A philosophy of game balancing and several ways to make it unworthy
by, 30-01-2011 at 12:10 PM (2274 Views)
First of all: why posting this in a blog instead of in the forum? Well, probably because it's just some loud thinking that i'm making, and i don't think it has to be so 'interactive' as a forum thread.
Why such a subject? Mainly because i am a bit fed up with posts criticizing the work we have done in XTC, posts which bottom line can be translated into: I like what you made but you could have done it better, because i was expecting it to be different, so, since it is not exactly how i want to play, you should change it (followed by several aspects of the mod that caused the poster's urge to speak out, i.e.: balancing, weapons, ships models, colors, dimensions, sounds, etc.)
Now writing on that matter could open endless debates, so in this particular post i will limit myself to critics to our "balance". What? you mean that is not a simple subject? Oh really? Good... that is already a nice step forward.
So let's start with some assumptions we made some time ago, or better said, the original Team started to make some years ago, right after they got their hands on X3:TC - this is just a precisation i wanted to make, since i joined the team only in may '09 or so, when they were already at an advanced stage of the modding project.
Those assumptions were mainly: the game as it has been released is not very exciting, we would like to develop a different approach in several fields: difficulty, immersion, playability and AI functionality. Among these fields some blatant problems stood out: the Terran economy for example, or other much less defined ones such as the 'grade of struggling' a player had to overcome to reach some important milestones (like getting his first capship, or his first megacomplex, etc.).
In the plethora of things that had to be modified, a fundamental part was that of: how to make the changes fit in and not cause sudden gameplay breaking situations, or in other words: how to balance the mod.
This was and has been the first and main fundamental goal of the team: to keep the gameplay fun and exciting in time. Easy said, not so easy to achieve...
So when we started to work along that line (again, i will use 'we' for easy writing, even if i had only a marginal and very limited part in the actual work made to get to where we are now), we had also to define the ideal playing scenario: if balancing is already a weird beast on its own, how can we try to tame it a bit, so to at least have a hope to achieve something? And the first decision was: we will work on it as a self standing thing, not considering 'external mutations' aka cheats and other mods that radically change the gameplay.
And this gives people a first matter to think about: when you criticize our mod, are you playing it the way we made it to be played? Or, maybe, you have cheated in some fleets, some money and skipped all the parts of the game that - for instance - should have made it so important for you to not lose that frigate that you managed to get after a lot of effort?
Balancing is felt really in a different way when you are playing with a deep immersion in the game, emotionally living what you are doing, and is so easy to disrupt with some minor changes that make every thing in game lose their appeal.
And this concludes my first 'chapter' for now
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