On Balance: How to Judge Balance



  • So, after spending a lot of time in-game and on the forums, I’ve seen a lot of rhetoric from players that indicates to me that many people do not understand how to objectively look at game balance. It is alarming to me because I do not want to developers to accommodate players who do not understand what balance is and how to measure it. I’m not a great writer, so let’s just jump in:

    When discussing the balance of a game with class/character/weapon variables, you need to be very careful about taking player skill into account. Let me draw this point by first discussing a topic many of you may be familiar list: competitive fighting games and tier lists.
    In competitive fighting games, there exists something called a tier list. At first glance, it appears to be a ranking of characters from best to worst. While this isn’t entirely wrong, it is only true to an extent. In truth, characters are ranked by how well they are expected to do in a competitive environment. This is very important, and I will explain why. When you are playing a game with your friends, or you are in a public server, you will be encountering players of all different skill levels. When you are encountering players of extremely varying skill levels, the balance of the game itself becomes almost irrelevant; of course a player of very high skill will almost always beat a player of very low skill, regardless of the character he chooses. He simply has superior understanding of the core mechanics and mental aspect of the game.

    However, when you are in a competitive environment, this varying player skill becomes less apparent. In a competitive environment, players are expected to be at a similar and high level of skill (especially as you get further down the bracket). Both of these aspects are important, and only when both of these criteria are met (players of close and high skill level) will true balance be seen. Suddenly, your character’s weaknesses are more readily exploited, and your superior understanding of the mechanics and mental aspects of the game are no longer unmatched. Your opponent is expected to be capable of adapting to your style, adapting to your character, and exploiting your weaknesses. The higher the skill of the players, the less you will be able to compensate for your character’s weaknesses. All that is left is the difference between your characters. It is only here that true balance can be seen.

    The same thing exists in Chivalry: just replace characters with weapon load-outs. It is important to understand that having perfect balance and variable weapon statistics is unrealistic and practically impossible. Imagine this scenario: two equally skilled players have a 100-round set. They are using the same load-out, except one player’s weapon has a .01 faster windup. Although this seems like an almost negligible difference, surely this player would be expected to win more (note: not all, more). Now imagine Chivalry, where all weapons are vastly different.

    So what’s my point? What I’m trying to get across is that balance is very complicated, and takes many years of trials and experience to get a solid understanding of. It is not fair to claim that “you can be successful with any weapon if you are good enough with it,” because at a point there is only so much one can do to compensate for their load-outs weaknesses and emphasize its strengths. It may be true that certain players perform better with certain load-outs, but this does make certain load-outs weaknesses go away, nor does it make their strengths stronger; the statistics are unchanging. Weapon balance necessarily exists, and there are better and worse weapons. Your friend dominating pubs with the quarterstaff doesn’t mean the quarterstaff is good and people simply aren’t good enough with it, it means your friend is simply that much better than average players. He will likely beat low-level players with any weapon.

    With that said, balance takes years to get a good understanding of. Weapon balance will not be truly established until there are hundreds of competitive trials and years of experimentation. The metagame will change, players understanding of the game mechanics will change, how people play the game will change, and notions of balance will change with the metagame.

    TL;DR: Saying “my friend beats everyone with X weapon, X weapon isn’t bad, you guys just don’t understand it,” is not valid. Balance is irrelevant in pubs. At the same time, statements like “there are no good and bad weapons, just good and bad players,” is ignorant, unrealistic, and (again) invalid. Considering these two points, balance much be approached carefully.



  • Well you could use years of observation.

    Or you could come up with a simulator using alglorithms, AI and poisson processes to test balance based upon weapon stats, tracer reach, and tactics.



  • I think that what the developers should be focusing on right now regarding balance is how well tactics and loadouts that are used in competitive play balance with regular play. A lot of things that seem balanced in competitive play appears to be extremely broken when used against players who aren’t aware of the metagame.

    Take overhead leaning for example; a lot of people who play competitively say it’s somewhat balanced right now because, while it is incredibly fast compared to just doing an overhead attack normally, it is still possible to reliably block and counter. But when you put yourself in the shoes of someone who isn’t knowledgeable with the metagame, they see an attack that goes impossibly fast and just looks like the other player is spazzing out and hitting them instantly before they can even ready a parry. So it looks incredibly overpowered because their attacks are nowhere near as fast since looking at their feet every time they do an overhead isn’t something that springs instantly to mind.

