Rations (aka hunger system)

Discussion in 'Game Mechanics Design' started by Lunarea, Mar 6, 2012.

  1. Lunarea

    Lunarea Artist Global Mod

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    One of the early games I remember playing is Betrayal at Krondor. While there are many features I remember about that game, one thing that always sticks out in my mind is the rations system. Each character had to eat food daily or their health would start to drop. You could get rations from inns, enemy corpses or hidden caches/chests. Sometimes the food you find would be spoiled (also happened if it sat too long in your inventory) or poisoned by some nefarious person (especially in seedy inns!). If your character ate bad food, it either cost a lot of money to fix or it led to a game-over. So, a part of preparation in each journey is to take enough rations to last until you find another reputable tavern. It also meant that you couldn't always take the fastest route to get to a destination and that you had to be very careful when exploring.

    What are your thoughts on rations/hunger systems? Do they add a healthy degree of realism? Or are they more frustrating than fun?
     
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  2. Thalzon

    Thalzon Veteran Veteran

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    If survival is the main goal it can certainly add a hefty amount of realism and focus. But otherwise there needs to be a major benefit beyond simply maintaining your status quo. Stat boosts are usually the best method of making feeding your character beneficial and encouraged. But if all the hunger system does is punish you for not feeding the character, it can get tedious.
     
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  3. BigEd781

    BigEd781 undefined method 'stupid_title' found for nil:NilC Veteran

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    I seriously despise them. For me they add absolutely no fun to a game, and that's why I'm playing a game to begin with, right? It isn't fun to be in the middle of a dungeon, get "hungry" and then realize "sheep, I have no food". That sucks. I don't need or want realism in my games, I want to have fun.
     
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  4. BadMinotaur

    BadMinotaur You can do it! Veteran

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    It depends on what the goal of your game is. Some games thrive on resource management -- look at the ammo-conserving nature of Doom and similar FPSes -- while others don't want you to be so meticulous. If you're aiming for a very hardcore audience that thrives on Nethack levels of attention-to-detail, then a hunger system might be right up your alley. On the other hand, if you want a more casual romp, it's probably best to find some other way to inject some light realism.

    For what it's worth, I don't mind the hunger system in Minecraft (though I don't think it adds anything meaningful), but if say Skyrim or Breath of Fire had a hunger system, I think I'd give up out of frustration.
     
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  5. Reynard Frost

    Reynard Frost Designer Member

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    I'm of the mindset where it's very tedious to have a hunger system. Sometimes it is done well, like in Metal Gear Solid 3: Snake Eater where you had a "Stamina" level that could increase or decrease depending on actions you took, or if you ate food. A lower Stamina level made it so you didn't fight in the best shape, but it didn't stop gameplay either. If a hunger system is in place that improves my performance when it's in top shape, and lowers my performance but doesn't kill me when it is low/empty, then I'm fine with it, and it adds a nice level of detail.

    However, dying because I ran out of food is a total pain in my arse and just makes it another thing I have to manage that takes away from the activities I'm having fun with (such as fighting/exploring/chatting.)
     
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  6. Mikoto

    Mikoto Villager Member

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    This is a tedious thing when making games. Bioshock claimed to be a game in which you needed to conserve your stuff as best you can but in the end, it was too easy to get money/ammunition. While other games just punish you harshly

    The biggest problem is balancing it to the point where its fun to use, which is hard to obtain. I prefer not using such a mechanic unless its temporary.
     
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  7. Lord Valdyr

    Lord Valdyr Team BlackHawk Dev Veteran

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    When I look at games like Dark Cloud I rather enjoyed the hunger and thirst mechanics there, I think there is a time and a place for everything in a game its just about finding that balanced point.
     
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  8. ロリ先輩

    ロリ先輩 ロリだけど先輩だよ Veteran

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    I like using food/resource management on a macro level within my designs. While resource management doesn't affect the player party as much, it would affect other things related to the player party- Example being overworld travel w/o use of a map- Similar to fast travel in games, but maybe for larger distances, or using food to have other functions, like actions that you can command an army to do.
     
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  9. Jamesruglia

    Jamesruglia Villager Member

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    I kind of like the idea, mostly because I tend to enjoy playing RPGs from a wide perspective, managing travel, sleep, and other realistic necessities. I always enjoyed the early Ultima games-they required having food, but I'm interested in the degree of detail what you described presents.
     
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  10. Lunarea

    Lunarea Artist Global Mod

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    It's very interesting to read your opinions!

    I've found that most games have item management to one degree or another. To use BigEd's quote as an example:

    Replace "hungry" with low on health and "food" with potions, and you've got a fairly common RPG situation. In either case, being prepared is very important. And it really takes just one instance of running out of food/potions to have the player remember to stock up. It should also be mentioned that rations were treated as any other item. There were ration caches and ration loot from enemies. So, you weren't completely screwed if you forgot to buy food at the tavern, but it did make your travels a bit more challenging.

    What interested me the most about the hunger system in Betrayal at Krondor is that it was more complex than just buying X food in a town before venturing out into the wild. There was the possibility of having the rations be poisoned or spoiled. Going into a seedy in and buying rations only to find that they're poisoned did wonders for world/NPC development. It was also exciting to come across a random wandering NPC who not only shared their rations with you, but had some items for sale.

