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Will Mackle 0870775 SE 3GB3 – GAME BALANCE. PRESENTATION OVERVIEW Define Game Balance Dominant Strategies (and how to avoid them) Incorporating the Element.

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Presentation on theme: "Will Mackle 0870775 SE 3GB3 – GAME BALANCE. PRESENTATION OVERVIEW Define Game Balance Dominant Strategies (and how to avoid them) Incorporating the Element."— Presentation transcript:

1 Will Mackle SE 3GB3 – GAME BALANCE

2 PRESENTATION OVERVIEW Define Game Balance Dominant Strategies (and how to avoid them) Incorporating the Element of Chance Making PvP Games Fair Making PvE Games Fair Managing Difficulty Concept of Positive Feedback Non-Intuitive Balance Solutions Designing for Balance TOPICS: CASE STUDIES: Starcraft 2


4 BEFORE WE BEGIN… AN EXPERIMENT! Please observe the following brief sequence of gameplay, from our case study Starcraft 2. At the end of the sequence, we, as a group, will compile a list of variables in which the game developers must account for when designing the game to be balanced. Upon the conclusion of this presentation, hopefully you will have realized the ample sources of imbalance any game may possess, and how to address such imbalances. After this experiment, I will proceed to dissect the concept of Game Balance

5 WHAT MAKES A BALANCED GAME? Informal, general definition: Fair to all players. Non-extreme difficulty (too easy or too hard). Adjustable is best Skill is the most influential factor on a players success Ask yourself: What are your opinions of games you have played in the past that have not satisfied the above informal definition?

6 AN ELABORATION The game facilitates meaningful choices. Strategy is important. A variety of strategies are viable (in complicated games). The role of chance is not overwhelming. The player(s) perceive the game to be fair. PvP: There is reasonable opportunity for a player a player in a less favourable position to regain control of the game. (see Positive Feedback) Stalemates are rare occurrences. PvE: The games perceived level of difficulty should be consistent.

7 COMPONENTS OF GAME BALANCE WHAT NEEDS TO BE BALANCED? Think back to the experiment; the variables we identified as associated with game balance, and how they apply to the following dissection. I believe game balance can be broken down into three major components. Objective What you are trying to do, and the difficulty of it. Strategy How you will accomplish an objective Anything that opposes or aids the execution of the strategy. Character(s) Anything the character/avatar does in the process of executing a strategy Anything that opposes or aids the character in doing so. Abilities, environment, enemies (vE or vP), etc.

8 AVOIDING DOMINANT STRATEGIES A dominant strategy is a strategy in which the player implementing it is at an advantage to their opponent beyond the scope of skill and decision making. A dominant strategy supports a transitive relationship among strategic options for player. Transitive Relation: ( (A>B) && (B>C) ) (A>C) Player frustration amplified in games with some aspect of asymmetry Two Examples: L4D1: Turtling at horde SC2: 5 Barracks Reaper Rush (TvZ) Some instances of transitivity are OK Account for dominant options with an associated negativity (a tradeoff)

9 AVOIDING DOMINANT STRATEGIES An intransitive relationship between strategies is a design technique to avoid dominant strategies Example: Rock – Paper – Scissors Crucial in dynamic, strategic gameplay Example: Ice Hockey 1982 Unit Thin guy Average guy Fat guy Traits SkatingStrongAverageWeak Shot Strength WeakAverageStrong CheckingWeakAverageStrong Face-offStrongAverageWeak

10 CASE STUDY EXAMPLE: Terran Vs Zerg – Early Game Unit Compositions Terran – Hellions> Zerg - Mass Zerglings Terran - Hellions < Zerg - Roaches Terran - Marauders < Zerg - Mass Zerglings Terran - Marauders > Zerg - Roaches Note the different attributes of the units available. Hellion: Marauder: Roach: Zergling:

11 ORTHOGONAL UNIT DIFFERENTIATION It is argued that each type of unit in a game should be orthogonally different. By orthogonal, it is meant that each unit type should be unlike the others in different dimensions, not simple more or less powerful when measuring in one dimension. Complements strategic diversity (OUD more common in games with diverse challenges). How does this relate to the last examples? Consider the attributes of each unit type

12 INCORPORATING CHANCE If there is an element of chance associated with success in your game, how will you ensure this does not outweigh the element of player skill? Use chance sparingly Overwhelming instances of chance will makeplayers feel that they do not control the outcome of the game. Associate chance with small risk/reward Frequency w/ minimal effect > infrequent and game-changing Allow rewards for proper decision making associated with your games element of chance. Anticipation and prediction imply player skill, and should be recognized. Allow players to influence the magnitude of risk/reward associated with an instance of chance. The player should be allowed to consciously take risks and consciously dictate the magnitude of this risk.

