Game Balancing. Paul Taylor 2009. What is game balancing?. We already know what game mechanics are Now we need to get those mechanics in balance. 12 Common Game Balances. The following are a good summary of what you will confront as a designer!
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Game Balancing Paul Taylor 2009
What is game balancing? We already know what game mechanics are Now we need to get those mechanics in balance
12 Common Game Balances The following are a good summary of what you will confront as a designer! Of course there are always exceptions and surprises!
Back to Game Flow! • Story Time!
Balance #1 Fairness • Players like a ‘fair’ game • By fair we mean they want to be challenged and eventually win • The feeling of fairness is an emotion which players tie closely with the flow of the game
Symmetrical • This is simplest form of fairness • Give both players the exact same pieces and moves • Is this always fair?
Symmetrical • This is simplest form of fairness • Give both players the exact same pieces and moves • Is this always fair? Tic Tac Toe A masterful player who takes the first turn can always win or draw.
Solutions to who goes first • Roll a dice • Flip a coin • Give the first turn to the loser
Asymmetrical • An asymmetrical game is far harder to balance • So why do we build them?
Real World Simulations • An asymmetrical game is far harder to balance • So why do we build them?
Exploration • Exploring a game world can be fun • Different player characters (Objects) • Different abilities • Eg: Lego Games
Personalisation Customisation of characters allows: Players to connect better Feel more powerful
Level the playing field A symmetrical FPS game would have 1 enemy and 1 player. ..... PacMan uses 4 ghosts to balance the challenge
The creation of interesting situations • Objects of different abilities face each other • No clear strategies for winning • Exploration of abilities is required
Balancing Asymmetrical games • Commonly achieved via Resource and Power balance • Vampire Guinea Pig Apocalypse • Three main character classes: • Normal Guinea Pig • Vampire Guinea Pig • Exorcist Guinea Pig
Rock Paper Scissors This is the circle of life version of fairness Used extensively by games like Pokémon In this form of fairness there is no most powerful piece, for every power an object has, there is a weakness exploited by another object
Tuning After generating a balance table, only through play-testing can your decisions be properly verified
Balance #2 - Challenge vs. Success • Another approach to keeping the player in the flow, this balance is torn between challenging the player, and letting them feel success
Methods of keeping the balance • Increase the difficulty with each success • This will keep the player challenged • Don’t forget the rhythm so the players feel success! • Let skilled players move quickly through easy parts • Every played a tutorial level forced to listen to the narrative before moving forward? • Tetris challenges increase faster when you score more!
Let players choose their difficulty • This increases the number of games you have to balance • Allows players to choose an appropriate difficulty • Can reduce immersion if in-game changes are permitted • Creating additional challenges through grading levels / missions
Play-test with different players • You need your game to be enjoyable to both: • Novice players • Experienced players • You can not un-learn a game to play-test it as a novice. Go find someone!
Balance #3 Meaningful Choices • Players enjoy being able to make decisions which impact the world • Selecting a character based on abilities • Good / Evil choices (not like BioShock) • More like Fallout 3 • The challenge is avoiding dominant strategies
How many choices do I give the player? • 16 • Not! • Players have desires and are faced with choices If there are too many choices, players will be overwhelmed If there are too few choices, players get frustrated If there is the right number of choices players get a feeling of freedom
Triangularity A very meaningful choice Take a small risk with a small reward OR Take a large risk with a large reward Qix
Balance #4 Skill vs. Chance • This is UGLY • You need to strike a balance • Too much skill removes the fun for many players • Too much chance infuriates players • Some games alternate • Roll the Die, then skill • Deal the Cards, then skill • There is no answer here, just knowledge so you can better judge what is wrong in the game
Balance #5 Head vs. Hands • This is an easy one to understand • How much running, jumping and climbing • How much thinking, problem solving remembering, etc • You need to base this on your target players
Balance #6 Competition vs. Cooperation • BertieBot’s Beans • Competition and Cooperation are at different ends of the field • Just be changing the end goal from the team gets 5000 points to the highest scorer gets the 5000 points the game can drastically alter. ?Perhaps even allowing for meaningful choices?
Balance #7 Short vs. Long • How long should your game be? • 10cm 3” 2m?? • Aside from the length of the plot and cut scenes, the main control points you have are: • The win and lose conditions • How difficult are the challenges • How much you punish players for losing
Balance #8 Rewards • This is how we make players feel good! • When they feel good, they come back again • Praise • Nintendo style • Points • Allows the player to boast • Prolonged Play • Pinball, arcade machines, extra lives
Gateway Rewards • Opening up new areas of the game • These appease our urge to explore • Spectacles • A sweet cut scene, a slow-motion kill. • Expression • Player customisation, clothing, hair, etc. • Taunts in Unreal
Powers • Increasing the power of the player • Kinging a checker • Eating Mushrooms • Quad Damage • Resources • Food, energy, ammo, life, checkpoints • Completion • This is the final reward, giving the player closure • How many times have you played an old game, just because you never finished it?
Feeding the Rewards • Players will begin to expect their rewards • Solutions include: • Randomness • Slowly increasing the rewards • Changing the types of rewards • Allowing skill to increase the rewards (Combos, etc)
Balance #9 Punishment • Punishment is a dangerous thing to use!!! • Imagine a game that takes away your last savegame every time you die! • Punishment should be used in conjunction with rewards • Now on to punishment!!!
About Punishment in Games • It increases the value of resources if they can be stolen • Risks are nothing without fitting punishments • The level of punishment can be used to control challenge
Forms of Punishment • Shaming • Missed • Defeated • Crushed • Game Over • Loss of points • AA • Combos • Resource Depletion
Shortened Play • Loosing a life is a big punishment • Terminated Play • Game over dude, Game over! • Setbacks • Returning to a checkpoint • Restarting a level • Losing Powers • Mario getting hit after a mushroom • Players will feel cheated if they had to earn the power!!! • Temporary removal avoids this
Keep Your Challenges Coherent • Challenges should be consistent • Adding a super hard puzzle to the last level of a FPS is not going to be enjoyed • Perhaps as a Easter Egg, but not core
Shadow Cost • What is a shadow cost?
Bad Examples of Shadow Cost • Unreal Sniper Rifle • When not scoped damage was terribly weak • Everyone knows you run faster with a knife! • Counterstrike FPS Doug
Balance #10 Freedom vs. Controlled Experience • How much freedom do you give players? • Legally you must limit it sometimes • To create an environment for your experience you may have to limit it • The more freedom you give players, the more work you have to do! • Taking control of the camera can be necessary • Batman style
Balance #11 Simple vs. Complex • Both complexity and Simplicity can be good and bad! • Simplicity • Great simple controls • Boring and Simple gameplay • Complexity • Rich and intricately detailed story • Insanely confusing reward system
Innate Complexity • This is one of the bad guys • When the rules of the game are getting far too complex • Again based on the target audience • Typically when the rules have a lot of exceptions you are going down this path • A high innate complexity is sometimes what the audience want • Realistic Flight Sims
Emergent Complexity • This is the happy type • Chess! • You will get praise for this as players can easily pick up your game • Development of skills will increase their abilities • It’s also a difficult type of complexity to create
Natural vs. Artificial Balancing • Natural Balancing is how the game balances itself • Number of enemies • Changing strategies • Hearing Gunshots • Artificial Balancing is when you create extra rules to balance the game • Speed up AI in car races