Friday, October 27, 2006

Damage Presentation

When it comes to conveying damage in videogames there are many ways to go about doing it. The most obvious is to show a reaction of the character being in pain, along with some blood and possibly even a screen shake or a controller shake. Depending on the move some slowdowns in good places can really drive it home as well.

The most obvious place after that is with the health bar. Depending on the move and how many times it hits sometimes that can get a little lost if the player is not paying direct attention to the health bar. Some games have tried to compensate this for having a number float off the character indicating how much damage was done. This definitely works for some games better than others.

While playing Street Fighter Alpha 3 the other night at a friend’s house I noticed they do something that helps reinforce how much damage was received. Before we get there though lets take a look at what I consider to be a normal health bar and how the energy is drained.

Now with Street Fighter Alpha 3 (I’m pretty sure this did not start in A3 but this is the game I noticed it so therefore this is the game I’m showing) there is a layered power bar of a different color that lags behind showing the player how much damage they received. This works out especially well for big hitting moves. You think to yourself, ‘damn…my health is still draining!’

Basically the same amount of damage but with the presentation of the layered power bar you really feel like you got hit harder.

Last but not least the damage that is being done doesn’t have to be equally distributed amongst all the hits. While a horrible game, SNK Vs. Capcom they do one really nice thing with Guile’s Flash Kick Super.

The first 3 hits feel EXTREMELY powerful but then the rest looks like normal hits. If you sit and stare at how the whole thing looks then it’s kind of dumb. However when you are playing the game most people either look up at their health bar either right when they get hit or at the end to try to figure out how bad they got hurt.

There are many ways to convey damage and many more ways than my examples of health bars. Virtua Fighter does a really great job also of having 2 different shades of the layered power bar – showing how much the last hit did as well as the overall combo. I couldn’t find a good video showing this so maybe I’ll try to go back and add one. Other games like Tekken Tag where you can regain health also have some really good examples of displaying how much you lost and how much you can regain. In all honesty I could probably write a whole article on just the intricacies of health bars. Maybe some other day.

NOTE: If you are having troubles viewing any of the vids - especially the SvC one, you can find an mpeg version of each here.


Ruben C. said...

Wow, I didn't know there was so much to health bars, lol! You really like to analyze stuff don't you? Does this mean that GOW will have a different health bar? Yes, no, maybe so? There's nothing wrong with the current one, I'm just wondering if you and the team thought of implementing this.

Derek Daniels said...


Yeah man...I don't know - this is just what I kind of think about late at night when I can't sleep. I really wish I could just sleep instead. shrug

The health bar in God of War works fine and there are no plans to change the behavior.

Robyrt said...

I'm reminded of the Devil May Cry health bar, which shakes every time you take damage. (Of course, this gets pretty comical when you're poisoned or whatnot, as it's bouncing all over, but otherwise it works nicely.)

The God of War health bar was actually a couple pixels too small in my opinion - because of the blade's shape, it felt like I couldn't get as much magic as health, and the last magic upgrade puts it right to the very edge. However, I do like the fun "extending lifebar" animation, as it should be a big payoff - Prince of Persia Sands of Time also does this well. I'm also a fan of leaving space for the entire thing on the interface - it really bugged me in Prince of Persia Warrior Within that there was no indication if I could get life upgrades or how many there were.

Gonzalo said...

i prefer the funny way they did it in old cartoons