Oct 202015
 
More on Balance. Because of course there is.

This image is from a wonderfully bliss-inducing site called GravityGlue

So here we are, back on Balance in DDO. You didn’t really think you were going to get away with just one article on the subject, did you? Quite the contrary, this is the topic that just keeps on giving. From the forums (where the balance thread is now 1398 posts long) to twitch streams to the chat channel, everyone is talking about balance.

Game balance. Character balance. Balancing the balance.

Both of you who regularly read this space will already know my stance on this: balance is impossible. Make every class fun to play on it’s own, and call that balanced enough. Meanwhile, developers, go back to the code factory and churn out more fun.

But no, we must have balance. We must! Mystified, I asked Turbine (in the form of Jerry Snook, a.k.a. Cordovan, Turbine’s most excellent Community Manager) six muted but pointed questions about balance. I did not get my questions answered, but I did get this:

We are not interested in providing this level of detail, sorry. I would say that the idea of “perfect balance” does not reflect our goal. When we discuss balance, it is about making necessary changes to the game to encourage build diversity and fun. Making the “wrong” build choice because you aren’t playing class X or multiclass Y combination is generally not considered fun, nor is running behind a class, for example, that lays waste to everything in its path while you sit behind unable to do much of anything. So, when we discuss “balance”, the goal isn’t to find a perfectly level playing field for all possible combinations, but rather to encourage diverse and exciting gameplay. When we make changes that cause a particular thing to become dominant to the point that it diminishes the gameplay experience, or provides an onerous challenge to do things like monster and difficulty statting, sometimes additional changes need to be made. I would encourage you to not overly weigh the verbiage of “balance” in terms of some kind of specific, granular goal, but rather to see it as an attempt to provide an exciting and diverse landscape.

Fair enough, Turbine believes that enhancing balance adds to the fun of DDO. I don’t, but that is me, and I am not a developer. They do. As to how they are going about it, DDO Executive Producer Severlin explains – many times – that they are trying to provide balance without “ruining” anyone’s build, but rather by bringing various builds into closer performance with everyone. One could argue that indeed this is ruining builds (some people want to dominate) but regardless, Here is one example of Severlin explaining the approach:

We want these changes to be done such that your current great builds still are great – maybe they just aren’t so far ahead of the content and other builds that the overall game is unbalanced.

We’d rather players engage us about balance rather than just change out of builds.

Sev~

Balance everywhere. We just can’t seem to get away from it.

Turbine is not just forging ahead and doing all this arbitrarily. They seem to be committed to a plan of announcing what they are doing, and why, and wait for feedback. Then adjust. Then repeat. They’ve already modified their intended changes to the Paladin spell Holy Sword specifically due to player input, and now they are going to adjust critical threat ranges for named weapons too.

The developers are listening, regardless of whatever mindless hatred you may read on other forums. You may not agree with their changes, but it seems disingenuous to claim that this is all being done in a vacuum. They are listening.

Apparently there will also be Lesser Hearts of Wood. Not very many, and not very good ones, but still, everyone will get a couple of +5 Lesser Hearts of Wood.

Our current plan is to offer a coupon that can be redeemed by each account for two +5 Hearts of Wood.

While we understand that players will want to play with some redesigns after that changes, we have tried to keep weapons and builds intact enough to avoid requiring full class respecs.

(This is the reason we added ranged weapons back to Holy Sword.)

Sev~

The last time there were significant changes we were all given +20 hearts, one per character, but I guess Turbine feels these changes aren’t as game-altering. One should recall that the previous event was a total rework of the enhancement system (Update 19); while these new balancing changes matter, they are not on the same scale.

Meanwhile, I remain … not exactly bored, but not fascinated either. Not concerned. Not worried. Just … monitoring. Because. Balance is coming regardless of how I feel about it. Yes, I’d rather be hearing about Gnomes. Or Update 29. Or the Level cap raise to 30. Or new content. Or … almost anything.

But balance keeps sucking all the air out of the room, and apparently will continue to do so until they just get it done. So come on guys, get it done. Please. So we can all move on to things that are actually fun.

Actual fun. This is a much better goal.

πŸ™‚ πŸ˜€ πŸ™‚

p.s. In case you are curious, here are the six questions that I tried – but failed – to get passed on to developers:

  1. Do your analytics let you see how many character levels of each character class exist? If yes, can we see too? Please? I know the numbers are sensitive, so a bar graph would be enough, just a visualization. For example, (total existing character levels of paladin) / (total number of existing characters) Except one result for each class.
  2. Same question, except instead of just existing character levels, limited to those that have logged into the game in the last 30 or 60 days? Still don’t want any numbers, this isn’t a sneaky way to try and find out how many players there are. (total character levels of paladin being played) / (total number of characters being played). I am trying to get quantifiable visualization on just how prevalant certain character classes really are, and how much of a difference there is (if any) between the total that exist versus those that are actually being played.
  3. The developers have put a lot of effort into explaining why they are making these class passes and especially, the “balance pass”. Except everything said boils down to two reasons: lag reduction, and “balance”. Reducing lag is inarguably a good thing. But why is “balance” a good thing? How does that help make the game more fun or more playable or more likely to last longer and make more income? Balance is clearly a design goal. But why?
  4. What would a perfectly balanced game look like? Would all of the character classes have roughly the same DPS? How would 14 classes (and innumerable enhancement trees) remain different and yet be perfectly balanced?
  5. Is balance an actual, attainable goal? Are there people at Turbine who believe that someday, if everyone stays on target, someday perfect balance will actually happen? Or is it more of a unicorn thing that everyone attempts but no one expects to achieve?
  6. Is the game more fun (or more likely to last longer) if character builds are always in flux? Other games have regular updates where one class or another rises to ascendancy (the flavor of the month build). DDO has this too, not as often as other games but when the pendulum eventually does swing, it does so quite violently. Is this on purpose? Is it an MMO tenet that churning character design enhances longevity? Is it a design goal?

  15 Responses to “More On Balance”

Comments (15)
  1. The rabid frothing on the forums has gone beyond tedious. If the context of scaling back on OP abilities or unintended consequences like Holy Sword working on anything other than a single weapon is to then allow the developers to scale back on OP mob HP or OP mob DC’s then I say “huzzah and give us more”.

    Unfortunately the forum debacle has degenerated into something else entirely.

    If Turbine are trying to appease the forumites then context and focussed discussion will count for more than simply reversing decisions or giving in to their myopic demands.

    Despite what some of the more vocal muppets on the forums will have you believe, they know absolutely nothing about game design. Trying to make difficult decisions like these by popularist committee is utterly pointless. Put together a focus group of knowledgeable experts, specifically exclude the vocal idiots and review the changes with them if you feel the need. Something like this is not what the Player Council is there for, they’re too wide a spread and while some might understand the details of build mechanics and optimising playstyles, a number of them won’t.

  2. Perfectly balanced D&D was tried and failed it’s called 4th edition/essentials not that I can’t have fun playing 4th but it’s failure came from if each class is played standard its okay fun and balanced when you get in to multiple options balanced against the core books but not balance vs alternative options the power creep scales up dramatically so balance is something to work for but it’s also not an attainable goal.
    Do casters need to be functional at endgame, yes do rangers ranged weapons need tweaks, yes do tank classes need to lose MRR. I don’t know should these changes retarded the progress of the game. HELL NO! Cause the game changes we adapt and ddo is one of the few games I know that will allow for redoing of your character if things go bad.

  3. An example of how bad these devs are they claim that Vanguard S&B paladins will out DPS the TWF paladins….really? do they play the same version of DDO as i do? am i supposed to trust these devs after saying something like this?

    I don’t like nerfs all i want them to do is to enhance classes that are lacking behind and make new content.
    They nerfs IC…then they buff named weapons which undo the IC nerf.
    FFS they are wasting devloper time doing nothing.

    Where are the new quests?
    where are the quests like What goes up or haunted halls?
    When was the last great chain like Ginats hold and it’s Epic version?
    instead we end up with horde mode quest and generic chains with some un inspired raids like DOJ.

    • They haven’t nerfed IC, they’ve just changed the order it applies to what it should always have been. This allows them to consider critical range and multiplier enhancements without things getting out of hand. Nobody can argue that 11-20 crit range is WAI πŸ™‚

  4. Thanks for the followup article Geoff. I think that some aspects of the “balance pass” are a reaction to the more prominent calls for adding an extra difficulty.

    After seeing what giving more, more, and yes even more power to many trees recently it seems this got the devs thinking about effects that did “overperform” as Sev likes to call it and they came up to things that worked on more than intended, multiplied with more things and making it hard to work with enhancement passes because they would have to factor in all these unpredictable side effects.

    As such, I see this as a reflection on the improvements made recently and trying to create a somewhat more predictable and more easily adjustable basis for the next few passes. As well as taking out some of the more pronounced spikes in huge power.

    I am glad that the team is really working with a lot of the feedback they received (both theoretical arguments as pointing to flawed ideas and showing reality working differently than what the devs had expected on Lammania) and hope it gives a solid basis to get on with the rest of the class passes, fix unarmed combat and druid forms and then give us nice perks with lvl 30 so that we can enjoy the game for another couple of years!

  5. I’m all for balance – realizing that a feat or race or class or whatever is too overpowered and adjusting it makes perfect sense. What doesn’t make sense is the respec system and how it relates in this case to the +5 hearts of wood.

    What is absolutely needed in DDO is a way to completely respec your toon back to the current level that allows you to change anything and everything about that toon you deem necessary – race, class, feats, skills, alignment….everything. If the devs wanna nerf your build into oblivion that would be ok if you were 1 hour away from converting that toon to something you feel is totally playable.

    The devs are saying they “want to encourage build diversity and fun” and “they don’t want to ruin anyone’s build”. The ridiculous barriers to character alteration are what kill fun for me, personally.

