Why Energy Meters Should Be Visible to Everyone
Why can we see enemy health meters but we can’t see their energy meters? Is there something inherently different about the two that makes one worthy to show while the other should be hidden? Or would gameplay benefit if we could see energy, too?
Hidden information can be a double-edged sword. If nothing is hidden, then the focus of the game comes down to mechanics and look-ahead strategies (e.g. chess). If too much is hidden, the outcome of a match becomes too influenced by variance (e.g. poker). Hidden information is neither good nor bad. It only matters how it’s used.
I don’t think energy meters should be hidden. But before I get into my reasons, let’s look at the benefits of it being so.
Energy is a resource that needs to be managed. Not only do you need to manage your own energy, but you need to know how much energy the enemy has. If you think the enemy has a full meter, you have to play more carefully because you don’t want to get ulted. If you think they don’t have energy, you can be more aggressive.
This sort of increases the skillcap by giving players something to think about other than cooldowns and positioning. Under this system, the theory is that players who can track enemy energy levels will perform better and win more often than those who can’t.
The other benefit of hidden energy meters is that it reduces the learning curve for newbies by preventing an overloaded interface. Newbies already find the game chaotic even with the currently sparse interface. Adding more interface elements would likely make the game harder to digest, or at least that’s the theory. We don’t want Battlerite to become like this:
I don’t believe that hidden energy tracking is a crucial skill in Battlerite, just as inventory management in a game like Diablo II isn’t a crucial skill. At best it offers a bit of added mental complexity, but also injects an unnecessary level of variance into the gameplay. Hidden energy tracking can be a way for players to gain an edge, but the uncertainty of it means you can never truly rely on it when making in-game decisions.
So why is it okay for cooldowns to be hidden? Because they are reliably predictable. If I use Searing Flight, you know for a fact that it won’t be available again for nine seconds. Every time I use it, you receive a mental update: this ability is gone for a short while. This regular update on the “state” of my cooldowns is what makes it okay as hidden information.
But energy is different. You rarely receive mental updates on the state of my energy. If I use Firewall, all you know is that I have 50 less energy than before: maybe I have 1 energy remaining, or maybe I have 50 energy remaining, it’s impossible to say. It’s too unreliable. The only time you can be sure of my energy level is when I use my ultimate, at which point my energy resets to zero — but that’s too infrequent to matter in the context of state updates.
The success of a competitive game hinges on the ability for players to make meaningful decisions. And in order to make meaningful decisions, players need information. If you don’t have information, then you have nothing on which to base your decisions. When you have nothing to go on, all you can do is shoot in the dark and hope for the best — and that’s how variance enters the game.
I’m not saying the current system is skill-less. Obviously it is difficult to track an enemy’s energy level, much less tracking the energy levels of two or three enemies. The point I’m trying to make is that visible energy meters would be a more skillful system with less variance and more opportunities for players to distinguish themselves.
In the current system, for reasons already explained above, energy-tracking is pretty much guesswork. This means that the safest tactic is to assume that enemies always have full energy and to play as if all of their EX abilities are available at all times, and this is one-dimensional. But if you could see the enemy’s energy meter, then you could act based on how much energy he has.
Let’s say you’re Freya and the enemy Oldur blows his Time Bender. If you saw that he has 80 energy, then you would still have to play carefully because he could whomp you with Stone Glass. But if you saw that he only has 10 energy, then you could dive in and bash him good because Stone Glass isn’t a threat.
But there’s another layer to this. The Oldur knows that you know how much energy he has, and therefore might adjust his play accordingly. For example, if he has a lot of stored energy, he could play more aggressively against you knowing that you’ll be more hesitant to jump on him. Or if he has no energy, he might use that to bait you into being overly aggressive, then punish you for it.
And, of course, you know that he knows that you know how much energy he has… which brings us back to where we started.
It also raises the stakes in gameplay. As everyone fills up their meters, at some point the round could turn into a Mexican standoff where everyone has full energy and is waiting for someone else to pull the trigger first. This kind of anticipation is a lot more fun than simply blowing your ult whenever you spot an opportunity. That’s one-dimensional. This is layered.
In short, the potential for mindgames is better when energy meters are visible.
For a real-life example of this, just look at modern fighting games like Street Fighter. Both energy meters can be seen by both players at all times. Admittedly this is a forced limitation of sharing one screen, but it works fine. The game isn’t any easier just because you can see the enemy’s energy — in fact, it’s more interesting that way.
What do you think? Would Battlerite be improved if all energy meters were visible at all times? Or can you spot any glaring downsides that I might’ve missed?