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Author Topic: Are class imbalances an MMO marketing strategy?  (Read 11209 times)
Nebu
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on: March 29, 2009, 12:25:40 PM

I'm not sure if this is a design issue or not, but it's a topic that has been in my head for years. 

Here's the plot: 

1) Create a game with x classes

2) Create a situation where y classes are purposefully overpowered

3) Change the overpowered classes periodically to cycle players into these classes as a means to prolong subscriptions.  Call these changes "class balance fixes".

My question: Is class balance really as hard as it's made out to be or are the power shifts in classes really just a marketing strategy to encourage players to reroll into the new, fotm class?

Those of you on the inside... any thoughts?
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 12:28:57 PM by Nebu »

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pxib
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Reply #1 on: March 29, 2009, 01:00:44 PM

That assumes much of the "overpowered" whining is accurate. I think it's more the case that certain classes are underpowered in that they provide nothing necessary that another class can't do better, and so the slowly-progressing casual players who happened to choose those classes early on find it hard to join groups. Unless something is done to keep those sad folks in the game (like "class balance fixes") they'll give up once they hit the endgame because the idea of spending additional months on an alt is too daunting.

Any game with sufficient overlap in class abilities will ALWAYS create a new underpowered class every time they "balance" the last one. Players identify this new class relatively quickly and start preferentially excluding it from PUGs. so designers have only a short time to start "balancing" it before its share of casual players stop paying their monthly fee.

When a class is genuinely overpowered, like WoW's hunter and rogue for PvE and PvP respectively, it tends to remain uniformly popular and gets buffs to focus its advantages rather than being balanced in and out of its top seat like the also-rans. Overpowered classes are great for retention, and if a MMOG could have nothing but overpowered classes it absolutely would.

"Flavor of the Month" is a separate and unpredictably psychological issue, and if game designers could predict that of thing they'd be making a fortune in the stock market rather than implementing "class balance fixes".

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Nebu
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Reply #2 on: March 29, 2009, 01:12:11 PM

Players invariably learn, over time, to exploit weaknesses in any game system.  I'm guessing that finding these holes are what creates many imbalance issues.  What I've seen, particularly in pvp mmo's, is an imbalance paradigm that shifts with time.  It seems to keep players involved in the game as many are intrigued by figuring out how changes in mechanics create new holes in the existing mechanics.  This generates rerolls and a fresh influx of new toons. 

Is this really psychological, inevitable, or manufactured?  I don't know and it's likely a combination of the three.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 01:20:44 PM by Nebu »

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pxib
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Reply #3 on: March 29, 2009, 01:56:20 PM

I don't think, as a general rule, players are retained by making them abandon their favorite character and start over with a new one. Some will, of course... but to make a successful design strategy out of it, they'd have to outweigh the ones who abandon their favorite character by canceling their subscription.

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Nebu
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Reply #4 on: March 29, 2009, 02:03:56 PM

I don't think, as a general rule, players are retained by making them abandon their favorite character and start over with a new one. Some will, of course... but to make a successful design strategy out of it, they'd have to outweigh the ones who abandon their favorite character by canceling their subscription.

Excellent point there.  What about when your subscribers are distilled to the hardcore fans?  Those that are willing to create and recreate guild groups to maximize their effectiveness against mechanics and/or content?  Aren't we starting to see this in WoW? 

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Salamok
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Reply #5 on: March 29, 2009, 02:34:05 PM

I don't think, as a general rule, players are retained by making them abandon their favorite character and start over with a new one. Some will, of course... but to make a successful design strategy out of it, they'd have to outweigh the ones who abandon their favorite character by canceling their subscription.

Excellent point there.  What about when your subscribers are distilled to the hardcore fans?  Those that are willing to create and recreate guild groups to maximize their effectiveness against mechanics and/or content?  Aren't we starting to see this in WoW? 

Define balanced and overpowered?  In early EQ you had on the one hand the prenerf omgz necros pwn the prenerf game but you also had the holy trinity dominating group play and the pamper the clerics guild policies.  Also, as a personal rule any serious balance tinkering on classes or items triggers my exit stage right for that mmo.

edit: also I generally like to play the underplayed classes and it really really pisses me off when they turn them into the FotM with a balance boost so any idiot can utilize them successfully.
« Last Edit: March 29, 2009, 02:35:54 PM by Salamok »
Mrbloodworth
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Reply #6 on: March 29, 2009, 02:51:19 PM

Unless its a PvP game...I'm not sure it matters.

