LAFS Game Mechanics - Balancing

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Transcript of LAFS Game Mechanics - Balancing

Business of Games

BALANCING GAME MECHANICSLevel 9 David MullichGame MechanicsThe Los Angeles Film School

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What Is Game Balance?

Game BalanceSingle Player Games: The games difficulty is matched to the players skill level throughout the entire game.Multiplayer Games: All players have an equal opportunity to win regardless of their starting position, resources, goals, or skill level.

BALANCING GAME SYSTEMS

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Right Level of DifficultyThe right level of difficulty is the one intended by the game designer.

If CHALLENGES are too easy, players will become BORED; if they are too difficult, players will become FRUSTRATED.EXAMPLES:D&D Scenarios are categorized by Player Level Number.ZELDA: THE OCARINA OF TIME starts with easy quests and moves on to more challenging ones.USES:Players feel both TENSION and EMPOWERMENT, due to PERCEIVED CHANCE TO SUCCEED and ILLUSION OF INFLUENCE.Promotes SMOOTH LEARNING CURVESIncreases likelihood of GAME MASTERY.

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Difficulty Level Design ConsiderationsWhich challenges should be made easier?Which challenges should be made harder?Which challenges should occur at another point in the game?

EASIERProvide more information about how to solve the challenge. Example: CLUES,Make the actions of solving the challenge easier to perform. Example: ACHILLES HEAL.Usually involves a TRADE-OFF, which can be done through a SELECTABLE SET OF GOALS or SUPPORTING GOALS (like finding EASTER EGGS).VARIED GAMEPLAY allows for different COMPETENCY LEVELSHARDERIntroduce Obstacles: Example: ENEMIES, PREVENTING GOALS.Make actions harder to perform. Example: Increase COMPLEXITY LEVEL, LIMITED PLANNING ABILITY, TIME LIMITS, ATTENTION SWAPPING, temporary ABILITY LOSSES.ORDERIn Single-Player Games: LEVELS, HIGHER_LEVEL CLOSURESIn Multiplayer Games: PLAYER BALANCE

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Right Level of ComplexityThe right level of complexity is the one intended by the game designer.

Complexity has to do with the understanding of rules, the consequences of immediate actions in the long run, and planning of many actions ahead.EXAMPLE: The size of a GO board determine the number of possible combinations in a single game session.Real-time strategy games like STARCRAFT can have many rules associated with them.USE:Influences LEVEL OF DIFFICULTYWith SMOOTH LEARNING CURVE, makes GAME MASTERY easier to achieve.With LIMITED FORESIGHT and PREDICTABLE CONSEQUENCES, supports EXPERIMENTING and promotes CONSTRUCTCTIVE PLAY.WARNING:* STIMULATED PLANNING may lead to ANALYSIS PARALYSIS and DOWNTIME

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Complexity Design ConsiderationsDoes the game have rhythm-based actions?How many game elements does the player need to interact with?How many relationships do these elements have with each other?How complex is the narrative structure?

RHYTHM-BASED ACTIONS:TEMPO and NUMBER OF ACTIONS.PUZZLE SOLVINGCOMBOSGAME ELEMENTSMain way of adjusting COMPLEXITYATTENTION SWAPPINGINDIRECT CONTROLRELATIONSHIPSCONVERTERS AND PROUCER-CONSUMERSNARRATIVE STRUCTURERED HERRINGSROLE-REVERSALS

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Smooth Learning CurvesGames designed to provide players with the possibility of smoothly progressing from novice to master.

When learning the skill to play a game is actually a part of the gameplay and an enjoyable experience in itself, the game is said to have a SMOOTH LEARGNING CURVE.EXAMPLES:LEGEND OF ZELDA provides signs and characters that give players hints about what they can do.FIRST PERSON SHOOTERS: Single-player mode can be seen as preparation for playing multiplayer.REQUIREMENTSRIGHT LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY based on the Players Skill Level.PERCEIVED CHANCE TO SUCCEEDILLUSION OF INFLUENCE.USES* Helps players gain GAME MASTERY.* PROMOTES IMMERSION

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Smooth Learning Curves Design ConsiderationsWhat information can be provided to players for overcoming challenges?How can challenge difficulty be adjusted to the players skill?How can players adjust challenge difficulty?

