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Balancing probs with fixed teams

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Fhizban
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Hi,
after a long pause (and being busy with our main project), we have started working on another game. As hinted in a previous thread its a fantasy battle game where each player controls a team of creatures/heroes.

To keep things simple, we decided to entirely concentrate on creature abilities and balancing. The game is supposed to have only "good" units, there are no vanilla creatures or "bad" creatures. Each creature features a few stats and a single - unique - special ability. There are (very) rare cases where a creature features 2 or 3 abilities also.

Okay, there is no "mana system" or "resource system" in the game. Instead both players start with their full team already in play. there is also no ability to upgrade your units, their stats are fixed.

What players do is that they "buy" new units before and after combat to assemble their team. This can be temporary or - when playing campaign mode - also permanent. Players gain gold for winning (and losing) fights and can use it to buy new units.

Finally, my question:

As there is no resource system because all units start in play. Do you think this generates balancing problems?

The game uses a mechanic where only "equal" players are paired against each other in campagin mode, so we can assume that all teams are more or less equally powerful. plus there is a limit on how many copies of a creature you can use (more powerful creatures are limited even more).

but - you start the game with your mightiest units already in play (like Dragons etc.) - we have decided to go this route because it ENORMOUSLY speeds up the game and adds a very CHESS-like flavor to it.

Now, as we do not have enough creatures and not enough ingame/meta experience yet, we are really worried about a possible balancing issue.

So, what do you think? Should we integrate a resource system now, or is it OK to go without?

thanks
-Fhiz

X3M
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Fhizban wrote: To keep things

Fhizban wrote:

To keep things simple, we decided to entirely concentrate on creature abilities and balancing. The game is supposed to have only "good" units, there are no vanilla creatures or "bad" creatures. Each creature features a few stats and a single - unique - special ability. There are (very) rare cases where a creature features 2 or 3 abilities also.

If a game is balanced, then there are always "good" units.
However, I think you mean that there is no RPS system implemented. Meaning that one player cannot make a bad choice from the start.
Or, each unit has a unique role in the army.

Fhizban wrote:

Players gain gold for winning (and losing) fights and can use it to buy new units.

Finally, my question:

As there is no resource system because all units start in play. Do you think this generates balancing problems?


I assume that players play open new options? But are limited once again playing in a new round, against another player?

Fhizban wrote:

Now, as we do not have enough creatures and not enough ingame/meta experience yet, we are really worried about a possible balancing issue.

You could post your idea's here. There are plenty of people here that can help.

andymakespasta
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Isn't you system of buying

Isn't your system of buying troops with gold already a sort of resource system? You can always tweak how much each unit costs to balance things out.

like you said, in games where you're already limited by the troops you can bring, using a resource system just draws out the early game. The resource system is only useful for preventing min-max strategies that can kill you before you make a move, or if it's turn based, prevent the starting player from getting too big an advantage.

Unbalanced games can get an illusion of balance, since games don't end immediately, but the unbalance is still there.

The buying of temporary units is rather worrisome, since you can massively boost your army, then become really weak for the next round, even though you're supposed to be "matched"

Robbie Munn
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Interestingly....

...our game is quite similar to what you have described. "Armies" are fixed, it's chess like in flavor and you don't have to use a resource system if you want to jump straight in.

Getting the balance right without resources I found much easier than with, getting the balance right among the troop types was harder, and getting the armies as a whole balanced with each other whilst being very different (and fun) being the toughest part.

I found the trick is not to have any one unit that acts as a keystone for the others and that each unit can be effective on it's own.

Adding resources does allow for some more interesting abilities and can make it much more tactical, but also make the game much heavier and not as 'new payer' friendly.

I'm intrigued that you have a system that allows you to buy troops, yet each player's armies are still 'equal', that's where you could find your biggest balancing problems as you'll have to make sure that there are no combos that give any one player the edge.

Fhizban
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Hey all, thanks for the super

Hey all, thanks for the super quick answers!

Details:

@X3M:

We have RPS, and yes - there is no way to prevent one unit to be better than others. What I meant is that every unit has its purpose. In many games (like MTG, Dreamblade etc.) there are cards/minis that are intentionally "bad". We dont do that.

Thats right, you can change your team between fights but not during the fight.

@andymakespasta

Jep, you are right with the gold aspect. But that only applies out-of-combat balancing and not the balancing of teams while in-combat.

Players keep their units by the way, the whole buying process is some sort of "unlocking". You start with low gold and just a few lowly units. That makes players spend gold on more expensive units throughout the course of a campaign.

