Balancing Sucks

Balance is one of those functions of game development that just plain sucks.  Devs have access to a lot of resources that players don’t, more detailed logs, the “correct” formulas, testing tools and hardware, and of course paid staff to utilize these things in a hopefully motivated and intelligent fashion.  They also have the input of players, either through forums, bug reports and petitions, and activity that they observe in-game.

One of the more obvious traits of human beings is we tend to complain a lot more readily and vocally than we admire or compliment.  This is actually a bit of a survival instinct, if you are injured you tend to shout or scream in pain, either getting you help and attention or warning people to avoid your location, whereas if you are enjoying a good meal your utterances will be rather less excited and notable, allowing you to be more selective of your own beneficiaries.  This instinctive behavior tends to get complemented by traits we pick up.  How many people in EvE have heard of exploits running rampant, sometimes for months or years while people get space-rich?  Folks didn’t advertise their caviar and champagne. Here I’m thinking about Ferrogel and infinite tracking infinite range guns in wormholes as two examples.  Meanwhile if something is unbalanced and people DO find out about it, like what happened with T20, or a horribly unbalanced ship type, like “Tracking Titans” people will scream to high heaven about cockroaches in their crackers.

However there’s no natural filter between perceived unfairness and actual unfairness.  The forums are filled with endless pages of folks whining about how unfair this, that and the other activity/ship/what have you is.  To a poorly informed observer all of these complaints have equal weight on the surface, and can be greatly influenced not by their facts, but by the writing in them.  For example let’s look at Geksz post last week

I hope after the changes the Hulk can tank ships at least half of it’s price tag. (something that is ment for mining doesn’t mean it should be defensless, and easy pray) – Some ppl will pop ur stuff even if it wasn’t profitable, if it looks good on their killboard…

and further on

Btw. if u don’t mine in a hostile enviroment – for example High sec – why would u fit for tank?
Everything u do in eve u aim for maximum efficiency. Like when u do missions u won’t fit more tank, or pvp modules just becouse there is a possibility that someone would jump in on u and gank ur ship. But even if that happens a PvE fit mission ship has a chance to fight back, and withstand some vollies.

reading this you might think that the Hulk is an utterly indefensible ship and that by rights it ought to have defenses equal to “A ship half of it’s price tag” i.e. an Armageddon.  I’m not going to go into why it’s silly for an industrial ship to be able to tank a full-up battleship in a game predicated on PvP.

Meanwhile let’s look at this post from Cantabar

Station games as far as I can tell are pretty much against everything CCP stands for.

Station games save ships when they should die.

Station games give the cowardly High Sec war deccers a mechanic to hide behind even tho they are the ones that aggressed.

I am tired of trying to go 1v2 and having to go home with no kill simply because I dont have the dps to alpha one of the 2 players.

Proposal: Make warp scrambled ships unable to dock. Or better yet make ships that are being aggressed currently unable to dock similar to the nerf of the super loggoffski trick.

Pro: More ships will die and this promotes more actual fights.

Con: Cowards wont be able to hide behind station mechanics anymore.

This is a terribly written proposal, and you’d be easily forgiven for skipping by it except for one little problem.  It really does cover a serious problem that CCP has been working on.  Reading the forums is the best and worst place to find issues that need to be worked on.  A GM who can sort wheat from chaff well will be loved while a GM with a little less discretion will earn the ire of the entire community (ohai CCP Greyscale!)

Then changes get made, and everyone is happy and the devs feel brilliant and the game goes on to unprecedented success.  Ok get up off the ground and back in your chair, rub your sides until the aching subsides.  A change could be completely brilliant, or utter rubbish and get identical responses.  If you are strong of stomach look at your favorite and least favorite dev blogs lately.

The reasons for these reactions come from two sources, first the changes are necessarily imperfect.  Devs don’t exactly have perfect vision of how their changes will work out.  Look at how quickly wardec changes and Incursion changes are being adjusted or rolled back.  I can only imagine how CCP reacts when innovative videos of new tactics are passed around with the latest samples of emergent gameplay.  The second part is that balance changes tend to hurt someone.  Wounded people scream.  Loud.  Publicly.  Often.  Rather than seeing an opportunity elsewhere they will often dig in their heels and oppose oppose oppose without considering the benefits newly opened.  I should note in passing that I always give due and proper consideration to the benefits and drawbacks of a new change before decrying it as horrible.  I am a careful and considered speaker, you lot are all trolls.

So Devs cannot foresee what will happen with their changes, innovators will constantly surprise them with unexpected ramifications and surprising takes on the changes they make.  They cannot please everyone and many people they do please choose to keep quiet.  They make these changes for a few reasons.  One of the biggest is that there likely IS an overarching plan for EvE and to bring the game in line with the plan changes have to be made.  The devs also have to prevent extreme actions from upsetting the community at large.  Not so much elements within the community as much as the “Sacred Cows” which have evolved and become pillars of the game community at large.  Changes outside these themes are rare, and should be.  Balance for Balance’s sake is not part of EvE any more than some abstract definition of “fair” and while diverse fleets of many different ships and shiptypes are appealing, trying to create them artificially is doomed, only in extreme situations where a race is nearly unused will result in massive, sweeping changes.

I’m using it every time I can

About Corelin

An Eve playing Fool who occasionally writes about the shenanigans he and his minions get up to.

Posted on June 18, 2012, in CSM Hijinks, Meta, Things I think I think. Bookmark the permalink. 3 Comments.

  1. “I’m not going to go into why it’s silly for an industrial ship to be able to tank a full-up battleship in a game predicated on PvP.”

    The only thing that’s silly is that you can’t tell from his post what he means–does he mean tank a battleship in 1.0 until concord arrives, 0.5 until concord arrives, or forever in low/null? I don’t think all of the above scenarios are silly, although the last clearly is.

    “Proposal: Make warp scrambled ships unable to dock. Or better yet make ships that are being aggressed currently unable to dock similar to the nerf of the super loggoffski trick.”

    That guy’s pro/con list was a bit biased. Here’s another:

    Cons: It’s totally unrealistic that I can’t dock while 50 feet from a station just because I’m scrambled; and tackling someone right next a station and then just keeping them tackled while reinforcements arrive from 5 systems away is unrealistic, unfun, and is just another tactic that favors larger numbers. If you don’t want to engage someone next a station where they can just dock right up, why not just HTFU and go engage people that aren’t just exiting a station?

    Pro: People whose idea of “an actual fight” is one gleaned from their real life job mugging people leaving buildings into dark streets, will get more actual fights.

    I’ve never personally played station games, and I’m not a fan of how they are now; but I don’t see a way to improve them that’s not flawed as above.

    • On the other hand, this is the equivalent of the real-life mugger plying his trade outside yer front door while his victim screams and bangs on your screen. Are YOU gonna open up?? Tell you right now not many people would… Most who say they would are lying, insane, or likely have a dangerously hyperbolic self-image, aka “all of the above”. 😉

    • The problem with his argument regarding the hulk is that it’s predicated on cost being proportional to effectiveness (or at the very least to toughness) – something which simply isn’t the case.

      If his argument were valid, a hulk should be able to tank many times what a covetor can because it’s many times more expensive. As we know, that isn’t the case anywhere else in eve – price goes up exponentially for small increases in performance. A t2 or faction ship (or module) might be ten times the price of its t1 equivalent, but offer 20% more effectiveness for example.

      What he’s really asking for is for it to not be cost effective to suicide gank a hulk. That isn’t necessarily an unreasonable request (although it would defeat the point of the new barges and obviously isn’t the direction that CCP are looking at) but he’s arguing for it from the wrong standpoint.

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