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Thread: How do you define "balance" in the context of an MMO?

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    Plane Walker Cormyat's Avatar
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    Default How do you define "balance" in the context of an MMO?

    In my life I have yet to see an online game that's truly "balanced." Back in the early days of FPS shooters, when there was no kind of progression at all and your power depended solely on what kind of weapon you picked up on the ground, things still weren't balanced. Even though every avatar had equal innate abilities there were disparities of connection latency that gave the early broadband adopters a huge advantage and gave rise to the name "Low-ping bastards." The LPB's were the early targets of complaints of imbalance.

    MMO's are an entirely different animal, of course. It's the innate differences between different classes and builds as well as the gradual progression and growth of the strength of your character that, in part, defines MMO's.

    So already, just in the concept of an MMO, the idea of balance is trashed. Ranged classes have the innate advantage of distance when fighting a melee class, for example. Classes with high armor and mitigation have the innate advantages of being able to take more damage before being defeated. Stealth classes have the innate advantage of choosing the time and place of fights.

    Now add high-level, challenging PvE content to the mix.

    If devs are to have any hope of making a game that's "balanced" they have to first start with a definition of the word. What is balance? Is it that any and every class has the capability of killing any and every other class? Is that each class is dominant against one other class, gets owned by one other class, and is about equal to yet another class?

    How do you establish a framework of balance when so many people have such divergant opinions on the definition of the term?

  2. #2
    Prophet of Telara NatashaK's Avatar
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    If it leads to a faction imbalance, it can be games breaking. e.g. when warhammer buffed and nerfed a class, cities would fall one way or the other. This was a big problem.

    If the balance makes classes obsolete or you see raids with one token warrior tank, one bard, one cleric and 17 mages something's wrong. Not to pick on mages, it could be whatever class. In lineage2, we'd use heavy mages, then archers, then melee for our dps as the FoTM changed.

    I dont like pure dps races. I dont really like more than a few glass cannon builds - you should need to bring utility and survivability to PvE or PvP.

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    Sez
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    You can't.
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    Plane Walker
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    I personally think game balance is not as hard to achieve as people make it out to be. Even though it's hard to make it absolutely perfect, there are many games that manage to dial it in to a point where you can play whatever you like and do well.

    The biggest problem with imbalance in MMOs is just that the vast majority of MMOs tries to copy the Everquest format, which is a very flawed system. It has a lot of core issues that make it it unbalanced. Gear and levels placing characters so incredibly far apart in terms of power for example is a pretty big issue because it creates the whole notion of "Endgame" where you need to completely max out your guy before you can even really compete, just because that's the only time where nobody will steamroll you just based on equipment alone. So, the whole "carrot on a stick" from the getgo is trying to imunize yourself from imbalance. The healer system where the finish line in a fight constantly moves is another giant issue, because its completely impossible to balance a game in a way that makes it balanced both with or without a healer in a fight without making the healers themslves meaningless. Another really big one that kills balance in these kinds of games is focus fire. When you can apply the damage from a dozen characters to a single player there will always be a point where they die instantly, and as a result PvP cannot scale up to larger battles without becoming about nothing but range and burst damage, and in many cases cannot effectively scale down because classes are dialed in to be able to survive the focus fire in PvP encounters (For example, WoW 2vs2 arenas where healers were unkillable because they were balanced to not die easily in 3vs3, and 5vs5) Invisibility stealth is also a huge issue, because it allows stealth classes to always pick their fights, and the general rule of thumb in those games is that rogues get to negate any disadvantage to stealth with levels - talents that make them move faster while in stealth, or harder to detect etc.

    There are also things that aren't nescesarely unbalancing that are still really frustrating, like CC or oneshots. Even if CC is implemented in a way where it doesn't totally dominate, being unable to act is by far the most frustrating experience in a game. Oneshots also often aren't truely overpowered when you look at the final tally of kills for example POM Pyro mages from vanilla WoW didn't dominate the game despite their ability to occasionally produce a one shot kill, but the person getting one shotted still is going to be so annoyed that abilities like that are "fun breaking" even if they aren't balance breaking.

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    Ascendant Acex's Avatar
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    Even in perfectly balanced game this balance wont last long as there always will be baddies who will QQ to nerf till it happens...
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    Plane Walker
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    Not all nerfs are needed due to imbalance, they can also be needed due to frustrating mechanics.

    For example, imagine I have a character who has a spell that's instant cast, 50% of the time my target instantly dies, but the other 50% I die and the target is awarded the kill. From a mathmatical standpoint that's perfectly balanced, but you'd still be pissed every time I ran up to you and got lucky with that ability.

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    Ascendant Kevyne's Avatar
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    Best way to describe balance is to show what's imbalanced.