  6. This constant and endless mucking about with the game is, to me a deal breaker. I have loved this game since 2010, and in many aspects still do but am tired of the incessant alterations, for many myriad of reasons over the years. I am not angry or rage quitting but stepping back and watching for a while…

  7. The DDOracle used to provide some interesting metrics on class distribution…

    I quite like the idea of not having to play X class of Y build of Z race of … hehe, and updates don’t stop me, much. I do like the idea of characters performing specific roles in a party, old school D&D style, though. It could be because I’m dumb or lazy, and multi-role, multi-tasking and multi-classing is too much for my non-leet game style?

    I don’t TR all my characters every update, which most updates (sometimes patches) seem to be aimed at, so I do tend to notice when all my AP are reset and I’m lost in the enhancement trees yet again πŸ˜›

  8. I’m still going to have fun playing my characters no matter how they change the various mechanics or attempt to “balance” things out. The main thing to remember with all of this is to have fun!!

  9. I have one of every class some I love and others I hate not because of balance but because of fun. DDO is a game, a game is suppose to be fun. If balance will increase the fun then fine but if it is just to appease a vocal minority who shout very loudly then please focus on what makes the game fun. More epics of existing quests and not all level 30. I would love a new level 8 wilderness because of the gap between Sorrowdusk and The Fens. 90% of my characters are gimped, not because I am useless at builds (although that probably is part of the reason) but because of the fact that I role play my characters in my head.

    Yes I have a completionist and other characters with more than one life and these were built to reach an end character for me to enjoy not me to think is he balanced. So I hope Turbine looks at it’s player base and does what I think most people would want put the fun back into the game.

  10. Wow you are one blogger hard to please – they fixed the mouse wheel issue what more do you want? πŸ™‚

    While I agree that Balance is probably not attainable in DDO, that doesn’t mean it shouldn’t be pursued. As a goal, a well balanced game where each person’s play style is accommodated without making it irrelevant because one play style eliminates everything in its path without requiring assistance, isn’t such a bad thing. I’ve been in the group where I can’t even get a ranged shot in because the three warlocks zerged through and tentacled / auraed / pingpong (chain) balled everything in the path and out of the path before I could even get to the room. Not too fun. So I wind up not playing with those types of groups which is what Devs are trying to eliminate. I’ve also watched the barbs scream in frustration as the monkcher/warlocks kited everything around and made it impossible for him to connect (funny, but again not too fun).

    We can clearly see that one of the directions this current regime (and I don’t mean that in a negative context) is taking the game is to try to bring back the grouping aspects and LFM’s. Difficult to do when you don’t want to take on a zerger who is going to dash ahead of everyone, and really doesn’t need to worry about traps or aggro because he has 1k hp’s at lvl 9 and can self heal and buff (probably a slight exaggeration, but I’ve seen lvl 9’s with more hp’s than most toons had end game a few years ago). Why would I want to take on that type of person? No strategy is involved. No teamwork. Just me running along behind shattering boxes for the bonus, and maybe picking up a trap or two.

    So, if I don’t want to be the box shatterer/trapper, I have limited options:

    1. play with a static group that I know and can work with.
    2. solo.
    3. make my build the flavor of the month uber build and join the rest of the zergers.

    By the way – there is nothing wrong with zerging. Again its a play style choice. But some balance will create a need for all of the different play styles to be more relevant.

    You’ve brought this up before in other posts. Is sneaking a relevant play style any longer? No. No one waits for the rogue to disable traps. Instead they dash forward often triggering the trap the rogue is trying to disable and sometimes causing the rogue who is doing his job to die from an explosion. Who wants to wait three seconds?

    Is Healing a relevant play style? No. Most classes have some sort of healing in their tree’s now and/or can get umd up to make heal scrolls 60% or better.

    Tanking? Rarely. And how do you hold the aggro? The same guys tanking are the same builds doing the most damage, so they’re really DPS.

    Evasions unnecessary with enough MRR now, so the two levels of rogue are primarily taken just to gain trapping skills. A couple of +4 skill tomes, some exceptional dex/int skills items and a +20 skill item gets almost every trap in the game with even half skill points assigned to disable/search.

    When one class/build can get all the traps, self heal, tank EH content, crowd control to some extent and lead in DPS why play other builds?

    Don’t get me wrong, I can have fun playing my builds, but unfortunately my static groups are starting to leave as they get bored with not having anything challenge their uber builds. Leaving me with only two of the choices above, and soloing can get tedious at times in a game where bonuses are handed out for pugging/zerging.

    Ok, sorry didn’t mean to make this so long. But when you get Crankee’s loin cloth in a wad, he just has to vent or the world might suffer the consequences.

  11. It would seem that even here we like to talk balance, or not balance πŸ™‚ For me, the Jerry quote at the top is the right test. And while monks, sorcs, bard and paladins have all been FOTM / dominant at times, it is only with warlock that I’ve started to feel completely redundant in some pugs, this failing the test he sets. Sure, there have always been pugs when – running behind a well equipped vet and powerful build – I’ve felt surplus, but its only running with warlock-blast-everything-in-the-room-dead power that I have felt pointless. Not that I am quitting, hell no, I still don’t know half the game, and not every pug has a warlock, and not every warlock is powerful.

What do you think?

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