13 EXAMPLES OF CHANCE INCORPORATION NHL 11 Breaking of the hockey stick Starcraft 2 Spawn locations (on 4 player maps) MarioKart Randomized Items

14 NEXT LECTURE Making PvP Games Fair Making PvE Games Fair Managing Difficulty Concept of Positive Feedback Designing for Balance Non-Intuitive Balance Solutions

15 MAKING PVP GAMES FAIR Players generally consider a PvP game to be fair if they believe: The rules allow each player an equal chance of winning, upon the start of the game. There is no random or arbitrary distribution of advantage or disadvantage unto different players, other than the intended incorporated chance. Symmetry vs Asymmetry: A game is symmetrical if each player has the same resources, and options to complete the same challenges in pursuit of an identical victory condition. This implies a balanced PvP game (however, there can still be a dominant strategy). An asymmetric game is more difficult to balance. There is a greater risk of a dominant strategy.

16 BALANCING ASYMMETRIC PVP GAMES Rules can provide different units, actions, challenges, or even victory conditions for each side. Each combination available to a player must be balanced in respect to each of the others. A dominant strategy is one combination that is superior in comparison to others. Blizzards approach to asymmetric PvP balance: Lengthy game development time Beta release Patch updates Public test realm

17 STILL IN REGARDS TO PVP GAMES Issues in persistent worlds: Long time players` characters will be much more powerful This is an inherit imbalance in persistent world games Protect new players of the game who are weaker

18 MAKING PVE GAMES FAIR The game should offer the player challenges at a level of difficulty consistently upper bound. The player should not suddenly lose the game without warning, or through no fault of his own. Dont force the player to ``Learn by dying``. Avoid stalemates / deadlock. The player should be aware and informed in regards to any critical decisions. All factual knowledge required to win the game should be contained within the game.

19 MANAGING PVE DIFFICULTY Flow: An enjoyable state of peak productivity. Challenge too difficult Player anxiety Challenge too easy Player boredom Flow occurs for the player when the difficulty of the challenges they face corresponds to their ability to play the game. Because you dont know how good a player will be at your game, provide different difficulty settings that implement different difficulty levels. Previous Experience: The amount of skill the player has from previous experiences of games of the same genre. Native Talent: Hand-eye coordination, problem solving, etc.

20 MANAGING PVE DIFFICULTY: TYPES OF DIFFICULTY Absolute Difficulty The amount of intrinsic skill required to meet challenges, and the stress evoked by the completion of the challenge. Relative Difficulty (Power Provided) The difficulty of a challenge relative to the players power to meet that challenge (not in regards to native talent). Perceived Difficulty (And In-Game Experience) The difficulty the player actually senses The most significant for designers In-game experience: The experience the player gains while playing your game. Perceived dif = absolute dif – ( power provided + in-game experience)

21 PVE: CREATING A DIFFICULTY PROGRESSION In correspondence to game progression, the perceived difficulty of a game should not decrease. Note that the players skill will develop as they progress in your game

22 UNDERSTANDING POSITIVE FEEDBACK Positive feedback occurs when a players achievement causes changes to the state of the game that make a subsequent achievement easier, which creates a chain reaction (by making each subsequent event easier). Rewards success Discourages stalemates Discourages inactivity

23 CONTROLLING POSITIVE FEEDBACK Some examples of ways to control positive feedback: Dont provide too much/little power as a reward for success Consider negative feedback Consider vulnerability in response to attempted achievement Raise the absolute difficulty of challenges as the player proceeds PvE Allow collusion against the leader Define victory in terms unrelated to the feedback cycle Use the effects of chance to scale the size of the players rewards

24 DESIGN TO MAKE TUNING EASY Modify (then test) only one parameter at a time. This is so you know which aspects of a game are effected by the parameter. When initially modifying parameters, make big adjustments. Make a large change, then iteratively test, moving towards the ideal. Keep records of all tests. Meticulous record keeping is crucial when testing. Use data and statistical analysis in decision making, but dont base decisions entirely on such analysis.

25 INTERESTING BALANCE SOLUTIONS Left For Dead 2 Infected have complete vision when spawning Starcraft 2 Specific race macro mechanics Fallout 3 V.A.T.S (Shooting Mode) Non-experienced shooters can still fare well NHL 11 Intimidation

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