1, 2012 7:31:35 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

There really is no getting away from a hit point system.  Here is why:

Alive and dead are a Boolean.  There are many things a game can call this, but they function as a characteristic for an object, which I suppose is whether they can perform actions.  There might need to be a second condition for when the object cannot take actions, which is if it is permanent.

If the value of alive is 1 and dead is 0, that functions as a hit point.

If I'm playing a CCG with a 60 card deck and running out of cards to draw results in a loss, then cards are hit points.

I haven't played Dwarf Fortress, but from the descriptions it sounds like I could have a character wounded to the point of never being able to act.  From a game standpoint, how is that different from being dead?

Basically, I'm agreeing with GoaFan77, you can call it something else, but it is still hit points.

As for the movie comparison, it is truly horrible.  Movies are scripted and who win or loses is decided by writer fiat.  The quoted bit is absurd.

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February 2, 2012 3:22:45 AM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums


I think what the OP meant was how to represent those states in game design. Sure, real people in real life might also be said to have only two states, alive and dead, and hence all people everywhere always have one hit point, and when they lose it, they die. That is, in an oversimplified way, how some forms of "combat" works in real life: you get shot, you die. Slightly more complicated, but not so far from the "real" way things work, there might be said to be three states: alive, unable to perform any combat-like actions (badly wounded), dead. This would probably describe most "combat"-like situations well: You can fight; you get badly injured by a single shot, getting stabbed, or kneed in the face, and you are out of the fight and need a long recuperation time, probably hospital, and some luck; or you die. You want to call that a 3-hit-point system? Would seem bizarre to me, but I won't argue about words. Yet obviously, things are more complicated than that; anybody who has ever trained in martial arts knows what I mean. There are hundreds and thousands of any possible combination of states, depending on your level of fatigue, your injuries, your state of mind, your pain tolerance, your trepidation, your visibility, etc. It might very well be possible to render that all on a single scale, from 0 to 1,000,000 ("hit points"), but I'm too stupid or uncreative to figure out how. A game is a game, and not real life, unless it is a simulation, in which case it is still a game, but maybe you know what I am trying to say. There is a huge amount of tradeoff involved between recreating what some gamers feel is a need for immersion in combat (and this is the way I understand the OP's comments), what game designers and programmers understand by realistic and understandable implementation, and again what all target groups understand by narrative cohesion in primarily RPG-like settings (my main point). (In shooters, the tradeoff is in my opinion much less explicit.)

 

Back off topic: truly excellent photos, K_CZ. My hat is off. What a brave man you are for revealing your excentricity here in public like that. I can't help but ask where that is. Part of me wants to guess somewhere in the area of that which is now called the Czech republic. Of course, you are free to choose any uploading service in the world and any moniker you can think of, but yours seems to be of Czech origin (or no?) -- are you of Czech descent or do you live there? If so, we're neighbors, and I'd like to know where you learned such fabulous English.

 

 

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February 2, 2012 10:09:10 PM from Elemental Forums Elemental Forums

I think if you look at it from a partical sense, the point of HP, or in most cases, excessive HP, is to drag out the experience. For example, in the early mario games, you had up to 2 HP. It was very easy to die. In the modern mario games you have much more HP, allowing you to take multiple hits before dying, and giving you more opportunities to heal up.

Having too little HP might frustrate your user and force them to reload/restart frequently, and having too much HP might make the game tedious because you have to do the same combat actions over and over until the enemy finally dies. Especially when the enemy has lots of HP and you don't, it can feel like the game is punishing you for mistakes.

HP isn't in itself evil, as you usually need some mechanism of keeping track of injuries. Probably what people really want is a system that detects exactly where you get hit and creates consequences accordingly. This would mean that accuracy, and therefore player skill becomes involved. It also might require knowledge of differnent penalties depending on what part gets injured. The idea of having different weapons have different effects is important, a knife and a gun do very different things to your body. Pushing a boulder off a cliff onto someone is  very different from swinging an axe at someone, both from the skill required, to the ability to sneak and plan an ambush, to the strength and dexterity needed by the different activities.

I personally love games where you can die in one or two hits. I think its unrealistic and boring when you are whacking an enemy for 30 seconds to kill it. Every battle should be a struggle for life and death, with adrenaline filling your bloodstream and your mind racing at the possibilities of what might come next. Having players use the enviromnent in a way thats less staged than Half-Life 2 or Dark Messiah is an exciting prospect. A first/third person fantasy combat game would be pretty awesome, but you would have to do lots of research and experimentation to get something that works well. The people who make Fable are not the right developers, however. 

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February 3, 2012 4:46:34 AM from Sins of a Solar Empire Forums Sins of a Solar Empire Forums

The problem with "No Hit-Point games" is that normal R.P.Gs and First Person Shooter games have basic left/right "strafe" and jumps tactics to avoid getting hit. To have a no or very little Hit-Point game you would have to improve the evasion tactics and do up the environment so there's more cover to hide behind so that it's possable to stay alive longer, because a game where you die too easly becomes quite boring after Gamers lose their intial fasination with the system and start becoming frustrated instead because of too many deaths.

 

and agree with UmbralAngel.

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