Hunger mechanics - interesting or tedious?

autophagy

tank nerd
Veteran
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
86
Reaction score
76
First Language
German
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Hey guys,

I think a thread like this exists, but I couldn't find a recent one and I want to avoid necroposting and such, sooo here's my own thread.

I want to talk about hunger mechanics in games and I'm curious what other people think.

To explain what I'm thinking of: The player / the characters have a "hunger" stat, which increases either through time passing or certain actions (or both). Once it reaches a certain value, bad things may start happening, and if it maxes out the player / character might even die and/or the game is over.

What do people think of such mechanics? Are they annoying and stressful, or do they give a game depth?

Personally, I enjoyed the hunger system in Minecraft's survival mode. I think it added something to do - planting crops and keeping animals really made sense. In that mode, you die when your hunger gets too big. Which leads me to my next question:

What do you guys think is an interesting (and fair) "punishment" for running low on or out of food? I could think of things like stats decreasing, movement being hindered, and character death. But I'm sure there are also other interesting consequences.

And lastly:
Did you play any games with such a mechanic that handled it well in your opinion? On the other hand, did you play games that handled it poorly?

That's all the questions I can think of right now. Discuss! :)
 

UgyBoogie

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
May 19, 2017
Messages
87
Reaction score
121
First Language
german
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Usually I find hunger systems to be really annoying and pointless. They don't add much to the game beside something the player has to worry about. On the other hand, it's all about HOW it's implemented. If it's just a hunger system that gives debuffs when neglected, it's a bad system in my opinion. ALWAYS reward the player in some form, if he puts time/effort/ressources into something.
For example, if he keeps his party well fed, give them some buffs. Not only debuffs when they are hungry. And while we're at it, give the system more depth. Enhance the personality of your characters with different tastes. Everyone likes and dislikes certain food, why should it be different in a game?
My conclusion would be, IF you implement such a system, don't do it just for the sake of having it. Give it some meaning and depth behind it.
 

Milennin

"With a bang and a boom!"
Veteran
Joined
Feb 7, 2013
Messages
2,486
Reaction score
1,621
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I've never seen hunger systems done well, like in a way that didn't make it feel like it was a chore or timesink. If commercial games can't even do it right, I have no hope for a free RPG Maker title that features it.
 

Henryetha

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Jan 14, 2016
Messages
388
Reaction score
206
First Language
german
Primarily Uses
I think it depends on the game.
Ofc in a survival game, but also horror games I think..
Such hunger mechanic could add a debuff in a horror game which makes you paranoid or sth.. ;o
 

bgillisp

Global Moderators
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 2, 2014
Messages
13,405
Reaction score
14,132
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
I've never seen hunger done well in a game so far, by anyone. My suggestions is don't include it. Sure, you might feel it makes the game more realistic, but there's reasons we don't include some other realistic things in games. For example, in most real battles, they are decided in very few hits (some in 1 hit even!). But, if you put in enemies that one hit KO the player, your game feels cheap and unfair, even though it is probably more realistic than the current HP system we use!
 

cabfe

Cool Cat
Veteran
Joined
Jun 13, 2013
Messages
2,350
Reaction score
2,543
First Language
French
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Usually, a game aims to be fun and/or interesting and doesn't include trivial or tedious tasks such as eating/drinking and going to the toilet afterwards.
Unless you're playing The Sims, I guess. I'm not even sure they went that far.
 

EseQueL

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 10, 2016
Messages
70
Reaction score
27
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
Here's an idea that I have... instead of hunger, sin increases everytime you kill a monster. When your sin is high enough, A Reaper will start hunting you. The Reaper will be so hard to kill but rewarding when killed. If you kill the Reaper, your sin decreases. If you don't want to see the reaper since it's super strong and might kill you, go to church to remove your sin. Something like that xD
 

gstv87

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 20, 2015
Messages
2,221
Reaction score
1,198
First Language
Spanish
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
look into the character traits of Zomboid
if you can't get an idea of how to integrate hunger into a game from looking at their implementation, then I don't know how you would.
 

Warlyte

Writer/Developer
Member
Joined
May 6, 2014
Messages
33
Reaction score
16
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
I don't think writing it off entirely helps - but it is probably the hardest thing I can think of to do right. Giving food more positive effects and making the hunger less insistent (taking longer to get bad) would help, as would giving it a little progression element - you can explore bigger areas with better food, new upgrades let you prepare it better etc. But that is a TON of extra work that I don't recommend, certainly.
 

Frogboy

I'm not weak to fire
Veteran
Joined
Apr 19, 2016
Messages
1,691
Reaction score
2,188
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
I remember Ultima Exodus doing this. There's nothing like taking that long journey through the Underworld and then realizing halfway through that you forgot to stock up on food.

