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Rampant Games - Balance is Overrated

by Dhruin, 2011-05-06 00:10:02

Jay Barnson writes a design piece titled Game Balance is Overrated:

Now, balance is a good thing in general. It’s important to make sure a games’ challenge doesn’t become so easy it becomes boring, or so difficult it becomes frustrating. It comes in many forms.You’ve got level-scaling, made notorious by The Elder Scrolls: Oblivion. You have item restrictions that prevent you from obtaining too-powerful items early in the game which would make combat boringly unchallenging for your current level.  You’ve got class balancing to make sure the game isn’t too easy or difficult for a particular class (in single player) and that all classes can compete on reasonably equal footing for slots in groups and raids in multiplayer games. And then there’s the effort that gets put into making sure that the various abilities and powers don’t interact in such a way that they create a serious loophole or exploit that nullifies the game’s challenge.

But taken too far, it makes the game too even, too balanced, and boring. I want a game to have spiky, imbalanced edges. Not something that wrecks the game, obviously, but I’m a believer that not every power should scale equally, and not every encounter should be defeatable at your current level. And finding magic items should be – well, magical. Nothing helps that sense of discovery and anticipation more than knowing that maybe – just maybe – you will find an item that’s truly a game-changer – at least for a while.

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