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CharlesFXD

Is game balance really so important?

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Hello. This is my first post here. I’m a very long time lurker. Registered since nov of 05. I wanted to ask you fellas about game balance and why you think it is so important. Personally, I feel artificial balance within a game is lame and boring. It is very one dimensional and I am wondering if I am the only one. I started as a mod maker for HL and now a good friend and myself are working on another project. We’re using Ogre3d for this. This project is a capital ship battle management simulation. Full 3d. multiplayer only. You are the captain of a capital ship and run it in it’s entirety via quick and easy context menus that allows you, the captain, to issue commands instead of actually doing everything yourself. It’s nothing so complicated as Battlecruiser 3000AD. Not even close. The goal is to make the game as useable and playable as possible. We have 3 tiers of vessels and each tier is a mirror image of the next only the ships have more mass. They are simply larger. You and your stats are persistent but the universe is not. You gain experience and as you gain experience over time you’re offered a promotion to a higher mass vessel. My partner asked me “Why? Aren’t they all the same?” I said no. I know the escort and the frigate are the mirror of the destroyer and the cruiser. So, whats the difference? I’ll explain. The larger the vessel the more room it has internally for more component modifications. The larger the vessel is, the larger the weapon systems it can mount. The larger the vessel is, the larger the power plant and the larger the engines which means it A) produces more power per cycle and B) since the engines are bigger it can push more mass and still maneuver and accelerate effectively. So a frigate is better than an escort. A destroyer is better than a frigate. A cruiser is better than a destroyer. A battle cruiser is better than a cruiser and a battleship is better than a battle cruiser. So anyway, that’s how it works…in my head anyway. A battleship should always beat a battle cruiser on paper in a one on one situation. Since this is multiplayer only, a situation like that can happen an awful lot. This got me to thinking about balance issues. To me, balance is not an issue. Just look at my first project. The HL1 mod “Hostile Intent” which I designed and managed. It’s a very tactical FPS. The game, on the surface, is unbalanced as hell sometimes. But underneath the surface the game evens out and becomes balanced. I personally have no problem with 1 sniper clearing out the enemy team round after round after round. Why? Well, I used to say “Because that is realistic. Deal with it.” That still holds true somewhat but my reasoning now is “It’s up to you lazy guys to figure out a way to take that sniper out. If you keep running at him and getting killed you deserve to die. Go play Tetris.” That’s my theory behind this game too. If all that is left in a server are 3 escorts and a destroyer and your going up against a battleship that can launch 200 anti-capital ship torpedoes at you every 4 minutes from 120,000 kilometers away and they accelerate at 80,000 gravities…deal with it and figure out how to take that sucker out. Think tactically and be smart. Be sneaky, dirty and underhanded. And if you cant win, then leave the server because damage will cost you to requisition points which you’d rather use to upgrade your ship. Leaving is a viable option. I guess I am bringing this up because ive been reading a lot about game balance and the rock/paper/scissors theory which is for every rock you can cover it with paper. For every scissors to cut the paper there is a rock to smash it. Or for every barbarian the is an archer to kill it. For every archer there is a knight that can close with it quickly. For every knight there is a barbarian that can cut the horse out from under him. You see this in EVERTHING. It was in Homeworld. It is in every RTS game. It’s showing up with FPS’s now too. I don’t like it. I think its lame and boring. Players don’t have to think tactically. It’s like this “OH NO! a big tank is coming to destroy my base…ill just send my fighters.” I hate that. I really really hate that. What’s worse is that it continues along that path. The attacking tank has mobile AAA support so it’ll kill my fighter. So I’ll send lightly armored vehicles to move quick and kill the mobile AAA. But he has infantry with rocket launchers that will kill my quick, yet light armor. So I’ll send attack dogs to kill the infantry. But he brought steak to distract my attack dogs! OH NO! I guess I’ll research “Vegetarianism” for my attack dogs!! I WIN! That’s not how battles are fought. Battles are fought with cunning, planning, quick thinking and tactics. I agree it works well for what it is, but I personally do not enjoy that. So I am just wondering what other people think. Am I way off and totally wrong? It works for Hostile Intent. They still have serious and dedicated fans who love the idea of making the game work for them. Of knowing that if they have to face overwhelming odds, they have to think and fight. Not just fight. It’s a thinking mans game. That’s what I want my new project to be. But am I wrong? Can I break Fleets? I’d really like to know what the much more experienced developers think. Thank you. Charles

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Good points. For the type of game you are designing I agree that tactics are what should dominate the game play. In other types of games, such as single player RPG's it would be very bad to start the person out in the game facing the nemesis. At least it would be a very short game. You objective should be to entertain the player not torture. Good luck.

