What's the value of balancing your game, and how do you do it? In Gamasutra's latest feature
, 100 Rogues
developer Keith Burgun tackles the issue of game balance, writing, "a major reason that balance in game design is so difficult to achieve [is] it can be so difficult to perceive."
Burgun writes, "There aren't always clean-cut, mathematical ways to balance your game; at the end of the day, it tends to come down to an educated guess on the part of the designers. A game being 'balanced' is also always, at best, a rough approximation. No game is truly perfectly balanced -- even in chess, one player gets to go first."
One way that balance can be obscured is when you're "not looking at the whole picture", such as when elements of the game -- characters in a fighting game or units in an RTS -- only work as balanced when viewed in the context of the whole game.
"Many times, I've seen an extremely powerful element in a game, and initially said to myself, 'Wow, that's gotta be over-powered!', only to find out later that there was a weakness to the element that wasn't immediately clear (the opposite happens a lot, too)," Burgun writes.
"There are so many areas in which imbalance can crop up, though. Let's take Warcraft III
-- a game I played very intensely on the ladder for many years -- as our example. Firstly, you want to make sure that the races (factions of unit-types) are balanced, so that regardless of which race the player picks, they are not at a disadvantage. Then you need to balance the units inside the race against each other."
"When the game first came out (Reign of Chaos
), spellcasters were too powerful, and so every battle was just a ton of spell casters versus another ton of spellcasters, regardless of race."
The full, in-depth game design feature, which has many more examples from different games and other insights into how balance can be achieved, is live now on Gamasutra