Skip to Content

Balancing special powers by weakening them

13 replies [Last post]
larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008

I Just made a comment lately about a video game that somewhat surprised me because it could be used as a balancing technique.

Quote:
All buildings abilities, unit abilities and spell abilities are weak enough to have little impact on the game so that no abuse could be made out of them if somebody finds a flaw.

Could this be a cheap way to balance a game by making all special ability weak so that unbalanced abilities does not break the game?

I think having a load of weak abilities is more likely to be convenient in a video game since the computer does all the calculations for you. While in a board game, players could prefer having less abilities with more impact on the game.

What do you think?

Mirror threads

http://www.boardgamegeek.com/article/10655643#10655643

munio
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2012
if you have weak powers that

if you have weak powers that do little to influence the game, what is the point of having them in the game anyway

JustActCasual
JustActCasual's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/20/2012
power is relative

Power is relative: if everything is weak, the strongest of the weak things is still stronger.

If the idea is that less power per ability means you get lots of abilities, be careful. A bunch of weak abilities can be munchkined into a crazy combo.

MarkKreitler
MarkKreitler's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2008
Not a fan

I'm not a fan of this design element for several reasons:

1) It's harder to balance many powers because of the combinatorics.

2) Many weak powers often results in the "tyranny of min/maxers" who figure out the best possible combination of abilities, then abuse everyone with them. This forces others to either a) play the same way, or b) play at a significant disadvantage. We see this in MMORPGs all the time.

3) Personally, I believe that powers should be significant and distinct. Picking up a "magic sword" that adds 0.1% strength, then finding a magic shield that adds another 0.05% strength, just aggravates me.

A side note on #3: you see values like this all the time in MMORPGs. These mechanics aren't tuned low for ease of balancing or for fun -- they're tuned that way to keep players addicted. Random loot drops are the food pellets in the giant Skinner Boxes that we call MMORPGs. Keeping the numbers low ensures players must grind a long time before they out-level the content. This, in turn, lets the designers stay ahead of the majority of the population, creating new content quickly enough to keep people invested in the game.

In theory, anyway. In truth, most people eventually complete the grind and retire to the "end game" where min/maxing percentages is the only way to thrive. Having spent 5 years helping develop DC Universe Online, I can say the parts of that game I enjoy are mutually exclusive with the mechanics described above. And most of the players agree. DC had a relatively short grind and leveling curves that let you advance without worrying too much about gear bonuses of 0.5%. Most people enjoyed that experience, then hit a wall in the end game where gear bonuses became all important. We lost a *lot* of people when the design shifted to "lots of little weak abilities."

Keep abilities significant and distinct.

larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
Quote:Power is relative: if

Quote:
Power is relative: if everything is weak, the strongest of the weak things is still stronger.

Of course, but if the ability is weak, I could catchup in other ways since it does not give you an overwhelming advantage.

I agree that MMORPG has simply too much stats. My girlfriend is playing Maple Story and I don't understand the stat system in that game. When AD&D look as a more simple system, it starts looking dangerous.

Quote:
Keep abilities significant and distinct.

I imagine by distinct you mean grouping abilities and their effect to reduce overlaps and avoid that all stuff does the same thing.

--------------------------------------------------------------------------
Copy from mirror thread

Quote:
Cliff Bleszinski once said about Unreal Tournament "We knew the game was balanced when everyone complained about every weapon being over powered."

(^_^)

I like that philosophy.

Personally I like significant power, it's just that there are always risks of powerful combinations or game breaking abilities.

So I have not found any method yet to easily design special powers.

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Here's what I got...

larienna wrote:
Quote:
Cliff Bleszinski once said about Unreal Tournament "We knew the game was balanced when everyone complained about every weapon being over powered."

(^_^)

I like that philosophy.

Personally I like significant power, it's just that there are always risks of powerful combinations or game breaking abilities.

So I have not found any method yet to easily design special powers.

Well what Mark has suggested with my "depletion" time, is a method of balancing Powerful abilities with *Down time*. So let's say you have an ability which is relatively strong, what we do is have the ability last until "End of Turn" (One of the turn phases) and then force the player to turn the card on its side at position 3 and wait 3 turns until it gets depleted.

What is cool about this is the following: the depletion time forces you to think if you will use a strong ability or a weaker one (lower depletion time). When a card is still depleting, you still CANNOT play ANOTHER ability card...

This is the balancing between ability (stronger vs. weaker) that I am planning on using in my game.

Regards.

P.S.: It also gives value to the Special Abilities since players will use them as much as possible...

BTW a single turn is a long time... since some Character Classes have like 6 Action Points (AP) and can fight 2 times on one turn...

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
I HATE those % in games

MarkKreitler wrote:
Personally, I believe that powers should be significant and distinct. Picking up a "magic sword" that adds 0.1% strength, then finding a magic shield that adds another 0.05% strength, just aggravates me.

A side note on #3: you see values like this all the time in MMORPGs. These mechanics aren't tuned low for ease of balancing or for fun -- they're tuned that way to keep players addicted.

It really frustrates me when you just gain 0.1% strength by equipping a "magic sword"... It's like the new weapon is nearly worthless... How are you supposed to get EXCITED about finding that sword?!?!

MMORPGs that do this for rewards JUST SUCK.

MarkKreitler
MarkKreitler's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2008
Yup

questccg wrote:
MarkKreitler wrote:
Personally, I believe that powers should be significant and distinct. Picking up a "magic sword" that adds 0.1% strength, then finding a magic shield that adds another 0.05% strength, just aggravates me.

