Information Denial: Pros and Cons

What are the relative pros and cons of showing vs. hiding a boss’s health bar?

Same as showing or hiding the healthbar for any enemy, except with a boss.

If you show it then the player knows how much damage they’re doing relative to the boss’s total HP. They can gauge how long the fight is going to take based on how long its taken so far versus how much is left. It also means they can tell whether their attacks are having an effect at all. This means they can gauge whether they should rush in for a final attack or not and tell what attacks are more and less powerful.

Hiding the health bar means the player has no idea how long the battle will take, they cannot see what attacks are more or less effective, they need visual feedback that they’re doing damage, otherwise it can be unclear, they can never be certain whether it’s safe to launch a final desperate attack.

It’s a matter of feedback. How much should players really know? is it important that they know? Also I’d recommend including a health bar for really long boss battles because otherwise players are just plain likely to get disheartened.

Health bars again: What do you think of tying the health bar (or perhaps other info) to an RPG trait or item the player has to earn? In general, what do you think of denial of information that can be rectified through player effort?

Witcher 3, Pokemon, and Shin Megami Tensei all do a bit of this, by having you steadily learn traits of enemies over time. Gathering information in this way isn’t incredibly interesting in my opinion, but it can add to the theme of a game, it can change the experience of the game. There’s something that feels good about hitting an enemy with its weakness, about matching like to like, about uncovering new information.

What ends up happening when you go down this route is either you end up with a collectathon type of thing where you gotta collect all these extraneous information objects, or spend extra time in battles analyzing enemies instead of fighting them.

If a game wants to go down that route, fine. It’s just not a big addition or subtraction, and I can’t think of a way to make it more significant, or an example where it was more significant. It makes the game more about memorizing arbitrarily assigned esoterica in many cases (like pokemon types and weaknesses).

Denial of certain information, like where enemies are currently, or what they’ll do next, or what their plan might be, that can make sense. There can be a dynamic of retrieving information, and acting based upon it. Stealth games are in part based on this. For something like enemy properties, I dunno. Doesn’t seem like the most interesting thing in the world, but it’s also not really a big deal.

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