    Face hugging is another big thing. Swings at extreme close range can still be blocked constantly, but they require you to turn a great deal to counter the blow that almost comes at you from behind. A regular player isn’t going to think to turn that much because it just seems absurd, so it will result in the attack appearing to be unblockable.

    Trying to balance for competitive play is extremely hard, like you’ve said. People who play competitively seriously will spend hundreds of hours analyzing every single possible tactic and weapon loadout to find the optimum setup so it’s just not possible to make every single weapon/class/etc. balanced without making everything carbon copies of each other. All they can do is try to observe and see if there is a single thing that almost all competitive players will flock to, maybe a certain weapon that outperforms every other weapon in a way that makes everyone use it. And then try and adjust that to balance with everything else closer.

    The metagame really does dominate a lot in Chivalry. Knowing about certain tactics and playstyles can give you a massive advantage over people who simply play the way the tutorial instructed with the weapons that they have a personal preference for. Therefore what I think the devs need to do right now is focus on reducing the advantage gained by employing tactics like swing acceleration, face hugging, feint spamming and such to try and make combat feel more like an equal playing field instead of being incredibly one-sided to the person who knows more about the metagame.



  • @David:

    Therefore what I think the devs need to do right now is focus on reducing the advantage gained by employing tactics like swing acceleration, face hugging, feint spamming and such to try and make combat feel more like an equal playing field instead of being incredibly one-sided to the person who knows more about the metagame.

    This is ridiculous. You cannot EVER “fix” the meta-game. If swing acceleration, face-hugging and feinting are changed then high-level players WILL develop new tactics that are equally as overwhelming to new players. This is how competition works. The only way you can stop that is if you dumb the game down so completely that it no longer has any depth.

    Why should someone who has just started playing the game be level with someone who’s logged 1000+ hours against the best players there are? It is completely unreasonable to ask for this.

    Also, it is very easy to balance high-level play. As the OP said, people at high-level are also very close in terms of skill. “Overpowered” weapons and tactics are very obvious. The only debate to be had is if those “overpowered” weapons or tactics add or remove depth and skill.

    Obviously the devs need to keep it fun for regular pub players, but 80% of the stuff on this sub-forum is simply people complaining that they got killed by someone who is better at the game than them and disguising that complaint as a balance issue.

    Every game is boring when you’re getting stomped. There’s no way you can make that fun in a game that is fundamentally competitive.

    Also, there’s this silly idea that some people have that every game should cater to their play-style. That they’re not the ones doing it wrong and the game is. Now I like variety for sure, but that’s just not the way competitive meta works. If you don’t like what everyone is doing right now, find something BETTER, but don’t force everyone to play a different way so it suits your style. (And yes, that is what you’re doing. There is no way to make 2 vastly different individual play-styles be competitively viable. One will almost always be better than the other, and everyone will use that.)



  • This “metagame” domination happens in every single game, people become more skilled and learn the various things that they use because they are better. Face hugging is only really prevalent on 1v1s, never in group fights because if you try and facehug someone you’ll be too close to their teammates most of the time. With proper teamwork your team can follow up on that but of course there is room for counterplay in that situation. I never really understood the complaints about facehugging in particular, it’s only really a thing that comes up in 1v1/duel situations and the game shouldn’t be mainly balanced around that.

    Getting hit by an accelerated regular swing is annoying sometimes because of the shoddy netcode/lag/bad servers- same with decel swings except decel swings are more annoying to deal with. It all depends on the person to either adapt and learn, or just stay a scrub forever and whine on forums talking about things they don’t actually understand.

    One thing that I do feel is degenerate to newer players is spamming combofeints.



  • On what everyone is saying:

    It would be ridiculous to say balance should come from the top down. By that I mean, we don’t balance games to accommodate lower-skilled players. Every player has potential to be good, so don’t bring the ceiling down. On the same note, don’t bring the floor up. The mechanics need to have the depth necessary to allow for different skill levels, or else there would be no real competitions.

    In addition, there will always be a “best” load-out. What this means is that we should be nerfing the best weapons, but the goal should be to buff everything else to that level (barring extreme cases of weapons that are overpowered to the point of being game-breaking, which I do not believe exists in Chivalry as of now). There will always be a best load-out, but if there is a large variety of viable load-outs, that is perfectly fine. No two players will every truly be at the same level of skill, and there are way too many variables to account for in humans to have perfectly balanced items. If there are enough items whose weaknesses are manageable and strengths are adequately strong at a competitive level, even if there are still some that are better than others, that is ideal. Viability is most important. If a weapon is clearly unviable at a competitive level, it needs to be changed.