INFORMATION: Allows players to build STRATEGIC INFORMATION and LIMITED FORESIIGHT.EXTRA-GAME INFORMATION provided as CLUES or HELPERSCONSISTENT REALITY LOGICDIFFICULLY ADJUSTMENTChange challenge difficulty during gameplay through DEDICATED GAME FACILITATORS or BALANCING EFFECTSHave easy challenges come sooner, and give players NEW ABILITIES for more difficult challenges later through LEVELS and INACCESSIBLE AREAS.PLAYER ADJUSTMENTHANDICAPS in MULTIPLAYER GAMESAdjusting LEVEL OF COMPLEXITYChoosing # of OPPONENTSChoosing OPPONENT SKILL LEVEL

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BALANCING BETWEEN PLAYERS

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Balancing EffectsRules and effects that lessen the difference of value used to measure competition between players.

Balancing Effects serve to make all players more likely to feel that they have a chance to win over their opponents. EXAMPLES:Power-ups in SUPER MONKEY BALL 2 give speed boosters only to players not leading in the race. (Further balancing effects can be added by players through the option that makes the leader have lower maximum speed than the other players.)Multiplayer online first-person shooters may arrange teams based on numbers or even experience.USES:Strengthens or prolongs Players PERCEIVED CHANCE TO SUCCEED (at the expense of PERCEIVABLE MARGINS and feelings of GAME MASTERY).RIGHT LEVEL OF DIFFICULTYSMOOTH LEARNING CURVESAvoid too large of a difference in ASSYMETRIC ABILITIESMaintain TENSIONAllow HIGHER-LEVEL CLOSURES

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Balancing Effects Design ConsiderationsIs the balancing effect designed to be pre-emptive or correcting?Is limited foresight used to mask an imbalance?Are there more than two players or teams competing?

PRE_EMPTIVE: Maintain Player Balance so that imbalances do not occur.HANDICAPSMaking EXTENDED ACTIONS into INTERRUPTIBLE ACTIONSDELAYED EFFECTSSELECTABLE SET OF GOALS so players can choose ones that best fit their abilities.DIMINISHING RETURNS to prevent players from becoming clear leaders.Warning: If these effects are DIRECT, can RUIN ILLUSION OF INFLUENCE. INDIRECT METHODS include BUGETED ACTION POINTS and CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT.CORRECTING: Correct imbalances once they have occurred.NEW/IMPROVED ABILITIES to disadvantaged PlayersABILITY LOSSES/DECREASED ABILITIES to advantaged Players.Arrange TURN TAKING so Disadvantaged Players are in most advantageous positions.SHARED REWARDS so that disadvantaged players share in it.SPAWNING, so that disadvantaged players are at STRATEGIC LOCATIONS.Warning: Positive effects are usually REWARDS given to disadvantaged players for COMPLETING GOALS, while negative effects are PENALTIES given to advantaged players for FAILING GOALS.LIMITED FORESIGHT: Players can not see too far ahead of the game, giving them a PERCEIVED CHANCE TO SUCCEED, although it may only be an ILLUSION OF INFLUENCE.MORE THAN 2: Corrective balancing as teams may enter into an UNCOMMITTED ALLIANCE against the leader. (GAME STATE OVERVIEWS and PUBLIC SCORES are necessary so that players can pinpoint the leader).

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SymmetrySymmetrical relations exist between players regarding the goals, resources, and actions they can perform.

A common feature in games to ensure that players have equal opportunities. In these cases, the outcome of games is either dependent on players SKILLS or RANDOMNESS, since the game system does not put any player in a favorable position.EXAMPLES:In CHESS, the players have the same pieces and set-up.In SETTLERS OF CATAN, the player who is first to place the first settlement is the last to place the second, while the last to place the first settlement is the first to place the second.USES:PLAYER BALANCE (at Setup only)TEAM BALANCE (at Setup only)Create OUTSTANDING FEATURES in the Game World.Provides basis for showing GAME MASTERY when there is little RANDOMNESS

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Symmetry Design ConsiderationsDo players have the same abilities?Do players have symmetric goals?Are resources distributed symmetrically?Do teams have symmetry?

