What Ruined FPS Games? – Regenerating Health

What Ruined FPS Games? – Regenerating Health


Since the advent of First Person Shooter games on console systems, there have been a number of design trends that have negatively influenced the development of the FPS genre, some of these changes to first person shooters were necessary to adapt them to a console setting, while others are arguably arbitrary but have nonetheless become design trends. In brief these trends are regenerating health, iron sights, a limited weapon inventory, reduced weapon variety with a greater focus on hitscan weapons, slow pace of movement, low jump height, linear or front-focused level design, enemy homogenization, and reduced weapon accuracy. It is debatable why these trends have come to pass, from production costs to follow the leader styles of marketing, but their negative influence is undeniable.

Regenerating health was popularized by the game Halo: Combat Evolved and since has made its way into nearly all shooting games in one form or another. Regenerating health appears in a number of forms, from a static healthbar with a shield over it that regenerates (like Halo: Combat Evolved, Bioshock Infinite, and Borderlands), to slow regeneration over time (like some shields in Borderlands, and individual bars of health in Far Cry 3), and a health bar which takes damage and will refill in part or completely if allowed to go without taking damage (Call of Duty, Gears of War, Spec Ops, later Halo games, and most other modern first person shooters). This article is primarily concerned with the first and last of these types.

Regenerating health was originally implemented as a design concession. With regenerating health a player could be expected by designers to be at full health at the start of every combat encounter, without the designer needing to worry about giving the player a steady stream of healthpacks or the player potentially missing the health placed or hidden in the level. This meant that encounters could all be designed without having to account for pacing except in a thematic sense. Players no longer had to worry about avoiding fire or rationing health because they would always be provided with more.


This by itself is a negative design trend largely because it meant that players no longer owned their mistakes. Players could safely take damage without worry as long as it did not kill them, removing the need for caution in approaching encounters, and simplifying combat plans because substandard plans were equally effective to better ones, as health would be restored, resetting the player to a neutral situation regardless of how few or many times they were hit. Furthermore it created the tactic of chipping an enemy down then fleeing to reset health and returning to whittle it down repeatedly. In multiplayer both players would regenerate, so if one felt they were losing the duel, they could disengage to reset the encounter and attempt again.

Regenerating health also removes context from a level. Whereas a level in Quake, Painkiller, or Half Life may have a sequence of combat encounters where the damage taken builds up across the level, in a game with regenerating health, each of these may as well be their own level for how much they are related to each other.

Other trends have been reinforced or created by regenerating health as well. One of the side effects of regenerating health is that low damage enemies or one time damage traps in an area become pointless. An enemy that deals a low amount of damage, or damage at infrequent rates such as the headcrabs or headcrab zombies (or many purely melee oriented enemies) do not work in regenerating health systems. Headcrab damage is trivial and heals easily. Headcrab zombie damage is so infrequent that although it takes off a decent chunk of health, it would be no threat in a shooter with regenerating health.

Any location based traps in a regenerating health system need to be a steady stream of damage over time in a location or a death trap in order to successfully threaten the player. Things such as poisoning the player are infeasible in such a system, as either the player is left to die after a certain period or time, or whatever amount of damage the poison does is negligible.

Ultimately what regenerating health does is, it reinforces a trend of exclusively using weapons which either kill instantly or do an average amount of damage over time against the player. This generally translates to assault rifles or other hitscan weapons. while in Half Life every enemy had their own signature attacks with a certain level of damage conferred, the majority of Half Life’s enemies could not exist in a regenerating health game.


Mid-range medium damage weapons like submachine guns and regenerating health are trends that reinforce each other. As submachine guns and regenerating health came into vogue, shooter games became less about avoiding damage, and more about tanking it while trying to output as much damage as possible before recovering health. Where in other genres taking damage was a sign of the player making a mistake, in shooters it has become a requirement of current encounter design. The player is expected, or even forced, to take damage, so as a result they need a limitless supply of health in order to overcome each level.

Of course, it is possible to retain some semblance of the prior pace of shooters by decreasing the speed of health regeneration, but as health recovery items are still absent this means long periods of waiting are now introduced by players attempting to heal. Additionally, it may be odd in the context of the more realistic shooters to have machine guns be weaker than they would seem to be in real life. If health packs are reintroduced, it means reintroducing the problem regenerating health was originally added to solve.

There are other ways of graduating from a regenerating health system to a more static health system, such as breaking up the health bar into segments and only regenerating up to the top of the segment the player is currently on or only regenerating a small amount from the bottom so the player has a little wiggle room when they are close to death. As health systems become closer to a simple static health bar, they enable more dynamics across the board, so while it can be tempting to solve a number of level design problems by making them irrelevant with regenerating health, it comes at a heavy cost to any game that implements it.

