Give me a B .. Give me an A …   Leave a comment

Give me a L A N C E.. Balance! Whoohoo!

The good ‘ole Balance-talk! ;)

I did some programming in MUDs, designing in another MUD and made some concepts for a third one.. So I’m an easy target when it gets to design-talk which always leads to talk about balance. ;)

I planned to write about some different aspects of balance issues, but then stumbled upon Hawleys post at the Book of Grudges. What is balance good for and is it in any way possible or even desirable?

One thing i think everyone will agree is that a game should be fun. Balance is one aspect which might give you that fun. But it’s no guarantee for fun. I played in a RvR kind of PvP MUD which was totally unbalanced and full of bugs, but was fun as everyone knew that it was not balanced. It took some time and frustration to realize and accept this design flaws. The game screwed up as some Coders went back to work and game balance was shifting on a daily basis. You as a player couldn’t adopt to the fast changes and the frustration got bigger because skills and match-ups (vs. mobs or players) didn’t work like you expected. This is not completely a balancing issue but in some terms belongs to it. You have expectations how something in a game works, adopt your gaming strategies to it and hope that it works for you. Getting to Hawley’s wood discs. You have your favorite wood disc because they curl in a way you like more than other discs. What if at night someone grinds a little bit of the disc so that it curls in another fashion? You get frustrated..

So it all goes about expectations and perception. And there starts balancing and designing. In a PvE game this is to a lesser degree important. In a RvR centric game this is really important as several players play against each other. .. Egos collide ;)

It’s important to know when you will survive a fight or not. In WAR this is getting a bit tricky as the game is balanced towards groups. This is nice because it gives more strategic and tactical elements to RvR fights, but is a easy target for “whiners” because they seem inferior versus certain classes. Which is indeed the case! ;) Therefore every class has the “flee” ability.

It’s also a game balancing issue that certain classes are more squishy than others. Otherwise it would lead to e.g. Bright Wizard only groups: if they deal enough damage so that no one can get close to them or if they withstand enough damage so that a group of them is hardly beatable..

Good balancing gives support to a more variety in career/realm selection, as not all players are die-hard fans to specific careers/races/etc.. Variety is important because it gives a better atmosphere to the game.

Realm-selection is a important factor when you design a RvR game. Just look at the threads about over/underpopulation. This is an issue to some gamers out there. Zergs are not controllable and therefore you have to get at least somewhat near to equal numbers on each side.

The goal for balancing has to be:

  • Give somewhat equal chances to every player/group to win over another player/group, based on his/her personal ability/skill.

It’s not that every match-up is going to end in a par. It’s about chances and skill.

Just an example: A shaman will never beat a Ironbreaker when the dwarf gets close and punches the gobbo in the face. The shaman should be able to get away or at least survive longer than 2s with some skill (on terms of the player, no actual career ability).

So the balancing starts when a career has more than a “I win”-button, but has to think about what spell/skill/ability is appropriate for certain situations. That worries some people when they have to think about abilities (poke at WoW-paladins ;) ) Therefore Uber-skills are not fun, because people just use that skill. Which is kinda boring.. using that skill or losing because the others use it. Boredom is the death for gaming fun..

Balancing is a difficult issue because it affects so much of the game and therefore the discussions never end. Therefore it will be always a discussion topic. See it from a philosophical standpoint ..

Neverending struggle for the perfect game .. You can’t reach it, but it’s sometimes fun to speculate about it. ;)


Posted August 28, 2008 by Karic in General

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