GAME BALANCE by suchenfz

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									SE 3GB3 – GAME BALANCE
        Will Mackle
         0870775
     PRESENTATION OVERVIEW
TOPICS:                                   CASE STUDIES:

•   Define Game Balance                   • Starcraft 2
•   Dominant Strategies (and how to
    avoid them)
•   Incorporating the Element of Chance
•   Making PvP Games Fair
•   Making PvE Games Fair
•   Managing Difficulty
•   Concept of Positive Feedback
•   Non-Intuitive Balance Solutions
•   Designing for Balance
BEFORE WE BEGIN… AN EXPERIMENT!
•   Please observe the following brief sequence of gameplay, from our case
    study “Starcraft 2”.


•   At the end of the sequence, we, as a group, will compile a list of variables
    in which the game developers must account for when designing the game
    to be balanced.


•   Upon the conclusion of this presentation, hopefully you will have realized
    the ample sources of imbalance any game may possess, and how to
    address such imbalances.


•   After this experiment, I will proceed to dissect the concept of “Game
    Balance”
WHAT MAKES A BALANCED GAME?
•   Informal, general definition:


     • Fair to all players.


     • Non-extreme difficulty (too easy or too hard).
          • Adjustable is best


     •   Skill is the most influential factor on a player’s success


•   Ask yourself: What are your opinions of games you have played in the
    past that have not satisfied the above informal definition?
AN ELABORATION
•   The game facilitates meaningful choices.
     • Strategy is important.
     • A variety of strategies are viable (in complicated games).
• The role of chance is not overwhelming.
• The player(s) perceive the game to be fair.
PvP:                                   PvE:
• There is reasonable opportunity      • The game’s perceived level of
  for a player a player in a less        difficulty should be consistent.
  favourable position to regain
  control of the game. (see
  Positive Feedback)
• Stalemates are rare
  occurrences.
COMPONENTS OF GAME BALANCE
          WHAT NEEDS TO BE BALANCED?

•   Think back to the experiment; the variables we identified as associated
    with game balance, and how they apply to the following dissection.
•   I believe game balance can be broken down into three major components.
     • Objective
         • What you are trying to do, and the difficulty of it.
     • Strategy
          • How you will accomplish an objective
          • Anything that opposes or aids the execution of the strategy.
     • Character(s)
          • Anything the character/avatar does in the process of executing a
            strategy
          • Anything that opposes or aids the character in doing so.
              • Abilities, environment, enemies (vE or vP), etc.
AVOIDING DOMINANT STRATEGIES
•   A dominant strategy is a strategy in which the player implementing it is at
    an advantage to their opponent beyond the scope of skill and decision
    making.
•   A dominant strategy supports a transitive relationship among strategic
    options for player.
     • Transitive Relation: ( (A>B) && (B>C) )  (A>C)
     • Player frustration amplified in games with some aspect of asymmetry
•   Two Examples:
     • L4D1: “Turtling at horde”
     • SC2: “5 Barracks Reaper Rush” (TvZ)
•   Some instances of transitivity are OK
     • Account for dominant options with an associated negativity (a
       tradeoff)
AVOIDING DOMINANT STRATEGIES
•     An intransitive relationship between strategies is a design technique to
      avoid dominant strategies
       • Example: Rock – Paper – Scissors
       • Crucial in dynamic, strategic gameplay
•     Example: “Ice Hockey 1982”
                                   Average
    Unit     Thin guy                                 Fat guy
                                   guy
Traits         -----------------   -----------------   -----------------

Skating       Strong               Average             Weak

Shot
              Weak                 Average             Strong
Strength

Checking      Weak                 Average             Strong

Face-off      Strong               Average             Weak
  CASE STUDY EXAMPLE:
  •    Terran Vs Zerg – Early Game Unit Compositions
                                                                Zergling:
        • Terran – Hellions      > Zerg - Mass Zerglings
        • Terran - Hellions      < Zerg - Roaches
        • Terran - Marauders < Zerg - Mass Zerglings
        • Terran - Marauders > Zerg - Roaches

Hellion:                  Marauder:                    Roach:




      Note the different attributes of the units available.
ORTHOGONAL UNIT DIFFERENTIATION
•   It is argued that each type of unit in a game should be orthogonally
    different.
     • By orthogonal, it is meant that each unit type should be unlike the
       others in different dimensions, not simple more or less powerful when
       measuring in one dimension.
•   Complements strategic diversity (OUD more common in games with
    diverse challenges).


