Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Random Shots: Philosophy Of Balance

  • Within twenty-four hours of the launch of Champions Online, we've already been witness to an object lesson in how a massively multiplayer game gets balanced. Evidently, it's not easy.

  • In the Ten Ton Hammer interview with Bill Roper, the very first question about how the beta went touches on balance issues. I'll just quote here:
    Whenever you do testing and you make changes, you tend to swing the wheel far over for course corrections. I think that’s one thing that a lot of people don’t realize is that you have to do that. People will ask, “why not make just little changes?” If you think about sailing a ship it’s kind of like you’re going really far to starboard, so you need to swing the wheel hard to port to make a big course correction. Then you can say, OK we went too far, let’s move it back over.

    I scratched my head at this, but I could understand where they were coming from. I guess. Okay, I don't understand. Why not try to hit your intended target instead of swerving back and forth in the hopes you find it accidentally?

  • As if to prove the point, Roper released his State of the Game about launch issues on the first.
    A good number of players have noted that the game isn’t challenging enough, especially at higher levels. We’re usually going to initially err on the side of it being too easy, and then trial and dial in on just the right balance as best we can. We’ve made a couple of broader course corrections over the past weeks, and we’re very close to the experience we all want. To further that direction, we’re doing some fine tuning in the following areas:

    We reduced the effectiveness of Slotted Passive Defense powers, Active Defense powers, and Defense from upgrades. The total bonus of all combined defenses was reduced from a 75% net defense bonus to a 66% net bonus. The biggest change was made within the Passive Defense powers which our players noted were far too effective and trivialized the threat form Henchmen level enemies.

    We increased “non-shtick” enemy damage to compensate for AI / animation delays. This particularly affects Henchmen who did not attack at the expected rate on which other areas of combat effectiveness are balanced. The change represents a 25% increase in this type of damage.

  • As one would expect, the players blew the eff up.

    • "The game was fun before, and it felt like you was a super hero, but now just feels like every mmo out there.

      "Kill 1 mob at a time and then have a rest. Move on and kill next, rinse repeat till you lvl. FUN - I don`t think so!"

    • "but i still stand ferm that you took a ten ton nerf bat and swung it around at random, when you needed some precision hits instead.

      "ill stick it out becuase i hope you will fix this, not that i have a choice as im a life time subscribber, and this is the first time i regreted it, i only hope that changes in time."

    • "The only silver lining I can see in all this, is that during the Open Beta we had a similar patch occur. We all logged in and suddenly everyone was getting thrashed by henchman and no one would even consider doing Super Villains. This got fixed the next day.

      "That being said, I would have thought Cryptic learned their lesson after that problem."

  • Then, wouldn't you know it, Cryptic announced that they would start a Test Server to try out future patches before unleashing them on the gaming public. Good thinking, guys!

© 2009 Marty Runyon. All rights reserved.
If you're reading this on a site other than Bullet Points, be aware that this post has been stolen and is used without permission.


  1. Honestly how could they not have thought about having a test center before this.

  2. One of the things I really like about CO compared to CoH is that minions don't pose much of a challenge. It makes you feel like, you know, a superhero instead of an EQ character with a highly customized appearance. Hopefully all of this will have settled down by the time I'm back in game.

    It's funny, one of the things I can't stand about WoW, which I have been forced to revert to for the time being, is that normal mobs are way way too easy. I guess it's a matter of the setting.

  3. @ Jayedub - I'm willing to bet this was something already in the works for launch. The fact that we've ended up with this perfect storm of patch rage was pretty awesome, though.

    @ Yeebo - That's something I don't understand about this balancing. There are villain level characters liberally included with the henchmen all through the game (up to level 20 at least) and they've been all the challenge I need. However, I haven't had too much trouble with the nerf except for specific VIPER henchmen that decimate me almost instantly.

  4. I too have noticed that certain enemies are tougher than others, possibly due to resistances to my attack damage.

    On the flip side, some mobs seem to tear me up faster than others as well. The zombies in the desert for example, the toxic damage just eats away at my HP.