    In Cata Blizzard totally revamped healing (nuked it). In all these changes Holy paladins were totally changed (new power system). It became a FoTM class for about 3 months. Literally pwned the World of Logs. Today? It's a 180 turn, almost all top healers are Druids.

    That's verified imbalance. Not an opinion...
    http://worldoflogs.com/rankings/play...g_Descent/hps/

    Instead of having a mixture of classes on WoL topping the charts (to show healing diversity), when one class dominates there's a problem of s-e-r-i-o-u-s class imbalance. Certain fights will benefit certain healing classes, but when most fights - normal to heroic - show one class being dominate...yes it's out of whack.
    Last edited by Kevyne; 06-05-2011 at 03:34 AM.

  8. #8
    Banned Sawdomite's Avatar
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    Relative parity between all callings. This extends into relevant parts of the game technically outside of the callings but that affect them--SP vs. AP scaling, mitigation on different damage types, etc.

  9. #9
    Shield of Telara DeadlySight's Avatar
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    For me perfect balance would be

    PvE: All DPS Callings within 5% of each other at the highest end (which currently, W/M/R are)
    PvE: All Main Healing Callings viable (Clerics and Chloros are both viable)
    PvE: All Main Tank Callings viable (Close)
    PvP: Don't know, but a hard counter shouldn't be more than a 60/40 favorite
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    Ascendant Inixia's Avatar
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    For me perfect class balance is when equally skilled and geared players of different classes can influence the success of an objective to the same degree. In pve raiding this objective means contributing to the survival and defeat of a mob, in overland pvp I think this means being able to survive and defeat opponents as well as other classes in a battle with the avg pvp player number situation (probably somewhere between 1v1 and groupvgroup).

    But its also important to note that even if something makes gameplay more balanced doesn't mean its necessarily the best approach either, say you had three classes and each one has a unique instant win button for the class on their right (and a loss against the class on the left) just because this makes them all completely balanced getting rid of these tactics is still beneficial to the complexity and depth of gameplay even if it makes them less balanced.
    Last edited by Inixia; 06-05-2011 at 07:27 PM.

  11. #11
    Ascendant Inixia's Avatar
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    For me perfect class balance is when equally skilled and geared players can influence the success of an objective to the same degree. In pve raiding this means contributing to the survival and defeat of a mob, in overland pvp I think this means being able to survive and defeat opponents as well as other classes in a battle with the avg pvp player number situation (probably somewhere between 1v1 and groupvgroup).

    But its also important to note that even if something makes gameplay more balanced doesn't mean its necessarily the best approach either, say you had three classes and each one has a unique instant win button for the class on their right (and a loss against the class on the left) just because this makes them all completely balanced getting rid of these tactics is still beneficial to the complexity and depth of gameplay even if it makes the matchups less balanced by doing so.

    The point in the end of pvp is to compare skill between players in a meaningful way. And that means each has to have a reasonable chance of success on an equal gear and skill level, and be able to have skill reasonably effect those odds.
    Last edited by Inixia; 06-05-2011 at 07:32 PM.

  12. #12
    Rift Disciple NeverDeath's Avatar
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    "Balance" in an MMO can be summed up fairly simply:

    An impossible utopian state of affairs wherein every player everywhere is tickled magenta over every aspect of the game, with nothing even remotely wrong from any possible perspective and a central convergence of all opinions culminating in a nexus of positive energy, smiles, rainbows and ******s.

    "Balance" is just a term people use when they are unhappy with something. It's out of balance, it needs balance, because I, the untrained and unemployed self-titled professional video game developer say it does. Now, "Balance" as it pertains to reality is an entirely different thing - I think maybe 1% or less of all people who speak of balance actually have any experience and therefore any real understanding of exactly what balance is and how it can be achieved in a particular aspect of gameplay, and most importantly that "balance" doesn't mean shifting from one extreme to another but rather creating a mathematical harmony between things like coefficients, cooldowns, cast times, costs, point values, tree placement and many other potential variables.

    Thus, whenever I see someone post about "balance", I quickly reach for the nearest readily available snack+drink and curl up for what is bound to be a comedy of epic proportions - almost like watching Frisky Dingo or Mystery Science Theater - and I'm almost always right. In conclusion, "Balance" as it is misunderstood by your average forum poster, can be defined as the point of fusion where malcontent meets ignorance, where complaints fall like rain amid a drought of intelligent solutions. But how a developer defines "Balance" is exactly as I defined it in the last paragraph. It's entirely arbitrary of the context to which it refers, and is never as simple as the forum experts would have you believe, nor as impossible as most lazy and/or oblivious Dev teams would exclaim. It's getting things right, so that they make the most logical sense and that any strong points are counterbalanced by weak points so that every class averages out to be of similar potency in specific situations - because honestly, if all classes could do everything all the others could do, what would be the point of having more than one of them?
    Say no to Damage Meters.

