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glhf

How to design a great combat system + mechanics? (PvP)

24 posts in this topic

Most games I've played have had imbalanced or good enough or sometimes even terrible combat systems + mechanics.
Pretty much just one game I think that had a outstanding combat system + mechs.

I won't get into the argument about why I think class based games are doomed to be imbalanced in the 1v1 aspect.
For sake of avoiding that let's assume in this thread that class based games can be balanced as well.

So why is it so rare to find great combat systems + mechanics in games?
I'm sure the designers thought they had created a great great combat s+m.

So this means that most designers are terrible when it comes to PvP.
And I've actually had the opportunity to fight a few devs in different indy games so I know it's true.

So how can we design better combat systems?
First thing I think we all have to just assume is that we designers SUCK at PvP.
Maybe you are great.. But you have to assume you suck.

Another thing before I'll leave it up to us all to start discussing how to design a great combat system + mechanics..
It's already extremely tough to create an interesting, complex, advanced, hard to master etc etc combat s+m..
but if your game has classes in it as well, then you face the additional challenge of balancing these classes.. Which I've never seen accomplished in any game I've played so far.

So if you make a skill based game (no classes) then you only need to worry about creating a good combat system without without sweating about class imbalances.

Discuss!
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1325719197' post='4899750']
Most games I've played have had imbalanced or good enough or sometimes even terrible combat systems + mechanics.
Pretty much just one game I think that had a outstanding combat system + mechs.

I won't get into the argument about why I think class based games are doomed to be imbalanced in the 1v1 aspect.
For sake of avoiding that let's assume in this thread that class based games can be balanced as well.

So why is it so rare to find great combat systems + mechanics in games?
I'm sure the designers thought they had created a great great combat s+m.

So this means that most designers are terrible when it comes to PvP.
And I've actually had the opportunity to fight a few devs in different indy games so I know it's true.

So how can we design better combat systems?
First thing I think we all have to just assume is that we designers SUCK at PvP.
Maybe you are great.. But you have to assume you suck.

Another thing before I'll leave it up to us all to start discussing how to design a great combat system + mechanics..
It's already extremely tough to create an interesting, complex, advanced, hard to master etc etc combat s+m..
but if your game has classes in it as well, then you face the additional challenge of balancing these classes.. Which I've never seen accomplished in any game I've played so far.

So if you make a skill based game (no classes) then you only need to worry about creating a good combat system without without sweating about class imbalances.

Discuss!
[/quote]

You then replace class imbalances with skill imbalances. Balance is key to any game, class or skill based. Balancing properly is something that most dev teams aren't super great at.
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[quote name='Caldenfor' timestamp='1325724963' post='4899790']
You then replace class imbalances with skill imbalances. Balance is key to any game, class or skill based. Balancing properly is something that most dev teams aren't super great at.
[/quote]

I'm assuming you mean an in-game skill such as swordsmanship just as an example.
But it's just not true.. Everyone has access to the same skills.
If it's a pvp focused game.. then everyone will probably have the same skills.. balanced.
Or maybe they chose skills more fitting for another part of PvP.. but then it's their choice to focus on that part of PvP instead of 1v1 duels.
Maybe they chose 1v1 skills but meant for ganking instead of dueling.

But they have the possibility of choosing skills for 1v1 duels... and then it's going to be balanced.
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If you want to have a class based game..
IMO the best way of balancing is to make each class for a different role.
Such as one that is best as a 1v1 duelist, one that is a support class, one that is a ganking class maybe one that is jack of all master of none.. etc
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Games with different classes never balance completely at all, afaik thats part of the system. Take a game like starcraft, there are still balance issues a year after release. Or Leagues of legends/Dota that have countless of heroes all with there own unique strategies, stats and abilities. But hey those games still play very well due to the fact they keep balancing the game. There will always come a player that exploits somekind of trait belonging to a certain character/race that is just something you keep having to deal with.

