Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
This is the challenge of game balancing. Changing one mechanic
changes every strategy connected to that mechanic, which changes every
strategy connected to those strategies, and so on, in an exponentially ex-
panding network of implications. You might power down the sword to fix
the fight against the ogre, only to see it become too weak against the goblin.
You might then make them weaker to match, and find that they're too
easily defeated by the wizard's rod and the unarmed attacks. Everything is
linked in a web of relationships with thousands of connections.
This is why balancing is so hard, and great balance is so rare. Approach
this problem haphazardly, and the game will thrash from one imbalanced
state to another, as each solution causes more problems than it solves.
The only way to make real progress is with careful, structured, deliberate
approaches that solve problems without causing new ones. Let's look at
some of them.
BalanCing metHoDs
Figure out which aspects of a tool are essential to its role and identity.
Turn these knobs as far as possible and lock them in place. Then, solve
balance problems by turning the other knobs.
A rocket backpack must launch the wearer far and fast, because launch-
ing people is what rocket backpacks are about. Armor must protect. An
artillery cannon must lob shells over long distances; otherwise, it's not an
artillery cannon. Crops must feed; otherwise, they're not crops.
These properties are essential to the role and fiction of these tools.
So push them as far as possible. Make the rocket backpack launch people
really, really far and fast. Make the armor incredibly strong.
When we push these dials to the furthest possible extreme, tools
become distinct and their roles become crystal clear. The game's breadth
of experience stretches, and a wider range of strategies appear as players
explore the broader possibility space.
These key properties are so important that we must regard them as
unchangeable because if we changed these key properties, we would be
blurring tool roles and breaking coherence with the fiction. If each prop-
erty is like a knob the designer can turn, we must push these to the max
and then lock them in place.
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