The next article will be covering Iron Sights and their influence on the decline of First Person Shooters.

  1. Somewanwan says:

    To say that FPS games are “ruined” is going too far, in my opinion. Most of them are boring, yes, but a bunch of bad games don’t “ruin” a whole genre. This gen, while it was saturated with BROWN ‘N BLOOM FPS, also had Serious Sam 3, Metro 2033, STALKER and… stuff.
    However, I liked how you compared the health system to their weapon of choice. Nice observation, I’m looking forward to the next parts.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      Hyperbole? Perhaps. Tribes Ascend got caught up in this and suffered for it. Deus Ex: HR as well. Not to mention the hordes of console shooters using this style of design as a crutch.

      • Anothereposter says:

        Deus Ex: HR was not a shooter, it was a first person RPG. The first two games also had regenerating health through augmentations.

        • Adam Gulledge says:

          True, but those you had to earn. Deus Ex: HR gives it to you from minute one gratis.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          Come on, that’s not the same thing and you know it. In the original Deus Ex you could spend bioelectric energy to gain health over time after you lost it. In Deus Ex Human Revolution when you get damaged you wait a bit and all your health will come back. In Deus Ex health was a limited resource, in Human Revolution it was unlimited, which is precisely the problem. The system used in the original Deus Ex is a far cry from current regenerating health systems.

          • Anothereposter says:

            Regenerating health helped balance Human Revolution. In the first two Deus Ex games, combat as an option was only useful about halfway through the game when the player has the proper augmentations. In Human Revolution you could upgrade your armor ability’s and improve your maximum health by taking painkillers to help deal with the increasingly difficult enemy types. You also have to remember that all Deus Ex games are RPG not FPS; you always could sneak past the enemy (the boss fights in HR were outsourced and have been dealt with in the upcoming Director’s cut).

        • Chris Wagar says:

          It had shooting and calling it an RPG isn’t an excuse for its failings as a shooter. Honestly, having customizable stats doesn’t automatically exempt it of its interactive design flaws.

          HR’s regenerating health is only really tolerable because it also had healing items and an extremely slow regeneration time. I’m a huge fan of human revolution, having gotten the foxiest and pacifist achievements on my first run, but these are not good arguments for its design. The upgrades you mentioned did not require regenerating health to work, it could have just as easily been implemented in a static health system. Supporting a lot of play styles doesn’t matter if they’re not actually well designed.

      • Dr.No-Fun says:

        The problem with Ascend wasn’t the regenerating health. Hell, day one tribes was amazing. It was when the new weapons came out, you couldn’t keep up with the people who were paying for them, so unless you funneled money into the game it wasn’t worth playing.

    • -- says:

      One could argue that STALKER was 6 years ago and isn’t even a pure ‘shooter’, Metro fits every stereotype of a modern FPS (has stealth though), and Sam 3/Hard Reset/etc. are just exceptions (made by indies, too) that prove the point.

      • Softshellcrab says:

        Even Stealth can be considered an element of modern FPS games at this point, really.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          It’s not integrated in the majority of them. I wouldn’t include it.

        • Anon says:

          But they are far from being the next Thief: The Dark Project or Deus Ex. For most of these games stealth is a gimic to help make themselves look distinct due to the lack of originality.

    • CMYK says:

      They are ruined, all of them are the same now.

  2. Aeiou says:

    You know a game that did regenerating health well?

    The first resistance, it may not be the best FPS, but gosh damn it’s health system was solid: You had 4 segments of health, each segment had the potential to regenerate, but only that segment.

    Stuff like that really made the game unique from a lot of other modern FPS, if you had lots of health you had the potential to play a lot more aggressive and use weapons that were made for closer range and more agressive play, whereas the lower your health got you’d play a lot more consertaively obviously while trying to get more health.

    I felt it made the game pretty fun overall, the weapon choice helped too.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      As I believe I said in the article (I may be mistaken here), “There are other ways of graduating from a regenerating health system to a more static health system, such as breaking up the health bar into segments and only regenerating up to the top of the segment the player is currently on or only regenerating a small amount from the bottom so the player has a little wiggle room when they are close to death. As health systems become closer to a simple static health bar, they enable more dynamics across the board, so while it can be tempting to solve a number of level design problems by making them irrelevant with regenerating health, it comes at a heavy cost to any game that implements it.”

      Which in the first sentence is exactly the system you just mentioned. Did you skip directly to the comments?

      • Aeiou says:

        No, just listing an example, talking about a game i enjoyed.

        Wasn’t really contributing much to the topic at all actually, also farcry 3 did NOT do that, you would get low and be able to always heal yourself to a respectable amount of HP, resistance didn’t have nearly the same level of regen.