ABILITIESGOALSRESOURCESTEAMS

BALANCING:1. Lessened by: ASSYMETRIC ABILTIES, ASSYMETRIC GOALS, ASSYMETRIC RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION, all introduced HANDICAPS.

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Rock-Paper-ScissorsSets of three or more actions form cycles where every action has an advantage over another action.

EXAMPLE:Classic childrens game.In QUAKE, the relations between Weapons and Monsters.USESIntroduces SYMMETRY between actions or tactics.Introduces a form of RANDOMNESSS and limited PREDICTABLE CONEQUENCE unless players either gain knowledge of other players current activities or keep a record of their behavior.GAIN KNOWLEDGE of strategies can lead to GAME MASTERY.Promotes TENSION, until either choices are revealed or until success of chosen strategy is evident.

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Rock-Paper-Scissors Design ConsiderationsWhat is the set of elements in which each element have an advantage over another one?Is the game quick or long-term?

SETSQUICK GAMESChoices tend to have immediate consequences.Played repeatedly so that a METAGAME is used to allow players to gain knowledge of their opponents strategies.LONG-TERM GAMESOften implemented as INVESTMENT to gain ASSYMETRIC ABILITIES, through UNITS or CHARACTER DEVELOPMENT. Players gain information about other Players through PUBLIC INFORMATION or by sending UNITS into FOG OF WAR.

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HandicapsMaking gameplay easier for certain players to ensure that all players have the same chance to succeed.

When player are aware of differences in their playing skills, they may agree on HANDICAPSS to make the outcome as uncertain as possible within the game world.EXAMPLES:GOLF is one of the most well-known sports using HANDICAPS. It not only ensures equal gameplay, but is a measure of mastery of the sport.Fighting games like TEKKEN allow players to choose starting health by percentage, for example 80% to 140%.USESProvides RIGHT LEVEL OF DIFFICULTY in MULTIPLAYER GAMESProvides PLAYER BALANCE or TEAM BALANCEProvides TRANS-GAME INFORMATION which can be a form of SCORE in a META GAME.CONFLICTS WITH* SYMMETRY

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Handicaps Design ConsiderationsCan players set individual levels of difficulty?Can players set individual resources or abilities?Can players set individual negative consequences to be limited or ignored?Can players set different thresholds for evaluation functions?Can players set individual bonuses to score values?Can players set individual starting locations or skill advantages?Can player take back actions and perform other actions?

INDIVIDUAL LEVELS OF DIFFICULTYRESOURCES or ABILITIES* ASSYMETRIC RESOURCE DISTRIBUTION and ABILITIES or PRIVILEGED ABILITIES can give BALANCING EFFECTS, as players may not have as much FREEDOM OF CHOICE.* Changing resources in the GAME WORLD make the game one with a RECONFIGURABLE GAME WORLD.NEGATIVE CONSEQUENCES.EVALUATON FUNCTIONSSBONUSSTART LOCATION / SKILL ADVANTAGESREVERSIBILITY

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Team BalanceTeams have equal chances of succeeding with actions in a game or winning a game.

Games with teams are usually balanced the same way as games where players play against each other.EXAMPLE: Some MULTIPLAYER ONLINE FPS have systems for automatically arranging teams based on kills or experience points.Teams changing sides during half time in SOCCER minimizes the influence of variations in the field or the direction of the sun.APPLICATION:Usually enforced only in the beginning of the game and does not usually take into consideration players individual skills or how good they are at collaborating.Differs from PLAYER BALNCE by allowing ORTHOGONAL UNIT DIFFERENTATION and individual COMPETENCE AREAS and PRIVILEDGED ABILITIES, as long as there is SYMMETRY.When there is PLAYER KILLING, balance achieved through SPAWNING.USES:* Gives teams a PERCEIVED CHANCE OF WINNINGEncourages TEAM PLAY and therefore SOCIAL STATUSPlayers feel EMPOWERMENT

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Team Balance Design ConsiderationsIs there total player balance between all players?How can teams starting positions be balanced?What privileged abilities need to be mitigated?What handicaps need to be applied?What other balancing effects need to be applied during gameplay?