•   How does this relate to the last examples?
     • Consider the attributes of each unit type
INCORPORATING CHANCE
•   If there is an element of chance associated with success in your game,
    how will you ensure this does not outweigh the element of player skill?
     • Use chance sparingly
         Overwhelming instances of chance will make players feel that they
         do not control the outcome of the game.
     Associate chance with small risk/reward
         Frequency w/ minimal effect > infrequent and game-changing
     • Allow rewards for proper decision making associated with your game’s
       element of chance.
         Anticipation and prediction imply player skill, and should be
         recognized.
     • Allow players to influence the magnitude of risk/reward associated
        with an instance of chance.
         The player should be allowed to consciously take risks and
         consciously dictate the magnitude of this risk.
EXAMPLES OF CHANCE
INCORPORATION
•   NHL 11
     • Breaking of the hockey stick


•   Starcraft 2
     • Spawn locations (on 4 player maps)


•   MarioKart
     • Randomized Items
NEXT LECTURE
•   Making PvP Games Fair


•   Making PvE Games Fair


•   Managing Difficulty


•   Concept of Positive Feedback


•   Designing for Balance


•   Non-Intuitive Balance Solutions
MAKING PVP GAMES FAIR
•   Players generally consider a PvP game to be fair if they believe:
     • The rules allow each player an equal chance of winning, upon the
       start of the game.
     • There is no random or arbitrary distribution of advantage or
       disadvantage unto different players, other than the intended
       incorporated chance.
•   Symmetry vs Asymmetry:
     • A game is symmetrical if each player has the same resources, and
       options to complete the same challenges in pursuit of an identical
       victory condition. This implies a balanced PvP game (however, there
       can still be a dominant strategy).
     • An asymmetric game is more difficult to balance. There is a greater
       risk of a dominant strategy.
BALANCING ASYMMETRIC PVP GAMES
•     Rules can provide different units, actions, challenges, or even victory
      conditions for each side.
       • Each combination available to a player must be balanced in respect to
         each of the others.
           • A dominant strategy is one combination that is superior in
             comparison to others.
    • Blizzard’s approach to asymmetric PvP balance:
       • Lengthy game development time
       • Beta release
       • Patch updates
            • Public test realm
STILL IN REGARDS TO PVP GAMES
•   Issues in persistent worlds:
     • Long time players` characters will be much more powerful
         • This is an inherit imbalance in persistent world games
         • Protect new players of the game who are weaker
MAKING PVE GAMES FAIR
•   The game should offer the player challenges at a level of difficulty
    consistently upper bound.
•   The player should not suddenly lose the game without warning, or through
    no fault of his own.
     • Don’t force the player to ``Learn by dying``.
•   Avoid stalemates / deadlock.
•   The player should be aware and informed in regards to any critical
    decisions.
•   All factual knowledge required to win the game should be contained within
    the game.
MANAGING PVE DIFFICULTY
•   Flow: An enjoyable state of peak productivity.
     • Challenge too difficult  Player anxiety
     • Challenge too easy  Player boredom
     • Flow occurs for the player when the difficulty of the challenges they
       face corresponds to their ability to play the game.
•   Because you don’t know how good a player will be at your game, provide
    different difficulty settings that implement different difficulty levels.
     • Previous Experience: The amount of skill the player has from previous
       experiences of games of the same genre.
     • Native Talent: Hand-eye coordination, problem solving, etc.
MANAGING PVE DIFFICULTY:
   TYPES OF DIFFICULTY
•   Absolute Difficulty
     •    The amount of intrinsic skill required to meet challenges, and the
         stress evoked by the completion of the challenge.
•   Relative Difficulty (Power Provided)
     •    The difficulty of a challenge relative to the player’s power to meet that
         challenge (not in regards to native talent).
•   Perceived Difficulty (And In-Game Experience)
     •   The difficulty the player actually senses
     •   The most significant for designers
     • In-game experience:
          • The experience the player gains while playing your game.
     • Perceived dif = absolute dif – ( power provided + in-game experience)
PVE:
CREATING A DIFFICULTY PROGRESSION
•   In correspondence to game progression, the perceived difficulty of a game
    should not decrease.
     • Note that the player’s skill will develop as they progress in your game
UNDERSTANDING POSITIVE FEEDBACK
•   Positive feedback occurs when a player’s achievement causes changes to
    the state of the game that make a subsequent achievement easier, which
    creates a chain reaction (by making each subsequent event easier).
     • Rewards success
     • Discourages stalemates
     • Discourages inactivity
CONTROLLING POSITIVE FEEDBACK
•   Some examples of ways to control positive feedback:
     • Don’t provide too much/little power as a reward for success
     • Consider negative feedback
         • Consider vulnerability in response to attempted achievement
     • Raise the absolute difficulty of challenges as the player proceeds
         • PvE
     • Allow collusion against the leader
     • Define victory in terms unrelated to the feedback cycle
     • Use the effects of chance to scale the size of the player’s rewards
DESIGN TO MAKE TUNING EASY
•   Modify (then test) only one parameter at a time.
     • This is so you know which aspects of a game are effected by the
       parameter.
•   When initially modifying parameters, make big adjustments.
     • Make a large change, then iteratively test, moving towards the ideal.
•   Keep records of all tests.
     • Meticulous record keeping is crucial when testing.
     • Use data and statistical analysis in decision making, but don’t base
       decisions entirely on such analysis.
INTERESTING BALANCE SOLUTIONS
•   Left For Dead 2
     • Infected have complete vision when spawning
•   Starcraft 2
     • Specific race macro mechanics
•   Fallout 3
     • V.A.T.S (Shooting Mode)
          • Non-experienced shooters can still fare well
•   NHL 11
     • Intimidation

								
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