What brings me to talk about this subject is the first X-Men Legends, which I was playing the other day. Wolverine, whose mutant ability is regeneration, can slowly regain his health, while other characters can equip items that allow them to do the same. Although useful, it ends up being an annoying and ultimately boring feature. Simply stated, it's bad game design and I wish to never see it again. I hope developers take the following two rules in mind when they design their health systems for future games.
1) If it can be abused, it will be abused.
With the right equipment and powers, every character in the party can recharge their health bars like Wolverine. Sure, there are health potions in X-Men Legends, but if my characters can regain their health for free, then I would always go with the free option. The levels are designed with a number of set battles and some quiet pauses in between each group of enemies. Thus, the game affords plenty of opportunities in between battles to use the health and mana regeneration feature. Just stand in one place for a full five minutes as you watch your bars fill up pixel-by-pixel. Since the battles themselves aren't very long, standing around waiting to heal ends up being a large percentage of the playtime. This inevitably makes the game boring and ruins the pacing, which bring me to my second point.
2) It's not the players' responsibility to pace themselves.
If I completely ignore the health regeneration and use health potions regularly, then the pacing of the game would be as intended by the developers. But I shouldn't have to put artificial rules or barriers on my style of play to make the game more fun. I would prefer if the game forces me into contrived scenarios that doesn't let me straddle for too long. For example, if the game detects me trying to abuse regeneration, it can spawn some enemies to keep me in motion. Better yet, replace the regeneration with something else entirely. Two sequels later in Marvel: Ultimate Alliance, the developers came up with a pretty good solution. Although health regeneration still exists in the game for some characters, you generally regain health and mana by defeating enemies, giving players the incentive to move forward and stay on the offensive. The game ends up being much better paced than its predecessors as a result.