Using the example of several popular or forgotten games, let’s look at a big problem for developers and look for ways to solve them. Let’s look at the balance flaws only from a technical point of view and the parameters of the game itself. Before criticizing, let’s also praise the developers of modern AAA games. Despite a lot of selective issues, diligent game studios try to update their projects, fix bugs and level poorly balanced things, based on the opinion of the fans. For this they are greatly commended.
Balance in singles
Balance problems are relevant not only for multiplayer games. projects, but also for single ones. There are many story games where everything is turned upside down in one moment. Let’s first look at the example of a shooter. Passing Dead Space 3 on the maximum available difficulty (which is almost twice as difficult as Hard), you understand that the whole game can be divided into two stages: before receiving the “probe” and after it.
The player is forced to collect a special plot weapon, which is a dart launcher for scanning organic growths. So, we get a kind of “punisher’s stick”, which will become a nightmare for our enemies (necromorphs).
The concept of Dead Space 3 includes an advanced weapon and equipment editor, a loot system. The player himself must compose the “gun” of his dreams and modify it. And all this makes no sense compared to that scientific stray for the story mission.
Earn $1800 already in two weeks and learn at the right time
Why this probe is completely broken:
- Incredibly low ammo consumption (shared by DS3).
- Very big damage.
- Large store volume.
- This is a story item that is given for free.
Let me remind you, I played the game at max. difficulties. Perhaps, on a low difficulty, a casual player would not notice such a “magic wand”. Before collecting the probe, the game was really hard. I didn’t have enough first-aid kits and ammo, I often died and replayed one checkpoint 20 times. But when I picked up this death machine, everything changed. I stopped using the weapon assembly workbench, didn’t modify anything, and just exterminated the enemies with the dart thrower for the rest of the game. Mortality has decreased by 5-10 times, without exaggeration. Why, it was possible to go through 3-4 chapters without any resistance.
This is a AAA level game from a big studio. Why didn’t the developers pay attention to elementary balance testing? I was very disappointed, because after the 12th chapter, Isaac became a terminator, which spoiled the atmosphere of the game to some extent. This is just one example of one game. Many single-player video games have similar flaws: from a certain point, something appears that destroys the whole concept of leveling and balance.
Let’s look at another example in Lara Croft and Guardian of Light: we complete the “golden shotgun” challenge (quite an easy task) and kill the final boss in less than a second, using a bug with no reload (which will detect 90% of players on the keyboard + mouse).
Developing a big-budget game is expensive and time-consuming, but despite this, not all studios pay enough attention to detail. Most casuals may not notice such strikingly unbalanced things, but for real gamers it will ruin the experience of passing. In PvP toys, this becomes a much bigger problem, which will be discussed.
Solving the problem in single-player games: detailed testing at all difficulty levels and comparing the characteristics of items, enemies, improvements. The appearance of strong artifacts in accordance with the stage of the game.
Balance issues in multiplayer
Maintaining a balanced gameplay in online shooting games is relatively easy, as it is the most skill dependent genre (speed and accuracy). Characters (usually) have identical or very similar Health Points. Most of all, it will decide how the player shoots enemies, not his parameters.
Games that haven’t changed in decades (Counter Strike for example) are easy to balance. Problems can arise in the early stages of a project’s existence. If the developers are adequate, then they will correct things that are too cool, making them weaker and vice versa.
In regularly updated, modern shooters with advanced gameplay, such as CoD Warzone, APEX Legends, PUBG, Rainbow Six Siege, there were temporary problematic weapons. For example, at one time everyone ran with double pistols, leaving no chance at close range. It was fixed after weeks and hundreds of thousands of complaints, but then other stupid things were added. Things that can break the gameplay and the psyche of the players.
Solving the balance problem in modern online shooters: new added types of weapons / equipment should not prevail over the old ones by more than a few%. Regular patches, updates, communication with the community and professional players to identify problem areas.
To keep a good balance in strategies, it is enough to adhere to the elementary rules of market value. For example: a cheap unit can be either fast and weak, or slow and strong. If not, we raise the price. It is impossible to allow excessive profitability of certain objects against the background of others. If it’s amazingly strong, make it so that it can only be obtained in the later stages of the game. Mobility, performance and price are the key points for strategy games. They concern both RTS (real time strategy) and turn-based toys.
Consider the example of Amies of Exigo and Starcraft 2. Most have not heard of the great RTS Amies of Exigo, which in terms of gameplay and graphics is closer to SC2 than to the third part of Warcraft.
The impressive mobility of the Valkyrie (the fastest unit in the game), which consumes only 3 units of food (limit 200), completely breaks the game. This flying warrior is not too expensive. Valkyrie is capable of attacking ground and air targets, deals a large amount of damage, half of which is not blocked by most enemies, and also supports a bunch of upgrades. And most importantly, the technical access tree is very short. Against ground shooters, this is a death machine that is quite hard to overcome. Most online matches that do not end in the first 3-4 minutes come down to the massive use of unbalanced air troops.
Starcraft 2 features the Banshee unit. This aircraft can only attack ground targets, and is much more expensive relative to base troops (compared to Exigo). In order to protect yourself from enemy aircraft, you need cover. Other nations have versatile and very fast air-ground-to-air air warriors (Zerg Mutalisks), but the price and tech tree fully cover their strength. Starcraft 2 is an example of healthy and high quality RTS game design with fast gameplay.
Have you heard of “WOLOLO” from the famous Age of Empires series? The developers of the legendary RTS still continued in their own style and added the priests from the previous parts. They lure enemy units to their side after a few seconds. The radius of the ability is huge. 99% of the players hate it, and the developers laugh at them and added this mechanic to the latest part of AoE 4.
For a strategy or RPG, adjusting the characteristics of units, research, items is a difficult task. No other genre has so many objects with certain properties. But when a bunch of archers destroy the main building in the “Cossacks” in one second, it becomes somehow uncomfortable. The destruction of the town hall took, without exaggeration, about one second. Defeating the most difficult AI opponent in 8 minutes with only archers is not a problem, because this is Cossacks 3 from Ukrainian developers who were too lazy to fix problematic moments.
The third part of “Cossacks” is, in fact, a remake of the first. The game studio completely overhauled the atmosphere (including a lot of bugs and amazingly poor balance). The saddest thing is that they are not going to change anything, because this is the norm for them. The last sentence concerns many lazy studios.
Solving the problem of balance in strategies: regulating the price, availability of units and their combat parameters at the same time. The same applies to upgrades, research.
Free games with Pay to Win system (pay money to win) involve problematic balance in their business model. By paying a conditional 500 hryvnia, the player will get the best characteristics of his character, tank or any other thing, no matter what game he plays.
Such developers have no sympathy for an ordinary user who wins on his own, without hryvnia invested. This is no exaggeration mockery of the players. Some people like it (usually those who poured money into the project). The feeling of superiority and dominance over someone is the only reason Pay to Win games exist.
Solving the balance problem in Pay To Win: Impossible to solve as poor balance is the foundation of the business model.
It is easy for an experienced gamer to see problem points in games. Even AAA toys are often the victims of game designers who mismanaged item prices or parameters, incorrectly built levels, etc. In contrast, some big studios maintain their online projects and try to fix broken things after user complaints. Wry balance sometimes brings unique experiences and new gameplay sensations, but not for long. On mobile platforms, the situation is much worse: most toys are completely unusable in this regard. The low entry threshold for Gamedevs has significantly reduced the quality of Android/iOS content relative to consoles or PC. Perhaps that is why we stopped paying attention to many inadequate imba things in full-fledged AAA games.