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A candid discussion regarding class balance

Hey guys,

Over the past 15+ years, I've developed an overwhelming sense of dread when it comes to class re-balancing. One minute, you're thrilled that your main class is viable and competitive and, before you know it, devs release a hotfix that comes along and completely obviates the current meta in favor of classes and/or stat sets that you have never bothered investing in. I'm sure that I'm not alone in disliking how other popular MMOs handle class balance (Preach Gaming does regular youtube videos on the nightmare that is Blizzard's class balance efforts in WoW), so I thought it would be interesting to have a discussion on the elements of class balance that our community likes/dislikes, and potentially provide some food for thought for the team at Intrepid as they consider how they would like to implement class balance in the future.

So: what do you guys think about balancing the viability of specs for PvE AND/OR PvP with appeasing the wishes of a diverse player community? What do you like about how other games approach balance, and what do you dislike?

Much love,
Ghyx

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    ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited June 2017
    Wow, you wrote a lot of text for what seems to be a fairly simple concept:

    RPGs were not designed for PvP combat.
    RPGs were designed for cooperative play, such that the other classes in your party synergize to support the weaknesses in your own class.

    Classes especially aren't designed for 1v1 PvP combat or even 2v2 PvP combat.
    A Fighter isn't designed to be able to defeat a Cleric 1v1. Nor is a Druid designed to defeat a Paladin 1v1.

    But, in MMORPGs, PvP combat is prevalent. And folks get upset when other classes seem to be OP in PvP combat.

    So, the devs strive to create a balance that was never meant to be.
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    I know this goes back a ways but its something that always made me angry. Diablo 2 the devs would nerf a class skill line but you didnt have an option to reroll. so you could have a maxed out necromancer for example because they in my opinion were the most heavily and consistently nerfed and you would have to start all over again from level 1 to put points into new skills to have a viable character again, it was maddening
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    Dygz said:
    Wow, you wrote a lot of text for what seems to be a fairly simple concept:

    RPGs were not designed for PvP combat.
    RPGs were designed for cooperative play, such that the other classes in your party synergize to support the weaknesses in your own class.

    Classes especially aren't designed for 1v1 PvP combat or even 2v2 PvP combat.
    A Fighter isn't designed to be able to defeat a Cleric 1v1. Nor is a Druid designed to defeat a Paladin 1v1.

    But, in MMORPGs, PvP combat is prevalent. And folks get upset when other classes seem to be OP in PvP combat.

    So, the devs strive to create a balance that was never meant to be.
    1) It would seem to be a simple concept, but given that so many games get it wrong, it would seem to warrant some thought and discussion :)

    2) Your points seem to be focused on PvP balance. While this is a critical issue of course, I would also encourage this thread to think about balance from a PvE perspective as well!
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    Dygz said:
    Wow, you wrote a lot of text for what seems to be a fairly simple concept:

    RPGs were not designed for PvP combat.
    RPGs were designed for cooperative play, such that the other classes in your party synergize to support the weaknesses in your own class.

    Classes especially aren't designed for 1v1 PvP combat or even 2v2 PvP combat.
    A Fighter isn't designed to be able to defeat a Cleric 1v1. Nor is a Druid designed to defeat a Paladin 1v1.

    But, in MMORPGs, PvP combat is prevalent. And folks get upset when other classes seem to be OP in PvP combat.

    So, the devs strive to create a balance that was never meant to be.
    I was cracking my fingers in eager anticipation of writing something similar to this, but you wrote it so succinctly @Dygz that I'm simply going to quote it, give your original post a like, and move along. :blush:
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    Okay, so I agree what what @Dygz said. it wasn't meant to be and all that... but.

    As @Steven said, the most immersive thing you can do in a fantasy game is make it realistic.
    In real life you always have shit happen that you didn't expect. 
    A druid might never come into contact with a paladin in many stories but in this story, on this day, after you logged in... you ran into a paladin, you now need to fight to survive.

    If it's a case that Druid beats paladin every time then where is the fun in that for the druid... just roll over, play dead. hope the paladin shows... MERCY (i'm hilarious, so punny).

    As for a fighter and a cleric. lets take that to the PvE side of things.
    One can't survive the fight long enough to deal enough damage.
    The other can't out damage the boss, but also can't seem to die.

    While the solution to this is to make one more tanky and the other hit harder. while re-balancing that for PvP you just made both of them stronger against all other classes in game.
    Now that druid needs a buff because it is playing dead to all 3
    -

    in a long wided way the issue with balance is that you are trying to find a medium between both PvP and PvE that simply can't be done. Nerfing anything isn't the choice either.
    What Blizzard do is give every class a fair chance to have the top spot for a time, that sort of pandering to the community is in a way why they are doing so well.

