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Thread: "How To Balance an MMO, And How To Stop"

  1. #1
    Ascendant Maeloda's Avatar
    Join Date
    Aug 2010
    Ottawa, Canada

    Default "How To Balance an MMO, And How To Stop"

    Something maybe we all should keep in mind.

    Linked from 'Truffle' (AKA Christina Norman, combat designer at Bioware for Mass Effect 2), her Twitter:


    ...What I’ve described here happens to almost every MMO. It’s an embarrassing stereotype that systems designers are obsessed with perfecting their makeshift model even though the game they’re modeling changes every month. But it’s a stereotype because it’s mostly accurate.

    But all those constant small changes are torturous to players… the drag of constant change wears at them. However, a smart producer steps in and says, ”I am putting a moratorium on balance changes for six months. After six months, you can roll out a lot of changes at once, rather than hundreds of tiny tweaks.” This is a brilliant move because it lets the community and PR folks build excitement for the balance changes — the changes aren’t just a constant series of maddening tweaks… now they’re a Big Deal.

    It also means that the system designer won’t spend all their damned time balancing, and can work on all the other stuff they’re supposed to do, like creating new monster mechanics or improving the leveling curve or making loot drops more exciting.

    But not being able to make lots of small changes is torture. Instead of making a tiny adjustment and watching how it affects things, you’re forced to perform surgery with an axe!

    And that’s okay, because balance is only a moderately-important element to a game. Many tragically imbalanced games last for a very long time, because they’re fun regardless.

    Eventually I realized that balancing for “fairness” was pretty unimportant compared to balancing for “awesome”. You need to get the “fairness” thing in the right ballpark, but players will never be satisfied… however, if they’re all feeling awesome, they won’t quit over it. It’s a lot easier to make sure everybody is awesome, too, as opposed to balanced.

    If you focus on making sure everybody is having fun, even though they’re not perfectly balanced, it will all be okay in the end....

  2. #2
    Rift Disciple
    Join Date
    Oct 2010


    This is why I dislike MMOs with a focus on PvP. For PvP it seems that you must balance all classes into something that takes away all uniquenes(sp?) and creates a set of classes that can all do pretty much the same thing. I want fun classes. I do not want identical classes. The grass will always be greener on the other side so once you start to balance for equality you end up in a never ending downward spiral.

    Rift may or may not be an exception by having the ability to change class within your archetype.

  3. #3
    Champion of Telara Selene's Avatar
    Join Date
    Jun 2010
    North Carolina


    I just read that article yesterday, actually. It's a good read, and a good insight into how devs think about stuff. I get the feeling that the Rift devs are also trying to "balance for awesome" though, so hopefully we're in good hands (Although some people hate it when things aren't 100% balanced, I think that's an impossible expectation and probably overrated to boot)

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