Why is it that perfectly respectable game designers, when faced with issues that needs to balanced or tweaked, suddenly seem to react with all the forethought of a drunken six year old?

Okay, so it’s not really that bad. Still, made for a nice first sentence.

Right.

The most recent thing that brought this to back to the front of my mind is Battlefield 3, and it’s new patch, and the hubbub from players about it. To counter a few inequalities in gameplay, some thing were fixed. Or, they attempted to fix them anyways.

First Problem: The suppressor attachment increased accuracy, and they hid the player on the minimap. There was only one detriment to this (decreased power at range), and no other equipment for the same position that was better or even a plausible alternative.

Second Problem: Suppression Effect, which causes a blurry screen and an increase in random bullet deviation was underpowered, and for the most part, easily ignored. This was bad, because that effect was supposed to control Risk vs Reward, while also keeping players from just going on killing rampages. Such as, A engages B (both encounter Suppression Effect), A kills B, A must either wait before engaging C, or engage C with a detriment. So, with it being ineffective, you would end up with teamwork being unimportant, because it all comes down to the one guy who can shoot everything up.

Third problem is just the teamwork in general. Because of a lot of little things, (vehicle balancing, weapon selections) Lonewolf gameplay actually becomes the default, and then players get frustrated because challenges can’t be overcome, because all the challenges are oriented towards teams, etc etc.

There is more that the patch was covering, but these are the three I’m going to pick on to illustrate my point.

The solutions to these problems were:
First Problem’s Solution: Get rid of the suppressor’s accuracy bonus, and have it reduce recoil, hide the player on the map, while also increasing bullet deviation. This alongside modifying another accessory to have the missing accuracy bonus preserves player options while negating the overused equipment.

Second Problem’s Solution: Increase Suppression Effect, while adding a greater penalty to accuracy when suppressed. When Suppressed, bullet deviation skyrockets, and it becomes difficult to hit anything even with skill. Thus, Suppression is used to achieve its previous goals, while also finding a new way to force the “L33T SKILLZ” crowd to actually work with their teammates, since the high skill players will still need to watch out for incoming fire, and plan around Suppression Zones.

Third Problem’s Solution: Lower general accuracy, so 80% headshots becomes say, 55% headshots. On a large scale, this becomes the tipping point for forcing teamwork, while still maintaining lone-wolf gameplay as being viable. (Etc, etc, there were more things, too but, moving on…)

Now, the community is complaining because accuracy has gone out the window. Between overall accuracy nerfs, the loss of equipment, and increased Suppression, it’s not hard to see why.

Too many things are being applied to decrease accuracy at once, and each one was intented on being a singular solution to the problems they were supposed to solve. But you can’t do that in a game, where all the systems are integrated and play off each other.

There’s also a second, sinister, side to the overshooting balance. Best example here is World of Warcraft, but I’ll shorten this down, since this has already been going on for too long: The patch notes in WoW always seem to be solving misuse or overpowered skills for the upper 5%, or buffing powers for the lowest 5%.

Seriously, those should be the absolute last groups of people that you balance the game for.

There’s been a lot of times that I’ve read the patch notes for WoW and thought, “What are they thinking?”

  • Skill A can be stacked, but it’s doing too much damage at a full stack, so we should reduce the damage and make it more difficult to get the full stack.
  • Well, wasn’t it supposed to do a lot of damage, and be balanced by it being difficult to get a full stack?
  • Yes, but some people have figured out a trick to get full stacks, so it isn’t as difficult as it should be.
  • Then shouldn’t the answer be to increase the difficulty back to where it should have been?
  • But those people who are abusing it will still abuse it!
  • But those people who are abusing it will abuse anything anyways, no matter what you do!

Maybe it would have been better to lower the damage slightly and make it easier to stack, or go after the thing that’s making it easy to stack. Instead, the patch goes the other way, to make the top 5% less powerful.

And of course, in balancing issues of the top 5%, the majority playerbase suffers the same detriment.

Comparatively┬áspeaking, it’s like you have a ex-con under house arrest in your neighborhood, so everybody in the neighborhood has to wear ankle monitors.

Blah. I’m losing focus and need to get back to normal work. More later, maybe. Either way, “Bad Developer! No Cookie!!”