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Balance doesn't really mean that every unit has a counter. Balance would be Halo weapons compared to Doom weapons. Give me a shotgun in Doom and I can kill everything. Everything. Yet in Halo, I found myself prioritizing my arsenal depending on what was waiting around the corner. I loved sniping the little guys with pistols, but then blowing up the elites with needlers or plasma grenades. Yet I thought it was much easier to blast the green shield guys with a charged up plasma pistol than any other weapon.

I had a lot more fun with Halo's weapons than I did with Doom's. That is good balance. A diversity that adds a lot of flavor. If one unit kills everything better, why even bother making the other units?

There's nothing stopping you from balancing the game in other ways. One unit could be more powerful than any other unit, but require more fuel or ammo. Anything to offset the fact that it is superior.

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I think as long as there is a way to kill a superior Unit its ok if the game isn't balanced ... but in most games you just don't have enough freedom to kill an enemy with "tatics" only ...
And leaving the server would just suck in all games i know ;)

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Yes, you REALLY need to create a way for individuals to make sure that they stand a chance. Even the Death Star had a weak point that enabled an X-Wing to launch proton rockets or whatever they were in a hole and destroy the whole thing. You have to let everyone a chance to win.

If you decided that the bigger the ship, the more indestructible it became, and that you only got a bigger ship by winning encounters, it basically means that the best player in your first ten registered will be the ultimate fighter. Always, because it will have an edge from the beginning, and nothing will allow others to overcome that edge, BECAUSE THE EDGE IS BUILT IN.

What you COULD do is, the bigger, the least manoeuvrable. You definitely have more power to move more mass, but it also means more acceleration, and momentum. You need more space to accelerate, decelerate or turn about. You also need more time.

Even if you decide to allow for more dock bays in a battle cruiser, and more weapons, odds are that you'll have ENERGY weapons, which, by definition, will require energy to be used. You'll have to choose whedre to divert your energy to: the shields, the weapons, the survival maintenance systems or the thrusts. You can decide to get a very fast and manoeuvrable battle cruiser at the cost of putting more generators and thrusters in the cargo, but that means that basically you've made the biggest light fighter in the universe. And that your battle cruiser light fighter is also the heaviest, hence the least manoeuvrable of the light fighter category, while being the biggest target.

You may decide to put all your weapons at the front of your ship, but that means that once a ship gets past your prow, you're doomed, because you can't turn around.

All in all, you have to make room for downfalls for every tactical choice the player can make.

You can choose to be a light fighter, but that means you cannot take out on your own anything bigger than a frigate, no matter how much skill you put into it.
You can choose to run a frigate, because that means you can probably survive any encounter, be it Battle cruiser (you outrun it) or a light fighter (you destroy it). Plus you can probably make some serious damage on a cruiser.
You can choose to command a Battle Cruiser, but, because it has more cargo, it also has more options on how to customize it, and therefore more possibilities to go wrong with the customisation. You have more security, but also more spendings on repairs, because you are the biggest target in known universe.

And so on and so forth...

Plus remember. In deep space, there is not that many places in which you can hide to snipe people. And although, technically you CAN use projectiles, it means that you have to use your thrusters to counterbalance the thrusters of the projectiles, and tehrefore spend fuel or energy...

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Wow long and interesting thoughts Charles.

You're saying 'artificial balance' is boring and I agree. I think a game with a natural balance is much more satisfying. But I get the impression that you don't want to think about game balance, which I find slightly naive.
I think you missed the real purpose of game balance because you've seen so many use it rigidly: in an easy RPS solution.

Let's say we got
the Tank, which does extra damage against light vehicles
the Humvee which does extra damage against infantry
and infantry that have anti-tank weaponry that is good against slow tanks but very slow and awkward to use against Humvee's.

The tank and humvee superiority are very artificial. In some games these advantages make very little sense and are ground rules that have to be memorized (Warcraft III has this to a degree and Battlegrounds in the extreme. Check out the battle refference and see remember this is an RTS so that you absolutely do not have the time to check it out during the game.
(http://battlerealms.strategyplanet.gamespy.com/strategy-battlereference.php)

But the Infantry superiority is much less artificial. It's advantage is not based on some stat, but the ease with which the tactics can be pulled of. A humvee has to keep moving to easily dispose of infantry. But if the infantry is being controlled right and attacks the ground in the direction that the humvee is moving, they can still come out victoriously. This is a much more natrual advantage. You don't need the numbers behind the game to understand that you want to keep dodging that rocket or that you want to attack in front of the humvee.

