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Zileas

Shameless Self Plug (Play Balance Article)

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Hi All, Gamedev just posted my game balance article. You can see it on the news page. The link is: http://www.gamedev.net/reference/design/features/balance/ Let me know what you think! Tom Edited by - Zileas on February 22, 2002 11:51:44 AM

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I printed it out and read it right away.

Thought it was a great article. Lots of actual facts and details and references (instead of the usually vague comments people like me make).

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I thought it was a good article, although I disagreed strongly with the Fragmentation formula. I''ve always found many small units to beat a single larger unit, since (a) most games do indeed model some sort of attrition on damaged units, by slowing them down or so on, and (b) many small units present a harder target to hit than a single large one.

Apart from that, it all made perfect sense.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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very nice article, I''m glad that you brought up some points that I''ve tried to point out before, which seemingly have fallen on many deaf ears (for example the concept of macrobalancing before microbalancing...in my posts I called this going from the large to the small rather than vice versa)

However, there is one point I''d like make. Namely that I don''t think balancing is not such a crucial element as people may think. I had a post in here awhile back that questioned the very purpose of balance. If balance is done solely to try to create a 50/50 chance of winning all things being equal, then I believe that balancing as a design consideration is somewhat superfluous, and perhaps even unnecessary.

I think that some games require balancing...the sort of competition style games. But I think there are other styles of gaming where the point of balancing (to ensure equal chances of victory) can actually be self-defeating. In my post, people came up with the idea of "victory conditions", but I think though this can cover some cases, it''s still missing something of the point. It''s a rather philosophical point, but I think it can introduce another element of gameplay.

We tend to equate games with the goal of "winning". Balancing gives us a sense of confidence that it was the player''s skill that allowed this victory. But I think there are other measuring sticks and other goals that can be pursued other than winning. In these styles of games, balance is not only necessary, but perhaps undesirable.

I know it sounds crazy to consider making a game where the odds are stacked against you, and more than likely the player will lose...but think of many of the greatest movies of all time. They were about sacrifice and duty, no matter the cost. I''m a firm believer you can''t teach a player the same feeling of sacrifice and duty as can be felt in movies or books when you have a good chance of victory.

I just thought it would be important to point out that balancing should not be a necessary requisite of games...and not do to poor planning, but a conscious design consideration

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Hey Kylotan,

The fragmentation formula is a mathematical truth within the parameters defined. Your are bringing in arbitrary additional game rules which of course make it "not work?

The things you mention which can negate its effect, namely damaged units degenerating, and smaller targets being harder to hit, are properties of specific games. I''m talking about a very abstract mathematical truth It applies to most situations, if adapted properly.

Thanks for the feedback Glad you liked it overall

Tom

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Dauntless:

I believe balance is absolutely crucial, and i see most of it as bringing out the gameplay you want to be seen. Its not about 50/50 fairness most of the time, but merely, abut game elements all being relatively useful, or else not there at all.

It is a fairness thing with multiplayer, but thats just one application.

Zileas

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Sorry Zileas, but I still disagree with you about balncing being crucial, since it really depends on the kind of game that you want to make. If you want to make a competitive style game, then balance IS crucial. But if what the game designer is looking for is an emotional experience, then I think balancing has to be thought of in different terms.

Now when I say "balanced", I don''t necessarily mean 50/50 balance, but this is the most common. I also refer to "balance" as a verb. In other words there is the adjective "balance", as in "all things are in balance" (in this sense balance and equilibrium or equality are synonyms), then there is the verb balance as in, "balance the game so that it''s impossible for a player not to have a freedom of choice".

See the difference? I disagree with the adjective form of balance....to have things in "balance". But I do agree with the verb form in that there must be some forethought and planning done so that you don''t wind up with a game that you can only play 10 minutes before realizing you can proceed no further.

If you mean balancing in the verb form to make sure that things have a rational and consistent meaning and/or purpose, then I agree entirely. To me, balancing is not about making things fair, but about making sure that there is a logical consistency between all the various elements...in your terminology, the macro world has to make sense, though even here it is not crucial for things to be "even". As I pointed out in the other post, you can take several examples from history in which the side that everything going against it won. To make a game "even" is only one kind of balancing.

But, everything I mention here is for what I coin "subjective games". If you are trying to design a game with quantifiable goals, and are designing a competitive game (I tend to call these games more "sports" than games, since it conveys their purpose more clearly). So I think your article is superb for these kinds of games, but I categorically believe that balancing (in the adjective sense) is not necessary for all styles of games.

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Great article - however you don''t note the caveat involved with ''game element modularity'' in that it can easily lead to an issue with what you call ''complexity control''.

If the designers of SC had in fact put mutalisks in their own class, separated their attack types etc, then the results could be quite unintuitive. In most cases, designers will be calling on common knowledge to help players understand the game (eg. broodling only affects organic units, which is a heck of a lot easier to grasp than a list of units). But then you have to stay within the boundaries of common knowledge if the game is complex. You can''t just ''tweak the levers'' willy-nilly.

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quote:
Original post by Zileas
The fragmentation formula is a mathematical truth within the parameters defined.

1 == 2, for sufficiently large values of 1.
quote:
Your are bringing in arbitrary additional game rules which of course make it "not work?

The things you mention which can negate its effect, namely damaged units degenerating, and smaller targets being harder to hit, are properties of specific games. I''m talking about a very abstract mathematical truth It applies to most situations, if adapted properly.

Let''s just say that I believe the parameters were insufficient since most games I''ve encountered model one or both of those factors. I feel maybe this should have been pointed out, as using mathematical equations tend to carry a lot of weight and may bias designers to make the smaller units cheaper, when this could result in their game getting even less balanced due to the presence of one or both of the above factors.

[ MSVC Fixes | STL | SDL | Game AI | Sockets | C++ Faq Lite | Boost ]

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