    • Cameo says:

      alan wake, far cry 2 come to mind, I think this is pretty common actually.

    • Anonymous says:

      Don’t forget Riddick

  3. Lee says:

    Ninja Gaiden II did regenerating health pretty well. Enemy attacks deal some temporary and some permanent damage upon striking the player. The former recovers when there are no enemies on screen but the latter sticks around until you use a save point for the first time or consume an expensive healing item. This way you still pay for your mistakes due to the permanent damage but you can partially recover between fights. I found myself skipping save points knowing I could go back and use them to heal later on; this makes it an overly elaborate substitute for health kits but shows that not all instances of regenerating health mean dumbing down a game into Idiocracy levels.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      I thought MGS3’s implementation was fitting, but it’s really a sliding scale as I tried to say in the article. As you get closer to static health systems, it is generally for the better overall.

      I once wanted to make an FPS based on that system you just mentioned. Imagine if you really played around with it, with some weapons being able to knock off all the temp damage, others dealing nearly all permanent at close ranges, and potentially other things.

  4. Mitranim says:

    While the article is welcome, I have to disagree. What ruined FPS games is abandonment of skill-based movement and spatial mechanics that defined games like Quake and Unreal Tournament, and transition to sluggish “realistic” movement and hitscan guns. This took away most of dynamic.

    • Aeiou says:

      Don’t forget AI that is actually worse than what we had a decade ago.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      This is one part of a series. I’m getting to that. Did you not read the first paragraph or the last sentence?

    • Gig says:

      It’s hard to blame each element individually because they’re all tied together, really – regenerating health affects the inclusion of situational weapons, bland interchangeable weapons affect level design, horizontal levels lend themselves better to controllers and so on. I personally believe consoles (and more specifically controllers) are the weakest (but most profitable) link here, forcing all the other elements to change and reform around it, from difficulty of movement to the more casual audience not used to arena shooters they brought along.

      This is a loaded subject (as can be seen by the comments), mostly because it’s a complex one; what everyone can agree on is that there were dramatic changes to many elements from classic arena shooters during the last decade, and most would agree it’s for the worse. When the entire genre is artificially limited by a major variable you can’t afford to have novelty.

      • Chris Wagar says:

        That’s very true. Halo, despite popularizing the regen health thing, did have a wide range of weapons and no iron sights. It had actual strafing to avoid projectiles. The thing is that the people copying Halo’s success created a spiral to the point where we have it now, in the name of realism as they define it. Halo wasn’t about tanking through a constant rain of gunfire to pick off enemies until the room is dead, but when games came to that point, regenerating health and the levels that came with it were so linked that there was no alternative.

        • Gig says:

          “in the name of realism”

          I never bought that argument. I don’t think “realism” was ever the (deliberate) reason for adopting such changes.

          • Chris Wagar says:

            Realism, immersion, accommodating for consoles, trying to satisfy bad players, follow the leader marketing. There are a bunch of potential reasons.

  5. -- says:

    I think health restoring items can also count as a form of regenerating health. A mechanically better one compared to 5sec long “bloody screen”, but a thematically more fitting for a “realistic” setting than classic healthpacks. Would still require considerably more effort from level designers though, not to mention testing it or adjusting it for multiplayer.

    Also, you can’t put Painkiller together with Quake and HL in the same example: in PK health system is very different depending on difficulty (restores on checkpoints / restores from souls / disallows manual saves), and levels are literally a set of isolated rooms.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      Regenerating health fits better thematically? They’re equally unrealistic. Regenerating health exists largely in the current environment because having a fixed amount of health in settings where you are expected to tank fire with a small health bar is suicide.

      People used to complain about how shooters were unrealistic for letting you get shot a bunch before you died and I’ve noticed a lot less of those complaints since health bars got so small with regenerating health.

      Sorry, I was strapped for FPS games in that format at the time and didn’t want to say Doom, because I already said Quake.

      • -- says:

        I didn’t say it was realistic, I said exactly what I said – that Duke3D medkit, Call of Cthulhu medicine box or FEAR healthpacks would suit the “realistic” setting better than white boxes lying around in dirt behind the enemy lines, that you can’t pick up, and that you just kinda eat by stepping on them. This isn’t an argument about “realism” being a good or a bad thing.

        Just replace Pk with Serious Sam – that one is very strategic in how you choose to spend / pick up health.

        • -- says:

          How is that shitty design? It’s deliberate, you know. May not suit your taste, sure.
          (Painkiller is a bit too easy btw, on any difficulty, even without the cards.)

        • -- says:

          ur 2casul4sam lol
          But seriously though, Sam is an endurance test in a lot of design decisions, it isn’t its fault it doesn’t appeal to you. I don’t like it THAT much either, but I can appreciate the intention.