To return to your naval game... If a ships is 100% superior to another ship, then how is that imbalance decided? Luck of the draw? I know very little about naval tactics, but I would like it if smaller ships have more options in where to go. They can get closer to shore and maybe use some shortcut rivers/canals that a massive battleship can not pass through.

Some designers push balance as far as they can, which results in a complex game where it's very hard to win for either side. In any war, did one of the sides scream 'IMBA!' as they were being ambushed by a more clever opponent?
You got this point perfectly and I see that point now and have learned from your post.
Just don't forget what balance is really about... if you get the choice between a small accurate revolver or a rusty unreliable one, you don't really get a choice at all. If you get the choice between a knife and a pistol, the choice gets depth. Is 6 bullets enough? Will you find more? How important is stealth?

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Is game balance really so important?

Short answer: Yes it is.
Slightly longer answer: You wouldn't mind a team game where one team has a button labelled "Win", and the other doesn't? That's unbalanced.

Very long answer:
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Original post by CharlesFXD
I wanted to ask you fellas about game balance and why you think it is so important. Personally, I feel artificial balance within a game is lame and boring. It is very one dimensional and I am wondering if I am the only one.

Define artificial balance, and tell me what's one dimensional about it.
Can't comment otherwise. :)

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I’ll explain.
The larger the vessel the more room it has internally for more component modifications. The larger the vessel is, the larger the weapon systems it can mount. The larger the vessel is, the larger the power plant and the larger the engines which means it A) produces more power per cycle and B) since the engines are bigger it can push more mass and still maneuver and accelerate effectively.
So a frigate is better than an escort. A destroyer is better than a frigate. A cruiser is better than a destroyer. A battle cruiser is better than a cruiser and a battleship is better than a battle cruiser.

But should it be better at *everything*?
Let me give an example from Eve Online, for a second. Yes, a battleship is much more powerful than a frigate, but the frigate still has its advantages, and the battleship still has weaknesses:
- The frigate is small. Smaller targets are harder to hit.
- The frigate is fast an agile, it can literally fly circles around the battleship, making it harder for the battleship's cannons to track the frigate.
- The frigates' weapons have no problem hitting the battleship

As for the battleship:
- It's huge. Huge targets are ridiculously easy to hit. Of course, it's got more armour and shields to compensate, but it's still easy to hit.
- It's slow. Slow targets are easy for your guns to track. So you can't hope to dodge incoming fire
- Its guns tend to be huge. Huge weapons have a larger "spread", meaning if they hit a tiny target like a frigate, only a small amount of the total damage will be dealt. If they hit a big target, full damage will be done.
- Bigger ships take longer to lock on to a target, making you unable to fire back in the early stage of the combat.

What this means is:
If you're in a frigate, fighting against a battleship, you're pretty much screwed. The battleship is just more powerful.
But that doesn't mean there's nothing you can do. You can put up a fight, you can try to survive. You can exploit your larger enemy's weaknesses. Or you can maybe beat the battleship if you gang up with a few other people in frigates. The battleship isn't well suited for fighting these tiny opponents. The frigate has no such handicap against larger targets (other than its tiny weapons and low armor/shields)

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A battleship should always beat a battle cruiser on paper in a one on one situation. Since this is multiplayer only, a situation like that can happen an awful lot.

But should it be better at *everything*? And how much more powerful should it be?
And what about people who don't have a battle cruiser? Wouldn't it become a bit boring for them if the entire game consists of fleeing from everyone else?

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But underneath the surface the game evens out and becomes balanced. I personally have no problem with 1 sniper clearing out the enemy team round after round after round. Why? Well, I used to say “Because that is realistic. Deal with it.”

That makes no sense.
Realism != gameplay. The real world is not balanced.
What do you want? A game or a simulator? Something to entertain, or something to reproduce real world situations?

Assuming you call it a game, what's to stop everyone from just playing snipers?
If you have an answer to that, the game isn't all that unbalanced. If you take refuge in "it's realistic", I'd go so far as to say you're not a game designer.
Realism has its place, certainly, and can in many ways improve some games. But it's not an excuse for disregarding other parts of the game.

