26: Balance

26: Balance

How do you approach the concept of balance in your designs? How important is it to you, and what methods do you use to ensure its presence (or absence)?

 

 

Balance is a strange thing to think about. Specially in party games. Being overpowered can add excitement to the flow of a game. Someone will be annoyed at the variance in difficulty of the Yogi cards. Someone else will enjoy the relief when they get a simple ‘one eye closed’ late in the game.

In a strategic game, imbalance in card power level means that a draft can be meaningful.

Perhaps, a ‘balanced’ game lets players feel like their success/failure was a result of their actions, rather than just dumb luck.

But some players want the abnegation of control/responsibility.

Bez Shahriari

Balance is paramount in my designs. I playtest and test and test and have lots of blind play tests to achieve proper balance. I look at it like: is the highest scoring thing to do the most fun thing to do? I don’t want players to sacrifice fun to ‘win’. I also don’t want an early decision to ‘put someone out of the running’.

Adrienne Ezell

The way in which I try to address balance in my design is through rigorous playtesting, with a variety of different audiences. Working with players who want to break the game, players who want to enjoy the game, and players who might never have played games before are all essential steps for me as a designer, as prototyping never seems to bring up all of the frustrating scenarios that an unintended lack of balance can present.

Sam Illingwortth

Perhaps, a ‘balanced’ game lets players feel like their success/failure was a result of their actions, rather than just dumb luck. But some players want the abnegation of control/responsibility. — Bez Shahriari

My co-designers have influenced me to start from a purposefully imbalanced point and find the balance through play instead of attempting to create a perfectly balanced system before testing. We use “Nunn’s Law” / “Goddards’ Law” as shifts in balance are hard to detect using small changes in granularity – why use +1 when you can use +3 / +5?. We hone in on what players perceive as balance by listening to their feedback and adjust the game accordingly. Sometimes, players don’t really want balance; they way fair. Balance can also be boring. If a game is tautly balanced, it may not progress.

Sen-Foong Lim

If something is clearly, clearly broken, I’ll adjust the numbers on the fly. Other than that, balancing is the last part of the process for me – I care much more about elements of the game being FUN than balanced.

Peter C. Hayward

Balancing a game is terribly hard. I usually circumvent the problem with letting the game balance itself through the players decisions. A good example of this is Citadels : I didn’t need to precisely balance the characters, because the Assassin and Thief are self balancing mechanisms – if a character is more powerful in a game, they will be murdered and stolen from more often.

Strong interaction and opportunities for take-that is another way to let the players take charge of balancing the game. If a player is running away with the game, they gets attacked. I’ve written a long (but old) blogpost about this issue here.

Bruno Faidutti

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