          Don’t you see that your example situation was designed to play out exactly like that? Except a savvy player won’t avoid them like you said, but weigh the odds instead: you know a 100hp will put up a fight, but usually it’s worth it. 1hp pickup on the other hand is both a trap and a joke, and an optional challenge as well.

          I don’t see how ‘monster closets’ is an applicable complaint about Sam as well. It’s kinda the opposite of what the term means in Doom3 or Dead Space.

  6. nigger says:

    I really don’t understand you faggots that always whine about iron sights, their inclusion aids immersion.

    Granted, there are extremely few games that feature iron sights that even have any immersion worth talking about in the first place but it’s not the fault of the sights.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      “their inclusion aids immersion.”

      That’s exactly my problem. Kill immersion, make good games instead. You’re acting like immersion is a good thing.

      • Tiago Lopes says:

        immersion is good if is achieved through mechanics (Thief, MGS3, Hitman, S.T.A.L.K.E.R…) instead of only aesthetics that will sacrifice mechanics (thats basically what the iron sights do in most of the game that feature them).

      • nigger says:

        Kindly explain how immersion is ever a bad thing.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          Kindly explain why gimping your game for the sake of immersion is ever a good thing. No game that has ever featured iron sights would be a worse game without them. Immersion is a bonus that you get when things line up, not a design goal. Immersion is not the point of a game, iron sights invariably hamper every game they are a part of.

          Immersion is a bad thing every time it harms gameplay by sacrificing something important so you’re more “immersed”, and it has a completely ephemeral benefit to a game. I’m not immersed because they decided to force me to aim inaccurately at the place where I point, I don’t give a damn that holding right mouse now has me looking through the sights, I already had a reticule, this isn’t a real gun.

          • nigger says:

            >No game that has ever featured iron sights would be a worse game without them

            STALKER, Arma. And that’s just me naming things I’ve got on my desktop.

            >Immersion is a bad thing every time it harms gameplay by sacrificing something important

            Yes, this is a no brainer, but immersion itself can never be a bad thing. You said it yourself that immersion is something you get when things line up perfectly, how the fuck can you then be opposed to immersive gameplay?

            Ever played soldat? No?
            It’s the most fucking immersive shooter I’ve ever played, and it’s a sidescrolling arena shooter. What makes soldat immersive is the extreme level to which skill based movement and positioning is a factor in gameplay and the way your player model responds to input.

            Iron sights as a feature are unsuitable for fast paced gameplay but you’re acting like they never have a legitimate use and to say immersion is always a bad thing just makes you come off as a petulant faggot.

        • nigger says:

          Yeah because the characters and world having expansive lore is really gonna get me more immersed in my CTF matches.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          You always come off that way.

          Given your example of soldat, which I have played, you’re not using immersion the way I was expecting, you’re using it to mean something closer to what most people call engagement. Most people use immersion to mean when they are immersed in the world. “Huehue, I’m aiming like an actual soldier would.” People typically DO use immersion to mean characters and lore and so on. The feeling of the world, like you’re actually there.

          Should have picked better games. Using iron sights doesn’t add anything to Arma and Stalker. I don’t know why they come up so much with this topic. In those games they still serve the same dumb tradeoff, accuracy versus movement speed. Oh wow, those games don’t use a cone of fire, they actually have recoil. It doesn’t make the tradeoff any better. Killing Floor has more of a case by removing the crosshairs and not having any change in accuracy, thereby making it so the ironsights are only for people who can’t pinpoint the center of their screen, limiting their harm to the game.

          “you’re acting like they never have a legitimate use” Because they don’t, and you haven’t made any case otherwise, besides hurdur immersion.

          • nigger says:

            >Using iron sights doesn’t add anything to Arma and Stalker

            You just went full retard

            I will never take anything you say seriously ever again and your continued presence here lowers my respect of GYP greatly.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          Pfff, you never took the site seriously or respected it in the first place. How would those games be any worse off without iron sights?

          • Aeiou says:

            Hey nigger, you sound mad.

            Heh look at my epic internet joke.

          • Urlu says:

            ARMA is a simulator ffs. You tell me. Stalker? It serves the tempo of the game and it’s overall design and yes, serves gameplay. It’s not DOOM or Painkiller, you’re not Russian Rambo plowing through mutants while circlestrafing at sprinting speed.

    • Viktor says:

      Immersion doesn’t do shit if it ruins gameplay in favor of slower and more predictable movement. It’s not bad in every single game, but it’s bad in the games that strive for the arcadey, fast-paced gameplay.

      • Chris Wagar says:

        There’s no game you can name that iron sights are a good part of. There is no game where iron sights increase the level of strategy involved.