A little outbalanced is not a great deal if the game is deep enough and skill gets more involved. Some people will be able to deal with certain overpowered abilities more then others it's up to the developer to see what has to be changed and what not.
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[quote name='menyo' timestamp='1325786008' post='4900031']
Games with different classes never balance completely at all, afaik thats part of the system. Take a game like starcraft, there are still balance issues a year after release. Or Leagues of legends/Dota that have countless of heroes all with there own unique strategies, stats and abilities. But hey those games still play very well due to the fact they keep balancing the game. There will always come a player that exploits somekind of trait belonging to a certain character/race that is just something you keep having to deal with.

A little outbalanced is not a great deal if the game is deep enough and skill gets more involved. Some people will be able to deal with certain overpowered abilities more then others it's up to the developer to see what has to be changed and what not.
[/quote]

I agree that class based games can't be balanced but like I said in OP, Let's assume in this thread that it can be balanced but not easily.

Also another issue you brought up, I didn't really want to say in the OP.
But like I said we have to assume us designers suck at PvP.. And the question is, What do we do then?
We can't just listen to what all the players are saying on the forums.. Majority of them are also bad/don't know what they are talking about.
Even players that reach the top rankings can be completely clueless to how they are winning etc. It's pretty funny.

So there's we can't trust ourselves and we don't know which players actually know what they are talking about..
What do we then do?

Recap: We can't trust ourselves, we have to assume we don't know exactly what we're doing. We don't know which players know how to do it the right way. So my conclusion, I hate it but.. We have to design the combat so that the majority, mass players enjoy it. Aka simpify it, add RNG and classes for lots of diversity and randomness etc.
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Imbalanced systems come from simplification. Most online RPGs are dumbed down so much that all fights become a race to 0 HP. If you deal more damage, you win. If a class ends up dealing more damage overall, it's seen as imbalanced. Randomness will make other classes feel like they stand a chance, but overall, the more powerful class will win more often.

To get a balanced system, you need to offer players a choice that will put the combat in their favor at any point. Even if they lost a part of the battle, they can still come victorious because they used the right skill at the right time. It should be like playing rock paper scissor until someone wins 5 times. Because you lose the first 3 rounds do not mean you lost the battle, just that you are unlikely to win it. For that, you need to add other mechanics, but that ends up adding complexity because it doesn't follow the standard damage race battle system.
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[quote name='Tiblanc' timestamp='1325799225' post='4900118']
Imbalanced systems come from simplification. Most online RPGs are dumbed down so much that all fights become a race to 0 HP. If you deal more damage, you win. If a class ends up dealing more damage overall, it's seen as imbalanced. Randomness will make other classes feel like they stand a chance, but overall, the more powerful class will win more often.

To get a balanced system, you need to offer players a choice that will put the combat in their favor at any point. Even if they lost a part of the battle, they can still come victorious because they used the right skill at the right time. It should be like playing rock paper scissor until someone wins 5 times. Because you lose the first 3 rounds do not mean you lost the battle, just that you are unlikely to win it. For that, you need to add other mechanics, but that ends up adding complexity because it doesn't follow the standard damage race battle system.
[/quote]

I like what you are saying, but rock paper scissor was a poor example since it's luck based.

I think Mount and Blade: Warband is an awesome game to use as an example.
If you wear medium armor you can take 5+ hits.. This allows exactly what you said... if you fail/made a few mistakes that let him hit you 2 or 3 times... you can still win if you get your shit together and stop failing.
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Rock Paper Scissor is as much luck based than a game where you can choose between a few actions and the result will depend on what action the other guy did. Fighting games are fancy RPS implementations and they are not considered luck based.
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[quote name='Tiblanc' timestamp='1326114448' post='4900933']
Rock Paper Scissor is as much luck based than a game where you can choose between a few actions and the result will depend on what action the other guy did. Fighting games are fancy RPS implementations and they are not considered luck based.
[/quote]

Not really. Pure RPS is luck based because you choose your moves simultaneously and blind - so barring any deviations from pure randomness due to people trying outguess one another, is effectively dumb luck.

