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Thread: Balance at Different Progression Levels

  1. #1
    Senior Member Shiri's Avatar
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    Dec 2012

    Balance at Different Progression Levels

    Asked by Raven to post about the discussion we had in site chat, so here's my take.

    Coming off the discussion about the Skystriker upgrade (formerly "trap multiple tiles", but potentially now "trap the same tile multiple times due to brokenness"), it seems like because of the limited numbers involved in the banner saga, it'll be extremely difficult to balance the game at multiple levels at once.

    Consider the Skystriker again. At level 1 she has her uses - she's not played a whole lot but I think that's just a trend, her ability can be pretty backbreaking and on top of that it's pretty fun to play with. At level 3 though, trapping 3 tiles seems incredibly busted in a lot of situations, but trapping the same tile multiple times is pretty dubious because you'd be spending 3 willpower to MAYBE hit someone for extra damage. If they just don't move, you've achieved one goal, but you could have done the same thing with level 1, so whiffing it is going to feel like a disaster. Not very compelling.

    That ability hasn't been set in stone yet, but we can already see Bowmaster making a big difference, and Backbiter was nerfed because of his higher rank ability to dive archers out of nowhere. BB seems really strong at higher ranks, and BM IS really strong at higher ranks, principally because there's no direct analogue to increased range that your opponent can use to deal with it.

    Conversely, other abilities like the Warhawk level like crap (seriously, when is that perfect lineup going to happen?) You can also see this with the Warleader, who had global range in beta but was deemed too strong at that level and now is barely played because his ability at level 1 puts him in harms' way. Even then, levelling abilities in an interesting way (increasing range on movement/artillery skills, spread on aoes, etc.) is fun. For classes like the thrasher, just getting extra damage out of the skill with no other nuance is BORING - and relatedly, you get 1 extra stat per higher rank to deal with in customisation balance too.

    What this tells us is that it's going to be impractical to balance every unit at level 1, 2 and 3. In some games this isn't really a problem but stoic's balance has actually been really great so far and it would be a shame if some units were pathetic at level 1 but great at level 3 and you felt like your units were only viable in one tier of play or another.

    What I would like to suggest is a unified competitive format at team power 6, permanently, so all units can be balanced around that level. That way if Warleader is underpowered at this level (or Backbiter for that matter) he can be brought into line, and then it's less important if he's overpowered at higher tiers (or has a more generic/boring ability upgrade stratification.) Then you can just have the "casual tier" where you continue to level your units and so on, because some players just love progression, but people who just want to play one balanced game don't have to worry about running multiple armies for each tier (or worse, grinding all the units up to tier 3 so they can participate with the full variety.) However, this solution is probably not the best from Stoic's point of view since they actually made rank 1 really reasonably priced as far as buying everything goes now, so emphasising it at the expense of the higher tiers is likely unpalatable - it's fine to expect people to pay if they want everything to play the full game competitively, but don't want to grind. So maybe someone else can come up with something that will keep both parts of the playerbase and stoic's wallet happy.

    EDIT: Getting feedback that my post is unclear, so let's try a TL;DR version.

    1. Abilities that present different options to make more interesting decisions as you level up, like the warleader with his positioning requirement, or backbiter, are more fun than abilities that just add more damage/willpower like exertion.
    2. Unfortunately, a side effect of 1. is that some abilities are bound to scale better or worse than others just because of the dimensions along which they operate.
    3. Therefore, it becomes very difficult to make all units practical to use at all tiers.
    4. Having units NOT be practical to use at all tiers is a completely miserable experience for players that should be avoided.
    5. Therefore, the best thing to do is to pick one tier for serious competition where balance can be prioritised heavily.
    6. Right now this would be best at rank 1 because of the accessibility of the higher ranks, but that has the problematic effect of locking out an entire subsystem of the game that grind-style players really enjoy, so some compromise is needed.
    Last edited by Shiri; 03-24-2013 at 02:33 PM.

  2. #2
    I like your proposal. The only tweak I'd suggest is sometimes running tournaments at other power levels.

    This also addresses Grits' issue about down-ranking your characters; and the confusion players have about which units can be ranked up and what exactly those higher ranks entail (some of the PG ability descriptions are pretty...poor). If higher ranks are just for fun and to see what they'll be like in SP, then there's much less to complain about there.