        • -- says:

          Killing Floor, Call of Cthulhu (+arguably, Metro).
          In these, you don’t have a crosshair, but at the same time headshots are encouraged (enemies can soak up the damage otherwise). Since you’re pretty fragile, losing your peripheral vision is an important tradeoff. I don’t think you lose accuracy without iron sights, so shooting ‘randomly’ is always the option, it’s just less viable with certain weapons.

          • Chris Wagar says:

            Good answer. Very uncommon. I hadn’t considered that. Though, easily bypassed by taping a crosshair or something to your screen. Biggest harm of iron sights is really the reduction in accuracy to “hip fire”.

        • Anonymous says:

          It’s arguable that in the context of a horror themed game, ironsights are a positive exactly BECAUSE you have to trade off your mobility. Could lead to making the game more tense and encounters being scarier or more intimidating vs mobile enemies. If you could move and run easily, or aim easily, it empowers the player = harder to make them feel scared. Having to get a nice zoomed up look at whatever you’re shooting helps too.

          Its “vaguely” similar to how you have to stand still and aim to shoot in old tank survival horrors, like Resident Evil. Not that it’s used particularly well there. But say, maybe the RE 3.5 demo that never happened…

          Of course, for all intents and purposes there, horror games are a little special because mechanically making the player less capable can lead to a positive correlation. I also can’t really think of many legitimately scary first person shooters anyway, although STALKER sometimes pulls this sensation off when you go in initially.

        • Taylor says:

          Chris Wagar: Thinks that a military simulator doesn’t need realistic ways to shoot people, but admits that an arcadey zombie mutant shooting game works well with the same mechanic. A tier logic.

          • Chris Wagar says:

            The thing is, it’s not exactly the same. There’s no accuracy change across iron sights to hip fire, so for good players, there’s no reason to use iron sights, they’re just there for beginners. I’d call that a good use of iron sights.

          • Chris Wagar says:

            And simulation in this case makes the game worse. I don’t care if it’s accurate, I care if it improves how the game actually handles. Also it makes no sense to call any FPS game arcadey.

          • Taylor says:

            A game isn’t worse off just for trying to simulate reality. It feels interesting to defend a hill by getting on your belly, aiming towards a forest and laying down suppressing fire as one soldier in a line. I don’t care what you say, it can be awesome to fight in a giant multiplayer battle while having to use proper military tactics and taking orders from a squad leader. It’s a different experience and a very fun one; why can’t that be enough for you? Oh yeah, because you don’t like it, therefore it’s bad.

            And now, a personal definition of arcadey gameplay: Gameplay that uses arcade elements to sacrifice all realism to action. Quake has hidden power-ups, is very frantic, and has a high difficulty curve (at least in multiplayer). Killing Floor has time-based enemy waves with item shops appearing between rounds, which you spend mutant killing money at.

          • Chris Wagar says:

            I’m not critiquing any of that. I’m critiquing specifically the things mentioned in the opening paragraph. Reality can be an inspiration for the gameplay of many games, however if you follow it blindly then you end up with a dumb shooting gallery.

            “It’s a different experience and a very fun one; why can’t that be enough for you? Oh yeah, because you don’t like it, therefore it’s bad.”
            I have very explicitly stated my issues with iron sights specifically in these comments. It’s not because I don’t like it, don’t be intentionally naive. If you disagree with my sentiment then you’ll have to do better than describe your monotonous fantasy in fanciful and wishful terms. People have to coordinate using actual military tactics (or their analog) in every other single team shooter. People have to use tactics to succeed in every arena shooter. The trouble is that so called tactical shooters have less strategy than team fortress classic (or fortress forever). This isn’t an issue of tone or preference. This is an issue of creating strategies and interesting decisions for players as individuals or as a group.

            One of the great successes of Counter Strike was its strong sound design, level layouts, and defuse game mode, to enable strategies where they would otherwise be deprived. And should counter strike go back to randomized bullet spray with wider patterns and add iron sights to get the prior accuracy back, it would lay waste to all they have done to make it a legitimately tactical shooter as opposed to any other shooter that has lost everything else and only has the faintest semblance of tacticality left.

            Quake doesn’t have arcade elements. It doesn’t have a high score list. It doesn’t operate on credits or lives. It has sprawling levels. Half Life 2 is closer to arcade. It actually got ported to arcade. Quake’s format would never work in an arcade because it’s too nonlinear. Killing floor is closer because of the wave based thing, though that’s still uncommon in arcades in all game types. Only Time Crisis 4 has anything similar to that which I can currently think of.

    • asdfg says:

      so /b/rave ;__;

  7. Sam says:

    I think that it wasn’t until the CoD boom that regenerating health became a thing, even after Halo there were several FPS games that still used medkits or pickups like Black, Timesplitters, Urban Chaos Riot Response, FEAR and Darkwatch to name a few.

