The Fine Art of Balance: A Game Career Guide
Game Career Guide has an article up on the implementation of balance in video games.
“The Fine Art of Balance” gives examples of how game balance can significantly change or limit a player’s gaming experience. A severely out of balance game results in a situation where none of the player’s choices matter because the outcome will always be the same; the player will either always lose, or always win. This plays into the reason games are not always fulfilling for players – those who often see through the shallow reward systems are quick to either master them or move on. Wish fulfillment and the collecting instinct are not always the best needs a game reward system can address and current games are built around simple reward systems because designers have to rely on quantifiable rewards rather than the intangibles such as accomplishment, relief and other emotional benefits. It also points to one reason game balance is such a nebulous concept.
The article also explores one of the most popular balance methods that doesn’t really work; the mathematical balance. The method is fair and looks good on paper, but is still out of balance. The gray drop items in MMOs that aren’t worth anything but money or the difficulty scaling in Oblivion are two very good examples of problems with the system.
Rather than go on about all the balance issues in games that frustrate and infuriate players, the guide uses a few examples to inform designers of what they can do to clean up their act. Read the full article on Game Career Guide.