A fighting game has non-simultaneous moves, each of which require a certain element of skill to pull off in the first place. A skilled player can identify what his opponent is doing and pull off a suitable (counter)attack - and do it successfully - before the opponent's attack lands. This is just move-by-move level tactics - on the scale of a whole match the player can identify which moves his opponent favours (unlike RPS, the number of moves and the skill required to pull them off means that not all moves will be chosen equally) and use that knowledge to his own advantage.

So to break that down into a list of things that you are likely to want:

• A broad selection of options to deal with any situation
• different options have different 'costs' and/or skill requirements to pull off
• moves have a window of opportunity during which they maybe countered or avoided
• audio/visual cues to reveal information about your opponents moves, strengths and weaknesses. Choice is worthless without information - however information should not entirely trivialise the player's choices.
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This depends on the player's skill level. At high level, yes they can identify and use a counter move and this is not random at all. However, you need lots of practice and you need to study the game down to the frame length of every skill and have muscle memory of combos. For mortals, the reaction time is too slow to counter moves as they come, so it becomes a game of second guessing where you pick a move and pit it against whatever the other guy picked. Pattern identification is crucial at this level, just like it is with RPS. It's easy to identify and counter the thought patterns of an RPS player after a few games. Few people play RPS in a pure random manner.
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[quote name='Tiblanc' timestamp='1326200162' post='4901281']
This depends on the player's skill level. At high level, yes they can identify and use a counter move and this is not random at all. However, you need lots of practice and you need to study the game down to the frame length of every skill and have muscle memory of combos. For mortals, the reaction time is too slow to counter moves as they come, so it becomes a game of second guessing where you pick a move and pit it against whatever the other guy picked. Pattern identification is crucial at this level, just like it is with RPS. It's easy to identify and counter the thought patterns of an RPS player after a few games. Few people play RPS in a pure random manner.
[/quote]

Trust me, You don't need the be a "pro" to start recognizing moves and countering them.
MOST people including average players and sometimes even the less than average players can do that too.

To be a "high lvl" player aka pro you need to do a lot more than just that.
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1325797910' post='4900108']
Recap: We can't trust ourselves, we have to assume we don't know exactly what we're doing. We don't know which players know how to do it the right way. So my conclusion, I hate it but.. [b]We have to design the combat so that the majority, mass players enjoy it. Aka simpify it, add RNG and classes for lots of diversity and randomness etc.[/b]
[/quote]

I just thought I'd explain why I came to this conclusion which most games have as well.
The difference is that they ain't trying to create a perfect combat system, their goal is just pleasing as many players as they can to make money.

My reasoning is that if we can't trust ourselves and don't know who to trust.. It's best to trust the majority who says the same thing as each other.

I'd love if anyone came up with a better theory about how to create a masterpiece combat system + mechanics because I really hate mainstream games.
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I believe it's fairly easy to design entertaining combat mechanics if you drop the the RPG-goggles.

Pretty much nobody even discussed balancing of first person shooters until the arrival of level based shooters and while some maintain that several fighting games are severely broken, it takes a lot of dedication to arrive at a point where such nuances become noticeable. Also there are a number of sword fighting games that have extremely rewarding player versus player combat, despite the usage of inventories and skill-levels. The list goes on.

What I'm saying is that player versus player combat in traditional RPGs are just a "run to 0 HP" because that is exactly how they are designed. That works very well in a table-top game but doesn't deliver when you want interesting player versus player fights.
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[quote name='In.Vain' timestamp='1326218138' post='4901358']
I believe it's fairly easy to design entertaining combat mechanics if you drop the the RPG-goggles.

Pretty much nobody even discussed balancing of first person shooters until the arrival of level based shooters and while some maintain that several fighting games are severely broken, it takes a lot of dedication to arrive at a point where such nuances become noticeable. Also there are a number of sword fighting games that have extremely rewarding player versus player combat, despite the usage of inventories and skill-levels. The list goes on.

What I'm saying is that player versus player combat in traditional RPGs are just a "run to 0 HP" because that is exactly how they are designed. That works very well in a table-top game but doesn't deliver when you want interesting player versus player fights.
[/quote]

Maybe I wasn't clear enough that an entertaining combat system wasn't the intention but a balanced one.. and complex etc.
Didn't mention shooter games because that is extremely easy to balance as I'm assuming everyone knows.

