Why Do Some Hate HP and Levels?

davidgray

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I've noticed an odd sentiment, it seems some really dislike some more gamey elements that most games have like hit points and levels. I know one thing is that these systems definitely require a suspension of disbelief, but honestly if I'm an elf in a world where magic, dragons, and fairies exist I think I can suspend my disbelief a bit more. But being completely serious I get that to some extent some people might find some things more immersion breaking than others. But I guess I'm wondering if there's reasons aside from realism? As far as my opinion for levels it doesn't make much of a difference to me. I personally don't care whether I get new powers and a power boost all at once every few sessions or 1-5 points to gradually increase my stats and abilities. For HP I do have a preference though, I actually prefer to have HP. Basically looking at the main HP-less system I know of, Mutants and Masterminds, with their toughness save system if you fail the toughness save by 4 levels then you're out of the fight. Where my issue is is that despite the fact that the chance is incredibly low, there's still a chance that you can get one shotted, so even though I'm willing to play a game without HP, I prefer to have it. Anyway that's my opinion but what's yours, do you prefer to have HP and levels or not? And why?
 

Kes

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JavaScript/Plugin Support is for getting help to implement plugins.

I've moved this thread to General Discussion. Please be sure to post your threads in the correct forum next time. Thank you.

 

Shaz

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It could be that people don't want to put that much thought/effort into balancing, which would be required with levels and HP.

It could also be that people want to focus more on the story and there isn't really a progression of bosses to scale up to - battles, if any, aren't there for that reason.
 

ShadowDragon

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I dont hate levels or HP, but I use HP but no Levels.

People that dont use levels want to balance it with armor scaling only
so levels doesn't require in this case which I'm focus on as well.
 

EthanFox

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I've always assumed it's just to do with it being an abstraction, which is something that some people like, and some people hate.

I've always though this an interesting area of study because abstractions are a really important aspect of game design, but some forms of abstraction are generally liked by players while others are often disliked.]

Take Chess, where the abstraction is the idea of what Chess represents; a battle between two armies in abstract form. However, Go, while also a board game, has no abstraction; Go is just Go.

I'm fine with HP, and I'm also fine without it... But if you drop it, I think you need to be really sure about what you're doing. A classic example, for me, is from the 90s - Dino Crisis on PS1. The game had no energy bar or health total for the main character, instead communicating their health via animation (basically they would go from healthy movement to limping, injured movement).

This was cool in theory because it's kinda realistic... But also not. That's because the game still used a health total, a HP pool, it just indicated it via the animation, and that created a problem. You never knew exactly how much health you had, so there was a tendency to waste healing items to try and stay at max health all the time, as the signposting via animation was imprecise. There was also a philosophical issue here, namely that you, as the player, were meant to "be" the main character, so there's a cognitive dissonance there; if you "are" the main character, does it make sense to watch your own movements to know your injuries? In a certain sense, yes, but that's weird when the game is third-person.

If the game had a detailed injury model, where you could injure individual limbs, or areas, and have to treat them, it would make sense... But it doesn't really work when it's just an elaborate solution to a solved problem... Just having an HP gauge.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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I'm kind of on the side of what Shaz mentioned: I like to create more story-driven games, and as such levels and stat gains aren't as important to me. However I also believe that even a JRPG should have game mechanics that are relevant, in addition to telling a story. As such, I tend to instead limit levels and how important they are so they don't bar progression in the story, and even the game mechanics.

For my current project, I'm going a Final Fantasy Tactics route where stats, including HP and MP, are mainly doled out by the equipment you use. Each of the four characters can equip two types of armor, and have a main and auxiliary weapon type. Anyone can use light armor; two can use heavy armor and two can use mystic armor. The extra weapons (claws and scepters) are optional but can alter the characters' roles in battle, based on that character. The monk MC can trade Magic Defense from her staves for claws' aggression, but the dark knight would lose Defense if he used claws instead of his swords. New skills are going to be granted by plot completion, where not every character learns a new skill at the same time.