But forget that! We need a game that tracks how full your bladder and bowels are and makes you soil yourself if you don't make it to the bathroom in time.
 

Kes

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Aug 3, 2012
Messages
22,289
Reaction score
11,692
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
I find hunger systems tedious, and now avoid them totally.
 

Nobody King

Villager
Member
Joined
Jun 9, 2017
Messages
6
Reaction score
4
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Hunger mechanics absolutely can add to the experience in a good way, but it's an easy thing to mess up and really reliant on the type genre the game is. Survival horror games like Lone Survivor are where I think the mechanic has the easiest time fitting in, because scrounging for resources are already so integral to the gameplay.

I think a big problem with some hunger systems is when it becomes too much of a game mechanic. Where you just have a meter and know exactly how long you can go without food. Then it's just a matter of using the bare amount of resources to keep your meter just above the debuff mark.
 

Basileus

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Oct 18, 2013
Messages
307
Reaction score
443
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
Here's a handy flow chart.

Is survival the core theme of your game -------> Yes ------> You may make a hunger system if you really want to
|
----> No -------> Don't make a hunger system


The very existence of a hunger system, or any other type of "realistic needs" system, is just a tedious chore. There is a very good reason that characters in movies and books rarely eat/sleep/go to the bathroom without it being somehow plot important - because watching such mundane things is insanely boring and serves no purpose to the narrative.

Try to imagine watching a big Hollywood blockbuster like an Avengers movie and seeing a scene of the characters just eating for 10 straight minutes while they fly somewhere 10 hours away. It would be obnoxious and unnecessary. All they have to do is say the flight will take 10 hours and then cut to them landing. We all know they ate at some point, probably got a nap in, and went to the bathroom once or twice. We don't need to see it.

In an RPG the player can infer that the characters eat and use the bathroom every time they stay at an inn. It's not hard to imagine them taking breaks periodically as they walk across two entire kingdoms on the world map. There's no reason to show it since it doesn't affect gameplay and is unnecessary.

So if gritty survival stuff is your core gameplay, then you can probably get away with a hunger system. But even then it only functions to give the player a reason to keep moving and go into dangerous situations. Survival in the real world is ungodly boring, especially since it takes around a full week without water to kill someone. You can go around a month without food. But in games this death by thirst/starvation mysteriously happens in about 24 hours. The obvious purpose is to make the player actually go do fun things instead of hiding in a small cave and only going out for food every couple days. Or the classic strategy of "Hoard lots of food and don't leave the house for months at a time" that would actually happen in a real world post-apocalyptic scenario.

Meeting your food/water needs is actually very easy if all you are looking to do is not die. People won't die just because they don't get a can of beans for 2 days. People die when there is literally no food for weeks at a time and the body slowly and painfully wastes away. Famine is kind of an all-or-nothing deal - there either isn't a famine (and thus no point to a hunger system since survival is fairly easy) or there is a famine (and thus no point to a hunger system because there is no food to eat).

So if your game takes place over the course of at least several months during a time/place where food is very scarce, then a hunger system wouldn't be completely unrealistic. Otherwise it's just a pointless chore to consume the player's time and/or cover up a lack of real gameplay.
 

Rayhaku808

Chubbizard
Veteran
Joined
May 8, 2012
Messages
245
Reaction score
102
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Hunger systems are so annoying, I don’t bother playing a game that even has them. If I see a game on Steam that’s tagged “survival”, the first thing I look for is if it has a hunger system. No joke. They’re not well implemented and exist in a game just to solely exist.
 

autophagy

tank nerd
Veteran
Joined
Jun 9, 2014
Messages
86
Reaction score
76
First Language
German
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Ah sorry for a late response, I kinda got busy with other things. Thank you everyone for your opinions!

@UgyBoogie Giving buffs for well-fed characters is actually a great idea. I like the psychology behind it. Reminds me of Flight Rising, a game where your lair gets bonuses when you keep all your dragons fed. I never felt like the hunger system was annoying in that game and never really had any trouble keeping my dragons fed. It was an integral part of the game, not just a gimmick, so like you said, if it really adds depth it can be done right I think.

@Milennin I see... Well I mean, I believe that indie games actually have potential to do some things better than commercial ones. It just takes creativity and dedication. Not saying that a hunger mechanic is definitely one of these things, but I imagine that it could be.

@Henryetha True, true. The paranoia idea is interesting. I don't exactly know which side effects come with starving in real life, but I'm sure researching what it does to someone's mind could yield interesting ideas and insights. It would add some alternatives to the standard "your stats decrease and you die".

@bgillisp Oh boy, now I'm kinda ashamed to say it, but I actually seriously considered adding one hit skills (independent of damage) for both actors and enemies to my current project, at least I considered it for a bit before I scrapped the idea. I mean, it happens in Pokemon, and it was always very satisfying to use those moves, but it's not very fun if it's done to you... I'm thinking of War Thunder, were literally every hit could kill you in a single hit, and if it doesn't, it usually seriously handicaps you. That's basically the reason why it's not very fun to me... But I'm getting off topic here.

