An imbalance in character creation options, and maybe some possible solutions
As a lot of people playing the game currently know, there is a problem with the balance of different character types. As in, it doesn't exist. If anyone bothers to calculate the effectiveness of certain character builds it becomes clearly visible, that 1 character type has an unfair advantage over the others.
What would that be? The "esper". The problem as a whole boils down to that, at first after playing true humans, and mutated humans, everyone starts playing mutated humans, as they are more fun, more powerful, more everything. There is 0, absolutely 0 incentive to play True humans, as their "advantages" are marginal at best. The character types are unbalanced between themselves as well, and after playing both esper mutated humans and chimera mutated humans, the esper just wins, with it's unfair advantage to it's mental mutations, which I'll cover later.
In respective order of unbalance:
#3 - True Men
Seems significant, but it's not, and here's why: The stat advantage is only at the beginning, after that both human types gain the same benefits at level up and as such the humans can count on a marginal bonus if you look at them from a certain perspective.
12 points distributed across 6 statistics. Seems like a lot,but actually, Humans, get 40 more points to distribute, where mutated get 44, on top of that 4 points are distributed usually in your particular character dump stats (mostly willpower as it's useless). Also when you pick a class, mutants get 2 points, where True men get 3. Also putting points after 18 costs 2, so actually, True men don't come out on top, because I usually want to invest some points after 18, and so the starting 12 stat, is actually more like a 1 point advantage. When you add those things up (not counting the starting 10 base stat) both True Men and Mutated Humans, have about the same amount of points in statistics. But wait, there's more! If A player is willing to put mutation points into Stat modifing mutations, the Mutated human will come out on top in stats, as the time goes! It wasn't supposed to be, but Actually the True human has not only less statistics, but also doesn't have the advantage of mutation powers!
-Skill advantage: 20 points seems like a lot doesn't it? It's not actually. Each intelligence point gives 4 points a level. Because in the game the player levels up so slowly, and it's probable that by the last possible quest he won't get more than 20 levels, it adds up to an underwhelming... 400 skill points. Woah. That's not enough to even buy that good of a skill. Remember people that skill points are only as good as the things we spend them on. In the end 400 points can't buy ANYTHING that would make the True man better than a mutated one.
-resistances (it's so minor that no one even notices this bonus)
-rebuke robot (currently very reliant on a stat that does nothing for you as a True man, marginal bonus at best, and for many people not even working because of the low ego)
- better autoinjector effects (very underwhelming at best, because of the autoinjector change. If the autoinjectors had more usefull efects that you wished were bigger or longer, then yeah that would be usefull, but it's not right now)
#2 Chimera, Mutated Human
Let's face it the chimera type is just worse than an esper, and even than the true man in some cases. The biggest problem between a mutated human and a true one, is that a true man doesn't have anything to compensate the lack of mutations, and the problem between a chimera and an esper, is in
the ego boost to mutations, to put it bluntly. This is the biggest offender. A chimera can at best count on fire hands that needs to be leveled up every level to be effective costing an enourmous amount of 15 points, while the esper can get a new power every 4 points, while making them as good as a 15 point power with high enough ego. Even the countdowns of powers are unfair! The chimera has firehands every 10 turns, while the esper can throw AoE powers that can deal even a 100 dmg turn after turn after turn, until they deplete, after which he just runs away to recharge. The esper even has better defenses than a chimera because of the force bubble. If chimera wanted to build itself defensively, he would have to spend all their points and still, the esper would be better
-Single stat reliance, so the esper has no problem finding a good place for his points
-Huge array of offensive and defensive powers
-Mutation points advantage, an overwhelming one at that.
possible solutions to balance problems:
(these aren't meant to be implemented at the same time. Just some or even one thing at a time. All of them at once would also create an imbalance)
For true men:
-increase stat gain
-increase skill gain
-increase the variety of skills
-create armor proficiency skill
(Chimera can use the carapace anyway, so the armor proficiency skill would restrict the armor use to only those characters that are willing to spend the points)
-create technology proficiency skill
(It's really atrocious that not only true men, but everyone can use technology. This way True Men lose the only thing that could make them distinct from others)
-increase starting skills for different classes
-decrease stat requirments for skills but only for humans
-remove flaming/freezing hands (only with conjunction with force bubble removal, and boosts to skill from high stat for chimera)
-decrease dmg from hands
-increase cooldown for hands
-make every mutation point spent have 2x the effect (only 5 points needed to max out a skill to ten)
-make chimera have boost from high stat to mutations
-make chimera have a higher choice of dmg mutations
-have chimera automatically increase physical mutation levels on lvl up (maybe every 6 levels)
-remove negative effects on mutations (the cost is enough of a drawback already)
-remove force bubble
-remove stat boost to mutation
-decrease dmg dealt in case of certain mutations
-have mutations have more drawbacks
-have mutations require point investment before receiving the boon
-increase the cost needed to purchase a new mutation
One thing, at least, is that we plan on greatly increasing the difficulty of identifying and using artifacts. True Men will have a significant advantage in technology-use over mutants when the system is fully implemented.