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That still holds true somewhat but my reasoning now is “It’s up to you lazy guys to figure out a way to take that sniper out. If you keep running at him and getting killed you deserve to die. Go play Tetris.”

Lets go back to my initial example. One team has a "win" button, the other doesn't. Now it's up to the "loser" team to figure out ways to defeat the other team? Again, if that's your attitude, you're not a game designer.
You need to ensure that there *are* ways to take that sniper out. They don't have to be as easy as sniping is, but they have to be there. If you haven't designed them into the game (or made the game sufficiently open-ended and freeform to allow it to happen without being explicitly part of the design), then you've failed.

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That’s my theory behind this game too. If all that is left in a server are 3 escorts and a destroyer and your going up against a battleship that can launch 200 anti-capital ship torpedoes at you every 4 minutes from 120,000 kilometers away and they accelerate at 80,000 gravities…deal with it and figure out how to take that sucker out. Think tactically and be smart. Be sneaky, dirty and underhanded.

How, exactly? If the game designer can't think smart himself, how are the players supposed to? So I assume you have a few ideas for how *you* would take out that battleship. Let's hear it then. You just accused the players of laziness. Surely, you're better than that. [wink]

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And if you cant win, then leave the server because damage will cost you to requisition points which you’d rather use to upgrade your ship. Leaving is a viable option.

A game where quitting is an option, a part of the *design*?
Is the player meant to come back again? And if so, what would make him do that?

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I guess I am bringing this up because ive been reading a lot about game balance and the rock/paper/scissors theory which is for every rock you can cover it with paper. For every scissors to cut the paper there is a rock to smash it. Or for every barbarian the is an archer to kill it. For every archer there is a knight that can close with it quickly. For every knight there is a barbarian that can cut the horse out from under him.

Depends on how literally you take it. There doesn't have to be *one* archer for every knight. There just has to be a way to fight off a knight charge. If there isn't, everyone will use knights, and then there's not very much fun left in the game.
Please, show me a game that had no element of this whatsoever. One where one unit, weapon, playstyle or whatever was clearly and simply better than everything else. Better at *everything*.

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Players don’t have to think tactically. It’s like this “OH NO! a big tank is coming to destroy my base…ill just send my fighters.” I hate that. I really really hate that.

What should have happened instead? Would you prefer "Oh no! A big tank is coming to destroy my base. There's nothing I can do"?
Or how about "Oh no! A big tank is coming to destroy my base. Good thing I've been building big tanks too, because all the other units in the game are worthless"?

How would you have liked the player to "think tactically"?

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The attacking tank has mobile AAA support so it’ll kill my fighter. So I’ll send lightly armored vehicles to move quick and kill the mobile AAA.

But he has infantry with rocket launchers that will kill my quick, yet light armor. So I’ll send attack dogs to kill the infantry.

But he brought steak to distract my attack dogs! OH NO! I guess I’ll research “Vegetarianism” for my attack dogs!! I WIN!

That’s not how battles are fought. Battles are fought with cunning, planning, quick thinking and tactics.

How exactly is the above example different from cunning, planning, quick thinking and tactics? You have to react to what your opponent throws at you, you have to do so quickly, and you have to have planned well enough to have the right units ready.

It doesn't have to be as rigid as in your examples, and the fact that you don't even *realize* your own games have some form of balance doesn't really bode well.

Your spaceship game is balanced. It'd be unbalanced if the tiny frigate you start with is the most powerful in the game.
But as it is, there is some rudimentary form of balancing:
"The more powerful a ship is, the harder it is to get."
That's balancing too. Personally, I'd have gone with something a bit more complex, something that opens up some opportunities for player skill, for thinking, for using tactics, but your game still has *some* form of balance.

Balance doesn't mean "everything is equally powerful".
And it doesn't mean a strict "rock scissors paper" relationship between every unit in the game.
It just means that there has to be a use for everything. If one unit is superior in every respect, the game isn't balanced. There's no reason to build other units, and there's no way to apply tactics. Tactics is facing overwhelming odds and winning, by exploiting your strengths and the opponents weaknesses. But that obviously depends on the opponent having weaknesses, on you having strengths.
The opponents weaknesses may be tiny and subtle, while you are basically one big walking weakness, but they still have to be there, or there's just nothing you can do.

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I think as long as there is a way to kill a superior Unit its ok if the game isn't balanced

If that's the case, I'd say the game *is* balanced. More or less, anyway.