    I think Chivalry has sufficient depth in its mechanics to have a truly good and long-lasting metagame that won’t stagnate. I just hope balance is approached carefully and correctly so as not to take this away from the game. This game is absolutely on the right track, despite all the people who cry “THIS GAME IS RUINED” at the sight of anything new they may need to adapt to. If you take away the need to adapt, everything will stagnate and the game will die. As someone else touched on, players need to accept that there are better and worse play-styles. Every play-style cannot be rewarded equally, it is simply impossible.

    Oh god, and don’t even get me started on feints. All I’ll say is that every competitive game has mechanics that are too fast to react to.



  • Objectivity?

    Nah, This is the Chivalry forum. Omgz, I lose to that class and that weapon all the time. Obviously, the problem is not with me, but the weapon and class.
    And obviously, it can’t be because someone is better than me, that’s just absurd.

    Tier lists also change over time as more technology (tactics) are devised. Things that seem highly advantageous now… become completely useless down the track when a counter tactic is developed.

    And the final issue with Tier Lists and balance? The High Level players will consistently win with a variety of characters/classes.
    Knowledge, experience, practice/training and execution are what matters.

    High Level players develop tactics and solutions to overcome problems they face. Low Level players try to change the mechanics of the game to overcome the problems they face.



  • The worst thing about Chivalry is the fact that there are many overpowered tactics which new players simply aren’t aware of. The developers either need to include these tactics in the tutorial from the start or reduce their effectiveness significantly. In a game like quake the tools available to players are obvious, even bunny hopping has tutorials which allow new players to learn. However the current state of chivalry means that many new players simply get annihilated by above average players who know how to use things like face hugging or feint spamming to their advantage. This means there are many who pick the game up and give up playing it shortly after.



  • @Melon:

    The worst thing about Chivalry is the fact that there are many overpowered tactics which new players simply aren’t aware of. The developers either need to include these tactics in the tutorial from the start or reduce their effectiveness significantly. In a game like quake the tools available to players are obvious, even bunny hopping has tutorials which allow new players to learn. However the current state of chivalry means that many new players simply get annihilated by above average players who know how to use things like face hugging or feint spamming to their advantage. This means there are many who pick the game up and give up playing it shortly after.

    I can’t agree with this. There are plenty of competitive games whose metagame is based off of advanced techniques and tactics that the tutorial doesn’t cover. The tutorial is there to introduce you to the mechanics of the game, and if you understand those mechanics well enough, there is no reason why you can’t figure out the more advanced techniques on your own. Face hugging, mouse-dragging, overhead leaning, all of these tactics are natural extensions of the mechanics presented in the tutorial. None of these mechanics are exclusive to anyone, everyone has equal access to them, and hell, they are not even technically difficult. Why should the notion that you may need to learn and practice things to become a better player be bad? That’s ridiculous.

    If the games depth ends at the basic tutorial, you have a shallow game that everyone will lose interest in in a matter of months. The presence of advanced techniques is good, and it gives the game a skill ceiling that everyone should aim for. The response to techniques which require practice shouldn’t be “I’m too lazy to improve, remove the techniques,” it should be “I want to get better at this game, I will practice.” Removing the skill ceiling will just turn it into a party game, and if that is what you want, go find a new game. Or, just stick to giant pubs and the like.

    Most importantly:
    Knowing and being proficient in these techniques does not make you a good player. Perhaps it is enough to beat random low-level players, but why should low-level players be beating higher-level players anyway? Again, that’s ridiculous. Anyway, knowing these techniques doesn’t make you a better player; knowing how to use them does. These techniques are just tools in your tool box, but that doesn’t mean you know how to use them well to your advantage. I can sit there and master every technique in the book on a mechanical level, but if I can’t properly identify when to use them in an actual match, I will get stomped regardless.



  • @Melon:

    The worst thing about Chivalry is the fact that there are many overpowered tactics which new players simply aren’t aware of. The developers either need to include these tactics in the tutorial from the start or reduce their effectiveness significantly. In a game like quake the tools available to players are obvious, even bunny hopping has tutorials which allow new players to learn. However the current state of chivalry means that many new players simply get annihilated by above average players who know how to use things like face hugging or feint spamming to their advantage. This means there are many who pick the game up and give up playing it shortly after.

    I also disagree with this entirely. The funny thing is that many players ARE aware of these optimal (not “overpowered”) tactics, and choose to demand they be nerfed, rather than learn how to deal with them.

