Game Development Reference
goals, she will not normally name “health” as one of them. It is, nevertheless,
an implicit goal, for it we were to raise this point specifically, she would
agree that maintaining her health is important. In general, however,
health will become one of her explicit goals only if she falls ill.
It's human nature to ignore the problems we don't have. Existing
problems have in-your-face emotional punch, while potential problems are
abstract possibilities. It's cognitively easy to think about problems that are
occurring; it's much harder to think about all the other potential problems
our solutions might cause.
But we have to. Balance changes only improve a game if they create
fewer problems than they solve. It's easy to find changes that solve one
problem while making two more that we don't know about. It's much,
much harder to find solutions that handle both the explicit and implicit
goals—those that solve the problem and don't cause others.
Doing this means not being reactive. Slow down, breathe, and think
broadly. Suppress that desire to rush in and change things when some-
thing goes wrong. Going slow provides the time for emotions to fade and
brings perspective on the broader implications of a change. Because what
seem like the easiest solutions often come with terrible hidden side ef-
fects. The real solution is usually not so obvious.
Every now and then, have a Nigel Tufnel moment. Turn it up to 11.
A balanced game does not mean that every strategy creates equally
valuable outcomes. Such a game is meaningless in the same way the game
of coin tossing is meaningless. It is balanced, but also flat. There is no
reward for skill, and nothing useful to learn.
A game's strategic landscape should have hills and valleys. There
should be peaks of incredible effectiveness alongside deep troughs of
failure. The reason these varying outcomes can still be balanced is be-
cause their prices of entry vary. The skill required to execute a strategy
is comparable to its effectiveness; the best outcomes require the highest
skill. This arrangement motivates players to hunt around the strategic
landscape, searching for the most lucrative peaks, clawing their way up the
skill landscape. And when, after great struggle, they reach a summit, they
are richly rewarded for it.
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