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Nebu
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Reply #7 on: March 29, 2009, 02:53:28 PM

Unless its a PvP game...I'm not sure it matters.

I agree.  Imbalance in PvE is pretty meaningless as it's a matter of you vs the AI.  PvP balance is much more meaningful. 

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Mrbloodworth
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Reply #8 on: March 29, 2009, 03:15:54 PM

Unless its a PvP game...I'm not sure it matters.

I agree.  Imbalance in PvE is pretty meaningless as it's a matter of you vs the AI.  PvP balance is much more meaningful. 

Well, that's why i never understand the nerd rage in PvE games, other than keeping up with the Joneses.

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Koyasha
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Reply #9 on: March 29, 2009, 03:36:08 PM

In a world where there's only X number of slots in a raid or group, imbalance matters because anyone who's not the overpowered class wouldn't get invited to a raid or group.  If you have group or raid content in your game, then you have to balance enough not to exclude players of certain classes, even if there is zero PvP whatsoever.  Course, if your game is 100% solo content that's a different matter, but then that's playing a single-player game with a chat client.

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Mrbloodworth
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Reply #10 on: March 29, 2009, 04:14:11 PM

In a world where there's only X number of slots in a raid or group, imbalance matters because anyone who's not the overpowered class wouldn't get invited to a raid or group.  If you have group or raid content in your game, then you have to balance enough not to exclude players of certain classes, even if there is zero PvP whatsoever.  Course, if your game is 100% solo content that's a different matter, but then that's playing a single-player game with a chat client.

Or, you could make classes that do not have only one trick, utility, reason for being. The rest is just conditioning.

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pxib
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Reply #11 on: March 29, 2009, 04:41:37 PM

Even in the PvP game I doubt it's advantageous for designers to purposefully toss the "overpowered" hat around. What's economically important, again, is the characters who feel underpowered and impotent (outliers like Salamok notwithstanding). The ideal game would make every single class feel overpowered in its own specific area of expertise, explain and develop that area early in the character's game life, not switch areas partway through the leveling curve, and assure that there was always fun to be had and contribution to be made by that class in the vast majority of in-game situations. MMOGs have thus fair failed to produce that ideal game.

By area of expertise I mean something like the PvE trinity (DPS/tank/heal) or what TF2 means when they split PvP classes into offense, defense, and support. Those are, by the by, six different things. The gameplay learned by a healer is as little preparation for what will be required as PvP support as the experience of tanking prepares someone to play defense. Worse yet, the ideal PvP designation of a MMOG class tends to wander as they and their allies and adversaries gain new abilities, so low level PvP might not even prepare you for high level PvP.

If this is complicated for players, it's even worse for designers who are trying to balance for the endgame (both PvP and PvE) without trivializing pre-existing content. The player retention bonus would have to be enormous to make them do it on purpose.
Or, you could make classes that do not have only one trick, utility, reason for being. The rest is just conditioning.
Unless every character class is equally good at everything (in which case why have character classes at all?), there will always be one who is better in particular situations than another. The more their situational advantages overlap, the more likely this is to happen... not less. Substitute "builds" for "character classes" if you think an open, skill-based system would eliminate this problem.

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cmlancas
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Reply #12 on: March 29, 2009, 04:48:36 PM


it's even worse for designers who are trying to balance for the endgame (both PvP and PvE) without trivializing pre-existing content.


I think this is a key to a great game world -- finding a meaningful way to minimize useless content.  And I'm not referring to a stupid fedex quest to a point in the middle of BFE nobody would ever travel to without the quest (see: Onyxia or EQ epic quests).

There are so many really freakin' awesome zones in WoW -- Gnomeregan for one, that aren't used by the majority of the population playing.  Why can't devs make an interesting instance zone that takes advantage of the old content and makes it fresh and new?

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Hindenburg
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Reply #13 on: March 29, 2009, 05:14:10 PM

You know you could've just said that they should make heroic versions of old content?

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cmlancas
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Reply #14 on: March 29, 2009, 05:18:03 PM

It's not like that at all, it's more like a new flavor to an entire subsection of a game world.  Heroics aren't what I had in mind at all.

