The most balanced it’s ever been

Another Blog Azeroth topic which reacts to the idea of the game being balanced. What a squirming can of worms for a topic. Nice idea really.

Ghostcrawler recently said that, in his estimation, the game is the most balanced it’s ever been. Agree? Disagree? And if it’s the most balanced, does that mean it’s enjoyable for you at the moment — have there, in other words, been more enjoyable, if less balanced, moments in the past?

Balance is a tough thing to define as it is totally subjective. One view is often shouted down by others, with only a hodge-podge of data and experiences to back them up.

My perspective is that we will always have something worth bitching about. Always – and that is good for design. It is not a reason to have a deliberate gap, but a small gap is always going to be present, and that gap will be perceived differently by different players.

At the moment Death Knights (my primary class) feel reasonable enough as a dps class to not be broken, frustrating as a tank class due to the timers of our heart strikes, and lack a significant function that most other damage classes have – that of lacking crowd control.

Now I understand that giving every power to every class is not balance, that is homogenisation – which is bad for MMOs. Why play class-X if they are all the same? If a Warlock was just a Mage with green spells and a demonic fetish instead of water friends and pyromania, then both Warlocks and Mages would have reason to be angry. The rock-paper-scissors balance game is often touted as a basic form of how the game is designed and I don’t disagree with the spirit of how that design applies. It makes sense somewhat that a jack of all trades should be a master of none as a concept.

This is where my ideal of imbalanced gameplay becomes confronting for people who like all options; you see I like imbalance. Love it. The fact that some classes are more vulnerable to others just makes me think that part of good game play is picking the fights you can win.

I was raised on pen and paper D&D where a level 1 Wizard was a glorified spear carrier until they got Fireball, and then at level 14-15 they could tear any other class apart. Balanced? Not at all – by design.

There is no situation in the game which offers an in-game reward where 1v1 imbalance is a disadvantage. You may not want to read this, but winning a duel in Goldshire is not worth any game points. The satisfaction is in the mind of the victor only.

The 2v2 games might have degrees of imbalance, and as the classes switch between patches a set of two will stand out. That is fine too because good pvp really depends on the participants having a high degree of skill too.

Sure, I’d love DKs to get a form of crowd control, and would like the timer for HeartStrike to be 20 seconds, but i also know that it would be making a change to the class to suit two of my pet gripes – and not addressing one hundred others.

It might also be perceived that Rogues have a distinct pvp advantage in most cases, but they are a class designed to creep up and kill somebody – shouldn’t they have some darn handy skills? I hate them in pvp but can recognise a good thing when I see it.

When talking balance you need to talk through the issue to absolute ranking not relative class/spec power; absolute balance across all specs is more important. It is the holistic view that says that while the difference between two classes might be a whopping 15% dps when optimum, the view of all the classes overall might also reveal that these are the highest and lowest points on the range. Therefore a more important question might be what the range between that class’s best spec and the average performance of them all. Every clas is poor at some stage, and most have had their day in the sun too. Even Ret Paladins got some thundering buffs for a short period, which meant that nobody even dared fight them in pvp.

There will always be a front runner, and always be a class running last. The pure dps classes need one of their specs to be in the top range; but not all of them. A hybrid class should not be at the top few, but should be worth taking as a dps without factoring in the side benefit of having a switching role.That is what balance means to me.

A pure dps class has the greatest range (3 specs) to provide the spread of damage ranges. A Warlock can have 3 spec trees to choose from, and if one of them is in the lowest part of the dps spectrum then that is not the end of the world. As long as that tree does not always stay there, the game is good.

Now you might think that my view is bias – well it is. I’ve played a Death Knight, Warlock, and Paladin in a serious way in expansions and also tinkered seriously in raids with Druids and Priests as well. My Hunter is poorly geared and played terribly, and I can still recognise that they are a powerful class too.

In fact the only class I can’t comment too much on is Shaman and Rogue – who are two classes that often are able to show up and confuse me in fights. Is that an imbalanced worth crying over? No. Its the player not the class and even if you class is suffering now due to poor gear, or bad scaling, or some other nurf – I’ll best at one point in the past they were considered awesome. You just have to wait for the cycle to turn again.

Happy hunting – TyphoonAndrew

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4 thoughts on “The most balanced it’s ever been

  1. Another interesting post, nice :)

    To me I think balance between specs for a class is something to aim for. For instance at the moment the different hunter specs are probably the most balanced they’ve ever been without losing the distinctive flavour of each spec and playstyle.

    I don’t think each class should be balanced against each other though. Like you say that would be homogenisation. I think you often hear QQ about this from the kind of people who are not thinking about appropriate counters. Rogues are annoying in PVP absolutely but having played both a rogue and a hunter in pvp I know that hunters have some very effective counters to rogues – traps, tracking, deterrence and disengage to name just a few. And playing a rogue effectively in PVP is really about taking down the weakest link in the flock. So if someone is all ‘my rogue sucks in pvp’ they should maybe stop getting into head on fights ;)

    So imo it’s about understanding your classes strengths and weaknesses vs different classes in different situations and playing to them as far as pvp goes.

    When it comes to pve content.. well I think enough similar type abilities are shared across enough classes to make things work. There are definitely still situations where one class shines or a class is at a disadvantage but that will always be a case and I also think that there is much less pigeon-holing than there used to be.

  2. Excellent topic and quote; I’ll be tackling this one tomorrow.
    To comment on your D&D reference, I might disagree about the classes being “imbalanced by design” though only because in 2nd edition surviving a death was a pretty rare occasion. The weakness of a wizard at lower levels (and even to some level the frailty – though not weakness – at mid level) were the balancing factor because getting a wizard to level 14-15 would be nearly impossible. An easy DM (infrequent deaths, weak challenges, too much XP, too much ease of rezzing), then, would be the imbalancing factor, not the design.
    A small point in a large post, all the same. Great post!

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