I believe rpg styled combat systems can work great if done well, I still think the combat system Ultima Online had has been the best one so far.
Back then (like 10-15 years or something?) I wasn't elite as I am now but I was limited by my internet connection back then giving me high ping.
But I am 99% sure that when you get near to the max potential of human skill in that game.. It's not possible to kill another player 1v1 if both are playing perfectly.. Which is great, It took a lot of skill to heal yourself, and even more skill to kill, and the only way to kill was by playing perfectly longer than your opponent and putting enough pressure to cause him to make a mistake, and to try and be the attacker as much as possible instead of the healer.
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1326224096' post='4901382']
I believe rpg styled combat systems can work great if done well, I still think the combat system Ultima Online had has been the best one so far.
Back then (like 10-15 years or something?) I wasn't elite as I am now but I was limited by my internet connection back then giving me high ping.
But I am 99% sure that when you get near to the max potential of human skill in that game.. It's not possible to kill another player 1v1 if both are playing perfectly.. Which is great, It took a lot of skill to heal yourself, and even more skill to kill, and the only way to kill was by playing perfectly longer than your opponent and putting enough pressure to cause him to make a mistake, and to try and be the attacker as much as possible instead of the healer.
[/quote]

That's about what I said earlier about creating a combat system that isn't a race to 0HP but instead relies on higher level mechanics. In the case of UO, it worked because their power range was narrow. They could make it so you were in a situation where you could counter the damage by healing, but not enough to completely shut down someone. This is a delicate balance that is impossible with the current RPG design that is based on infinite power growth. I remember back when I played WoW, before the first expansion, my priest with purple gear could out heal any rogue that wasn't in full blue, without losing any mana. Highly varied character power and pvp based on a race to 0HP do not play well with each other.

For these type of games, one way to do it is with a volatile value used to absorb damage and direct flow and a hard to lose, hard to regain health system. Some examples :
- Dissidia : 2 types of attacks. Landing one type boosts the potential HP damage of the second type of attacks. Even if you are low HP, if you get hit you can still come back.
- Infantry : Keeping your energy high almost negates damage. As long as you space out incoming hits, you gain the upper hand. If your energy is drained, you become highly vulnerable.
- Bloodline Champions : You can only regain up to a maximum HP value. If you take too much damage, your max HP will lower. If you space out damage, you can get back to full. As long as you don't allow your max HP to get lower, you don't lose potential power.

Then you build abilities to manipulate this value in various ways and counter other abilities. As long as you properly counter and manipulate the combat flow in your favor, you maintain your power, but if you fail a few times in a row, you get closer to defeat.
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I agree with the post before mine. Lower the power curve from start to end game and it generally provides more enjoyable PvP.

I guess the real issue I am coming up against is in regards to how to make PvP in an open world without it becoming a gankfest.

For example: World of Warcraft(Don't slap me, seriously).

I found the open world PvP on a PvP server to hold no meaning aside from harassing other players. There was no "greater good" for your side to fight for. What could be done to make the PvP more meaningful?

On the other side I found PvE servers to be dreadfully boring. Alliance and Horde walking side by side? Dirty.

So, how could we avoid having PvE and PvP servers? Well, to have both built into one game. Those that want to PvE can have a safe area to avoid PvP conflict, but the PvE players travel would have to be limited to avoid PvP areas. So how can this all be done using the world design of World of Warcraft as a basic concepting process? How can you promote healthy meaningful PvP while still providing an enjoyable experience for those that don't care as much about PvP?

Simply having PvP and PvE servers is not a good solution in my mind. It causes a division of players right from the get go. I see guilds get split up because of bad experiences using systems like this in the past. How can we avoid that in the future?
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[quote name='Caldenfor' timestamp='1326303564' post='4901698']
I agree with the post before mine. Lower the power curve from start to end game and it generally provides more enjoyable PvP.

I guess the real issue I am coming up against is in regards to how to make PvP in an open world without it becoming a gankfest.