    In the end Mages are always going to wreck us all
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    I think (dearly hope) that balance in AoC will not be as simple as Paper, Rock, Scissors class archetypes. In MMOs where there are literally infinite possibilities, I think min/max builds with cookie cutter class/gear/specs are terribly boring!

    Hopefully AoC will have a more diverse and dynamic approach that will result in non-obvious builds and synergies:

    - Secondary specializations.
    - Racials and other stats (like religion?). 
    - Interchangeable gear?
    - Node-level buffs?
    - Profession buffs?

    It would also be awesome if some/all of the above could be selected/deselected prior to combat to make things even more dynamic and unpredictable (similar to the idea of build-outs in popular MOBAs).

    My hope for AoC is that prior to any PvP encounter, there will be no formulaic way to absolutely assess your success chances (or your team's chances). Class/secondary class A with a particular build might indeed be strong against another Class/secondary B with another build and vice-versa.

    Diversity and unpredictability makes for good game play, and also esport friendly combat.
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    From watching all the live streams, my take away was there will be some player skill required as well as actual paying attention to what skills you're using and when. They've been pretty adamant about making sure all classes are useful and not going to be left out because a different role does it better. Doesn't mean it won't happen, but we can't really make any judgments on that given we have 0 information to base our assumptions at this point.
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    ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited June 2017
    Hmmn
    RPGs are not supposed to be esports. Everything should not be turned into esports.

    RPGs derived from wargames - where the different classes represented different units in an army:
    Fighter = tank
    Cleric = medic
    Mage = cannon
    Rogue = recon and trap disarm

    They all have to rely on each other in order to survive a battle. It's not expected that a medic tries to survive a 1v1 battle against a cannon or that recon survives a 1v1 battle against a tank.
    That is not the role of a medic. That is not the role of recon.

    The class balance for an RPG is supposed to be revolve around each character playing its combat role to maximize the strengths and minimize the weakness of the other classes in the party. Devising strategies based on anticipating the specific skills and abilities of everyone in the party. 

    That is the experience that tabletop RPG fans are hoping to live out in MMORPGs.
    There is a great example of this in Season 2 of Log Horizon.
    A novice party is adventuring in a dungeon, but they keep wiping because each member is playing as if they are solo - running up to hit the boss with their epic ability, but thereby completely ruining the strategies of their teammates because they don't understand the rationales behind their teammates/ individual tactics.
    The Fighter doesn't understand that that root the Ranger just used is only active as long as the boss does not get hit, etc.
    They finally decide the next morning - after many wipes, to actually ask each other why they like to use the specific abilities they use and learn the affects of each ability so that they can use the details of each ability to best advantage.

    The only MMORPG where I've actually experienced that in the manner I've always dreamed is in Wizard101.
    Wizard101 is a turnbased game where the abilities are in a deck of cards. Battle takes place on a circle With 10 spaces I think. So a full battle would be 5v5.
    The best parties have diverse classes and each member understands the class abilities of everyone in the party such that they can, in turn, augment the cards of each person on their team. 
    If I'm first, I can play an opening card which telegraphs which strategy I'm going for.
    Often the first couple of rounds are just building power person by person such that by the 3rd round the opponents are utterly decimated, but it's not unusual for the best teams to be able to pull that off in one round.

    Typically in tabletop RPGs, I'm play a Rogue. I strive to avoid combat. My roles are stealthed recon, spotting traps, disarming traps, spotting secret doors, unlocking doors and using diplomacy, bluff and or intimidation to convince others not to fight.
    In MMORPGs, these roles and abilities are typically non-existent.
    The primary focus is on combat. Which is why it's easy for some digital gamers to think that MMORPGs are suitable for esports. Especially those who love PvP combat in any genre...every genre. Such people typically also think that MMORPG combat is best when it feels like FPS combat.

    Traditionally, the unpredictable aspect of a dungeon is that the population is going to be different every time you enter the dungeon. Even if it's always going to filled with Dwarves, we don't know what configuration of classes will be in a hallway or room.
    We don't know the skills and abilities available to each individual even when we do recognize the classes. And the trash mobs that appear will be fairly random - partially up to dice rolls.
    In MMORPGs, the main problem here is that the content is static. Dungeons always have the same mobs, so it's fairly easy to learn the the most successful strategy. You can even look it up in a guide if you want to. Complete with all the skills and abilities and loot tables of each individual mob in the dungeon.
    Repeating those dungeons becomes boring yes. Especially, when you can prepare the party with the most efficient set of abilities to defeat the dungeon before you even step through the door.
    Which is why Ashes will have few instanced/static dungeons.

    The Ashes devs say they are bringing non-combat utilities back to MMORPGs.
    Hopefully that means that I can have a regular party for whom my role is recon and trap disarm. While another Rogue in the party has the role of assassin. 
    And, hopefully, the secondary archetype augments will provide plenty of unpredictablity even if every party includes a tank, a group healer and dps. I'm hoping to have as an alt a Mage/Tank who uses Fireballs to Taunt.