PLAYER BALANCE:* Doesnt need to be if there is still SYMMETRY between teams.* Unless more than two teams are playing PLAYER DECIDED RESULTS cannot work as votes, etc. become draws.STARTING POSITION* Doesnt need to be if there is SYMMETRY between teams.PRVILEGED ABILITIES* Doesnt need to be if there is SYMMETRY between teams.HANDICAPSBALANCING EFFECTS

BALANCINGLessened by: TEAM DEVELOPMENT

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GAME MAsTERY

How players can their skills and abilities in playing the game, and how to balance the gameplay for players with different skill levels.

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Game MasteryThat one can clearly distinguish between skillful and incompetent players when they are using all their skills and abilities in a game.

Player skill Is achieved when players feel they have an understanding of the game or a possibility to perform actions in a game that a previously not possible. When the skill is sufficiently far from the initial level, players can feel that they have gained Game Mastery.EXAMPLES:In CHESS:, the differences between novice and experts is so large, novices have no chance to win against an expert player.In FIRST-PERSON SHOOTERS, there can be a wide range of mastery.USES:EMOTIONAL IMMERSION through EMPOWERMENT, promoting REPLAYABILITY.Games that support use of different skills for solving challenges promote VARIED GAMEPLAY.ASSYMMETRIC ABILITIES may allow different types of Game Mastery in the same game. This promotes REPLAYABILITY, but in multiplayer games requires COMPETENCY AREAS.. Knowing when to perform actions is also part of Game Mastery. Development of STRATEGIC KNOWLEDGE may be due to required RISK/REWARD choices or TRADEOFFS. Passed on as TRANS-GAME INFORMATION between instances, making playing the game a form of INVESTMENT. And knowing when to perform EXT$ENDED ACTIONS, and the long-term consequences of PENALTIES and REWARDS.REQUIRES:RIGHT LEVEL OF DIFFICULTYSMOOTH LEARNING CURVES with RIGHT LEVEL OF COMPLEXITY. Best done through LEVELS, where the appropriate difficulty of challenges can be set.PROMOTED BY:ILLUSIONARY REWARDWARNING:* RANDOMNESS and BALANCING EFFECTS can make MASTERY hard to perceive or even achieve.

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Game Mastery Design ConsiderationsWhat dexterity-based skills can a player train and develop?What mental-based skills can a player train and develop?What social-based skills can a player train and develop?How is mastery revealed?How can mastery be maintained past game sessions?

DEXTERITY: Coordination-based and timing-based actions.MENTAL: Memorizing, Puzzle Solving, Experimenting, Determined by the level of COGNITIVE IMMERSION or SPATIAL IMMERSION.Games involving RANDOMNESS can also support Game Mastery, but usually through Strategic Knowledge about Probabilities.SOCIAL: Negotiation, Storytelling, Betting.REVEALED: Most commonly in OVERCOME goals, PERCEIVABLE MARGINES or GAME STATE OVERIVEW. MAINTAINED:TOURNAMENTSHIGH SCORE LISTS with HANDLESSOCIAL STATUS, especially if game supports SPECTATORS.

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EmpowermentPlayers feel that they can affect the events and final outcome of the game.

Games let players make choices that can affect the final outcome of the game. The possibility to have an influence over what happens is a form of power and gives players a feeling of EMPOWERMENT simply by playing games. Playing a game can be seen as an agreement among all the players to give each other clearly defined powers. But this Empowerment is bounded by the rule of the game. The level of Empowerment depend upon the design of the game and upon the other players.EXAMPLE:Gaining new weapons in FPS games.In RPGs, scenarios are made for the highest level characters.ACHIEVED BY:RIGHT LEVEL OF DIFFICULTYGAME MASTERYSTIMULATED PLANNIONGMemorizing STRATEGIC KNOWLEDGESOCIAL STATUSUSES:* Promotes EMOTIONAL IMMERSIONWARNING* May disrupt PLAYER BALANCE

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Empowerment Design ConsiderationsHow empowered does the player feel at the beginning of the game?Does the empowerment increase incrementally?What opportunities does the player have for creative control?Do the players vote on anything?Can the player construct the game world?

