Hit points

17 Aug

Hitpoints have always been a curious invention by gaming. I guess the frailty of our bodies is not very fun, and so to make gaming fun, we need to invent hitpoints.

Can you imagine if games were like real life in terms of total damage a body can sustain? You wouldn’t get three feet in a shooter game. The first bullet you took would shatter and shred your internal organs, leading you to bleed out all over the floor while going into shock. Not exactly stuff that would make a game like Gears of War a hit.

Huge battles in RTS games would be over in a few seconds. All your expensive units would die after being hit once, it would suck, but then so does war in real life.

One game that I must point out that does this differently is the S.T.A.L.K.E.R. series. In the game you are not a human tank. Bullets will deplete your health much faster, and even after you’ve been hit you will bleed, depleting your health further. While the damage is “more” realistic, it isn’t perfect. A bullet to the stomach would pretty much put you out of action. Still, the game is commendable for going the extra mile.

(Here is a really good and funny video review of it by Zero Punctuation)

What I find really interesting in games is how some weapons do more damage than others. Sure, if you want to talk physics a bullet has more joules behind it than an arrow, but both will still kill you. The total energy is different, but the end result is the same.

Perhaps the idea that some weapons are “superior” to others in games stems from the existence of hitpoints instead of the fact that weapons evolved for efficiency reasons and not because newer ones “killed you more”.


4 Responses to “Hit points”

  1. Brian August 17, 2009 at 4:49 pm #

    Oh man, an oldie but a goodie. 😉

    Hit points have long been a point of fractious disagreement since they were invented in D&D. They were supposed to be an abstract measure of your will to fight, luck, and skill, as much as anything else, but most folks consider them a measure of your character’s biological structural integrity. And thus you have high-level heroes catching axeblades with their mighty chins and laughing it off. ;p

    Don’t the Red Storm FPS games run towards the realistic? I thought Tom Clancy made his name in games with team-based shooters where only a few shots were needed to take you down and catching a bullet with your forehead meant it was game over for you.

  2. CJ December 10, 2009 at 3:36 am #

    @ #1

    D&D, after 3.0 at least, based HP off of Con only. Dex was AC and Will for, well, will. Int only works for AC if you’ve gone Duelist or Swashbuckler, and never works on HP unless you go for certain feats.

    Never having actually played the game, that’s just from reading the books cause they looked more interesting than a cookbook which was the only other reading material on hand. lol


    Yea, pikemen destroying a tank doesn’t work, but just implementing an AC in a game would require that much more code and processing power. Windows Vista failed because people don’t like massive processing drains, we like anything that can run on a P1.

    Although if you want realism, try the first Splinter Cell. You die pretty quick if you even think of taking on the baddies. There are other games that I can’t remember atm which have situational damage, if you get shot in the foot, you move slower, arm, your aim goes off, etc. They’re just annoying tho as your medpac will fix them all.

    And besides, a game that’s perfectly realistic just wouldn’t sell. Sure there’d be people like me who would love the challenge, but that’s not considered normal. =P

  3. Puddingpie November 22, 2010 at 5:17 pm #

    I’m not a fan of hit points, but they work given an appropriately epic writing style.

    “And lo, they fought day and night, and the clash of their swords resounded like thunder, but though their shields be rent asunder by many blows, and their goodly bodies bleeding from wounds manifold, they strove manfully through the battle, prevailing through main strength…”

    Not every battle can be, “He was shot, bled out, and died in the mud.”

    Hit points were invented to encourage the former. The conceit falls apart when you try to stat up poetic license.

    “How many decibels is a ‘sword clash resounding like thunder’, you guys? Can I have a +5 to my roll of eardrum rupturing?”

    “Do I have to roll Con for fighting for 72 hours straight?”

  4. godlesspaladin November 22, 2010 at 5:48 pm #

    That’s a really good point. To be honest, I never considered the story angle of it, which is half, if not more, or the RPing.

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