Reviews - Updated on January 10, 2023

The human world, at least as it is represented in most languages, consists primarily of things and states. The things of the world and the states of men, which are as real to us as things are. In video games, the simulation of reality strove not only for believable objects, but also for the expression of nuanced personality. So there were systems of characteristics, indicators of health, endurance and abilities, a variety of conditions that give a bonus or a penalty.

Indeed, if your hero is basically strong and strong, this does not mean that in all conditions he will behave the same way. Both the requirement for realism and the logic of numerical indicators of any characteristics push the developer to think about the conditions. After all, a character who beats enemies for a hundred points may be wounded and exhausted, or, on the contrary, may be enraged or inspired by a battle song. How is it implemented in games?

The obvious option, a kind of archaic, inherited by video games from the desktop “great-grandfathers”, is a buff and a debuff. Initially, they were understood only as a non-permanent increase / decrease in character characteristics (usually attack and defense). Then, with the development of MMOs, the emergence of unique abilities, such as flight or breathing under water, began to be attributed to buffs. Debuffs from online players are now considered to be both stun and sleep (all forms of slowing), and the loss of abilities (like silence) or anti-abilities (for example, increased damage from animals or a broken arm that prevents the use of two-handed weapons).

Developing this legacy, game creators came up with many different statuses and states for game heroes, some of which simply limit the possibilities, while others seriously complicate life. A separate story is the properties of unique items (from boots of blinding speed in The Elder Scrolls III: Morrowind to soiled trousers in Grim Dawn), but about them some other time.

Checkmate for you!  Oh, that is a debuff.

Checkmate for you! Oh, that is a debuff.

curse magic

A huge number of games that have a strong role-playing component are fantasy. Therefore, they regularly appear not only magic that carries direct damage, but also one that harms indirectly. A well-known example is a curse that takes away luck.

Magic is good because almost nothing needs to be explained. A couple of words imitating Latin, hand passes, and voila – the enemy wears an acid curse on himself, making his armor almost useless against physical attacks. It doesn’t matter how it turns out, because it’s magic, which means there are no dissonances (of course, if the game world assumes magic by default).

Some even earn this without any magic.

Some even earn this without any magic.

Those who often play RPGs, especially MMOs, are well aware of the effects in the spirit of curses, slows, increased elemental damage, armor reduction, luck, and so on. In story games, you can also find insidious quest curses – for example, hiccups in Planescape: Torment and damage in Prince 2.

It is also worth noting that sometimes developers take the idea of ​​realism too literally, which clearly goes against the aesthetics of the game. Perhaps the clearest example is Neverwinter Nights 2: players often complained about the effects of spells (especially Stoneskin) on the faces of heroes. Sometimes a simple icon in the corner is enough.

Applied chemistry

Perhaps the most common example of a buff is food and alcohol. Complex dishes (and sometimes just street food) are often used to get unusual effects, including additional “hearts” or a boost in stamina, healing or removing radiation / poisons, warming and cooling in an aggressive climate, etc. Sometimes the effects are exaggerated: in Wasteland 2, drinking a glass of milk instantly causes a calcification status, which helps to break obstacles more successfully.

Eat to Live: How Food is Used in Games

November 1, 2021 ⋅ 9

Eat to Live: How Food is Used in Games

Alcohol in games has long been a classic. After it, your avatar is stormy and everything doubles in your eyes, but in some cases, gains are added. One of the first games in which drinking significantly affects not only the numbers of parameters was the already forgotten RPG Soulbringer. You can also recall “Xenus: Boiling Point”, where the hero, after gatherings in a bar, completely lost the ability to walk or drive a car in a straight line. Well, in modern games this is an obligatory element: for example, in Kingdom Come: Deliverance, drinking leads to a hangover, and unbridled revelry can end up waking up near a pig’s tub. At the same time, since moderate libations give bonuses to charisma, eloquence, and even accuracy, the developers considered it important to introduce a whole drunkenness skill into the game, which, when developed, reduces bad effects.

Sometimes games also flirt with the topic of other substances and stimulants. Usually it looks good in the conditions of the collapse of society or post-apocalypse. For example, the Fallout and Wasteland series are known for many such means, and the appearance of some is more a tribute to realism than an invitation to the player to receive a quick buff and then repent. So, in Wasteland 2, in the wasteland, you can find the item “Poppy Syrup”, which causes an altered state of consciousness. Here is the description from the game:

You feel like you’ve been caught in a box. There is a clown in the box with you, he is standing in a balloon. Then you realize that the balloon is the box. You are completely confused.

There seem to be easier ways to tell players that it’s best not to try this kind of thing.

The last obvious example from this area is various kinds of poisoning, which can cause drugs, herbs, enemy attacks, or even hostile environments. Sometimes the side effects can be corrected by a combination of ingredients or cooking, while other times it can only be treated for the effects.

Someone uses a poisonous weapon, and someone is afraid of it.

Someone uses a poisonous weapon, and someone is afraid of it.

