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 Can A Game Balance Two Modes?

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SinisteRing
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PostSubject: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Tue Dec 29, 2009 11:41 pm

I pose this question mainly due to some insane amounts of debate recently on the Heroes of Newerth forums about keeping or getting rid of Easy Mode. Can any game balance itself between two modes? I know this question is insanely broad, but consider the following topics:

STRATEGY

The Fast .vs. The Slow
Games: Defense of the Ancients, Heroes of Newerth, Demigod. (Aeon of Strife's)

In single-unit strategy games, you can have fast-paced games and slow-paced games. In DotA/HoN, for example, they give you the option to go between these two modes. If it's fast paced, can something that works well later on be balanced equally in comparison to the slow-paced mode? Considering that the mode brings the game to later stages faster, the hero will be stronger throughout the remainder of the game. This makes the heroes less useful early on underpowered in comparison.

For example, using DotA as our primary example, Mortred is considered balanced to slightly underpowered in most non-em games. However, when it comes to easy mode games, Mortred gets gold and experience much faster and is propelled to the late-game, destroying it entirely. Now, if this were to be fixed and Mortred were to be nerfed down to balance in easy mode, she would never be picked in normal games, right? This is where the question comes in: Can something like this be balanced?


FIRST PERSON SHOOTER

The Kill .vs. The Capture
Games: Team Fortress, Quake, Call of Duty, Combat Arms

If you've played any of these games, you'll know that most of them have both a Deathmatch and Capture the Flag mode. Keeping this in mind, is it possible to balance every class for both modes? Can you balance out a stealthy character able to easily get behind enemy lines without much damage with a slow moving character that easily mows down the opposition?

Let's use Team Fortress as our example. Can we really say that a Spy is as useful in Deathmatch Mode as he is in Capture the Flag Mode? If you think about it, how hard is it for a spy to capture the flag versus how hard it is for a spy to get a kill? Sure, if the spy can sneak up on someone, then perhaps he'll get a kill every once in a while. But let's face it... most people will shoot at anything randomly to make sure it's not a spy (damage is done only if it's an enemy). This also brings up the case of friendly fire vs. non-friendly fire. It's a unique phenomenon that juggles between many the different game modes of 2 different aspects: Friendly Fire and CTF/Deathmatch. If you discount that, how hard is it for a Minigun-carrying dude (referred to as the Heavy from here on out due to me being unable to recall his actual name) to capture the flag? Pretty much impossible given his slow movement speed. Just gun him down from all sides while he moves like a snail and there's no problem. He may have the health of a beast, but he's still easily caught up to and sprayed down. However, when it comes to Deathmatch, he can easily get kills and stay alive so he doesn't give them. It's quite simple: He's more useful in Deathmatch than CTF.

So is it possible to balance between two modes?
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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:13 am

Yes it is.

It's just harder to do, and at times allows certain ideas have to be foregone because it's impossible to balance for both modes - which kind of should be obvious, restrictions would have to be placed - but overall, it is possible.

Taking -em/non-em for example, one thing people fail to realize is that "early game heroes" will DOMINATE the early game, and to the extent that they can easily be several levels ahead of the opponent. Making your opponent Mortred go back to base for a minute in non-em would be maybe a level in EXP, but in em, that's 2-3 levels - which you can now use to keep him out of the lane. Towers also fall incredibly fast, and with a push team, you can end the game in (literally) 12 minutes. Which is actually counter to what people think that "late game heroes own in EM". The actual difference is that in non-em, you're allowed more mistakes as early game heroes, and less as late game heroes - where as em, it's the other way around. Which is more enjoyable depends on the crowd, and also - which is more balanced, because it's not as objective as it is subjective (In DotA, most balance changes are based around tournaments and high level games - even if a hero was considered balanced before - See: Clockwork).

The difference lies in enjoyability versus balance. A game where everyone has 1 HP, and everyone has a 10000 damage nuke is "balanced" but it's not really going to be enjoyable. The purpose of balance is to reduce frustration in higher level play, and if that's not accomplished even if it's "balanced" then it's pointless.

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:15 am

#1 Why do you actually WANT to balance both modes? Sometimes the point of having multiple modes is so that you have an option for non-balance when you want it. Just as you said, things that are normally underpowered or barely balanced can be godly in other modes. As long as they have counters and it's within reason so the game is still strategic, I see no problem with lacking balance.

#2 IMO, to truly balance both modes, you need to totally redo almost everything. Weapons, characters, items, etc etc. They all need balance tweaks or flat out removal and/or replacing depending on different modes.


The simplest solution that I can think of, is to simply dis-allow anything that is too powerful in global mode-specific bans. Otherwise, the strategic switch-up can be fun even when it is sometimes a bit more limiting.
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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:34 am

When you ban, disallow or nerf the thing that is the most powerful in a game - the players will
first - bitch about it, and second - move on to the next most powerful thing in the game.

Buffing other things is preferred over nerfing - unless there is an oversight, an obvious imbalance that will throw off the entire balance (Such as heroes being too strong for towers) if everything else was buffed instead of a single nerf. People don't bitch at buffs, and the end result is similar.

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 5:33 am

Yes, but the difference is that you can ban or nerf 1-2 things, or you can buff dozens if not hundreds. When your trying to balance an alternate mode, you often want the simpler method.

I think just banning instead of nerfing is probably better anyway.
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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 11:53 am

Are you familiar with the widely cited Playing to win?

It's a good article on gaming in general.

Edit: This article Balancing a Multiplayer game is also relevant.

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 12:39 pm

That article doesn't seem that great. The logic is mediocre and most of the arguments are self-defeating. I feel like there may be a decent idea buried somewhere in there, but it is having trouble coming out.
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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 1:35 pm

How so? And did you read all three (For Playing to Win) and four (For Balancing A Multiplayer game)?

How are the arguments self defeating, how can logic be mediocre...

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 2:27 pm

Logic can be mediocre if the inductive connections are not that strong because of bad examples or poor wording. Deductive logic can be mediocre only due to poor language usage, because deduction is absolute.

I haven't read the articles, I just felt like saying that.

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Wed Dec 30, 2009 3:24 pm

Which leads back to the other question - How are the arguments self-defeating?

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Thu Dec 31, 2009 12:18 am

He talks about the fact that a "real" gamer will do anything to win at any cost and saying things are "cheap" is just a bad excuse. Then almost immediately afterwords, he talks about the fact that sometimes something is "too cheap" to be allowed.
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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Thu Dec 31, 2009 1:19 am

Except that's not what he says? He gives conditions...

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PostSubject: Re: Can A Game Balance Two Modes?   Thu Dec 31, 2009 2:33 am

Dragon has a hard time accepting that he's wrong and Sirlin is right.
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