    I find that it would be difficult to replicate this particular design with regular items - such as potions. I mean, it would really suck to have a potion poison you instead of healing you.
     
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  11. Shaken_bacon

    Shaken_bacon Villager Member

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    I tend to agree, especially regarding any type of RPG maker game. However, I think a hunger system would be very neat to see in a survival horror type game. I can picture this type of game:

    The game is an open world zombie game where your goal is too simply escape a city. Now there are several paths out of the city, but every time you play the game randomly generates a new path out of town that you need to find. (Sometimes it might take hours, and other times days.) If you are in it for the long haul you need to eat, find water, etc. So while looking for a way out you may want to raid a grocery store and try not to get killed by the living dead. (I'd also want a sleep mechanic in the game as well.)
     
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  12. deilin

    deilin Ranger/Elementalist Veteran

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    The closest I came to a hunger system was mir a 'gappiness' upkeep. As your character expanded land, the land needed items. If you could keep up supply, more items were available and could collecect tribute. If happiness was low, you had to tax. In each town, you had farms and such you could buy upgrades. You needed a level 3 farm to start seeing any surpluss.
     
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  13. Reynard Frost

    Reynard Frost Designer Member

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    When I play an RPG I avoid items as much as possible and rely on skills instead. If I have to use items I feel like I've failed skill wise. Have items for fun, sure. But don't force me to use them.
     
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  14. Lunarea

    Lunarea Artist Global Mod

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    What if your character doesn't have a healing skill? ;)
     
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  15. Nova Toby

    Nova Toby Veteran Veteran

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    I made a small game once with RPGXP that had a hunger system where you had to find fruit and veg to keep your guy from dying of starvation. It was fun but ultimately I feel it was a bit of a gimmick and distracted from the main game.

    It felt like just another way to replace collecting notes as seen in Banjo Kazooie.

    In the end I decided to keep food in the game and have it replace the bog standard potions and antidotes. It also allowed for a combination of foods to make items better and heal more. So a cooking minigame of sorts was made. This was purely optional but gave players the ability to craft super bread and awesome cake that healed all but the deepest of wounds.
     
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  16. AlaiaVee

    AlaiaVee Villager Member

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    Ask yourself if the game mechanic you want to implement truly adds value to the gameplay. If you believe it does then go ahead and add it.

    In my opinion, a hunger system that solely penalizes the player when they run out of food is annoying and doesn't add to gameplay enjoyment. However, if you were to implement a system such as you are suggesting, where there is opportunity for NPC/World development, risk involved in eating tainted food, having to search hazardous areas for food, etc. Then that could make a game more interesting.

    That said, I actually prefer the concept of food supplying bonuses--where it isn't necessary, but will reward the player with an extra edge in the game if they use it.
     
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  17. Frondo

    Frondo ACCCCCCCCCE!! Member

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    I feel that the thing with a hunger system is that it has to be done correctly.

    If food is fairly easy to get (available for sale in all towns and dropped every once in a while by mobs) then a hunger system that hurts you when you are out of food is fine.

    However, if you are constantly in a search for food rather than a search for the way forward in a game, then the hunger system is a little too pushy.

    Sometimes though, you may want a player to be trapped in this search, like Amnesia: The Dark Decent, where you need lamp oil and tinderboxes to move forward, but there never is enough! That really made that game much more stressful, but definitely in a good way.

    I'm hungry now.
     
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  18. Reynard Frost

    Reynard Frost Designer Member

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    Then my RPG is lacking a key character in the party. Granted, if a game doesn't have magic then it loses a considerable amount of my interest.
     
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  19. Rodpop

    Rodpop Villager Member

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    The main thing about hunger systems is execution. I'll echo most of what's been said so far and say that, in most cases, hunger only detracts from a game's entertainment. However, depending on the context, it can work and be meaningful.

    First of all, a hunger system can only work if the game emphasizes wise resource management. In RPGs, if you have shops that sell potions and food, then the game instantly becomes running around and grinding your eyes off until you can buy 99 potions and steaks before you head off into the dungeon. In this specific case, I'd say the cure is a limited inventory system which can also be a massive pain, but again, all about the execution.

    You also run into the issue of context. I know the idea behind hunger systems is to add realism, but if I'm playing a videogame then usually I've suspended my disbelief high enough that this isn't an issue. After all, if we're playing for realism, why don't we add in a bathroom system, a hygiene system, and basically everything else that you micromanage in The Sims? In most games, I'm willing to accept "a wizard did it" for why you don't see characters eat and move on.

    However, if hunger systems compliment the plot, then it could be interesting. For example, if the game takes place in a post apocalyptic world where food is scarce, then it could be interesting. At least that way the system has meaning, and it's not just arbitrary numbers that you have to manage.

    So that's just my two cents. For most people, I'd just outright say "don't do it," but that's not to say it can't be done.
     
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  20. notwelshman

    notwelshman Warper Member

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    I would totally play this. And you know what? Take out the zombies and reduce fighting to a bare minimum and make a game about simply surviving the Apocalypse, and then you've got a game where hunger is less of a gimmick and more of a driving story mechanic.
     
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