As part of Gamasutra's latest feature interview
, Dustin Browder, design director on Blizzard's StarCraft II, says that while data mining is essential for shaping gameplay balance, it's not to be relied on solely.
As the StarCraft II
beta continues, Blizzard has been able to capture tremendous amounts of data on player behavior. And of that process, Browder says, "We can learn a lot. The danger with a lot of this data is that you have to be very careful how you use it."
For example, he says, data can be misleading. "With unit stats, I can tell you that, for example, in a Protoss versus Terran game, 12 percent of the time the Protoss build carriers. And when they build carriers, they win 70 percent of the time," he says. "You could say, 'That must mean carriers are overpowered!'"
"That's not really true, though. It could just be that as you get towards the end of the game, if the Protoss have the extra resources to waste on a bunch of carriers, they're probably going to win anyway."
Of course, it doesn't mean the carriers aren't overpowered either, Browder notes. "That stat alone actually tells you nothing. It's a very dangerous stat. If you listen to that stat, you can make all kinds of mistakes," he warns. "The real challenge for us is to continue to sort the wheat from the chaff, to determine which stats are real, which stats are meaningful, and which ones we should be looking at to make a meaningful change."
The full feature, which reveals much more of Browder's thinking behind the development of both StarCraft II's single player and multiplayer modes, is live now on Gamasutra.