  8. Feel says:

    I’m looking forward to the Iron Sights article, as I think they are more of an issue in Online play than regenerating health thats already been discussed over and over again.

    Iron sights changed the crosshair formula, making it stable, stagnant, and no longer affected by your own movements on your controller/mouse.

    Iron sights suppress aiming. You no longer have to wander your mouse around the screen and aim at targets; Iron Sights puts the player in a corridor with added zoom, where there is no longer considerations for your surroundings but only a straight line leading directly to your opponent.

    Is it so much of a bad thing ? I don’t know. It surely simplifies the gameplay, which makes me think Iron Sight were developed on console gaming; Hear me though, this is not a rent against console gaming, as I don’t know myself when and where iron sights originated.

    However, while it simplifies, it doesn’t actively makes the gameplay “easier”. Abusing iron sights will get you killed as you viewpoint is reduced, so you still need to have good balance and know when to use the Iron Sights. Atleast in most games.

    Iron Sights have flaws and benefits. So did it really ruined FPS ?

    • Dibb says:

      IIRC, iron sights first appeared on the original Call of Duty for PC in 2003, and were used a couple times since then, such as in Battlefield 2.

      I don’t think iron sights really became a thing on consoles until CoD4.

  9. John K says:

    I sympathize with a lot of this article, but regenerating health, at least how it was used in Halo, solved a lot of problems with shitty FPSs of the time. The overwhelming majority of shooters at the time relied on “ambush” encounters that the player couldn’t react to without losing some health, and could only avoid damage by reloading a quick save and standing in a different place or pointing their gun at where the enemy would spawn. This was especially true of Half-Life and headcrabs. The marines in Half-Life were incredibly annoying, wallhacking, hitscan weapon enemies with 100% perfect insta-aim that would take off half of your health in a second even if you did hardly anything wrong, and you had to constantly resort to exploits to kill them. Quake engine shooters were riddled with this kind of annoying shit.

    Halo was more like Serious Sam in that your foreknowledge of the battle meant nothing. Your survival was entirely dependent upon the tactics that you used once the battle had started. Also, remember that the original Halo did have a health bar. Doing away with that was stupid.

    The big problem with regenerating health, to me, is that every game has it. It should be limited to games where it makes sense in the fiction.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      You can peek in Half Life. Even the head crabs in the vents you’re given a chance to see in advance. You have a flashlight. There’s nothing unfair there.

      Though I’ll second that the marines in both half life games are really annoying.

    • Gig says:

      “The overwhelming majority of shooters at the time relied on “ambush” encounters that the player couldn’t react to […] and could only avoid damage by reloading a quick save…”

      I don’t know what bootlegged cracked versions of Half Life or Quake you played, but either they were vastly different than the ones I played or you’re exaggerating (or, let’s be honest here, a real novice at FPS). I remember very few encounters where I was unfairly ambushed, that I couldn’t be quick on my feet and shoot + backpaddle / circle strafe my way out of. I remember even less the “100% hitscan accuracy” enemies you speak of, I’d be glad if you could direct me to a specific point in some youtube playthrough of such a game so I can see what you mean. Surely that won’t be a problem with such “overwhelming majority”.

      “Your survival was entirely dependent upon the tactics that you used once the battle had started.”
      I still don’t see how that’s different than, say, Half Life. I must have played HL for the first time at some point and I don’t remember having to reload encounters because I wasn’t aware in advance of enemy locations.

      • CMYK says:

        You never had to reload when you encountered the “tentacle” creature? Wow, you must a be a pro!

  10. Gyrocoptor says:

    The thing I hate most about regenerating health is the absolutely tiny pool of health you get to go with it. You can survive only 3-4 shots max before you have to wait 10 seconds behind a crate and scrape the red jelly off your face. Since you have almost no health and all enemies have hitscan weapons, over half of your time playing the game is ducking behind cover and waiting.

    It’s especially terrible if a game has a fun melee mechanic that actively punishes you for using it by combining those hitscan enemies with your tiny, tiny health bar. Pretty sure F.E.A.R.’s awesome melee would not have been as fun as it was if you had a health pool of a box of juice and two gummy worms.

  11. Anonymous says:

    I’m looking forward to seeing the one on Ironsights. As someone who never enjoyed the old arena-style shooters, iron sights have been a blessing for me and I find they’ve enhanced my experience greatly. I suppose people who are more inclined towards a faster game in which (unlike me) they can put into use their good reaction times and better hand-eye coordination skills have a legitimate point in that iron sights slow down their experience, but I don’t see what the inherent problem is in a slower game.