An esper with every point possible in ego is gonna be flimsy as all hell in the early game. I've never had a pure esper survive past level 3 without meta-gaming to an extreme. So are espers better if you baby your character to a ridiculous degree? Probably. But while your esper is cowering in fear, desperately praying for his disintegrate ability to cool down, my true human is popping bitches in the head with a pistol from across the map and cutting people in two. Not to mention he can actually carry stuff.
The game is in development, minor balance can wait till everything is implemented.
Well, yes a pure esper does have low hp, but the wait for cooldown thing, isn't really an issue because, I always take light manipulation, and it works just as well as a pistol all game long, without a cooldown.
And yes, minor balance could wait until finish, I don't think that things that would change a lot, but would take only some values change, should wait a long time.
After a good deal more of mulling it over, as well as playing a few more esper builds, I really am not seeing what makes them so powerful. The level of the mutation is limited by your character level, so the powers are very weak early game, and your ability options are very limited since you can only take a few at gen. You're limited to one or two offensive abilities and a defensive ability, tops. And if you stumble into an area with several potent mobs, you're stuck running away until you can get far enough away to hit them without them getting into melee to munch you. Force bubble and light manipulation are practically required for a pure esper build if you don't want to be constantly running in circles. Also, they really DON'T have a HUGE array of offensive powers to constantly spam turn after turn. Let me see if I can list them from memory without looking at anything.
Pyro and cryokinesis. Light manipulation. Sunder mind. Siphon Zim (Might have misspelled it) Disintegration. That's it. Not that many when you just look at damaging abilities, ne? Although I suppose you could include stunning force, I won't. Its a defensive ability. Three of those abilities cost 5 points. Two of them cost 4, and one costs 3. So if you took a -4 mental defect, that would give you 16 points. You could get LM, SZ, Dis, and one of the fives. But that would be every point you had, you couldn't even take the esper morphotype. Narcolepsy might as well be delayed suicide. Pack rat could just kill you outright early game since you have so few hitpoints and be annoying as all hell to manage. Unwelcome germination could be manageable, but could still fuck you over while running or trying to heal or rest. Pyro and Cryo are weak as all fuck early game even if you manage to get something to walk through 3 squares. Sunder mind is nice damage, but still won't kill any mildly threatening thing outright and has a cooldown even at max willpower that makes you run about twenty rounds. And mobs can take of upwards 4-5 lasers to kill. So you either constantly run away for extended periods of time during fights, or take force bubble. It is literally the only thing keeping me from just walking away from caster espers in disgust.
With extensive use of proselytize if you take apostle, and beguiling, you MIGHT be able to not run from every fight without force bubble, but I haven't tested that yet. But if you want to solo it, its force bubble or running away from everything that isn't a basic snapjaw or weak animal.
And light manipulation does have a cooldown. It takes several rounds (8 to start) to charge ONE shot. 8 rounds to charge a shot that will do one to sixish damage. And you can only hold what, five to start?
Taking away ego's boost to mutations would make the stat completely worthless to everyone unless you want better prices from merchants. Which is a minor plus.
Removing force bubble would make me STAB YOUR EYES OUT WITH A BUTTER KNIFE. If you manage to get cornered without teleport or force bubble, you are FUCKED. So this would force people to get teleport. Thus forcing people to act like pansies and running away constantly, which is annoying and tedious.
As for increasing the cost of MENTAL mutations, I don't see how that makes sense. You get roughly 1 mutation point every level right? You yourself said people won't get much above 20. So that means people will only be able to buy 5ish RANDOM mutations. Using every point they get. Wow, 5 random mutations you can't pick beyond taking esper? Which costs a gen point you could put to useful abilities? And stops you from putting mut points into the mutations themselves, forcing you to put stat points into ego to keep the muts useful? I mean sure, the ability will probably at least be USEFUL, but a really good one or one you want? not nearly guaranteed. And what about characters with mental mutations that HAVEN'T poured every point into ego. They need all the points they can get. This would hurt them a lot and give hybrid espers a much harder time.
To wit. Pure offensive caster espers with max ego and will are completely shitty early on. Personally I think that counters them being a bit stronger late game. I assume you're talking about late game. Because you can't be talking about early. Unless you were talking about hybrid fighters/espers. Because those can be decent. But the amount of gaming and tedium required more then makes up for the powerful payoff lategame for casters. If they are even good lategame.
I could say more, but I'm hungry and tired of thinking about this for now.
Last edited by Kaitol; 11-03-2011 at 08:50 PM.
