about the universe forum commander Shop Now Commanders Circle
Product List FAQs home Links Contact Us

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Game Balance

Steven Paul Petrick writes:

Balance is one of the hardest things to factor into a game design. Without balance, there is little point in playing. Balance can be many things, from giving both players exactly the same type of combat unit on an absolutely level field, to allowing one side a greater power but giving the weaker side a victory condition that he can achieve if he plays well. It is often a matter of scale.

Designing the basics of a system is often easier than creating the balance to make it playable. This is because players are often not balanced (and no, I am not making a joke about sanity). Every player has a different level of skill. Some are better at maneuver than others. Some are simply driven to drive forward no matter the consequences. Consider the game of chess. A flat board with two identical opposing armies, but one has "the initiative", i.e., White moves first and from his first move has control of the action until he makes a mistake. (Make no bones about it, if white loses the initiative it is because the player has made a mistake.) The first move allows White to control the center of the board, and black is reacting to White and trying to avoid being pinned while looking for White to make a mistake so that he can take the initiative.

So how do you find balance. Particularly in a game like SFB where as much as possible you want diversity. Ships to have differing weapons and capabilities, but also be representative of the race that defines their characteristics.

And do not forget the players who bring their own characteristics. A Lyran player once expressed the thought that if the Kzinti Frigates had only slow drones, he could beat a squadron of three Kzinti Frigates with three Lyran frigates in a fight set in Y155. The Kzinti accepted the challenge, and use the weapon the Lyran had overlooked (three times as many transporters and larger marine complements). The battle ended with the two surviving Lyran Frigates fleeing the field. While the Lyrans had greater direct-firepower, the Kzintis capitalized on their advantages and won the battle.