BEGINNINGINCREMENTALIMPROVED/NEW ABILITIES, especially PRIVILEGED, by giving them COMPETENCE AREASChoose how to uses PRODUCERS or CONVERTERS, by giving them FREEDOM OF CHOICECREATIVE CONTROLVOTINGCONSTRUCTING WORLDSBALANCING* Lessened by TIME LIMITS, ROLE REVERSALS, and ganging up.

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TimingThe effect on gameplay that actions have to be performed at certain points in game time to be performed at all or that the direct effects of actions varies greatly depending on when they are performed.

EXAMPLE:SUPER MARIO SUNSHINE: Special variations of actions are possible if the Timing between two button presses on the game controller is correct.Fighting games like TEKKEN place emphasis on Timing to successfully attack and parry against opponents.USES:Promotes RHYTHM-BASED ACTIONSPromotes GAME MASTERY

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Timing Design ConsiderationsIs the game turn-based or real-time?

TURN-BASED: AHIEVED by SIMULATED PLANNINGUse of PRIVILEGED ABILITIES and DELAYED EFFECTSGEOMETRIC REWARDS FOR INVESTMENTSREAL-TIME: DEXTERITY-BASED ACTION* COMBAT through AIM & SHOOT with OVERCOME GOALSNO-OP and AIM & SHOOT for CAPTURE and CONFIGURATION GOALSMANEUVERING around DEADLY TRAPS

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Rhythm-Based ActionsActions that require players to time their actions several times in a row.

In Rhythm-based Games, timing and stability can be as important as performing the right action. They are basically EXTENDED ACTIONS that require TIMING in REAL-TIME GAMES.EXAMPLE:Early computer sports games like CALIFORNIA GAMES required players to make long sequences of rhythm based actions.DANCE DANCE REVOLUTION requires players to hit various buttons in certain combinations while following certain rhythms.USE* SENSORY-MOTOR IMMERSION, leading to GAME MASTERY

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Rhythm-Based Action Design ConsiderationsWhat is the extended action to be performed?How long should it be performed?What feedback is provided to the player?What rewards or penalties are associated with performing the action?

EXTENDED ACTIONTIMINGFEEDBACKPROGRESS INDICATORILLUSORY REWARDREWARD/PENALTYFailure to keep rhythm usually ends the Extended Action with no penalties, especially with OVERCOME goals or COMBAT actions.Failure while performing movement-related Combos, penalties are often associated with DEADLY TRAPSBALANCINGLEVEL OF DIFFICULTY based on TEMPOLEVEL OF COMPLEXITY based on ACTIONS

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Dexterity-Based ActionsActions where success or failure depends on some form of dexterity, usually hand-eye coordination.

Actions whose effects are determined by how the player physically performs them. The effects of the actions do not have to be directly connected to what the player is physically manipulating for the actions to be dexterous.EXAMPLE:Most sports requires skillful DEXTERITY-BASED ACTIONS as part of GAME MASTERY.Moving Avatars in FPS can be seen as a Dexterity-Based Action since players get feedback quickly enough to feel immersed in the virtual environment, even though the control is INDIRECT and the Action is MEDIATED by the Game System.MOVEMENT requiring MANEUVERING, especially to avoid OBSTACLESCOMBAT, especially with AIM & SHOOTREQUIRES:REAL-TIME GAME with TIMING or EXTENDED ACTIONSUSES:* SPATIAL-MOTORIC IMMERSION and SPATIALIMMERSION, leading to GAME MASTERY

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Dexterity-Based Action Design ConsiderationsWhat is the action to be performed?How fast is the response time, if it is a digital game?

ACTIONRESPONSE TIMEIf response time is too long, they do not seem to the Player to be DEXTERITY-BASED ACTIONS. This can be mitigated with games with few SURPRISES and either using TIMING for single-actions with PROGRESS INDICATORS, or RHYTHM-BASED GAME where delays can be ignored.BALANCINGEasier: THIRD-PERSON POVHarder: FIRST-PERSON POV, INDIRECT CONTROL, SURPRISES, DISTRUPTION OF FOCUSED ATTENTION

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Group QuestBalance one of the games you previously designed in class.

Research and use the LMS to report on games using balancing pattenerns discussed in class.