Multiple Objective Maps- Balance between Attacker and Defender Stacked Objectives
I got to thinking about a few things concerning map balance that might be obvious but I thought they should be articulated just in case.
So one of the detriments of Hillside (from a competitive perspective) from Chiv is that it had a defender stacked, non-progressible (all or nothing) first objective. Before teams got good enough to attack that map well, the beginning days of Chiv saw a lot of 1st objective DNF’s with attackers just running through the choke and getting hammered. It took players a while to get good enough to even get to see the other objectives against an equally matched opponent. There was another problem with that first objective requiring manual tracking of any possible metric of progress. The only way a team could claim to have made more progress than another team if both were DNF’d on the first objective would be to say that they got closer to burning the pyre, but the game never kept track of the closest to burning that the pyre got. And even then, it would feel bad for a team to get it almost burnt 4 times but the other team gets it almost burnt one time but that one time is closer to a full burn so they win, but tracking cumulative burn progress made throughout all attempts would be even messier and go against the win condition philosophy we had for team objective (see bottom of post for unrelated aside for those interested).
Thankfully it seems like having all progressible objectives is going to take care of that second problem, but the thing I’m worried about is setting up spawns so that more of the map gets played, but stomps are still relatively short. I personally feel the optimal way to plan out the balance for a 3 stage Team Objective would be something similar to:
1st Objective- Only attacking teams that get stomped don’t complete this objective.
2nd Objective- Most attacking teams can complete this objective vs. a similarly skilled opposition.
3rd Objective- About 50% of attacking teams complete all the objectives vs. a similarly skilled opposition.
This works really well because stomps (which aren’t fun) would be shorter so people can get on to better games, most even games get to play the whole map (which promotes more diverse experiences since the same objectives aren’t just being played over and over), but the map is still ultimately as close to 50% Attack and 50% defender stacked so there is significance in both the competitive narrative (My team accomplished more on our attacking run than yours) and the map’s self-contained narrative (My team won! or My team held! Huzzah! [If the map isn’t balanced this way then it promotes more complaints of unfairness]). This is easily accomplishable via spawn placements and progress completion rate manipulation (which, btw, I feel like the progress in Bazaar should be supercharged more if you hold two points… if an attacking team is making progress, it is nice for them to feel like they are making a chunk of progress. Adds more to suspense for the defense as well. Currently holding two points just doesn’t feel worth it, and even just holing one point feels like the progress is really slow which feels a bit unsatisfying).
This was way longer than I expected it to be, but just thought I’d give my two cents.
ASIDE: Our competitive match win conditions were designed to take into consideration the unique spirit of Team Objective. Darkforest Stage 4 is a perfect example of this. The Mason’s objective here is to kill the royal family, so that is obviously their first priority. But should C be worth more points because it is much more difficult than A or B? If you get one door down but my team got all three doors to within an inch of their life, who should win? What if I got all the doors down but killed only nine royalty but you managed to slaughter all the 10 royalty you had access to but you left C untouched? This is one of the beautiful things about Team Objective: it isn’t limited just to payload-like objectives. With this awesome variety comes questions like those above though.
So basically what we did was prioritize things this way:
- Introduce as few NEW rules as possible to account for Win Conditions. Ex: We could have weighted Cove Objective 3 differently, but the “in-game” objective metric focuses on “Areas” complete, so we weighted each “Area” the same as the game did.
- If an objective only has one “in-game” win condition, break up that win-condition such that you have a way to measure which team got more progress even if neither team completed it.
2a) Prioritize Physical Changes in the map as objective progress. Even if hitting 3 doors 5 times and taking one door down with 15 strikes would be equivalent damage, the door being down is a physical change on the map and represents a completion of a step toward killing the royalty.
2b) Prioritize win conditions we have objective metrics for. Because Cove obj 3 doesn’t give you a count of peasants left, we can’t require our refs to keep track of every single peasant. Because of that, we don’t divide these “areas” down to the last peasant.
- If two teams complete all the objectives in a different amount of time, the faster time wins. If they complete them at the same time and there is no discernible difference in progress.
Thanks for the post, plenty of insight into competitive balance. Let me add some thoughts and discussion.
From a player standpoint, Team Objective maps feel the most satisfying when a majority of the map has been explored. Exceptional cases such as “stomps” are, optimally, quite rare. Even a quick stomp is not preferred over never having such imbalance, but it does happen and should be anticipated.
Speaking to your notion of win rates at different objectives, there is a fine line between creating compelling map game play and just artificially producing expected outcomes for the sake of attempting to have players play the entire map. Nobody wants the latter, particularly the defense.
With that said, there is strong value in providing a sense of meaningful progression early in a TO map. We attempt to do this with the “always forward never back” progression of the capture points. Even a team heavily under the kill ratio can play unique strategies to eventually whittle down a timer that only increases.
I disagree about the idea of controlling only one point. In fact, with always-forward progression there is almost never a reason to capture only a single point; it is better to field a wider skirmish across the two objectives than to stack and risk AOE. In addition, it provides only steady moderate risk to the defender, giving them more time to safely plan a counter. I think dog pile rushes have their place, but certainly not as the de facto strategy. I think you will see this is even more the case as spawn or capture times are tweaked as need be.
In regards to extended victory metrics, it will be much easier to determine competitive win conditions in Mirage as opposed to Chiv, just as you said. We are looking into a variety of options to support these metrics, as well as different competitive options for maps and rounds. This is all currently work in progress and your feedback will be really helpful here.
Thanks for the post!