Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
But strategies can also be astonishingly complex. These kinds of strat-
egies aren't single actions—they're nuanced sets of contingencies. They
depend on synergies among multiple tools in specific circumstances, and
are customized against certain combinations of opposing strategies. For
example, an expert will see an enemy army with cavalry on the right side,
archers on the left, and spearmen in the back. He will respond by feint-
ing his cavalry toward the enemy archers while rushing his spearmen up
the center. He's thinking through several contingencies: if the enemy's
archers stand and fire at his spearmen, his cavalry can charge them. But if
the enemy has his archers flee and sends cavalry in response, our expert
might be able to trap them on the field with his spearmen.
When we balance strategies against each other, we make for a richer
play experience because all the player's decisions involve more nuanced
thinking about more variables. The game becomes deeper because these
complex thought processes can't be executed perfectly, even by very skilled
BalanCing foR otHeR Reasons
The core of balance is generating fair play and nuanced decisions. But
even if a balance change creates wonderfully rich decisions and perfectly
fair play, it's worthless if it destroys narrative coherence, flow and pacing,
accessibility, or clarity.
For example, we can't balance an archer's bow by giving it a 10-foot
range. This might be fair, and it might create fascinating strategic deci-
sions, but it wouldn't make any sense in the fiction layer. We can't balance
a jumping puzzle by making the player character's jump shorter in this
level only, because this would defy player expectation and create frustra-
tion. We can't balance a car in a driving game by making it painfully slow
and sluggish, because driving it would be a chore, even if it was a fair
The work of balancing must be done within these constraints. Or, at
least, the benefit of a balance change must be traded off against the cost to
other parts of the experience, because balance affects everything.
Degenerate Strategies
One of the paradoxes of game design is that adding a tool can actually
cause a game to lose interesting decisions instead of gaining them. This
happens when the new tool produces a degenerate strategy .
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