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Game Balance

This is a good discussion about game balance, an important topic of game design that I feel does not always get the focus it needs. The Communitas project focuses on all four realms of balance the author describes, and more:

 

  • In single-player games, we use “balance” to describe whether the challenge level is appropriate to the audience;
  • In multi-player games where there is asymmetry (that is, where players do not start with exactly equal positions and resources), we use “balance” to describe whether one starting position is easier to win with than another.
  • Within a game, if there are multiple strategies or paths to victory that can be followed within the game, we use “balance” to describe whether following one strategy is better or worse than following another.
  • Within a system that has several similar game objects (such as cards in a trading-card game, weapons in a role-playing game, and so on), we use “balance” to describe the objects themselves, specifically whether different objects have the same cost/benefit ratio.

Game Design Concepts

When veteran gamers or game designers are playing a game, if they are doing too well or too poorly, they will often comment on the game’s balance. This word is important, but I fear it is often overused. Like the word “fun,” there are different kinds of balance, and understanding what game balance is and why it’s important is what we cover today.

Why are we only covering this now and not earlier (like, say, at the start of the Design Project)? As mentioned earlier, balancing the game is something that is best left until after you have a good set of core mechanics. Balancing a game that is simply not meeting its design goals is a waste of time, and when you change the core mechanics you’ll just have to balance the game again. So here we are, with a work-in-progress that has survived multiple rounds of playtesting…

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