    As I said, looking forward to the piece on Iron Sights to maybe get a glimpse into why they’re hated so much.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      It’s not even just faster reaction times, it’s an ability to avoid incoming fire. Iron sights killed a dynamic that even halo had, moving out of the way of someone shooting at you.

      Slowness harms FPS games inherently, with TF2 being the poster child for highly lethal slow FPS games and how that can create deadlocks because players kill each other too easily, so only medics have any pushing power on a team. This will be the focus of my third article, but lightly touched on in the second.

      • goombagore says:

        While I like the level of depth you go into on this point (and will presumably go into with your further articles), I, like many others, am getting seriously rubbed the wrong way not only by how unwilling you are able to take other people’s opinions, but primarily with the way you act like certain games and genres you like, by virtue of mechanics you like, are supposed to have an “inherent” quality in them, and that games which do things differently must suck because they do not fit into this mold. Almost as if there are paragons of gameplay design, and you can only fit those other elements in between the cracks. The story and the game world NEED to be informed and checked by the gameplay mechanics, but the mechanics can also wrap around and be modified based on how conditions in the game world and story can change.

        Iron sights, to my eyes, offer a trade (when they’re optional): they narrow your field of vision, and significantly slow your ability to see in that field of vision, in exchange for a closer and easier view of the target you are shooting at.

      • serpen1 says:

        Medics are the only pushing class? Hardly. A half-decent demo or soldier can push a line provided they have the right position. The default spawn times in TF2 are set long enough so that killing their engineer can allow for major pushes even if your own medic is dead. It’s only the pub servers with 1-3 second respawn times where medics are the only option.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          I was actually referring to competitive play, not the pubs. Medics can overheal, which negates the low health disadvantages of the other classes. There’s a reason why medic is the most powerful class in the game and the team is limited to 1. Same with demo.

  12. Anothereposter says:

    The only game that I played that did regenerating health good was Planescape: Torment. The main character could regenerate health and could be upgraded through stats and magical tattoos. It never existed “just because”, your regenerating health was actually woven into the story; only you had regenerating health and no one including your party members had it. You could use it to your advantage by sending the main character to activate traps, he would take damage but the lost health would come back, with the trap disabled your party could venture forth safely.

  13. gamboy says:

    Good article. I’ve done a small criticism of my own regarding iron sights, http://youtu.be/9wSw_MkzVyE
    Not a super deep look or anything, so I’m looking forward to the iron sights article.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      Thanks, nice video. Try working on your diction, it’s very difficult to hear what you are saying.

      • gamboy says:

        Thanks. I have a better mic now and I’m planning on making more discussion videos. (I’ll get around to it™)

  14. Spokker says:

    What ruined video games for me is this feeling that I’ve sort of backlogged many, many good memories, and I’d rather experience those again than experience anything new. So rather than wait for the next big thing, it’s more likely I’ll just play Chrono Trigger over again or listen to the opera sequence from FF6.

  15. Polite Timesplitter says:

    Winced when you tried to pin it on consoles at the very start. Medal of Honour, various ports, and -everything else on consoles before Halo was popular- would like to have a word.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      Weird that you should say Metal of Honour instead of Goldeneye, which sold better than Halo 1 and arguably had a larger influence in kickstarting the console FPS trend by virtue of being there first (not that it was the first console FPS of course).

      Between all of the design trends in place, and the current practice of developing a game on the console first then porting to PC, it’s difficult to make the claim that the current console market is not a huge influence on the way FPS games have developed. Because the current design trends were minor prior to 2001 and have only increased in popularity since proportional to the growth in popularity of console first person shooters, and the trend of developing on console first and porting back to PC for FPS games. A large number of current FPS games are multi-platform with consoles, and the design trends play to the weakness of the console analog stick and limited button layouts.

      I don’t really see how between all of this you couldn’t pin this on consoles, this isn’t exactly a misattribution of correlation and causation.

  16. Abberjam says:

    Someone’s been watching TotalBiscuit…….

  17. Anonymous says:

    This is good stuff worth thinking about.
    Because if a feature limits gameplay, it limits the experiences in a game and that does not benefit the fun factor.

    Now I do like regenerating health, but within context.
    It has to be held tight and under control and requires games to come with certain vision for it to work well, becuse regenerating health implies a great sacrifice of many other features and somehting else has to make up for the loss.

    And I like regenerating health. When it is nicely implemented.
    The problem is that new games have just given it to us like a passive, automatic and too reliable option.
    If it at least had channeling time or a cooldown or charges to limit it then that’d be a different story, but automatic and unlimited and so fast is what makes is so good and it limits the use of over half the weapons.

  18. Greg says:

    Good article. Pretty obvious stuff, i hope you go deeper in the next one.