Games are about choices.
One symptom of unbalanced games is that the choices aren't there.
Choosing between, like someone suggested above, "a small accurate revolver or a rusty unreliable one" isn't a choice.
Choosing between the big tanks that can kill everything, and the tiny jeep that can do nothing isn't a choice.
Choosing to play on the team without the "win" button isn't a choice.
Choosing to kill or be killed isn't a choice.
If the outcome is determined in advance, and the player doesn't even get an opportunity to change it, then the game is unbalanced.

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I wanted to ask you fellas about game balance and why you think it is so important. Personally, I feel artificial balance within a game is lame and boring. It is very one dimensional and I am wondering if I am the only one.

Yes artificial balance is boring. It is usually coded in such a way that Unit A does 10 damage to Unit B but 3 Damage to Unic C, etc. This kind of artificiality can be very boring.

But considder this example:
The archers are a moderately fast unit as they lack heavy armour. Also they have the ability to shoot at range.

Pikemen have heavy armor and are therefore the slowest unit in the game, however their pikes are long enough to enable large groups of them to work together in ranks (so more than just the units in base contact can attack a target.

Knights are fast and have resonable armour.

If all units had the same Health/Hit Points, this creates a more natural balance.

this is still a Scissors/Paper/Rock balances (Archer beats Pikemen beast Knight beats Archer), but there is a bit of tactical thinking nessesary.

The archers can only beat the Pikemen if the Archers can retreat. Box them in and they are just kebabs on the ends of those pikes.

The Pikemen are only good against knights when the Pikemen are in groups. A single Knight would most likely be able to kill a single Pikemen, but get a group of 6 Pikemen against 6 Knights and the story is different, also if you put in a rule that Pikemen can only use their greater reach in a forward direction, then you can flank them with Knights (they are fast) and then have an advantage.

Archers might be able to beat Knights by sacrificeing some of their numbers to keep the knights pinned down in melee while the rest stand off and shoot from their long range.

So there is a S/P/R balance, but it is not hard coded and has a lot of flexability in it. This knid of system might also have modifiers for terrain, elevation, etc. The S/P/R might be a good base, but it should not be the "Be all and End all" of a combat system.

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What’s worse is that it continues along that path.

The attacking tank has mobile AAA support so it’ll kill my fighter. So I’ll send lightly armored vehicles to move quick and kill the mobile AAA.

But he has infantry with rocket launchers that will kill my quick, yet light armor. So I’ll send attack dogs to kill the infantry.

But he brought steak to distract my attack dogs! OH NO! I guess I’ll research “Vegetarianism” for my attack dogs!! I WIN!

In the end here you havent though balanced. You have included a "Best Choice" where if you take that choice your opponent can do nothing to win. So of course this doesn't work. In debating circles this type of example is called a Strawman as like the Sword Training Maniquin, it is created for the sole reason to be easy to beat, and it is not a real opponent.

If there was somehting that the player could do to counter the "Vegetarianism for my attack dogs" then it would be a better example, if the player did not make that choice, then they would have been defeated by tactical and strategic decissions.

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That’s not how battles are fought. Battles are fought with cunning, planning, quick thinking and tactics. I agree it works well for what it is, but I personally do not enjoy that.

What about using diversionary tactics by sending out one type of unit that would normally be defeated, running away and then ambushing it with units that would win. The example that you presented is full of tactics, where as your sniper example, has a distinct lack of them (ie: it is only player skill rather than tactical ability that can resolve it). The sniper example requiers quick thinking and reflexes, but not tactics or strategy.

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And if you cant win, then leave the server because damage will cost you to requisition points which you’d rather use to upgrade your ship. Leaving is a viable option.

So by this you are saying that you don't wnat people to play your game. Is that right?

You will get a few players (most likely 1) that will be able to stop anything that anyone can throw at them and the others will leave because they have no chance at winning. You now have just 1 player playing your game and then because no one will play with him/her they will then also leave and all your effort is now wasted.

Now balance is not just the S/P/R system. You can balance a game by using the Achillies Heal priciple (also know ans the best at and worst at system).

In this you make a particualr choice the Best at something and also have it the Worst at something else. As an example: Archers are "Best At" attacking without being attacked, but "Worst At" surviving if they are attacked.

