If I remember correctly, I’ve discussed the idea of dungeon crawlers as resource management games before. I’m too lazy to dig through my older entries to find out exactly how and why, but I thought I’d cover one of the basic concepts here, since I woke up thinking about “mana points” this morning.

What I was actually thinking about was the possibility of creating a Let’s Play video of the original Diablo, considering Diablo 3 is looking like it’s going to come out, eh, eventually. This is Blizzard we’re talking about. I don’t really have the recording equipment, but I probably have plenty of time.

Getting back to my point, though, with Diablo as the example: hit points are a resource. When you run out of hit points, you lose a life or you experience a game over, and in some games, you may “respawn,” albeit with some kind of penalty for having allowed your character’s hit points to run out.

You typically manage hit points through trips back to your home base, whether that’s visiting the village healer, drinking health potions, or eating random “food” items you find lying around on the dungeon floor. Diablo 3 will be implementing … orb-things. It sounds like lazy design to me, to an extent that I’m reminded of “crate expectations.”

So, if you think about it, hit points are a function of time. As you run out of hit points, you get closer to needing a “resupply.” In games that include magic or other resources that aren’t limited by hit points, what you have are, in a way, a “hit point offset,” or what amounts to a buffer. You spend mana points until you resort to hit points again.

Now, some games like the Final Fantasy series (Diablo is also an offender) will give you mana potions in addition to health potions. Bear in mind that running out of mana points doesn’t result in a game over, but running out of hit points does. A wizard can potentially live from one mana potion to the next, staving off a back-to-town resupply.

You know one game that averts this? Arcanum: Of Steamworks and Magick Obscura. What you had in Arcanum were health and fatigue. Using magic was draining, and if you burned through your fatigue too quickly, your character would fall unconscious in the middle of battle. This would often prove entirely fatal.

Still, in Arcanum, sleeping was enough to recover your health and fatigue, and you could sleep almost anywhere. So, while the loss of health and fatigue could be countered by potions (and herbalism!), running out of mana could prove just as detrimental to your character’s chance for success as running out of hit points.