    Quote Originally Posted by NeverDeath View Post
    It becomes a standard by which idiots who don't understand game mechanics can judge people often unfairly. Especially in a game that allows for such diverse builds, there is a real market for support classes here, classes that don't top heals or top dps or top tanking, but can help a group by being versatile, an ace-in-the-hole for those tough situations you hope never happen, but inevitably will.

    Damage meters are an idea that can spread like wildfire among the minds of the feeble, and all they will see is numbers, and the number on that meter is the number they will place on your value - and it is incredibly short-sighted and tragically inept of them, but an almost certain side-effect of such an option. It's not necessary, in the least. You will know if you are doing well, based on how many bosses are killed while you are in attendance, because there is no "i" in team, which is something that MMO players used to understand when they were usually gamers, but less so now that they are mostly WoW-kids.

  13. #13
    Ascendant Kevyne's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by NeverDeath View Post
    "Balance" in an MMO can be summed up fairly simply:

    An impossible utopian state of affairs wherein every player everywhere is tickled magenta over every aspect of the game, with nothing even remotely wrong from any possible perspective and a central convergence of all opinions culminating in a nexus of positive energy, smiles, rainbows and ******s.

    "Balance" is just a term people use when they are unhappy with something. It's out of balance, it needs balance, because I, the untrained and unemployed self-titled professional video game developer say it does. Now, "Balance" as it pertains to reality is an entirely different thing - I think maybe 1% or less of all people who speak of balance actually have any experience and therefore any real understanding of exactly what balance is and how it can be achieved in a particular aspect of gameplay, and most importantly that "balance" doesn't mean shifting from one extreme to another but rather creating a mathematical harmony between things like coefficients, cooldowns, cast times, costs, point values, tree placement and many other potential variables.

    Thus, whenever I see someone post about "balance", I quickly reach for the nearest readily available snack+drink and curl up for what is bound to be a comedy of epic proportions - almost like watching Frisky Dingo or Mystery Science Theater - and I'm almost always right. In conclusion, "Balance" as it is misunderstood by your average forum poster, can be defined as the point of fusion where malcontent meets ignorance, where complaints fall like rain amid a drought of intelligent solutions. But how a developer defines "Balance" is exactly as I defined it in the last paragraph. It's entirely arbitrary of the context to which it refers, and is never as simple as the forum experts would have you believe, nor as impossible as most lazy and/or oblivious Dev teams would exclaim. It's getting things right, so that they make the most logical sense and that any strong points are counterbalanced by weak points so that every class averages out to be of similar potency in specific situations - because honestly, if all classes could do everything all the others could do, what would be the point of having more than one of them?
    Wall of text meets reality...
    http://worldoflogs.com/rankings/play...g_Descent/hps/

    No, imbalance actually exists and proven. -_-

  14. #14
    Plane Walker
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    Just because people will always complain doesn't mean bad balance doesn't exist. A generous chunk of players in MMOs will never ever complain but just always play whatever works best, and they are usually a pretty easy metric to determine bad balance. It's people like that that make Warfronts with 50% Marksmen, and anyone seriously coming here and saying "That's a pure coincidence that so many people play that class suddenly and so many others complain about it" is just plain dumb.

  15. #15
    Plane Touched
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    Quote Originally Posted by Cormyat View Post
    In my life I have yet to see an online game that's truly "balanced." Back in the early days of FPS shooters, when there was no kind of progression at all and your power depended solely on what kind of weapon you picked up on the ground, things still weren't balanced. Even though every avatar had equal innate abilities there were disparities of connection latency that gave the early broadband adopters a huge advantage and gave rise to the name "Low-ping bastards." The LPB's were the early targets of complaints of imbalance.

    MMO's are an entirely different animal, of course. It's the innate differences between different classes and builds as well as the gradual progression and growth of the strength of your character that, in part, defines MMO's.

    So already, just in the concept of an MMO, the idea of balance is trashed. Ranged classes have the innate advantage of distance when fighting a melee class, for example. Classes with high armor and mitigation have the innate advantages of being able to take more damage before being defeated. Stealth classes have the innate advantage of choosing the time and place of fights.

    Now add high-level, challenging PvE content to the mix.

    If devs are to have any hope of making a game that's "balanced" they have to first start with a definition of the word. What is balance? Is it that any and every class has the capability of killing any and every other class? Is that each class is dominant against one other class, gets owned by one other class, and is about equal to yet another class?

    How do you establish a framework of balance when so many people have such divergant opinions on the definition of the term?
    PVP blance is when you are on vent with others calling out targets and nucking them down before they can react in any way at all.

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