I have been playing Assassin’s Creed II. It has been enjoyable, if a little collectible-heavy. But combat in it is reminded me of what I call Hit Point Problem, described in an earlier post. In short: The way video games simulate damage to a human body is stupid.
In Ninja Gaiden Black, Ryu Hyabusa jumps around, slashing enemies with his dragon-bone-katana, spraying blood everywhere. A normal human armed with body armour and an assault rifle can be launched in the air with the blade alone, slashed with it a couple of times and left to fall down a couple of meters. The result would be that he lands in a pool of his own blood, rises back up and proceeds to shoot at Ruy, completely oblivious to the several katana strikes that just went through his body. This might have been a very polarized example, but in Dragon Age you can stab a person in the back several times before he decides to die, and that game isn’t as… Lively as Ninja Gaiden.
Assassin’s Creed does it right… mostly. When a player manages to reduce an opponent’s hit points, Ezio strikes at him with his sword, forcing the enemy to block and take a step back. When the enemy loses his last hit point, he lets his guard down and Ezio connects with his sword, drawing blood and sending him to the pavement. Although unrealistically flashy, it looks more believable than take-a-poleaxe-to-the-forehead-Ryu. And they did that just by changing the hit animation.
The whole beauty falls apart with Ezio himself, though. When a player screws up a counter-attack, the enemy’s weapon connects with him, drawing blood but not doing anything else, besides reducing hit points. And when an enemy archer hits Ezio with an arrow, he just takes it and grunts, instead of falling to the ground in pain. Ugh. A few changes to the animations would have been enough.
There is a guy called Shamus Young, who runs a pretty nifty blog. If nerd culture, game design and programming are your thing, check it out. In one of his posts, he acknowledged the hit point problem and made a concept combat system which I stole for a few of my earlier ideas. One of those shone through to me, and I’ll share it with you, dear readers… Soon. But next time, I will continue my primer to it.