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Reply #15 on: March 30, 2009, 03:02:42 AM

I can't picture a way to do that, gameplay wise, other than 'heroics', bumping up the levels of stuff to the cap and making the same content useful and challenging again.

If you're not going to outlevel areas, then there's only a few possible options available.  Either all content scales with the player fighting it, in which case...why have levels at all (see Oblivion or other similar games where your enemies are always scaled to match you) or you don't have levels at all.  Either way it seems you lose a considerable amount of gameplay and more significantly business wise, you lose a major retention feature.

On the other hand, if you mean some kind of redesigned old area with a new twist, then resource wise, that's no different, or at most, not much different than making an entirely new zone.  Even if you reuse the old layout, textures, etc, you still have to go through the full process of placing each spawn, enemy group, giving them abilities, and all the standard stuff involved in making a new zone.  The vast majority of players would rather see an entirely new zone than see an old zone redone in a different way.  If this redesigned area replaces the old area, then you get people that hate the new one and miss the old one (see every single zone revamp ever done in EQ) along with the people that like the new one.  If it doesn't replace the old area, then it's going to be no different than the old zone in the first place, because remember...most players don't even pay attention to the story or lore.  It doesn't matter why players need to return there, they're going to be 'goddamnit I hated that zone the first time and now I have to go back!?'

Some zones should be revamped, but this can't be a general thing, because it really doesn't work out that well.  Too much resources, not that much gain.  But, if you ARE going to revamp a zone, one important point: Keep the old version there!  It doesn't matter what you put into the game to 'explain' the old version still being there, just keep it available.  Because even if "everyone" hated the old version and the new version is a 1000% improvement, some people are going to be really damn pissed that the old version is gone.  And it takes very little resources to keep an old instance available, especially if it's unused most of the time.  EQ and WoW both made this mistake.  For every zone revamp in EQ, there are a lot of people that liked the original versions.  And the funny thing is the original versions were -still active- on the server.  This was observable with the Freeport and North Ro revamp, because it was possible to get to old North Ro (by using MacroQuest to issue a gm /zone command).  The zone was still fully active and functional on the server, and a segment of players would have been quite happy to be able to go to the old zones.  Resources used = ~0.  Customers made happy = >1.  WoW did the same thing (although I don't know if the old version is still active on the WoW servers) with the removal of Naxxramas Necropolis for the new version.  So, with minimal resources they could have put in something like say a 'time portal' that leads to Naxxramas Necropolis, in the past, when it hovered above the Plaguelands.  Very little effort and there'd be a good few people who would be slightly happier.

Meh, I've gotten off track.  Anyway, I'm not sure exactly what you were suggesting in the first place, but the possibilities that I understood, at least, seem to have some issues with them.  And if you replace a zone, leave in a way to reach the old version.

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Reply #16 on: March 30, 2009, 03:20:40 AM

Unless its a PvP game...I'm not sure it matters.

I agree.  Imbalance in PvE is pretty meaningless as it's a matter of you vs the AI.  PvP balance is much more meaningful. 

This isn't really true. PvE balance is a lot more than that. If a game has a large PvE element and one class can burn through that content much faster and with less reliance on groups or other outside assistance then you're doing it wrong. Think Necromancers in DAoC compared to say... any stealth class.

It's important because it skews the graphs on distribution of currency, item acquisition and so forth (even if you ignore the faster levelling aspect). If you have a gross imbalance then players who don't have an alt of that class are at a disadvantage compared to those who do, you're essentially mandating that everyone roll one of these as a provider/powerleveller for their other characters.

Oh and to the original question, the answer is 'no'. I don't think it's possible to balance a class precisely enough in a test environment, you need the volumes of data from the live servers to accurately spot where things are wrong. I do think that developers err on the side of caution when releasing new expansion classes because nobody wants to get players excited about an under performing class. That doesn't always work out however (hi2u Valkyrie!). I would say in general that classes become overpowered by accident and not by design.

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Nebu
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Reply #17 on: March 30, 2009, 11:45:50 AM

Well... the reason I came to this thought in the first place was precisely because of expansions.  Nearly all expansion classes introduced to games are more powerful or more favorable unbalanced than the original classes.  This is part of the attraction to the expansion beyond just the existence of new areas or gear.  People like new classes not only because they're new, but often because they are overpowered relative to older/original classes.  That sure seems like a purposeful marketing gambit to me. 