For example: World of Warcraft(Don't slap me, seriously).

I found the open world PvP on a PvP server to hold no meaning aside from harassing other players. There was no "greater good" for your side to fight for. What could be done to make the PvP more meaningful?

On the other side I found PvE servers to be dreadfully boring. Alliance and Horde walking side by side? Dirty.

So, how could we avoid having PvE and PvP servers? Well, to have both built into one game. Those that want to PvE can have a safe area to avoid PvP conflict, but the PvE players travel would have to be limited to avoid PvP areas. So how can this all be done using the world design of World of Warcraft as a basic concepting process? How can you promote healthy meaningful PvP while still providing an enjoyable experience for those that don't care as much about PvP?

Simply having PvP and PvE servers is not a good solution in my mind. It causes a division of players right from the get go. I see guilds get split up because of bad experiences using systems like this in the past. How can we avoid that in the future?
[/quote]

You're about to make the thread go off topic :/
I want to give my opinion but then I'd just help making it off topic lol

[size=1]Give consequences for PKing. OR What I always believed is that players will and should handle it themselves. Don't walk around like a sitting duck for any PKs is a skill too. You can't make PvP limited zones or vice versa because it's same thing as creating instanced battlegrounds or PvP/PvE servers. [/size]
[size=1]Also Open PvP NEEDS death penalties.[/size]
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[quote name='glhf' timestamp='1326308058' post='4901718']
You're about to make the thread go off topic :/
I want to give my opinion but then I'd just help making it off topic lol
[/quote]

My apologies, that isn't my intention at all. It takes more than just the specific combat decisions to make good "PvP mechanics", as in where PvP actually fits within the game. If this is not the intention of the thread I can start another one at the OP's request. I was only using WoW, which I generally don't like to do, to try and get into what actually makes for good meaningful PvP and the mechanics necessary to invoke it by using a game that a lot of people have experience with and what jumped out to me as an overall weak PvP product. Battlegrounds and Arenas have their place, but that isn't sustainable, enjoyable, and meaningful PvP.


*Edit*
Or, using the world of EQ1, without the need for tiny zonelines and remove the loading screens as well. The cities had NPC faction restrictions to prevent certain races from entering certain cities, but how can it translate to PvP without the entire world being people just ganking each other all the time? Trying to provide at least some form of casual PvE where you can play in peace with friends should be provided.
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None of you explained why balanced 1vs1 games are better ?

Lets take league of legends, they claim that class unbalance is what makes the game "fun", allowing more diverse playstyle, options.
A 1% hp tryndamere can easily go 1vs5 and win alone. He kills enemies in 2 hits=kills every 1 sec, and his ult makes him unkillable for 5 seconds. If fed he can heal more dmg than enemies deal.
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Don't try and balance the abilities, but instead balance the strategies.

In this, "Strategies" means the combination of abilities and player choices that the player thinks will lead them to victory.

Most developers try to balance the abilities (or attributes) of a system. However, even in a system where all these are perfectly balanced, there can exist unbalanced strategies.

take for example a strategy game where every single unit is perfectly balanced. If the players pit units against units then the game is perfectly balanced and the player who use the right units against the right enemy units will win. However, a player instead decides not to engage the enemy units and instead does a "tank rush" and attacked the enemy base. This strategy beats the enemy each time if the enemy ties to engage unit on unit. This is not a balanced game even though the units are perfectly balanced. It is because the strategies are unbalanced that the game is unbalanced.

The problem is that strategies are emergent. That is the developers don't pre determine the strategies used in the game, but that they are created in how the player chooses to use the elements of the game. This makes it almost impossible to balance the strategies of a game.
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Edtharan: I agree here, skills pools (abilities) and enviroment (is also made by players that cooperates) makes the player to choose the strategies. If the game was purely in dungeon lets say where as an archer I will have to deal the enemies from close combat all the time then it should be totaly balanced (items, general rules like no penalty from close for the archer) to the melee approach from close range. Or instead of dungeon consider huge speed of movement of the characters. So for a general game class to class balancing should be done across various environments which includes terains(probability of terain taken from lvl design with heavier weighted boss areas) and cooperating players... that are my few cents.