To address this question though? At this point I don't know if levels are going to even be used. I bring up the equipment stuff because they're the main components to improving stats, not levels. HP is still important because the game has combat, but fights are meant to be finite; all encounters are on-map or cutscene-based, with no need to grind. Even if my current idea is more D&D fantasy inspired, I do like the resource management aspects of some games. It also helps that I've got ideas for a sci-fantasy apocalypse game flitting about my head, which will use survival horror elements...

EDIT: My main issue for a standard JRPG is, however... how does one make non-boss, on-map encounters matter without advancement to be had? The ideas I've pondered are a) having less throw-away fights, b) make important enemies guard good items in a dungeon, and c) offer fights to get item drops and money. Just food for thought.
 
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TheoAllen

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Looking at a non-RPG, people who play Danmaku usually hate HP system in a similar game like that because it cheapens the challenge, or they feel cheated because when a game like Tyrian 2000 that you have HP for the character player, the bullets are usually too fast and it is too late to dodge, unlike slow-moving (but massive) bullet hell where your skill is being tested to dodge those bullets.

For level, the reason might also be also the same. When you introduce level, you're like saying that the game might be grindy and probably the reason you could not beat the boss is that you're under-leveled. So, the players are forced to grind more than they're willing to.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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Basically looking at the main HP-less system I know of, Mutants and Masterminds, with their toughness save system if you fail the toughness save by 4 levels then you're out of the fight. Where my issue is is that despite the fact that the chance is incredibly low, there's still a chance that you can get one shotted, so even though I'm willing to play a game without HP, I prefer to have it.
Speaking of! As an avid tabletop RPG fan, I can understand the feeling. MnM's Toughness thing is interesting, and the usual D&D HP is weird for me. My preference is something like Dungeon World, where characters have a mostly-static level of HP. It's based on their Constitution score, not modifier, plus whatever their playbook (class) is. The only way to up HP permanently in the core rules is to boost your CON score, in which one point is added per level past 1st to one of your six scores. Considering the core game only goes as far as 10th Level, and that a stat can only ever go as high as 18 (a la old-school D&D), that's saying something.

I'm not a huge fan of health abstraction in tabletop games myself. Most of them fall under the "death spiral" mechanic, where taking damage further penalizes you in terms of fighting ability and thus survivability. As much as I love the customization that Savage Worlds and Mutants and Masterminds offers, I'm not fond of how they handle health. If I had to go with a system that eschewed D&D-based HP, I'd go for something simple like, say, other "Powered by the Apocalypse" games. You have a Harm track in many of them, giving you a gauge of how many hits you can take. Different dangers can deal different Harm, and you can have means to mitigate the Harm dealt. But it's basically just HP and Defense that rarely, if ever, goes beyond a scale of 6 HP max.

One of the big things for many games is to at least have an idea of how much abuse you can take before failure at best, or permadeath at worst. PbtA games advise their Game Masters to spell out the risk before you make every action. Heck, even Resident Evil gives you an inexact heart rate monitor to tell how badly you're hurt. You may not have a numeric amount to work with, but you definitely know you're in trouble when in orange Caution or even the red Danger readout.
 

Lemonrice

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I have removed MP (not HP) and levels from my game. Not because I hate them or the way they work, but because I think of them as cheap restrictions to the players power and progress, that can be easily overcome by hoarding mana potions (and go potions) and grinding.
Both is usually not much fun for both, player and developer because as @Shaz said, it also requires a lot of balancing.

While I think that having hp, mp, Levels etc. is a solid concept that works for many people, I've grown tired of them and always love to see alternative takes on them that offer a less obvious reason to limit the players power and control his pace.
 

RachelTheSeeker

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I have removed MP (not HP) and levels from my game. Not because I hate them or the way they work, but because I think of them as cheap restrictions to the players power and progress, that can be easily overcome by hoarding mana potions (and go potions) and grinding.
That is fair! While my current project still uses MP, I can easily see it being removed by more thoughtful systems. There are games that just have cooldowns (or even warmups) for specials, and/or offer penalties for using specials otherwise (such as HP loss, etc). Heck, even Pokemon's PP system is dece, and games like Resident Evil force you to choose if and when to use your better ammo.
 