@cabfe Hm... Well, drinking and going to the toilet would be taking it too far, definitely.

@EseQueL I dunno, that's very specific.

@gstv87 I looked at a guide for that game just now. (I hope I got the right guide and not the wrong game.) The thing that is interesting to me is that sleeping seems to increase the time it takes you to get hungry. It sounds interesting to include something like items that will keep you from getting hungry quickly, or some other mechanic that does this.

@Warlyte About the game progress, that's a perspective to consider. I guess this could be implemented by only allowing the player to eat/receive food in certain places, so their "operational range" would be limited depending on the quality of food they get. (Aka, for example higher quality would make you starve slower). Otherwise they could just go as far as they can, eat, and go further. This would probably work best in a game without random encounters or with enemies that don't drop food.

@Frogboy No we don't... xD I don't know Ultima Exodus, but that does sound pretty frustrating. I imagine having to turn around and stop what you were actually doing just to eat/grab food could be very annoying. Maybe disable hunger at certain times? Like on certain maps or certain times during the story.

@Kes Everyone's entitled to their own opinion. But if it's not too much of a hassle, do you want to explain in more detail why you find them tedious? I'm super curious why people think that.

@Nobody King I agree! It shouldn't be its completely own thing that feels disconnected from the rest of the gameplay.

@Basileus You're totally right, everyday life is not necessarily interesting to watch. And I guess a reason why the "starving" may be handled by giving debuffs, is to depict that the player isn't dying after not eating for a couple of days, but that they wither away slowly. (This may of course not be the case, I suppose some or many devs do indeed not put as much thought into their hunger system.) Basically, I totally agree to everything you said.

@Rayhaku808 I think saying that they are never well implemented is a bit of a generalization. :V It all depends on personal taste and what you expect from a game. It's the same for many different game mechanics. One could also say "I would never play a game that is pay to progress" while someone else might say "I prefer games like that".

Phew, that was a lot to type.
 

Titris Thrawns

It's a trap! ...Or is it?
Veteran
Joined
Dec 15, 2015
Messages
71
Reaction score
81
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
Hunger mechanic and nobody brought up Don't Starve? *Sad Panda face*

My thoughts echo @Nobody King & @Basileus points; if there is a hunger mechanic, it has to be a core element to the game and the game is probably a survival type of experience. Minecraft's hunger works because it encourages the player to build or discover the many ways they can obtain and harvest food items. Don't Starve alludes to the hunger mechanic in the title, but the game also has a sanity meter. Some foods restore sanity, others decrease it. If I recall correctly, you don't die from having an empty stomach, but your hit points starts to decay. So there's that to possibly emulate.

If the hunger mechanic just adds another bar to track, I also find it boring and uninteresting. I lump Fallout: New Vegas's survival mode into this category. The crafting and survival skill were just not enough incentive for me to care or enjoy the hunger/thirst system. Final Fantasy XV has food, but it is solely for buffs and I don't need to worry about my rock star entourage boys starving. Tedious tasks for buffs will appeal to a larger demographic than tasks to evoke realism/challenge that may please some gamers, but others view as a tedious obstacle in the power fantasy.

Most of this addresses single or small party of protagonists. In Breath of Fire III, there is a fairy village 'mini/side' game that has a 'food' component. Like many RTS's food acts as a limiter to population growth. This is where hunger may be useful to integrate if a game has a similar village building component. If the player accidentally, or purposely, starves their people, having NPCs stumble around suffering from famine due to the mismanagement sounds like a way to engage the player without adding tedium. Then add some variables to pinpoint if the player starves the village due to focusing on the main part of the story/game, or the player is one of those types that enjoys locking a Sim in a pool or 1 tile room and setting off fireworks :kaosigh:.

So, I'd say the stereotypical JRPG isn't conducive to hunger meters, especially if we assume the multitude of Inns the party stay at include dinner and a breakfast buffet. I think games like Don't Stave are good, as the mechanic is a major component of the game play. Fallout: New Vegas is bad, as it adds little value to the gaming experience. I believe hunger being tied to buffs will be lauded for offering a carrot for the player to incentivize tedious work, while debuffs will sting the player as they are whacked with a stick for ignoring Dev mandated tasks. Changing the hunger bar into a stamina bar may be way to have both debuffs and buffs. Which reminds me of Daggerfall and the deaths I accrued from running away from Nymph attacks... *shrugs*
 

kirbwarrior

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Nov 13, 2014
Messages
731
Reaction score
417
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
N/A
Even more so than survival games, the only games I've played where hunger didn't annoy me were rogue-likes, because the point of the game is to punish you and you are fighting that.

the hunger system in Minecraft's survival mode
I enjoy the idea, disliked the execution. Now whenever I play Minecraft, it feels like a two hour chore to;
1) Find the nearest village and get potatoes or settle for the far less effective wheat or more tedious meat
2) Build a farm as quickly and as big as possible
3) Cook everything
4) Now ignore the hunger bar because it may as well not exist.

