The Daily Grind: What’s the worst way to balance things in an MMO?

Different. Yet the same.

When I wrote my recent piece about Cosmic Break Universal, I found through a bit of digging into fan coverage that the game had a pretty distinct approach to balance. To wit, it didn’t bother with balance at all, pushing things live that were obviously broken and quickly deformed the metagame, then launching new powered-up things that could compete, leading to the ultimate state of affairs wherein the developers are just rebooting the whole thing rather than dealing with more power creep.

This is not a good approach, obviously. But there’s no game that really does a great job of balancing things; a lot of the titles that we accept as being fun to play have outstanding balance issues that are slow to be addressed or just aren’t addressed. World of Warcraft has its wild overcorrections and planned removals of systems, Star Wars: The Old Republic has its major spec disparities, and so forth. So today I’m curious about people’s thoughts not about the game that does it best, but the worst. What’s the worst way to balance things in an MMO?

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!

No posts to display

newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:

Possibly worst way to balance…
Simplifying things in order to make it easier to compare (and therefore balance).
Specifically, removing co-op mechanics and synergies.

Best way…
PVE: Ignore balancing, make all builds/classes interesting and able to contribute with co-op. AND .. don’t put pvp in a pve game, or if you do keep it COMPLETELY separate.
PVP: Ignore balancing, add more options to the “weak”.

Kickstarter Donor

1. Balance is an illusion, and is an impossible task.
2. Skills should have separate stats for PvE and PvP.
Example: Lighting bolt PvE 1.5s cast, 1000 dmg, 3 sec stun. PvP 1.25 cast 600 damage 1 sec stun.
This way a single skill can be tweeked without affecting both types of game play.
3. Don’t ever listen to the players.
4. Don’t use metrics as the only method to balance abilities. Numbers do lie in PvP.
5. The Dev that balances skills should play the game.
6. Fit PvE to the classes.
Example: Encounter A requires a tank with damage reduction. Encounter B needs a tank that evades damage.

What is the worst way to balance a game… Do none of the above.

Andy Turner
Andy Turner

1) run everything on oracle database
2) hire a bunch of west coast rich people in boats half the time
3) watch the chedda roll in


Removing fun abilities for the sake of pvp balance.

I like pvp and think it should be balanced but I also think your pve encounters should be based more around fun engaging encounters and not uniform balanced ones.

Because of these 2 philosophies less is more in pvp while more is fun in pve.

John Mclain

“What’s the worst way to balance things in an MMO?”

Casually points at Fallout 76.

Castagere Shaikura

Wow, I thought I was the only one sick of devs rebalancing because of the whinny pvper’s complaining that mages are op because they beat their warrior. Plus I hate what GW2 has done with the expansion difficulty to not match the base game all to please their minority hardcore base.


Ppl already covered most common suspects, but here’s my take on it in more broad strokes: defacto balance doesn’t matter. Players don’t want balance. They want their characters to feel fun and satisfying. Perceived balance is more important because that’s something most players will complain about. I think the neverending chase after balance is silly and futile. Even if you succeed you will likely end up with a very bland and boring game that’s only good to watch in e-sports capacity. Instead of making things “balanced” look into why players feel the urge to complain. Is their class boring? Is it repetitive? Does it not have its own moments at all? Balance can be interpreted in many ways. Also when many players take to complaining about balance they fail to see the bigger picture. They may complain that X class hard counters them in pvp but be simultaneously blind to the fact that they in turn hard counters everyone else. Or that Y class does more burst damage, while in a longer fight or one with multiple targets they dominate. Some balance complaints should just be ignored. Others should be addressed but rarely in a way players think they want them addressed. Rarely forum masses ask for anything cohesive or reasonable. Main take out from those complaints is only that something may be wrong.

IMO worst balancing practice is listening to the vocal minority and doing what they ask for.

IMO best balancing practice is looking at player statistics and demographics (class/spec wise), and maybe take complaints as an indication that someone qualified should look into the class (but not complaints again). On rare occasions the extreme few competent and reasonable players can be asked for real feedback to actually get something useful out of playerbase.


Most of the other comments have already covered the usual suspects: mixing pvp/pve balance, mixing game modes, mixing high end and average players.

The last one is what frustrates me the most. Imagine most players are doing 100 dps with ability X, but a handful of high end players are using ability X to do 1000 dps. Devs nerf ability X to 200 dps for the high end players, and as a result most players wind up with a 20 dps ability. Although the numbers are made up, this happens in almost every online game.

Axetwin .

Overnerfing with the intent to come back and fix it later. Only listening to the so called “hardcore” players in a game that isn’t supposed to have a hardcore focus.


The worst is breaking things for PVE to fix them for PVP.

The real fix is probably spreadsheets. One with everything for PVP, the other with everything for PVE. When a player switches modes, they just switch spreadsheets (which run off the dev’s servers, so they can’t be hacked by cheaters). That way, PVP and PVE can be balanced separately.