For your Space Ship example: You could have the larger ships being the "Best At" taking and dealing damage (ie better Weapons and Armour), but worst at manouvers (ie slow to turn). This means that in a head to head fight the bigger ship will win, but if the situation is changed slightly (say in an asteroid field) the smaller ships will be able to dodge the asteroids and then use them for cover to attack the bigger ship, also the smaller ship can manouver into weapon arc shadow (places where less (or no weapons) weapons can hit them) of larger ships (like near the engines) and the larger ships can not manouver and shake the smaller ship.

This Achillie's Heal means that every unit should have some form of disadvantage. And not just price or experience costs, it should have gameplay disadvantages otherwise you get a broken balance and the game becomes "Who has this one best Unit/Choice/Etc.

For a Sniper a "Best of/Worst of" could be: The sniper is Best at hitting a target at a long range, but the sniper has the worst rate of fire and they can't hit a close, moving target very easily. Thus in an area where the sniper has a good view over a long distance, they will be a good choice, but on a map with lots of cover and close quarters fighting, they will most likely be a hinderance.

The problem with this is that it is dependant on the map. This means that if someone realy likes to snipe, they can design a map that has a large tower and open fields so that no other choice is viable. A better solution would be to have some other weapon/item (like smoke grenades or flares) that would obscure the sight of a sniper and thus allow a group to avoid beign directly targeted by the sniper.

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We have 3 tiers of vessels and each tier is a mirror image of the next only the ships have more mass. They are simply larger.

This is a very bad way to balance a game, just making then "Mirror Images" is not a good idea. Youo also claim that a R/P/S system is not found in the real world.

It is. It is called Combined Arms Theory and S/P/R is just one result of it.

If you want more infomation on games, have a look at Game Theory too.

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Leaving is a viable option.


Not if you want people to play your game rather than hunt for viable servers or just quit out of annoyance.


Personally, I think you're completely off base. Sure, games could (and should) allow a few weaker forces to win via craftiness. The problem comes that you're assuming that only the weaker force will be crafty. In the practical world, that's not true. Often the better, craftier player is the one winning the battles, which grants mightier forces, which win more battles, which grants....

Great fun for the winners who can bully around all comers who've no real chance. I think that such design is an abomination, though the millions of Counterstrike players probably disagree.

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I think your design sounds like crap. Sorry, but I wouldn't play a game that sounds like that.

Few things from history. Battlecruisers were for the most part junk. They were big targets, slower than smaller targets, with the guns of a battleship but lacking the armour. Yes, they could have done great as raiders, however once they were spotted they could quickly be taken out.

Battleships were junk. They were big, slow targets.

Ever hear of a PTboat? Little boats, usually with heavy machine guns to take out aircraft, sometimes a light cannon, and torpedo tubes. These little boats were fast, and packed one hell of a punch, I can't remember if it was true or just a story, but one of these little wooden boats could have taken out a hulking battleship.

Of course, that is all before modern firecontrols and radar systems. These days larger boats with more field staying power firing anti-ship missiles are king.

So, where does this lead us? Away from your totaly linear "Bigger is always better" to a cyclic "ships that are just a bigger are likely to win, but if too big and too specialised for big ships small ones will take them down"

Examples:
A)50tonne, 100km/h torpedo/missile boat
B)2000tonne, 60km/h Corvette
C)5000tonne, 45km/h destroyer
D)20000tonne, 30km/h battleship

A stands a fair chance of scoring a deadly hit on D without getting hits, the large, slow guns of D are unlikely to score a hit before A has its shots off and is running away.

But A isn't immune, B with fair speed and faster, lighter guns stands a fair chance of taking out A which has almost no staying power. Also B can be deadly to D with a little more luck, but being slower and a larger target makes it easier to kill.

D can stand a fair chance of taking out two or three Cs, but still a fleet of 6 As, 6 Bs, 3 Cs and a D are going to be able to handle just about anything smaller.

Battleship going against the fleet? pull the destoyers back, they're too big of targets while not having the armour to stand up to them. Screen your Battleship with the Corvettes, giving the attacker lots of targets, flank him with your PTs and hit him hard with your own battleship. Your destoryers and a few Corvettes guard your flanks against surprise attacks from smaller ships.

I'm sure this is basically what you were saying, but real life is a lot different than "bigger ship is better and needs less 'sneakyness' to win". The bigger the ships you have, the more careful you have to be. If you are someone walking around with a small cord in your pocket that you use to choke people to death in back alleys, you're hard to know you are a threat. If you are sailing around in a few thouand tons of iron and cannon, your intentions and threat is fairly clear and much easier to spot.

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