  19. Counter-Measure says:

    I liked the article, but I have to disagree with you on the “Immersion”. Take Far Cry 2 as an example, it’s definitely one of the more immersive games out there. The ADS are more for the sake of immersion, realism and authenticity there, and I think that it does make the game slightly better, because that’s what you would do in real life too.

    Games like CoD1 or ARMA are better of with iron sights, you can’t argue that. As a CS player and not really a big fan of them I have to say that they reduces the skill in multiplayer, but it certainly makes sense in single player, simply because it adds more to the experience.

    The immersion is really a very important aspect of FC2, for example you have a gps + map ingame (you’re holding it with your hands) instead of a map menu like in FC3. Additionally you don’t have any HUD on your screen normally and it can be brought up by being hit, low on bullets or pressing r.

    Even if this doesn’t sound spectacular, this is a part of what made the game so great.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      “you can’t argue that.” Yes I can. Why would they not reduce skill in single player in the same way they reduce skill in multiplayer? It is the same process, DPS versus movement speed, and DPS always wins that tradeoff until it ceases to be a tradeoff. It’s not an interesting choice because one option is almost always better (exception being when you’re right in their face so the cone of fire or recoil can’t make your shots miss).

      If in the process of creating immersive shooters it means we must make shallow and boring systems of interaction, then perhaps we should not just bother with immersive shooters? If what is preventing us from making better games is that sense of immersion, that pursuit of realism, then we should throw it out, or at bare minimum not allow it to completely dominate the landscape of shooters that are made as it currently has.

      Iron sights would not be a problem if they had no effect on accuracy and if the accuracy was good. The instant they become a tradeoff for accuracy, combat shifts away from countering your enemies moves and shifts towards performing optimally. Obvious example where focus fire/iron sights are not a problem is Vanquish, which features the same mechanic, except the accuracy of the guns is good outside of focus fire, and does not increase in focus fire.

      • Cameo says:

        immersion is one of many potential qualities of a game, it depends on how much skill based gameplay you are willing to sacrifice for how much immersive potential, because each end everyone of us has different values.

        • Chris Wagar says:

          Then take your pick, it’s a buyer’s market for that type of thing, while games that pride themselves on interactivity lay dead in a ditch. Ultimately my job is to talk about the games themselves, not whatever immersion they shoot for. If it doesn’t play well, then why am I bothering to play it?

        • Mariano Guntin says:

          Skill based? you think that call of duty is for “skill based people”? that you need skills , or more skills than in quake 3 or unreal tournament? sorry but, health regen kill skills and immersion, them both. The skill in a shooter with health regen is in how good you are shooting, in a old school shooter on how good you are and you have to be good because you will die FAST, no rambo fucking shit anywhere, but more survival thing maybe. Let me play quake 3 instead of cod please god.

  20. Jerman says:

    Okay Evilagram

  21. Mariano Guntin says:

    I agree with you (article) and most people who don’t understand (casual gamer fanboys) are pointless because most people today are claiming for OLD SCHOOL ROOTS in almost every genre and every ruiner franchise. EX.: Resident Evil. Yes Auto heal ruined gaming, and developers know it, for them they just think (the big companies) that is more money behind because the stupid casual people buying that things. They are wrong, Dark Souls like The Witcher 2 prove it. In shooters it does Bioshock. In action adventure, naughty dog that make uncharted that uses auto heal, did a step back with “the last of us” and this last game don’t use auto heal, “heal needs time in real life, and this is a survival game” they said. What is a shooter…. I’ll say it again, SHOOTER, WITH GUNS, AND DEAD PEOPLE, YOU KNOW? if it isn’t a survival in some way?. I tell you what, Health pack don’t only adds difficulty, it also adds COMPLEXITY and with that STRATEGY. You have to THINK, when and how to use the resources, when to be reckless and when careful. And that makes the game so inmersive, challenging and FUN.

    Real gamers understand this, that GOG (good old games) were better than the new business shit. when someone smart, a smart developer with talent put this on a game, that game will be a “game changer” in gaming history. I put my chips on The Witcher 3.

    Yes, for me not only shooters but all gaming is cursed with this Health Regeneration thing, no bosses and no puzzles.

  22. Mariano Guntin says:

    health is free in modern shooters, ammo is almost free, concentrated in huge amounts in a few spots. besides everything, do you know what this means? it means that the game is EASIER for develop because is less content to work with.

    Amnesia 2 is probably one of the cheapest 3d games in gaming history and stupid people love this kind of shit.

  23. HowToWind says:

    Hey,half-life franshise Doesn’t Use Regenerating Health.Because Regenerating Health Is Unrealistic.

    • Chris Wagar says:

      No more unrealistic than health kits scattered everywhere. It’s not bad because it’s unrealistic, it’s bad because it’s lame.

  24. Josh Trecnore says:

    what comes next after regenerating health?

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