The Daily Grind: What form of balance is best for MMOs?

    
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You deserve what you got.

I’ve been thinking about balance a lot. We all say that we’d like a balanced game, but there are a lot of different potential meanings behind “balanced.” Final Fantasy XI, for example, is balanced around the idea that every single job has a roughly equivalent pool of tricks. That means that classes like Red Mage and Blue Mage are considered balanced because Red Mage is more flexible and has access to more tricks constantly… despite the fact that Blue Mage, in every practical sense, is better at doing everything and is far more desirable in content.

By contrast, World of Warcraft is fond of across-the-board balance changes wherein a given class or spec gets 20% higher damage or 20% lower damage. The problem with that form of balancing is that it doesn’t really address tricks (or lack thereof), and a 20% damage drop just makes a spec 20% worse, while a 20% increase doesn’t make a bad rotation any more fun to play. You could also balance things by trying to tune or adjust specific abilities… but that runs the risk of having a cascade effect or having no effect at all, and sometimes you remove or weaken an ability that isn’t really at the heart of any power issues.

In short, any approach has issues. But what do you think, readers? What form of balance is best for MMOs?

Every morning, the Massively Overpowered writers team up with mascot Mo to ask MMORPG players pointed questions about the massively multiplayer online roleplaying genre. Grab a mug of your preferred beverage and take a stab at answering the question posed in today’s Daily Grind!
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Sorrior

I feel too many games are focused on perfect balance and not if it is FUN

To me a class being fun having choices various ways to play that is fun. But sadly alot of games are trying to achieve cod/shooter level balance which imo is not possible in a class based game.

So why bother and focus on fun i say.

The other option is to put so much in your balance I’d achieved through imbalance. So many choices people just build their own playstyle and classes

Then again I do not enjoy pvp very much and prefer the story/rp esque aspects

tethyss
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tethyss

Blizzard ripped out a perfectly good talent tree system and replaced it with a…I can’t even describe it, y’all know what I mean.

This is a very large topic with a lot of opinions so I will add just one of mine. Whenever people talk about MMO balance I point them directly to a ‘balanced’ system where everyone is the same, like Counter-Strike. Usually they stop talking after that because, the term ‘balance’ has a very different meaning for each of us.

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Johnathen Roberts

Blue mage should be better since you can spend hours trying to unlock a single skill. Back in the day it took my about 4.5 hours to unlock cocoon

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Oleg Chebeneev

“The problem with that form of balancing is that it doesn’t really address tricks (or lack thereof), and a 20% damage drop just makes a spec 20% worse, while a 20% increase doesn’t make a bad rotation any more fun to play.”

Blizzard doesnt only tweak dmg, they changed and removed abilities, added new ones, introduced new mechanics. Classes now are almost unrecognizable compared to vanilla.

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Danny Smith

FFXI style, make the jobs feel like an RPG choice, too many modern games feel more like picking a fighting game character.

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donvweel

I think balancing should be done looking at a party contribution per class. Give players the tools to be a valuable party member. Where things get screwed up is when devs balance for one on one pvp.

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Sorrior

Or pvp in general sadly

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Adri

The best form of balance is (in general) balancing by the devs at all. Devs who care about the game and try to make it fair for everyone. But this is a very general approach.
The balancing itself depends on the main focus of the game. Something that is considered great in a PvE game may be the worst thing ever in a PvP focus game.
Even if it’s not fair, I like the idea that the devs try at least to balance the game even if they have to redo everything they did 3 months ago.
Balancing a MMO game is PITA but at least some devs try their best.

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fanggwj

There are way to many things to consider about game balance to put in one post.
I’ll just give an example of an unsolvable argument: the concept of equality of outcome vs. equality of opportunity.
Every game has to have a solution for it yet most devs will just say this is how we did it and the gamers have to deal with the consequences. In online games it is typically an ongoing problem that gets adjusted every 6-18 months. The success of said game will ebb and flow depending on the players ability and willingness to adapt.

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Arktouros

This is an obscenely complex topic. There’s just too many factors that go into balancing games. Instead I’ll state what I think are two pitfalls of game balance that are cool in concept but failures in functional scenarios:

First is “support” classes. I don’t mean healers, while they do support, but rather those purely there for support purposes style classes (IE: Buff/debuff class or controller class). While the niche is cool in concept, the reality is most things can be boiled down to a number. Adding 10% damage for 6 other players each doing 10k DPS without is adding 6k DPS. But very rarely do things work out so neatly and many cases you’re trying to calculate the value add of crowd controlling X mobs so they don’t murder everyone. Most cases these classes boil down to you have to have them to clear content or another class can do enough similar abilities that they become entirely unnecessary.

Second pitfall is asymmetrical balance in competitive settings. It just doesn’t work. Putting the healing debuff on the healer on one faction and putting the same debuff on the DPS character sounds balanced on a faction level but functionally speaking it just doesn’t work. All this does is lead to factions with classes with better ability combinations which in turns leads to factions being better than the other. While over time that tends to get mitigated, it’s usually done so by reducing the differences in factions to the point the differences of each are meaningless to the point of having differences in the first place. All the while the real culprit, player perception, will never be addressed and people will perpetually state that one side is simply better than another because of those differences even after they long cease to actually matter.

smuggler-in-a-yt
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smuggler-in-a-yt

Personally, I think the only balance game devs need to worry about is this kind:

Crazy balance

Homogeneity makes games boring. And prone to illness. Select for diversity.