Need a doctor

Diseases invisibly reduce performance. Injuries signify overt dysfunction or severe loss of performance. The middle option, sometimes very destructive, is radiation exposure. However, it can also be played in a funny way – for example, in Fallout you can grow a sixth toe; one of the doctors will offer to cut it off, and, of course, the finger can then be eaten. However, radiation usually reduces base stats over time.

Some diseases cause severe problems. A typical injury in action games is bleeding. Although individual games are downright sophisticated in the topic of injuries: a good example is Dragon Age: Origins, where a teammate who woke up after a defeat in battle received one of 13 possible injuries with a penalty (for example, dislocation with a penalty to attack speed, and deafness – a penalty to defense ).

No arms, no legs - only hope for friends.

No arms, no legs – only hope for friends.

In other RPGs, sexually transmitted diseases are especially popular: in the second part of Wasteland, support for prostitution can end with polydactyl syphilis or a “stupid dragon” – judging by the description, gonorrhea. In survival games, tetanus and dysentery are more logical, or at least the consequences of a zombie bite.

A separate frequent theme is overload. In games where there is no bottomless inventory, the player is punished for kleptomania. Usually this is a movement speed penalty, but there are other difficulties. For example, in The Long Dark, increasing the load dramatically increases the chance of dislocation on inclined surfaces, and also prevents the use of ropes.

Very nervous system

Compared to bodily problems, mental problems are much more variable and not as straightforward. But it’s also more difficult to come up with them, since the game needs a clear expression – in a visual-sound form or in the dynamics of the game itself – for what, in fact, only happens inside the hero.

A good example of creative work with such things is the types of insanity in the domestic horror Distrust. In response to stress, lack of sleep and hunger, one of your Sims may develop black and white vision, night vision, myopia and farsightedness, constant laughter, obsessive singing, deafness or tinnitus, outbursts of anger (a person breaks inventory or throws things away), bulimia, and, of course, the constant quoting of Shakespeare.

Big fans of delving into medical and psychiatric books, the creators of Rogue Legacy 2, came up with dozens of family traits for the heirs of dungeon explorers. Each such feature clearly interferes with the gameplay. For example, alexithymia makes it impossible for the player to see the damage inflicted on enemies, dyspraxia makes objects fly, and the theatricality trait clearly exaggerates damage/health numbers. Your character can turn out to be a vegan or a puritan – in the latter case, the enemies will be “censored”.

In a simplified form, luck events in the Heroes of Might and Magic series of games, which have become classic mechanics for this genre, can also be attributed to such states.

That’s the kind of person I am

Games that strive for realism also use bonuses and penalties, but usually of a constant type, explaining them with the origin of your character. For example, in Kingdom Come, strength, charm and skills are determined by biography (the son of a blacksmith, a city dweller, a man without honor, etc.) and personal care (the fragrance of purity or the strength of flowers). Sometimes such traits are not explained in any way, but make the choice of tactics extremely interesting – for example, in the fear mechanic of orc captains in Middle-earth: Shadow of Mordor.

This also includes all the bonuses (and sometimes penalties) from the development of relations with party members, and sometimes allied creatures. Similar systems can be seen in the Dragon Age series, as well as in Tyranny, where increasing loyalty or fear unlocked additional abilities for companions. And for my taste, this is a good mechanic, because people really behave very differently depending on their relationship to the leader or the overall goal. Even upset, not finding such opportunities in other games.

An even more obvious example that has become commonplace in games is the relationship with a horse or other creature used as a vehicle. Usually they affect how obstinate the given animal is – for example, in The Legend of Zelda: Breath of the Wild, not every harness can be hung on a horse if your level of connection is low.

About a hundred pats - and you and the horse are best friends!

About a hundred pats – and you and the horse are best friends!

At its core, all decisions of a developer in a video game are divided into successful and unsuccessful. Successful ones are those that either fit perfectly into the gameplay, or qualitatively enhance the narrative, the plot-semantic side of the game.

It looks like resourceful developers are taking two approaches here. The first one I would call the Nabokov method. The abundance of details creates a sense of thoughtful reality. The second I will designate as Dido’s method. The writer Henri Didon was very fond of sports and came up with the famous Olympic motto “Faster, higher, stronger!”. There are few effects in this method, but they are progredient, that is, they can have degrees of manifestation, and sometimes a gradual change included in the effect. All the rest simply copy other people’s finds without much logic and meaning.

The Distrust and Rogue Legacy examples show that statuses and states need to be more actively integrated into the game so that they really affect something and even entertain. Otherwise, it comes to the ridiculous: the hero’s eye is knocked out, minus a couple of points of perception, but nothing, they threw themselves with something like mentats and compensated for the minus. Now imagine a drug addict with a black eye, who has the same marksmanship as a person in a normal state. So for the developers of game mechanics and mini-challenges, there is still an unplowed field here, and for the players there is a sea of ​​surprises and future discoveries.

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