    I agree with your wish list:
    - Secondary specializations.
    - Racials and other stats (like religion?). 
    - Interchangeable gear?
    - Node-level buffs?
    - Profession buffs?

    Those should all help us to avoid most of us from having cookie-cutter builds.
    It would be best if we didn't have to rely so strongly on the holy trinity being a must for most adventures. But, for that to be the case, we would have to have a heap of tasks/quests that don't focus so heavily on combat and instead focus on the non-combat abilities of the archetypes and also take advantage of non-combat abilities in the Artisan, Religion and Social progression paths.
    As in my example from another thread:
    We should have stealth quests from the Thieves Guild that require 2+ Rogues working together to disarm traps and spot secret doors and 2+ Mages to disenchant arcane locks - where the quest fails if we kill anyone because we still have to maintain good diplomatic standing with the target.

    I think it will be common for us to know our PvP opponents.
    Even with strangers, we'll be able to anticipate the racial augments and the racial stat progression.
    But, we will likely repeatedly run into player characters from neighboring rival nodes.
    Tons of people will be staying near their towns and cities - wherever their freeholds are.
    Same for caravan runs and sieges. We will most likely repeatedly encounter the same player character interested in attacking our caravans because there will be meaningful conflict - not just people who love PvP esports wanting to have some fun.
    Rather because our successful caravan runs will negatively impact the objectives the neighboring rival towns and cities are hoping to achieve.

    Ashes will likely stay closer to tabletop strengths and weaknesses for race/class combos in terms of 1v1 PvP.
    It's unlikely that a same level Py'Rai Tank/Tank is going to defeat a Ren'Kai Tank/Tank.
    It's probably going to be unlikely that a Dünir Bard/Bard is going to defeat an Empyrean Mage/Mage in 1v1 combat.

    Part of RPG combat strategy is correctly building you character to excel at its role.
    Which includes race choice and class choice and gear choice.
    But... not every class is intended to excel equally at combat. 

    A bard is supposed to inspire warriors to fight at peak capacity, they aren't supposed to be uber combatants themselves.
    Nobody is expecting that the lute player should have a 50/50 chance to defeat the arch-wizard in arcane battle. And no one is expecting that the jester should have a 50/50 chance to vanquish a knight in a joust.
    But, for some reason, in MMORPGs, gamers believe they should have that 50/50 chance to defeat any class. And that's what causes the devs to constantly struggle to achieve a balance that will give a Bard a 50/50 chance to defeat a Paladin.
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    PvE and leaderboards?
    When I'm designated healer, I'm not trying to top the leaderboards with highest kills or highest dps. That's not my role. The devs shouldn't be striving to make the Cleric's kills match the number of kills as the Paladin or the dps of the Rogue. The Cleric should be focused on having the highest number of heals.
    And - if I'm a recon Rogue, I should be looking at the leaderboard for number of traps disarmed and doors unlocked, etc.

    All roles are not the same. All classes are not the same. RPGs are not supposed to be so focused on killing and combat that each class has a 50/50 chance of defeating any other class.

    But, we have lots of gamers who only care about playing games. Any game. Any MMO.
    And they think that all MMOs should allow them to be equally uber at PvP combat no matter what type of character they choose. 
    They think choosing a class in an MMORPG should be the same as choosing a character in Street Fighter or choosing a character in an MMOFPS or choosing a character in a MOBA.
    We have a whole generation of MMORPG players who doin't know much about playing tabletop RPGs and why and how the classes were originally designed. Nor do they really care about the roleplaying aspects of an MMORPG.
    They primarily just want to be able to pwn other players - regardless of which classes the combatants have chosen.

    Only time will tell for us to see how the devs react to pressure from the players for all the classes to equally balanced for 1v1 combat.
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    Well, every player of every class in every game has felt like that at one point or another.

    To me, that in itself is balance. :)

    It will be an ever-evolving thing and can never be done, so I think companies like Blizzard get it right. And if something is truly "broken" (not the player's perception of broken) it never lasts long enough to matter before a hotfix.



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    ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited June 2017
    I agree with @Lethality. History tells us that Intrepid will likely have issues at certain times of development and we'll have to have faith that they'll deal with those issues accordingly. One thing for sure, is that it will be an ever-evolving feature of Ashes.  
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    ArchivedUserArchivedUser Guest
    edited June 2017
    Server duplicated old post, please remove
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    I was about to say...9 posts to say one thing lol
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    Bawss said:
    I was about to say...9 posts to say one thing lol
    Yea, a bit mortifying hahaha - I saw it and was like ".... well shit".

    Not sure why we don't have the option to delete threads
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    I think the forum had a blip tbh. There were multiple threads everywhere, especially from the guild recruitment section. I'm sure @Shunex and his colleagues are on it. :) 
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    Holy Deja Vu Batman
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