    I'm just guessing, but I don't think the grind beyond rank 1 actually means a lot of money for Stoic. I think vanishingly few people buy Renown for that purpose and when they do, it's a one-time purchase. It's better to make the game more welcoming to newcomers (as I think your idea would) so as to expand the player base and attract more super-fans who will reliably buy any new colors that are released.

  3. #3
    Senior Member Shiri's Avatar
    Join Date
    Dec 2012
    Oops, sorry, I forgot to add that. Yeah there would be tournaments at other power levels so people could mess around with the higher level stuff in competition. It'd just be that there was always a rank 6 one and a some-other-rank one.

  4. #4
    First off, Thanks Shiri for posting this! This was a great discussion started in chat, also whilst on the subject of chat please note for those of you that I don't chat to I play devil's advocate a lot so bare that in mind before jumping on me!

    Personally it seems to me that a lot of the issues with units are the skills and how they progress. Everyone had issues with BB's and even more so when you had their skill progression in mind which is why they got changed. Same deal with SS and multiple tiles and Sa's and SnB covering a mass of tiles.

    So for me, why progress skills at all? Just keep the skills at rank 1 and progress the stats. Much easier to balance that way and you have a competitive format already built around power 6 tounries. Folks playing sp or friend/fun games can rank up and play power 18 and you could even play vs higher powers and only have some stat point difference rather than a skill difference. This also becomes like a handicap in golf for example.

    Tirean I would want maybe 6 power or more handicap playing against you

    So what are you thoughts? is everyone hung up on skill progression or could we do away with it completely? Maybe save it just for sp?

    Failing that if you have to have skill progression, just add +1 dam or +1 break to them all much easier to balance (the exception being WL and PV as they don't damage per say)

    I have typed this pretty quickly with very little thought (As I said I try to provoke it not have them myself!) so there is bound to be something better out there, just someone needs to come up with it!

  5. #5
    @HO: Well, I guess the rank-ups on abilities are in there for the SP anyway. If you were to follow the OP, anyway (which it sounds like you're for) -- relegating higher than 6 team power to friend matches and the odd tourney -- why not let the higher abilities in with them? Those abilities need some testing for the SP, anyway, I guess. And designing custom, boring abilities for MP wouldn't be worth it or interesting to play, I guess. I hope this doesn't sound hostile; I like playing the devil's advocate, too.

  6. #6
    I agree with what Shiri is suggesting. Personally, I haven't touched the higher ranks so far, because I still have plenty to learn at Rank 1 without introducing different stats and abilities to the mix. For me, balance is key, and while variety can be fun, if it is not underpinned by a very solid foundation, people will not stick around too long after trying out all the cool new abilities.

    So I'd be happy if the game was (for now) balanced around Rank 1, with the higher ranks being treated as a chance to try out new things and have fun (almost like a beta test). Ideally you could down-rank units too, so you can play around with combinations without being locked in to decisions. A few months down the line, once Rank 1 is generally solid, Rank 2 could be given an equal footing to Rank 1, until that is satisfactorily balanced, and so on.

    I don't envy Stoic being pressured to balance 3 ranks at the same time, that's for sure.

  7. #7
    Superbacker bruther's Avatar
    Join Date
    May 2012
    Austin, TX
    One more vote for focusing on balance at rank 6!

    And, one more voice saying, it would be nice to be able to temporarily downshift higher-ranked units, if it's not too much trouble to program.

  8. #8
    I do not feel that focusing all the balance at rank 1 is a good idea. This is a pvp game. So if you ignore balance past rank 1 then there is no reason to have any abilities past rank 1. All you will do is frustrate people and cause them to leave or feel cheated. Not to mention that it also shallows the game experience. It will also cause players to burn out more quickly and spend less money.

    I do agree that some abilities will scale very well and some not so much. There are other ways to balance the champs other than ignoring them past rank 1. Right now the game is still in its beta/infancy phase. Sorry stoic, but it is true. Stoic is also not focused on the pvp aspect right now. If they were there would be much better balance. The team is not stupid, just over worked and focused on single player.

    So how do we fix the issues? That depends on how much resources stoic is willing to put into it. So to me until I get that answer I cannot really help that much. Frankly I do not want to waste my time coming up with answers and solutions if the team is too busy/not able to implement any of them.

    One thing I think would be a good fix right now is to make rank only allow rank 1 power 6 decks. If you have other power units you can play unranked. This is a band-aid fix until stoic has the time and resources to balance/change things further.

    So I do not think we should abandon ranks 2-3 to imbalancedom. I think there are solutions that we can come up with (I know I have a few, some already on the forums) that I think can help.

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