shawn's blog

Balancing

Posted in Other by Shawn on March 1, 2011

I’ve had to balance a game. Well, not seriously.

When the original Starcraft came out, I played a good deal of it. I wasn’t that good (I still pretty much stink). Nevertheless, I enjoyed myself most of the time.

I was always annoyed when I saw patches and read what was being upgraded. I never was annoyed by the bugs that needed to be fixed. What bugged me were the balancing changes that needed to be made. For example, maybe a Zergling attack rate decreased by 0.1 seconds, or maybe a Marines range was slightly decreased.

“What are these changes? Who cares! I’m so cool!”

Yeah, that’s what I was like. Probably.

Anyway, they never really made a difference to me. Because I wasn’t that good, micromanaging never really was something that I cared too much about. More minerals! More Hydralisk! (I was a zerg lover….I still am) Even with recent updates to Starcraft II, fixes such as defense points and the like didn’t resonate with me. I’m still not that good, even though I’m much better than I was was years back.

Currently, I’m working on the points system for raising the stats of the main player in Winshi. And I have a greater appreciation for the people who take the time to play test and balance a game. The people who spend hours finally deciding that you should increase the speed of this character by .1 instead of .125. It takes time. It takes a lot of math. It’s not that complicated. It’s mostly tedious, and requires a great amount of attention to detail. You need to take into consideration everything. Especially when you have multiple stats that effect each other in such a delicate way.

In the Version A build of Winshi that I’m working on, there is a very simple experience system. There are 5 stats that you can level up:

  • Arm Strength
  • Leg Strength
  • Arm Speed
  • Leg Speed
  • Defense
    • Which affects overall defense and defense while blocking

Meh, not that much, right? Well, yeah, it’s not that much for now. I don’t know how many more stats I will include, but that is besides the point. I only have a few things interacting with each other; arm speed & arm strength need to be managed together more tediously as opposed to Defense & Leg Speed.

Furthermore, these upgrades are not free. Each upgrade will need to cost a certain amount. Free upgrades would be nice….but not fair. And I guess not realistic in real life either. Each upgrade provides more points than the last. Which means that they all can’t cost the same amount of points. But how many points is a .5 upgrade to Arm Speed worth? Do you really want someone playing for hours and hours and hours just to achieve a .125 upgrade in leg speed? This isn’t a MMORPG akin to World of Warcraft, so I wouldn’t expect anyone to play this game thinking “I know I’m going to need to put in 200 hours to make sure that I can do this particular action a tiny bit faster!”.

Now, you get these points by defeating the enemies on screen, each brand providing a different amount of experience points to the player. This needs to be managed fairly as well. Defeating 2,000 enemies shouldn’t only provide a player with enough points to to upgrade one stat; destroying one enemy shouldn’t allow a player to max out everything….well, again, not in this game.

This is only for a small project of mine. And while it’s not complicated, imagine how difficult it would be for a game such as a Starcraft or any other game where stats are ‘uber’ important. Games such as these still have a multi-million dollar budget, as well as people who would play test the game for free (me included), but that still does not negate the fact that balancing takes time and work.

I better understand/appreciate/empathize with the individuals/teams that need to work on such a large number of dynamic situations.  However, I still do hope to work on a project that would cause such headaches one day. If I ever get my other project off the ground (Project K.A.), then I’ll need to deal with horrific, yet wonderful, statistics that will leave me hating numbers, math, etc.

Well, maybe not hating. Math will need to sleep on the couch for a few nights. Or maybe otherwise, if I’m the one acting dumb….

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