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Mrbloodworth
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Reply #18 on: March 30, 2009, 12:19:51 PM

Are they overpowered? Or are they just new?

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Reply #19 on: March 30, 2009, 12:30:51 PM

Quote
Are class imbalances an MMO marketing strategy?

No.

Short answer: Balance is hard.

Long answer isn't worth typing out.
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Reply #20 on: March 30, 2009, 12:58:41 PM

Are they overpowered? Or are they just new?

In the case of the two new classes in the LotRO expansion, they certainly seem overpowered but I suppose that might be flavored a bit with newness.  I kinda think a Guardian with a two-handed sword is overpowered vs lower-level mobs, so I guess it depends on a lot of things.

LotRO is probably a bad example for this discussion but I haven't played anything else in years.

On the original question, I don't believe the MOG developers are capable of such a tactic.  Malice vs stupidity, as they say.

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Nebu
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Reply #21 on: March 30, 2009, 01:22:11 PM

Long answer isn't worth typing out.

Paraphrase then. 

I'm interested in hearing the opinion of someone that plays MMO's for even shorter periods of time than I do. 

"Always do what is right. It will gratify half of mankind and astound the other."

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Reply #22 on: March 30, 2009, 01:33:17 PM

Long answer isn't worth typing out.

Paraphrase then. 

I'm interested in hearing the opinion of someone that plays MMO's for even shorter periods of time than I do. 

The best way to think of it, imo, and to understand how difficult it is, is to just look at Ken and Ryu in Street Fighter.

You've got two guys who are basically on parity with eachother. Short of some changes that have come about between II and IV, they were both designed to essentially be the yin and yang of the shoto fighting style. Ken ended up being preferable due to a number of reasons, most of which weren't discovered until after players got their hands on it. Is he better than Ryu? Probably. But a skilled Ryu against a shitty Ken is going to have a field day.

This is what happens at any studio making any sort of game that pits humans against eachother. AoEII had Elbows, Rise of Nations had a number of totally imbalanced races, Starcraft happens to be relatively balanced all things considered. Warcraft III however was a mess, may still be, haven't been following at all. Anyway, I know you don't play single player that much so I'll stop with those comparisons and look at WAR.

Each race - despite not having one - should have had a dedicated healer. Unfortunately we're stuck with comparing the Arch Mage and the Rune Priest since the Zealot was a big, sloppy, ill-conceived mess of a broken class. The Arch Mage in terms of soloability was a fiend, I can't think of a class I had an easier time just "staying" alive with while prancing around the world. The Rune Priest was effectively neutered in PvE, but unlike the Arch Mage, it was a monster in PvP. You have to wonder how this happened. Well, for starters, I blame the players. Not really in a "Oh, you chucklefucks" sort of way, but rather, no classes are going to see any modicum of balance unless you get 10,000 hamsters spinning their wheels. You can do all the beta in the world, all the internal testing you want, but unless classes are a 1:1 proxy of eachother, NOTE FOR NOTE, you'll never have balance. Case in point, the tanks of WAR. What a big goddamn mess.

Now, why do I blame the players? Well, simply because if companies came out with an MMOG that had two sides that were EXACTLY the same with a different skin, players would bitch and moan. And rightly slow. It's not their job to balance the game and it's definitely not their job to make any given race, class, or structure a unique entity in a game. That is, this class plays one way, and the priest or whatever on the other side plays a way that meshes with that race.

In short, it's a big fucking mess. And since MMOGs have ONLY RECENTLY started introducing ANY sense of skill into the equation, we had to rely on developers nerfing and buffing in a war of attrition no one will ever win.

So, it's fucking hard. Because developers cater to the players, the players don't "get it" and everyone on both sides has their thumbs up their ass designing (or expecting, in the case of the players) the same kinds of systems that are flawed at their core.
« Last Edit: March 30, 2009, 01:37:58 PM by schild »
Nebu
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Reply #23 on: March 30, 2009, 01:38:37 PM

In short, it's a big fucking mess. And since MMOGs have ONLY RECENTLY started introducing ANY sense of skill into the equation, we had to rely on developers nerfing and buffing in a war of attrition no one will ever win.

In short, it's fucking hard. Because developers cater to the players, the players don't "get it" and everyone on both sides has their thumbs up their ass designing the same kinds of systems that are flawed at their core.

I think both cover the topic well. 