The Stranger

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I can't stand levels in games. They're just so uncreative and immersion breaking, in my opinion. There's plenty of ways a developer can help create a sense of progression other than levels.
 

Ailius

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The appropriate terms for this is "vertical progression". Basically any form of progress that causing you to do more base damage or take more hits because "XP". This is juxtaposed with "horizontal progression" in which the players get new items or abilities that are different but not necessarily better than what the player has.

Vertical progression is a necessary evil. For starters, you need some progression or else the player isn't rewarded at all. I know with my game I initially planned to have a flat HP level with leveling only boosting loot rewards. It didn't work in testing, so I ended up putting some in.

The problem is dopamine only kicks in with new experiences. For the first goblin, the player gets a dopamine hit. For the 50th goblin, the player just wants the annoying thing out of the way. The emotional reward is proportional to the challenge, so if you just make goblins too easy, the player never feels rewarded in the first place. However, if the goblin *isn't* too easy, then the the 50th goblin will be unbearably annoying. Vertical progression is there to address this problem by arbitrarily making encounters easier.

If you're clever, you can add a lot of horizontal progression, mix up your encounters, and do all sorts of things. And players *love* horizontal progression. But, you're not going to be able to eliminate vertical progression entirely. If you just have a series of one-shot encounters and the player never gets to flex on their previous obstacles, then the player doesn't feel like they've progressed at all, and there *must be progression*.

The best you can do is like the beloved Metroidvania games like Metroid and Legend of Zelda. They have tons of horizontal progression. However, they still have to let vertical progression in slightly in terms of HP levels and ammo capacity, and these are master works, made by master game makers.
 

rue669

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Probably depends on the game. Like if it’s a visual novel or adventure game you’re likely not going to have exp or hp (though I think it would be a cool twist if someone added that feature to those games).

It comes down to your audience. I think people who play RPGs are going to expect some kind of hp and leveling system. And may not be exactly hp and levels but something that feels like that: a progression.

I mean, exp, levels and hp are pretty basic gaming fundamentals. They just replace score and stages as you might find in the NES Mario.
 

richter_h

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I haven't seen people who hate such simple rules like HP and levels with passion in my life, but when it comes to game, there are rules to be checked out, including lose condition (i.e. your character is dead) and sign of progression (i.e. level or stats growth).

Depending on game rules and layout, there are some games where players abhor HP and level system, such as shoot'em up and/or arcade games. In RPG, numbers are important to check your characters and their progression, thus HP and level are a necessity.

If you think the absence of (perhaps visible) HP and level might make the game look and feel "realistic", think again; players demand information while playing, and by hiding them, it means you're giving them a huge handicap that might not worth its intentions.
 

Black Pagan

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I have no problems with a HP Bar.

With Levels, I would say I prefer one where Player earns their Levels, Not simply knockdown a few monster and level up, One example i can think of would be a Japanese Browser game called "Shikihime Garden".

In it, Levels are only awarded to you if you do something remarkable like complete a Challenging quest or do a Very Difficult task so you feel a sense of accomplishment, Its not simply a mindless Grind. In-fact it prevents you from Leveling up even if you get EXP. You can use excess EXP to invest in your Pets which have no such Leveling restriction.

I believe it only had 10 levels or so. And even getting to Level 3 was a Challenge. Because you have to complete a whole Map full of some 5 Quests (Each making you go through a different zone full of Dozens of Monsters) and an Elite Dungeon with a Tough Boss which had to be attempted multiple times, before Achieving 1 Level. And believe me, It was very satisfying to finally be awarded a Level after doing so much !!!
 

PixeLockeT

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Depends on if you're trying to pass it as a RPG. I am a traditionalist when it comes to straight up RPGs and do not like it as a gigantic umbrella term. I prefer HP and level grinding to "less RPG-like and more-so adventure game like Legend of Zelda" types of progressions.....If I see someone call their game a RPG yet do not offer me at least somewhat basic RPG mechanics, I probably won't play. Tailor them to your game, yes. Take them out, no, your game then becomes something other than a RPG (to me).
 

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