@Robbie Munn

Hey, I would be interested to learn more about your game as there seem to be some similarities.

Thats a good point that without a resource system its easier to balance (we think the same). And yes, we also found out that a resource system adds another layer of complexity to a game - a layer that we are completely missing right now.

Maybe I should have noted that our "Teams" (Warbands) are limited to just 9 units per side and while most units can be fielded up to 9 times, there are many that are limited to just 1, 3 or 5.

any more thoughts? I'll share more details if required!

Jarec
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I've been playing two Games

I've been playing two Games Workshop classic games' campaign mode for some time, and that campaign aspect is the one that needs a lot of attention to be balanced.

Blood Bowl balances the amount of units in a team so that a player may only wield X amount of them, but may own more. And the really unfortunate players can have free units for the duration of the match to fill the quota.

Mordheim on the other hand doesn't give a shit about underdog players, and it kinda shows. Many a time players do want to start their whole team from the start rather than trying to cope with the losses they suffered. The game tries to balance things by giving the underdogs more money (less upkeep). There's also a system that lets you bail out before things get too bad, but usually due player stubbornness matches are fought to the bitter end.

I've been thinking this problem somewhat and think that a system which limits the whole game towards the underdog would be good in simpler games. Meaning that whoever has the lower team score, limits the game size to that (maybe a little more if you want to give the bigger guy more of an edge). Then the guy who has better stuff needs to think what he wants to wield against the underdog, maybe taking more lower level dudes to gain some experience, or just the best counters to try shut him down quickly.
That would also mean different sized battles, where in most wargames there is the default size which is usually played since no one can't bother to deviate from it.

JewellGames
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Would a "cooldown" system

Would a "cooldown" system work in your game? Basically bigger or more powerful creatures have to wait longer between turns before being played again. Maybe some reduce cooldown if losing battle etc.

Generally, the cooldowns (1-3 turns) are tracked by rotating the card 90 degrees every turn until its cooldown has been met.

Fhizban
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@Jarec Well there is a limit

@Jarec

Well there is a limit of 9 units per team and you can field a maximum of 9 copies of each unit. But some units are limited to just 5, 3 or even 1. That already offers some kind of limitation.

@JewellGames

WHOP. Now you are hitting the nail on the head. You just indirectly asked one of the questions that bothers me all the time:

"played again" aka "bringing into play".

Well, you cannot bring creatures into play. You start with all of them in play already.

As much as I love the cooldown idea, its not possible the way the game is done now. The only other alternative would be having a cooldown for units abilities.

Why is this topic so important?

Because there are also no "when this creature enters play" abilities.

All in all, the current setup not only lacks a "resource system" but also a whole dimension because there is no "entering play" factor (I hope that was understandable). That removes a lot of design freedom from the game.

...

Right now, we think that according to the balancing the current system is OK or can be tweaked enough in order to be OK.

But, my co-designer and I just think what we miss by removing both resources and bringin units dynamically into play. Thats a lot of design-space sacrificed in order to make the game start/progress faster.

well we have a small board and track lifepoints, in addition to "elements". so there are many other mechanics to build abilities around. But, right now it feels like something is missing. Or that the game is lacking potential because of its current design.

any more ideas? thanks!

JewellGames
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So your whole team is already

So your whole team is already in play except new creatures that are purchased after combat (which have no enter play abilities).

How does combat targeting work?

Could positioning and movement be a used?

Like during setup each player places their full team face down in a row and then players simultaneously reveal them? During combat, creatures can only attack creatures directly infront of them unless they have an AoE melee or ranged stat. Players move creatures but a creature that moves cant also attack that same turn.

I guess I would need to know more specifics about your game to make better suggestions.

TwentyPercent
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There's always balancing...

No one can really create a balanced game from scratch. My game has the same issue.

You will spend forever and a day trying to balance it before playing it (trust, I've made this mistake a lot). So it's best to just do a rough design, build a rough prototype, and then playtest it.

It WILL be unbalanced... Don't worry about that. Just look at your design variables and make 1-2 small tweaks to try to balance it out, then playtest again.

After some rounds of playtesting, you'll find what mechanics you are happy with; some you thought would be fun, probably won't be.

TL;DR Do a rough design, prototype, playtest, balance. Rinse & Repeat.

X3M
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video game testing

Since you are making a video game.
Yet you want your units to use special abilities.

I strongly suggest, using the Blizzard tactic of balancing as well.

Sure you need a proper balance before you start. But by keeping track of how often players use a certain unit. You can constantly work on the balance.

Every game will be a playtest this way.

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