Game Development Reference
In-Depth Information
A Balancing Act
Balance is one of the most elusive concepts in game design, yet it is also one of the
most important. Balance refers to the game achieving a point of equilibrium between
various, usually conflicting, goals:
Challenging, but not frustrating
Easy to get into, but deep enough to compel you to stay
Simple to learn, but not simplified
Complex, but not baffling
Long, but not too long
Balance can also refer to a state of rough equality between different competing units
in a game:
Orcs vs. humans
Melee fighters vs. ranged fighters
The NFC vs. the AFC
The Serpent Clan vs. the Lotus Clan
Paul vs. Yoshimitsu
Sniper rifles vs. rocket launchers
Rogues vs. warlocks
Purple triangles vs. red squares
The test team may be asked by the development team or project manager for balance
testing at any point in the project life cycle. It is often prudent to suggest delaying any
serious consideration of balance until at least Alpha, because it is hard to form useful
opinions about a game if key systems are still being implemented.
Once the game is ready for gameplay testing, it is important for test feedback to be as
specific and presented in as organized and detailed a manner as any other defect
report. Some project managers may ask you to report balance issues as bugs in the
defect-tracking database; others may ask the test lead to keep gameplay and balance
feedback separate from defects. In either case, express your gameplay observations so
that they seem fact-based, and hence authoritative.
Let's examine some feedback I collected from my testers when we conducted balance
testing on Battle Realms , a PC RTS developed by Liquid Entertainment. It became
clear very early in the course of play testing that the Lotus Warlock unit may be over-
powered. One tester wrote:
Lotus Warlocks do too much damage and need to be nerfed.
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