So I'll usually just make a Command Block in one place in the world for infinite food or drop a Mooshroom somewhere. Expanding still needs thir own farms.
I've never seen hunger done well in a game so far, by anyone.
Fatal Labyrinth is the only game I've played that does. As for RPGmaker games, there was some parody game for rm2k that had four bars to keep track of (I know hunger and bathroom were two of them). It would annoy me if they weren't there to make fun of themselves. And the game was quite short (5 hours?).
ike an Avengers movie and seeing a scene of the characters just eating for 10 straight minutes
I enjoy the irony of referencing Avengers :p
 

Wavelength

MSD Strong
Global Mod
Joined
Jul 22, 2014
Messages
5,527
Reaction score
4,984
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMVXA
In Survival sim games (like Don't Starve, The Sims, DayZ, and some Minecraft scenarios), the overarching goal is usually self-maintenance, and hunger systems not only create interest and excitement, but they also draw the player into doing different things (like searching dangerous areas for food).

In nearly all RPGs (especially JRPGs like Final Fantasy, but even Western RPGs like Elder Scrolls) and most Action-Adventure games (like Grand Theft Auto or Banjo-Kazooie), the overarching goals are much bigger than self-maintenance, and hunger systems only act as an odious chore that gets in the way of the Aesthetics of Play that your player is actually looking for. Do not penalize the player for hunger in your RPGs! There has never, ever been an RPG where this has been widely well-received.

If you feel the need to have a food/hunger system in your RPG or other non-survival game, frame it as a bonus, not a penalty. Give the player bonuses to stats, experience, walk speed, etc. for being 'satiated', and don't take away anything for hunger, even if the meter reaches 0%. Make sure that the game still feels playable and fun if the player ignores the hunger system entirely.
 

kirbwarrior

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
Nov 13, 2014
Messages
731
Reaction score
417
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
N/A
bonuses to stats,
You brought up Elder Scrolls and it does something similar, but not hunger. If you sleep in the same bed as your mate, the next day you'll receive extra exp for 8 in game hours. I think you get a much smaller bonus for sleeping in a bed. Either way, sleeping is a bonus, not a penalty for not sleeping.

Secret of Mana treats food as healing items, making HP also a 'hunger bar' of sorts. I do like the idea of being full giving something extra, such as bonus exp or stats, as long as the game is based around you not needing the bonus, so it actually feels like "more effort = more gain" instead of a hidden penalty.
 

RPGMaker777

Veteran
Veteran
Joined
May 24, 2017
Messages
47
Reaction score
13
First Language
English
Primarily Uses
RMMV
Another good example of a fun, but compromised 'hunger' system was in Zelda Breath of the Wild where your hunger was your HP and food was healing/buffing items as well, so it didn't feel like a chore collecting food and the cooking was fun.

So that game took the best aspects of a hunger system like collecting and cooking, and left out the worst, like being hungry but otherwise well prepared in all other aspects of the game.

My game could easily have survival aspects but I'm not including a hunger system and I probably won't include a crops system either as so many games are now, but I will still have likely have healing food items that can be collected from trees or plants that will regrow after a time.

The problem with hunger in survival games is that it's rarely accurate just how much humans can do on so little food, a single can of meat like Spam can set up a man for a day easily in strenuous conditions in a survival situation, I remember in games like 7 Days to Die eating far more often than you'd need to.

They also rarely take into account the effects of adrenaline, even if you're absolutely starving adrenaline kicks in and you'd find that energy somehow to escape that zombie, etc.

It can also turn what should be ravaged apocalyptic journeys into stock the larder or tend the crops pedestrian style games, but eating is definitely a boon to some survival games, so it's definitely a tough one to call.
 

Users Who Are Viewing This Thread (Users: 0, Guests: 1)

Latest Threads

Latest Profile Posts

So I'm having issues with my steam account... so I can't use MZ right now, so I can't work on my game until its solved, so it be harder to be ready for 31... guess I'll get ice cream :kaopride:
Motivation! Inspiration! There you are. I was worried you guys weren't going to show up today. Let's get this thing going!
Made these new little isles yesterday, to test my new tiles. Guess they're look pretty chill...
Are your bodies ready for spoopy? 0 w0
Made a lot of progression today with my next chapter. It helps that I wrote an outline of what will happen. :)

Forum statistics

Threads
104,210
Messages
1,004,721
Members
135,722
Latest member
ProtoPropski
Top