With the incoming tide of Christmas and the fact that I will then have 18 games (God help me if it turns out to be more) to play, I decided it’s time to knuckle down and finish Giants. I remembered again why I’d decided to take a break. If you were to hack my PC while I was playing Giants and listen to my microphone, not only would you be a stalker, but you’d hear me shouting and screaming words that if this were a family blog, I wouldn’t repeat. They usually involve cursing the parents of the programmers and designers, because Giants does just one thing wrong: Damage.
If you ever create a game where there is going to be combat in a fast(ish) paced environment, then you have to do damage properly. Its no good creating an immersive world if you don’t let me know how I’m doing with my health. As you can see in that image above, you can see the health nice and clearly. But it doesn’t work like that when you play. If you get to a point like in the image above, you can’t see your health clearly. I died because I didn’t know how much health I had. A sensible person hides when they run out of health. I count myself among that bunch of people. But if I don’t know how much health I have, I can’t.
It might sound like I’m slamming Giants for having this error, and think I’m saying this error makes it a pathetic game. Neither of those are true. It doesn’t make the game unplayable, and it certainly doesn’t make it pathetic. I can think of several other examples where damage and health wasn’t done correctly, Mafia being a real big example.
Now Mafia did pain just slightly better. If Tommy got hit, he usually stumbled. Seeing as he took up a good amount of screen space, it was usually pretty difficult to not realise you were being shot at. Giants has the issue of the characters being pretty small, and thus those visual effects don’t matter. The problem Mafia has is, as you can see from that image up there, the health is hidden in the corner. So in a firefight it’s pretty difficult to actually see whether it’s in your best interests to run like hell or carry on shooting. It really didn’t help that you could be shot while you were in a car and you had no idea you’d been hit.
The problem with damage is that you need to do it well, but not make it over the top. I want to know I’ve been hit but not have it blared out through the speakers. One of the reasons I don’t like CoD’s damage system is that I then can’t actually see. If someone’s firing at me, I’d like to be able to fire back, not have to panic about the fact that my screen is now covered in red jam. If Giants/Mafia had an onscreen notification in the centre of the screen telling me I’ve been shot and in which direction then I know I’m hit and where from. I can react straight away. Command and Conquer: Renegade might have been a godawful game, but at least it got damage right.