    The Quake Live tutorial only scratches the surface of what it takes to be good in that game. However, what it does do is force you to learn for yourself, and give you a good idea of how brutal the game can be. If you want to improve the Chivalry tutorial, I would make sure it says “BTW, there is a LOT more to learn. Check out the forums for tips.”



  • @gregcau:

    Well you could use years of observation.

    Or you could come up with a simulator using alglorithms, AI and poisson processes to test balance based upon weapon stats, tracer reach, and tactics.

    Yeah? You look at SWTOR and their metrics for adjusting balance. Tell me how the PVP in that game is balanced xD

    Machines don’t balance a game well.



  • @Daiyuki:

    @gregcau:

    Well you could use years of observation.

    Or you could come up with a simulator using alglorithms, AI and poisson processes to test balance based upon weapon stats, tracer reach, and tactics.

    Yeah? You look at SWTOR and their metrics for adjusting balance. Tell me how the PVP in that game is balanced xD

    Machines don’t balance a game well.

    Well SWTOR wasn’t that bad but its far harder to balance tank, healing etc whereas this game is all DPS.

    But I agree its still hard since you would have to come up with baselines for ability and whether you base accuracy around pro players or not (like archer - such a huge difference between a good clan archer and your above average pub archer).

    Still I fed algorithms into the weapons spreadsheet but its useless without knowing all the weapon ranges and the only way I know you could determine that is by measuring the weapon tracers - and thats just too tedious to bother.



  • blah blah blah fighting games balance hadoken shorooken scoops haagen dazs justin wooooongggggg etc etc etc

    Nobody listen to this guy. Just don’t. People from the fighting game community have this bizarre idea that game balance is some kind of fucking hocus pocus that is impossible to achieve and impossible for mere mortals to understand. Balance isn’t actually that hard at all, and it is in fact totally achievable with enough attention to detail and fine-tuning. It is actually very easy to tease out something’s weaknesses or strengths, because those weaknesses and strengths stare you dead in the goddamn face. The only tricky part with balance is fixing broken mechanics or underpowered mechanics without affecting fun. It’s not sorcery, and I am not about to let that shit bleed over into another community when it was already dumb enough in the first one.



  • @Dick:

    Balance isn’t actually that hard at all.

    This guy is clearly a genius game designer. Why has nobody hired him yet?

    Just a hint, not even chess is perfectly balanced. The only “perfectly balanced game” in existence is Rock Paper Scissor.



  • @Dick:

    blah blah blah fighting games balance hadoken shorooken scoops haagen dazs justin wooooongggggg etc etc etc

    Nobody listen to this guy. Just don’t. People from the fighting game community have this bizarre idea that game balance is some kind of fucking hocus pocus that is impossible to achieve and impossible for mere mortals to understand. Balance isn’t actually that hard at all, and it is in fact totally achievable with enough attention to detail and fine-tuning. It is actually very easy to tease out something’s weaknesses or strengths, because those weaknesses and strengths stare you dead in the goddamn face. The only tricky part with balance is fixing broken mechanics or underpowered mechanics without affecting fun. It’s not sorcery, and I am not about to let that shit bleed over into another community when it was already dumb enough in the first one.

    I’m sorry, but this is just simply and demonstrably wrong. Name one competitive game that is perfectly balanced. There are none. Everything you are saying is just completely backwards, and you can see this in every single competitive game in existence. Yes, some games are more balanced than others, but even the most balanced has a best and worst character, viable and unviable characters. The difference is that better balanced games have more viable characters (and if you want to make this relevant to Chivalry, just replace the notion of characters with weapons - the principles are the same).

    Fixing broken mechanics is absolutely the easiest part, as they are easily identifiable without the need for a developed metagame, and they are unchanging. Weapon/character balance, however, can’t be established until we are truly confident that it is not the metagame at fault, but the weapon/character variables themselves. This takes time. This does not “stare you dead in the face,” people are just quick to whine and complain when something works well against them because they don’t want to learn, improve, and adapt. People are stubborn.

    This “shit” that I’m trying to “bleed” into this game isn’t nonsense. It isn’t random conjectures being thrown around by random people who have no clue what they are talking about. This is the conclusions drawn as a result of years and years of experience of thousands and thousands of people. To simply dismiss it is nothing short of ignorant and absolute stubbornness. This isn’t a circlejerk to competitive games (especially not any specific one), this is just the nature of competitive gaming. The sooner you accept that, the better off you’ll be.

