Balancing Healing Items

Sanct

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I've always had problems properly balancing healing items, there's a lot you have to think about and I have a couple of questions on how people balance their healing items properly.


Is it a good idea to for example have a potion that heals double of the previous potion cost slightly more than double? To me it makes sense, but I've noticed that some people think it isn't worth it and I'm not sure if this is some kind of split issue or whatever.


How much health does the first healing item usually heal? Should it heal more than your current full health? 3 quarters of your health at level 1? I'm not sure.


Also prices in general are something I have a hard time with.


So how do you balance healing items?
 

Andar

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There are a lot more points to take into account.


For example, the price of a double effect healing potion depends on how the battle work.


On long battles where a lot of healing is needed, a double potion saves the actor one action to attack instead of drinking two potions - so the double potion is worth more.


But if the player rarely needs to heal, and the battle usually ends with only about 150% single potion HP lost, then drinking the double potion will always waste some of its effect and it should be cheaper than two single potions.


Additionally you need to take into account if the potion works only in battle or only outside or on both cases? If a potion can only be used outside battle (for example calling an item "medical bandages", then you need time to apply them and can't do that in combat), then it is worth less than a potion that can be used as an emergency measure inside combat.


But on the other hand, it will not have as much impact on game balance if the player has cheap healing outside battle that he can't use during battle.


As for prices - you need battletests for that. Calculate how many battles are needed for the player to need one such potion. Then calculate how much gold (or items worth) the player gets from battle.


The price of the potion needs to be the same or lower than the gain the player gets from the battles where he needs the potion for.


If the price is higher, you run the risc of getting the player into a dead end, where he doesn't have the money left to proceed - because he needs to buy more healing potions than he gains money for.


A higher price can be compensated by other gains (like getting enough EXP to get stronger to the point of no longer needing as many potions), but that still is more difficult to balance
 

Milennin

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Is it a good idea to for example have a potion that heals double of the previous potion cost slightly more than double? To me it makes sense, but I've noticed that some people think it isn't worth it and I'm not sure if this is some kind of split issue or whatever.



If the enemies do enough damage to make the double potion worth using, then players wouldn't think they aren't worth getting.

How much health does the first healing item usually heal? Should it heal more than your current full health? 3 quarters of your health at level 1? I'm not sure.



That depends on a lot of different factors. How you design your combat system, what methods of healing you have, availability of potions, HP gain per level, game difficulty etc.

So how do you balance healing items?



I prefer to put quantity limits on my healing items (max. 5 per item) and have them heal in percentages, rather than in numbers. Makes it easier to balance, in my opinion.
 

LightningLord2

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Healing in general should be balanced around the damage level of your opponents. If you toss Elixirs at your players to fully heal them on use, they won't be fazed by anything short of one-hit kills. Supplies that can often fully heal you outside of battle are exempt from this.


Another point particular to items is balancing against characters and classes with healing skills. In general, healers mean you don't need to spend as much on potions and the like while using items means you usually have more consistent healing, also meaning you don't have to use a healer character either. In general, stocking up on potions is smarter if healing in battle is rarely needed and save points etc. are easily accessible, while a healer is more practical if money is needed elsewhere and you have to heal a lot in battles (though that depends on how much MP you have available for healing).
 

Wavelength

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I agree with most of what has been said here already, and in particular I would direct your attention to what @Andar said about cost efficiency versus in-battle turn efficiency, which is probably the single most important point to consider when balancing healing items against each other.


One other very important thing that I don't think anyone mentioned yet is that is also depends heavily on your game economy.  If midgame enemies give out 20x the money that early enemies do, and your midgame potions grant 3x as much healing as early potions, you still might want to price those midgame potions at about 20x the cost, unless you think players will just resort to using 3 instances of the early potion instead (again, this ties into your in-battle turn efficiency, above).  If you do think players will do this, then you could make the midgame potion cost only 2.5x as much, but then you have to consider that a much smaller portion of your player's budget is now devoted to potions/consumables.


A final thought I always like to toss in when discussing this kind of thing is to consider the role of healing in your game at all.  Why is it necessary to have in your game, and how does it help increase the player's enjoyment of your game?  Do the items add any type of engagement whatsoever?  Or is it possible that your game would be better off if you eliminated them entirely, and balanced battle difficulty around the lack of healing?
 
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One question to consider is: When does the player gain access to this next potion?



Do they have access to it in shops while the first potion is still 30-50% HP (making it an effective full heal)? 
Or do they only gain access to it once their original potion is now only healing 15-25%?


The next thing to consider is not the base price of the potion, but how much of the gold-budget it takes up.


Lets say you normally gain 20 gold per battle in the first dungeon and the basic potion costs 30.


This means 1 potion costs 1.5 of the gold gained per battle. Now in dungeon 5 where the player is expected to be relying entirely on the tier 2 potion (regardless of whether it was available in shop earlier), this second potion should ideally also cost 1.5 battles.
So if by this point you gain 200 gold per battle, the second potion should cost 300, i.e. 10 times the original potion for double the effect. In terms of healing, you are still paying 1.5 battles worth of gold for 30-50% HP each use.
Now if the 2nd potion was made available straight after the first, 10 times cost for double healing would seem steep, but at dungeon 3 where the player is gaining 100+ gold per battle that's only 3 battles per tier 2 potion.


Basically it comes down to the 'economy' as @Wavelength says. And cost efficiency mixed with damage levels as @Andar and @LightningLord2 said.


How much are the items worth; not in terms of flat gold but battles and HP lost per turn of damage? If by tier 2 you are now taking 3 times damage, that potion is now worth less battles than tier 1 since it is only 2 times more powerful (less overall % healed).
 
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