I always use Time Dilation instead of Force Bubble for my espers. Lower initial cost, effectively freezes all of your nearby opponents, I just like it better. Personally, my Chimeras survive much better than most of my Espers because more of their abilities operate continuously, without any need to worry about getting mobbed while everything is on cooldown.
I feel that trying to balance everything to be exactly equal will just make it mediocre. I like that True Humans can be harder to play because it feels like an accomplishment to make progress with them. Removing content is a terrible idea. If anything, just adding more skills, equipment, and customization options in general would be a good move.
Is this really a problem?
No, seriously. Remember, the game isn't multiplayer. There's zero advantage to balancing builds directly against each other. What's important, instead, is to give each build a unique playstyle -- something interesting that makes it worth playing. But they don't have to be overall balanced against each other, and I think that restricting Espers too heavily in order to make them balanced against True Men is a mistake. The two should be viewed as fundamentally separate games that happen to share the same world.
(This is the way eg. ToME design works, and I think it's ultimately a good thing.)
Worrying about how character builds stack up is both a waste of effort (they never directly compete the way MMoRPG classes do, so who cares?) and can end up making the game less fun (eg. in a fantasy game, restricting wizards to balance them against fighters is pointless in a singleplayer game -- someone who wants to play someone with earth-shattering magic doesn't need to be balanced against a bloke with a sword as long as they're both fun to play.) Part of the problem is that design concepts from multiplayer games and tabletop games (where balance between classes is much more important) have leaked into single-player videogames, where they're totally unimportant.
Obviously some degree of balance is needed if the game's challenges are going to be surmountable by everyone, but beyond "every build has enough of a chance to win to be fun to use, and every build has its own playstyle" I disagree with the assumption that balancing various starting builds against each other (and, especially, balancing Espers and True Men against each other) is a worthwhile design goal. How does it make the game more fun?
True Men should have a thoroughly developed playstyle of their own. But targeted nerfs and buffs intended to "balance" different builds against each other is an utterly terrible idea -- this isn't a MMoRPG, and it makes no difference if some builds are stronger or weaker than others (even vastly, overwhelmingly stronger or weaker) as long as they're all fun.
(Now, all builds do have to be internally balanced so they don't make the game so trivially easy that there's no challenge anymore -- but that can be subjective, too. It's all right to have some builds that are comparatively easymode. And some builds are always going to be hard mode no matter what you do.)
It is extremely important, bad game balance hurts replayablility. Ones playtime and enjoyment from this game will rapidly drop if they end up in a situation where they find one absolute build that is undeniably the best. In any RPG, the best way to get people to enjoy the game for as long as possible is to have the largest variety of viable strategies, as one will be able to experience the game with new eyes as many times as you possibly can.
So, If caves of quid wishes to be the best game it possibly can be, it must at least play lip-service to game balance. If game balance wasn't somewhat important, there would not be a forum section on game balance right here.
As long as there is something unique to playing each broad strategy -- a different tactic, a different playstyle -- no one build is strictly the best. You don't get as many skill points or stat points as an Esper as you would with a True Man, and you don't get the physical mutations; those things have their own playstyles. So players are still encouraged to try and find the best builds that do use that playstyle.
Game balance is also important within those broad playstyles, definitely -- there shouldn't be one specific way of playing the game that makes it trivial or which gets you access to absolutely everything.
But it's not important to measure exactly how easy the game is as an Esper vs. how easy it is as a True Man or whatever, because those are fundamentally like different games. Knowing you can make the game easier as an Esper doesn't change anything when you want to play a game in the True Man style and get the True Man experience.
Similarly, trying to constrain every single set of options the player has so they're all roughly as powerful is going to ruin some of the experiences they offer -- it doesn't make the True Man gameplay more fun to know that Esper gameplay has been nerfed; but it can make Esper gameplay less fun, because you're now balancing it for something other than its own fun.
That is to say, more specifically: Game balance is important, but every build should be balanced with only its own fun in mind. Some builds and strategies are going to be more fun with a more or less difficult game, and that's not a problem as long as they each offer something unique and are each fun enough overall to tempt players into trying them.
That's the game balance paradigm used by, as I mentioned, ToME and Dungeon Crawl and a lot of other successful, well-balanced games.
The "balance-every-class-against-each-other" thing where people constantly look over the other classes (or genotypes, etc) and get upset if one of the others has an easier time than the one they like isn't applicable to a single-player game -- it's MMoRPG thinking. As long as each genotype offers a unique playstyle, people will play and enjoy all of them, regardless of the fact that some present a more difficult challenge.
In fact, in some ways genotype / class selection can be seen as a form of difficulty level selection, in a game balanced with this paradigm in mind.
Last edited by Aquillion; 06-16-2012 at 12:39 PM.