    The bottom line is that Torn Banner can’t be to antsy to start messing around with the game balance because the loudest part of the community cries when they lose to something. If the metagame truly cannot adapt to a mechanic, load-out, or play-style, and this is becoming over-centralizing, then there is a good case for change. Otherwise, things need to be approached carefully (of course this is all still barring game-breaking glitches and the like).



  • @NoVaLombardia:

    @Dick:

    Balance isn’t actually that hard at all.

    This guy is clearly a genius game designer. Why has nobody hired him yet?

    Just a hint, not even chess is perfectly balanced. The only “perfectly balanced game” in existence is Rock Paper Scissor.

    Nah. Starcraft Brood War was pretty perfectly balanced, but strategies and meta were also in a constant state of flux. When the underlying mechanics are solid and there is no go-to thing (weapon, tactic, etc.) that lets you win, all that’s left is to identify what regularly defeats you and find a way to counter it.

    Chivalry has less options and feint is currently the go-to thing, but I think it’s possible for it to be nicely balanced. The lack of depth may hurt it in the end, but it’s also a completely different type of game, so it may remain fun despite that. Fun > Balance anyway



  • @Daiyuki:

    @NoVaLombardia:

    @Dick:

    Balance isn’t actually that hard at all.

    This guy is clearly a genius game designer. Why has nobody hired him yet?

    Just a hint, not even chess is perfectly balanced. The only “perfectly balanced game” in existence is Rock Paper Scissor.

    Nah. Starcraft Brood War was pretty perfectly balanced, but strategies and meta were also in a constant state of flux. When the underlying mechanics are solid and there is no go-to thing (weapon, tactic, etc.) that lets you win, all that’s left is to identify what regularly defeats you and find a way to counter it.

    Chivalry has less options and feint is currently the go-to thing, but I think it’s possible for it to be nicely balanced. The lack of depth may hurt it in the end, but it’s also a completely different type of game, so it may remain fun despite that. Fun > Balance anyway

    Brood War is actually a very good point. For sure one of the most balanced games of all time. The RTS genre is general seems to have an easier time achieving very good balance (…maybe. I may regret saying that), but I suspect that’s in part due to the nature of the genre.

    All I would add is to your last statement: Fun > Balance, sure, but on some level fun relies on there being balance.



  • @Melomaniacal:

    I’m sorry, but this is just simply and demonstrably wrong. Name one competitive game that is perfectly balanced.

    I didn’t say “perfectly balanced” anywhere in my post. This is a fiction that you’re inventing to try and make yourself seem stronger. Perfection is probably achievable, but wholly unnecessary - get it close enough and it doesn’t matter one fucking bit. Close enough is fucking easy. Balance is fucking easy.

    Oh, and I played competitive ST for years. Don’t try and lecture me about “accepting competitive games.” You have no leg to stand on.



  • @Dick:

    @Melomaniacal:

    I’m sorry, but this is just simply and demonstrably wrong. Name one competitive game that is perfectly balanced.

    I didn’t say “perfectly balanced” anywhere in my post. This is a fiction that you’re inventing to try and make yourself seem stronger. Perfection is probably achievable, but wholly unnecessary - get it close enough and it doesn’t matter one fucking bit. Close enough is fucking easy. Balance is fucking easy.

    Oh, and I played competitive ST for years. Don’t try and lecture me about “accepting competitive games.” You have no leg to stand on.

    And where did I say that balance is impossible sans “perfect”? You’re doing the same thing. (Just for the record, I did just edit the OP, however that was just to add one more pivotal point to the TL;DR)
    If all you are interested in is cherry-picking single sentences out of paragraphs, than I have no interest in trying to continue this discussion with you. All I’m saying is that if it were as easy as you make it sound, nonviable characters would be all but non-existent (but guess what, that isn’t true).

    Regardless, this is barely the point I’m trying to make. Yes, good balance is totally achievable. The majority of weapons can be made viable. We don’t even disagree about that, and I’m sorry if I led you to believe we do. My point is that balanced cannot be judged from pubs because player variables are FAR too prevalent. My point is that your friend who beats everyone with the quarter staff isn’t good evidence that it is balanced well. At the same time my point is that statements like “there are no good or bad weapons, just good and bad players,” is unrealistic and absolutely false, especially in a game as young as Chivalry. Because of these two truths, balance should be handled delicately. That’s all I’m trying to get at.


Log in to reply