A side note on #3: you see values like this all the time in MMORPGs. These mechanics aren't tuned low for ease of balancing or for fun -- they're tuned that way to keep players addicted.

It really frustrates me when you just gain 0.1% strength by equipping a "magic sword"... It's like the new weapon is nearly worthless... How are you supposed to get EXCITED about finding that sword?!?!

MMORPGs that do this for rewards JUST SUCK.

Amen.

Izraphael
Izraphael's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/29/2010
drawback

I like games with minor (but relevant) advantages, and expecially the ones that add a negative drawback to anything more efficient than the lesser bonus.
A quick example: if the base damage for a sword is 1d8, and you say that 1d8+1 is the lesser bonus you can gain through an effect, any sword with a bonus greater than +1 will have a drawback: 1d8+2 but you're vulnerable to fire, 1d8+3 but you can't cast spells, 1d8+4 that 1d8-4 for one turn if you take damage, and so on. Once you determined interactions between game elements, you make bonuses and negative bonuses situational, so that a good bonus still have a weak point. Obviously you must always be careful with combos, but imho giving everything a nice drawback helps a lot and adds variability without adding effects (but just variables and penalties to existing things).

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Why need a penalty

Izraphael wrote:
1d8+2 but you're vulnerable to fire, 1d8+3 but you can't cast spells, 1d8+4 that 1d8-4 for one turn if you take damage, and so on.

Why do you want to penalize the player for *finding* a better weapon? I am currently working on a dungeon crawl where the rewards are random. If the player who is playing the role of a Fighter earn the *best* sword from his reward pile, well why should I penalize him? It's his luck that he has earned the weapon... I don't want to penalize him.

Earning that sword EARLY in the game will make the earlier part of the game easier (as compare to another fighter who has not earned the sword). But in the end, during the last levels of play, the game will even out and his *great* sword will only be *good enough* on the last levels because monsters earn a bonus each level...

No need to penalize anyone, as the game naturally progresses, it gets harder as you go further into the dungeon.

MarkKreitler
MarkKreitler's picture
Offline
Joined: 11/12/2008
Chocolate AND peanut butter

Quest, I get where both you and Iz are coming from. Both approaches have strong points.

Your way rewards the treasure hunter personality and lets players feel like epic heroes. That is all good.

Iz gives players the satisfaction of feeling skilled when they load out optimal gear for a particular situation (going to the ice forest? Bring you fire sword!). It's also a great way to throttle players' ability to consume content. A single, powerful sword allows players to burn through large chunks of the game. A single, powerful fire sword makes it easy to beat the ice levels, but harder to beat the fire levels. This is a huge benefit to designers making time-intensive content (read: "on-line MMORPGs"). Slowing the players down while giving them a fun challenge keeps them engage and gives the design department time to stay ahead of the leveling curve.

M.

Izraphael
Izraphael's picture
Offline
Joined: 01/29/2010
explain

MarkKreitler wrote:
Iz gives players the satisfaction of feeling skilled when they load out optimal gear for a particular situation (going to the ice forest? Bring you fire sword!). It's also a great way to throttle players' ability to consume content. A single, powerful sword allows players to burn through large chunks of the game. A single, powerful fire sword makes it easy to beat the ice levels, but harder to beat the fire levels. This is a huge benefit to designers making time-intensive content (read: "on-line MMORPGs"). Slowing the players down while giving them a fun challenge keeps them engage and gives the design department time to stay ahead of the leveling curve.

This. The point is that the Sword *is* stronger, and is *always* stronger, except for a situation\skill.
It's the same principle that leads to the classic "Two Handed Sword deals more damage, but you can't use a shield" or "Thief can backstab but only with a knife".

The positive effect should obviously be strong enough to balance (and exceed) the drawback, and players must perceive that the item is *really good*, expecially in X given situations, while in Y situations is *a bit punitive* (and obviously X should be greater than Y!).

larienna
larienna's picture
Offline
Joined: 07/28/2008
It's a bit annoying because

It's a bit annoying because you need to have 2 abilities per stuff since each has positive and negative ability.

It does not seem to aply in all situations. For example, in the example for the game I quoted with weak abilities a building could only give let say +25% gold income, while in a game with stronger impact abilities it would have given +50% or +100% gold income.

I don't see how keeping the +25% gold income and adding a negative draw back or alternate effect could actually make the game better. It simply increase the number of modifiers that needs to be stacked and it makes it even less friendly for board games.

questccg
questccg's picture
Offline
Joined: 04/16/2011
Making me think...

Izraphael wrote:
The point is that the Sword *is* stronger, and is *always* stronger, except for a situation\skill.
It's the same principle that leads to the classic "Two Handed Sword deals more damage, but you can't use a shield" or "Thief can backstab but only with a knife".

Well those seem to me 2 acceptable options. But having a sword+2 not be able to cast a spell is not a great weapon at all... So if you are a fighter maybe it doesn't matter (in this specific case). But if you have a sword+3 that does fire damage (+3)... Well then again you add a layer of complexity.

But one thing for certain, I will add a "Circle" (for lack of a better term) to all my monsters. Examples are elements, like Earth, Water, Fire, Air, and Undead. This is partially to better identify the monsters and things like "Turn Undead" which would work on any undead monster.

Syndicate content


forum | by Dr. Radut