Sunday, September 29, 2013


I'm sure many of you who frequent various game communities have seen that phrase on many occasions.  It's usually pretty contentious and quickly brings tempers to a boil.  Shouts of "noob" and "l2p" are sure to abound.

Balance can be a sticky subject.  Players always seem to see changes as an attack on their own playstyle or unnecessary.  That said, the importance of balance can not be overstated.  Maintaining long term health of multiplayer games in particular rests heavily on the concept.

So, how can we possibly determine whether or not changes need to be made?  How can something be labeled a balance problem?

One concept of balance relies on the existence of viable options in the game.  One particular method should not overpower all others in every situation.  If, for example, your game allows a choice of multiple characters, one should not be obviously better than all the others.

You'll find this kind of problem in the multiplayer of the most recent Alien vs. Predator by Rebellion between the titular characters.  The differences between the two were rather minimal.  The Alien was afforded more mobility, but otherwise the Predator could do all of the same things, often a bit better.  You can't have one character be a straight upgrade of another.  For a one minor downside (less mobility), the Predator gained superior melee capabilities, and access to a variety of deadly ranged weapons.  Picking the Predator was the obvious choice for someone most interested in winning, and as a result the variety in multiplayer suffered.

Wherever you see classes, characters, or races in a game, there will be balance discussions.  For some interesting examples, you can look at the forums of games like League of Legends, Starcraft, and even Team Fortress 2.

Do you think balance is necessary for a fun multiplayer games?  Can single player games be imbalanced?

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