-- Gameplay – The History – Part 3 – Balancing
Gameplay – The History – Part 3 – BalancingAUTHOR: Espen Thomassen Sæverud // CATEGORY: Gameplay Comments Off
For this last part I want to talk a little about balancing. Balancing is a big part of making a game. In my opinion game balancing comes in two forms: Active and Organic. I also like to split the balancing into three phases. I’ll elaborate on these phases later in the post.
So what do I mean when I say “Organic balancing”? Well it’s the kind of balance which comes along during development and kind of forms on its own. Game Design is a balancing act in itself. By that I mean that one has to thread a line between organized, structured workflow with design created in pre-production phase and the wild frenzy of creativity that surges when you actually get to implement and test your ideas.
Some ideas might seem good on paper and even in a prototype setting, but might not work as well when put together with other mechanics. They might also break the coherency of the game. It is in these times that solutions find their way into the game organically. Sometimes they just work.
An example of this in UHR-Warlords is the Summoning Shield. When you rally a Creature they immediately get spent. We found that rallying Creatures for defensive purposes was not fun if the opponent had a heavy hitting Creature on your rallying line. The opponent could deliver hit upon hit on newly rallied Creatures and you were left disgruntled. So the Summoning Shield was added. Every newly rallied Creature will be safe for the next opponents turn and potentially threaten the original threat.
Active Balancing is done throughout the development of a game, but it is often done more frequently in the latter stages. This is due to the fact that the game is nearing completion. When you reach that certain milestone in development, when all the features have been implemented and the music, art and sound come together. All you need then is the balance.
Balancing like this is fun, but also time consuming. One must not ignore this as it might make or break your game. Literally. As a Game Designer/Producer/Programmer/Potato I find myself involved in most parts of the development. And when you test your game hundreds of times a day tweaking this Rune, or this Special Ability you fall into certain patterns of use. The patterns are dangerous, but I always fall into them.
But the rest of your team will also test and fall into other patterns, and at some point you start to test your game on people who haven’t been apart of the development. The insight from these individuals are highly important.
The Assassin had, for a long time, 9 hitpoints. After we gave him the Backstab ability he became overpowered. This was not clear to us for a while (due to the patterns of use), but was feedback we got from several testers. So we looked at him and looked at possibilities and it became clear the hitpoints was the best way of balancing him back into the game. Giving him 6 hitpoints would enable almost every Creature to kill him in a single attack (save for the Skirmisher (66.6% of killing him) and the Assassin himself (33.3% of kill)). So although he can be the most heavy hitting Creature with his Backstab, this tweak made him vulnerable. Perfectly fitting his profile.
The Three Phases of balancing – First up: Infancy
I won’t go to deep into the phases, but I’ll have a quick runthrough. The first phase is the “Infancy”. This is when a unit or creature or character(entity) is created. You want to find something unique with it. It doesn’t really matter what values you put into those uniqueness. The point of this phase is to separate your different entities in the game so they stand out.
This isn’t really balancing since you are just starting to create the mold, but some of the attributes and stats you give to your entities early on stick with them for a long time during development. Take the Giant: His cost was supposed to be 8; his movement straight; his AOE in an upside down T. It just stuck, because it worked!
So you see some of the elements remain from its “Infancy” phase
This phase is often the longest as most games are not done in a week. This is pretty much the period after pre-production all the way until your launch date. As mentioned earlier this phase is at its busiest in the latter stages of development and post feature freeze.
This is probably the most important phase as well as it determines how the game will play and feel for the early adopters and the press. And the press is important. A lot of people will never play a game that is poorly reviewed by an author they trust. And I fully understand that. Even if you fix everything Day 2 and make the perfect game, that first impression is very important.
But the phase that starts the day you launch is also important. As people buy your game and get involved they will have opinions on the gameplay and balance. And sometimes it’s just a disgruntled player who fails a lot. But sometimes it’s really valuable information. Something overlooked or unforeseen during testing and balancing. Sometimes it’s a big one, most times just little tweak is needed. And the work to fix them starts immediately.
Hopefully you won’t find a single error, bug or inbalance in UHR-Warlords. Hopefully when you get it, it’s perfect.
That’s it for this series on the history of the gameplay in UHR-Warlords. This part hasn’t been as much of the evolution of the game, but I hope you found interesting at least.
The next weeks will be some of the most exciting in my life. I’ll be back with more intriguing news about UHR-Warlords very soon. Stay tuned!
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