Game Development Reference
“flamethrower” that does terrific damage to whatever they point it toward,
if they point it in the right direction at the right time. The net effect is much
the same from a game balance standpoint, but one makes the user feel as if
they skillfully used a new ability, and the other makes a player feel as if their
credit card just purchased their victory.
l Consider carefully what your core game mechanic is. In game designer
speak, what's “the toy” that makes the second-by-second interaction with
the game enjoyable? Ensure that whatever you are selling doesn't break
that toy by changing how the player interacts with your game—or at least
not for very long. Instead, find tasks that are repetitive or dull, then obvi-
ate those tasks by offering for purchase a particular, shiny, “cool” item. For
example, in many RPGs, characters are required to make a long and (often)
boring walk back to town to sell items every time their inventory fills up.
The designers of NCsoft's MMO, Dungeon Runners , allowed players to pur-
chase a gnome who followed them around and converted useless items
to gold on the spot. The time-saving element, plus the quirky gnome's
method of processing, made the purchase an easy choice for many of the
l Selling items that aren't necessarily measurably better, but are still in some
way different, can delight users without breaking the core game experience.
For example, in a game about world exploration where a player must explore
the space by paddling around in a rowboat, consider instead selling them
a seahorse to ride. The seahorse might be unable to get as near the shore
as the rowboat, but could be less affected by choppy water (or some other
balance-saving detail). Thus, the item is functionally very much the same,
but carries with it a visual difference, along with some slight advantage/dis-
advantage that helps to vary the player's experience of the game, without
markedly changing the core “toy.”
l Sell upgrades that make a player more flexible, but not necessarily more
powerful. Allowing some players to carry two weapons and others only
one, so long as the two are not doubly as strong, won't inherently intro-
duce a disadvantage. What it will do, however, is change the game play
enough that players will have to vary their tactics, giving players additional
options and greater flexibility.
9.4 Game Balance Considerations
For any game type, there are sure to be issues of pricing and game balance,
especially when selling items designed to confer a functional advantage. This
type of game balance simply introduces an additional variable to the designers'
balancing equation. The greater the degree to which an item allows a player to
deviate from the standard curve of in-game performance, the more expensive