I guess that, originally, I had believed that the devs were more clever than I should have given them credit.  I believed that, rather than balance being hard, they would see through the mechanics and simply use them as a means to manipulate the subscriptions through balance.  I play MMO's with a lot of scientists and mathemeticians and they break down mechanics into equations rather quickly.  One friend is an actuary and grinds the numbers to find the most efficient ways to do anything.  I only assumed that every development house would have someone similar to get to the heart of min-max play early in the dev cycle since that's ultimately the approach that a subset of the playerbase will assume. 

The lesson I've learned: Never assume anything. 

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Reply #24 on: March 30, 2009, 01:41:23 PM

You've played what, nearly every major MMOG?

And you've come across the exact same problem in every single one.

And you thought it was because developers were clever?

Protip: Marketing has no idea what developers are doing. Developers want marketing to go the fuck away.

While that relationship doesn't work, it's just how things go unfortunately. No, they are not more clever than you'd think, they are in fact less clever and it's why no one besides Blizzard has been able to produce bupkiss in the last 5 years.
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Reply #25 on: March 30, 2009, 01:43:02 PM

Nebu's a candid romantic. We've covered that already.

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Reply #26 on: March 30, 2009, 01:43:49 PM

They need to figure out a mmog where your character just looks to you more leet than everyone else.  You inspect other people and the gear shown to you ranges tween crap and crud, everyone walking around looks drab except you, damage meters always show you as #1, kill shot always go to you and careful chat filters change player chat so that it supports all of the above.  Then when all the people who need that epeen viagra go chase the shiny the rest of us can maybe get a decent mmog released.
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Reply #27 on: March 30, 2009, 01:51:39 PM

You've played what, nearly every major MMOG?

And you've come across the exact same problem in every single one.

And you thought it was because developers were clever?

Protip: Marketing has no idea what developers are doing. Developers want marketing to go the fuck away.

While that relationship doesn't work, it's just how things go unfortunately. No, they are not more clever than you'd think, they are in fact less clever and it's why no one besides Blizzard has been able to produce bupkiss in the last 5 years.

Well... ok... I'm naive.  I get it.

They need to figure out a mmog where your character just looks to you more leet than everyone else.  You inspect other people and the gear shown to you ranges tween crap and crud, everyone walking around looks drab except you, damage meters always show you as #1, kill shot always go to you and careful chat filters change player chat so that it supports all of the above.  Then when all the people who need that epeen viagra go chase the shiny the rest of us can maybe get a decent mmog released.

Laugh all you want, but I'm willing to bet this would be more popular than you might imagine.  People playing games these days want to win and win often.  Gamers want to be challenged on their way to victory.  I consider myself (and most others here) a gamer. 

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Reply #28 on: March 30, 2009, 02:36:08 PM

Well... the reason I came to this thought in the first place was precisely because of expansions.  Nearly all expansion classes introduced to games are more powerful or more favorable unbalanced than the original classes.  This is part of the attraction to the expansion beyond just the existence of new areas or gear.  People like new classes not only because they're new, but often because they are overpowered relative to older/original classes.  That sure seems like a purposeful marketing gambit to me. 


Expansion classes are often better simply because the Dev's know what works in the game, class/mechanic wise. They know which pitfalls to avoid that go around AND have that clean slate to build on. (Deathknight)

In some cases, they have a multitude of suggestions of how to fix original classes, to use as a new expansion class (Animist, Valewalker, Reaver, Banshee, Savage etc...)  awesome, for real

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Reply #29 on: April 03, 2009, 07:19:03 AM

The very simple answer to this postulate is that class imbalance is not a feature. It is a realistic assurance. If Blizzard, et. al. could snap their fingers and assure that they could have a hundred different classes that all had different gameplay but still managed to be effectively equivalent to each other in terms of competitively compared environmental / pvp capacity, they would do so. If they could snap their fingers and have a hundred classes with just the amount of class imbalance variance that they have between the classes they already have, they would do so, and they would start making a bunch more classes.

The mechanics of today's mmo's are too complex to make class balance realistically possible, just like the complexity of today's fighters are too complex to make the rosters completely balanced. Just like Street Fighter is going to have its inevitable 'top tier,' mmo's will have to constantly struggle to try to keep classes in a sort of equilibration with each other as best they can. If they are very attentive and intelligent about it and work hard at it, then 'broken' will come and go in phases for different classes and it will more or less balance out over time. If they suck at it, classes OP at launch will likely have that OP-ness perpetuated across the lifetime of the game, and crap classes will likely remain crap.