Btw: I 100 % agree with Tiblanc about RPS game systems, and the good news is that it can be invented, and it is quite elegant Ying Yang system that can even more than was asked here. Makes no longer beginner player a white noise as the stat are not runing to the skies and still has leveling. Allows by choosing skills hardcore and casual play. Allows mixing martial arts. Explains why 1 year Tai Ji student will lose to 1 year western boxing student (not a 100% I know) depicts what has he learned and what are his oportunities... But honestly even though it looks to me intuitive and natural I am not sure if the players would like to have 3D skill tree for example...
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[quote]class based games are doomed to be imbalanced in the 1v1 aspect.[/quote]
They aren't doomed. They are just not meant to be played that way. Class-based games are meant to be played in teams. You can never beat a tank with a healer, but if you try 2 tanks+healer vs 3 tanks, the former might be able to completely annihilate the latter. That's what balancing is about in class-based games: you don't just take into consideration which character is best in 1v1 combat, but also have to take other roles and skill into consideration. A bad team will choose classes based on how well they handle them in 1v1 combat situations, a good team will choose classes based on how they can raise the chances of a win. If by having a healer character you can take out more enemies with your tank char than by having 2 tanks - you get a healer. Balancing is about the paths you can take to win the game. If each player has the same amount of paths they can take to win the game - that game is perfectly balanced. The game is won by making it so that the amount of paths your opponent can take to win diminishes until it's zero.
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[quote name='eugene2k' timestamp='1328458573' post='4909840']
[quote]class based games are doomed to be imbalanced in the 1v1 aspect.[/quote]
They aren't doomed. They are just not meant to be played that way. Class-based games are meant to be played in teams. You can never beat a tank with a healer, but if you try 2 tanks+healer vs 3 tanks, the former might be able to completely annihilate the latter. That's what balancing is about in class-based games: you don't just take into consideration which character is best in 1v1 combat, but also have to take other roles and skill into consideration. A bad team will choose classes based on how well they handle them in 1v1 combat situations, a good team will choose classes based on how they can raise the chances of a win. If by having a healer character you can take out more enemies with your tank char than by having 2 tanks - you get a healer. Balancing is about the paths you can take to win the game. If each player has the same amount of paths they can take to win the game - that game is perfectly balanced. The game is won by making it so that the amount of paths your opponent can take to win diminishes until it's zero.
[/quote]


This this this, a thousand times this. I get really tired of playing mmorpgs that are "balanced" and in which players whine and developers only create MORE stupid changes because people want to do 1x1 and base the current balance of classes on the results of fighting eachother on 1x1.

Groups that are actually playing their on roles are affected because "the healer heals, omg, thats op" "the tanker tanks, omg, thats op" "the mage deals too much damage, omg, thats op", hi, since when are rpgs based on 1x1? Go play a fighting game.

Classes and roles exist for diversity. The only way to have a balanced game in 1x1 is if every character is exactly the same. 1x1 is imbalanced when characters are different. Some characters are better than the others, some characters have useless skills, some players are able to bring out amazing power from a few selected characters, still no one complaing about imbalances on Mortal Kombat. But complain on World of Warcraft. Because you're [b]supposed[/b] to be fighting on 1x1, right? 1x1 is whats unbalanced.


[b]Anywhere.[/b]
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A big mistake is to get bogged down in balancing a system and numerics for dps/ hps/ effective health. Most games (MMO) are tied to this because they have to produces massive ammounts of low cost RPG combat, to then produce a dynamic PvP system from these limitations, so it is a poor place to take refence from.

Someone mentioned strategies and I think this is the right place to start, although the term that I use is " the dance". As I think you have to look at the opposing players as actually being partners. And your job when designing the combat "system" is to make the the dance as vibrant and dynamic as posible. I also like the metaphor because when applying it the resultant gameplay, if your gameplay is not fluid but jerky and cumbersome then its clear to see what needs to be improved.
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