EQ went the wrong route with classes and they perpetuated the class gamble. Blizzard cut the WoW classes down to a very, very select few and concentrated on trying to balance that limited set. You wouldn't have the dilemma in WoW that you would have had for class choice in EQ, where there were definitely 'right' vs. 'wrong' choices (Necromancer vs. Shadow Knight, for instance).
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Reply #30 on: April 06, 2009, 10:15:30 AM

Balance is hard but at the same time there is way to much 'the grass is greener over there' whining.  Frequently when the vocal minority on a forum is calling for a nerf it's just because that particular class is better in one area which gets a lot of comment.

Look at the infighting between Clerics and Druids in EQ1 for instance.  Druids were solo-pwn-mobiles, no one could solo outdoor content like a Druid and they could power level like freakin mad.  Eventually they were quite capable in a group as secondary DPS/Healer or even primary healer on second tier content and don't even talk about general utility, there was always something they could do that was generally helpful.

Clerics on the other hand were absolutely required for top-teir, bleeding envelope content, no one could keep a whole group up and running like a good cleric and no one would even think of doing raids at the edge of their ability without one.  If you only had an hour to play and not enough time to devote to a group or just wanted to solo you were pretty much SOL.

To a certain point of view that is a good example of two well balanced classes yet, Clerics constantly complained that they were not self-sufficient enough compared to a druid and druids whined that no one wanted them in groups when there was a chance at a cleric available.

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Reply #31 on: April 06, 2009, 10:39:28 AM

I don't think imbalance is intentional, nor do I think balance is easy. The biggest problem, or barrier to balance as I see it is trying to get PvE and PvP to co-exist. The behaviours of any class in PvE and PvP are so wildly different that you're effectively on a see-saw, and pushing up one way often ends up pushing down the other. I think overall Blizzard have done a good job with PvE balance. Once you filter out all the terribles you find that most DPS classes are within 5-10% of each other, a margin that is within the range of player skill easily. They have also ensured assymetric redundancy of utility, so there are very few must-have class/spec abilities that would otherwise bias group/raid selection decisions. It's not perfect, and they are still making moves such as slapping replenishment on some classes as temporary fixes. Still, compared to TBC, and especially the original WoW, there is a semblence of balance. Here by balance I mean all classes within a given archetype are equally desireable and are similar amounts of fun to play.

However PvP balance in WoW is seriously seriously broken. A large part of this is because the game turns on it's head, healers are forced to tank, tanks barely exist and DPS is focused on nuking rather than sustained damage. I don't know how you balance this.

On the topic of skill-based games, I don't see that you get any better balance in those. People will always move towards the path of least resistance, and you will get homogenisation towards the optimum, much like how people will chase the FoTM in a class-based game.

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Reply #32 on: April 08, 2009, 04:14:57 AM

To a certain point of view that is a good example of two well balanced classes yet, Clerics constantly complained that they were not self-sufficient enough compared to a druid and druids whined that no one wanted them in groups when there was a chance at a cleric available.


They would only be balanced if you had access to both simultaneously. Otherwise that is pretty much a clear cut case of out of balance. Two classes sharing the same role, but one is obviously superior in all regards. 

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Reply #33 on: April 08, 2009, 01:11:46 PM

I've been convinced for years that the way to minimize these balance issues is to minimze the number of classes in an MMO as much as you can. Mythic has never understood this; Blizzard has been better although they still probably have a little too much role overlap.

I've probably said this before like 32 times but DAOC could easily have been reduced to 6 classes per side or so and been a better game for it.

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Reply #34 on: April 08, 2009, 02:40:52 PM

I've probably said this before like 32 times but DAOC could easily have been reduced to 6 classes per side or so and been a better game for it.

I both agree and disagree.  One of the reasons that I stayed with DAoC so long was that each realm played a bit differently which was due entirely to the number of classes available.  What impressed the hell out of me was that, at least in 8v8, the three realms were pretty darn close to balanced.  Alb had their advantages in extending and Midgard had their advantage with interrupts, but a well played group could still be dominant regardless of realm if they were able to maximize the group dynamics. 

I loved DAoC because you could build a competitive group so many different ways.  Rerolling (group builds or realm) and changing tactics with each expansion really added replay value to the game. 

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