A difficult game to balance for PVP

Once per week, I podcast about Star Wars: The Old Republic. On the last episode, when the subject of “invisibility” style stealth for the recently revealed Imperial Agent class came up, I was adamant in my opposition to it. I hate when you are trying to PVP and thieves or burglers pop out of thin-air and do burst damage as if they had some kind of invisibility spell. I felt pretty sure they wouldn’t give invisibility stealth to Imperial Agents because, afterall, it wouldn’t be balanced for the Imperial Agent to have both cover and invisibility stealth when the counterpart, the Smuggler, does not. Well it seems I was wrong, because the folks at Darth Hater have seen video of an Imperial Agent go stealth with an non-timed toggle switch stealth.

How is this possible I wonder? One side of the fence has stealth, the other does not. It’s possible I think, because the game may not be designed around PVP balance.

Consider for a moment the Sith Warrior class vs it’s counterpart, the Jedi Knight. The Jedi Knight can buff their group, but the Sith Warrior can use thunder-clap style lightning attacks which stun multiple targets for a couple seconds. The Sith Warrior can force-choke an enemy to make them an easy target for their allies, but the Jedi Knight can probably tank better. In most games, player DPS is so high that a couple of seconds of being stunned will out-shine any group-wide buff.

Consider for a moment the Trooper and the Bounty Hunter. The Bounty Hunter can use his wrist-mounted flame-thrower to torch multiple opponents. While being burned alive, enemies will be forced to stop fighting and try to pat down the flames. The burning enemies are completely defenseless against allies attacks during this time. The Trooper does more DPS, by the sounds of it. But how much good will those big guns do if you’re on fire on the battlefield?

The question I’m left asking myself is…”How the heck are they going to balance this for PVP?

How can they make it satisfy their customers who like games to have the word “war” in the title?

I know, I haven’t played the game yet, none of us have. I know, things are not yet in beta, much less finalized. I know Bioware has a proven track-record of amazingly fantastic blockbuster games. But by the Force, this game will be difficult to balance for PVP. With all the crowd control, “iconic” abilities, and lop-sided DPS, it’s going to be a challenge, even for Bioware, to make the two sides of the war balanced against each other.

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Suzina

Suzina is a 27 year old who usally plays the same MMOs as her husband. Games played: UO, EQ2, FFXI, SWG, LOTRO.

22 thoughts on “A difficult game to balance for PVP”

  1. I think the first thing you have to do is design against class stacking. If a team of 6 randoms is always perma-stunned against a team of 6 Sith you have a problem.

    Simplest way to do that is by brute force. You just attach a Immune to Sith Stuns for 20 Seconds buff to the Sith stun, having it come into effect at the end of the stun.

    Regarding invisibility the usual balance is to make the characters fragile. Sure you can devastate someone who doesn’t know you’re there but if they survive the initial burst you’re going to lose fast.

    Regarding the Bounty Hunter I imagine it will be a small cone. If all 6 of your enemies stand huddled together in a V-shape you catch them all, otherwise you’re unlikely to get more than one or two. And of course players would learn to defend against Bounty Hunters by spreading out.

    I’m not seeing anything inherently broken here but a lot depends on how stuff is implemented and on what the balancing priorities are. For example in WoW pvp is generally balanced for arena. Which means stealth is undervalued because in arenas you know pretty fast if you’re facing a rogue (can’t see someone, visible players don’t have druid buffs = rogue). Stealth becomes hugely more powerful in world pvp when you can follow someone undetected until they pull badly then gank them when they are at 10% life with 2 mobs on them. But you don’t balance around that: it’s just a perk of playing a Rogue.

  2. What PvP will SW have?

    Given the heavy focus on solo play and story, I doubt PvP is high on that list, and it’s likely the balance will be similar to WoW when the first BGs were released. In other words, hope you play an OP PvP (but likely underpowered in PvE) class like the old warlock in WoW, or don’t bother.

  3. One of the problems with the way CC has been used since forever is that it truly is 10% CC and 90% force multiplier, and that whacks balance in the head.

    It would be nice (as an experiment if nothing else) to see a CC system that truly takes targets out of combat for a duration, that necessarily meaning said targets unable to take any damage. Just removed temporarily. Move to attack a better/more pressing target.

    If we’re using CC the way it’s normally used – a.k.a. mez/stun/whatever a target so we can all gang up on him since he can’t reciprocate, then bring him down in .2 seconds – yeah, that’s a balance problem.

    Worth a thought I think.

    1. “It would be nice (as an experiment if nothing else) to see a CC system that truly takes targets out of combat for a duration, that necessarily meaning said targets unable to take any damage. Just removed temporarily. Move to attack a better/more pressing target.”

      Cyclone, introduced in World of Wacraft’s first expansion, does exactly this. It was overpowered enough to receive four rounds of nerfs and is still considered very powerful.

    2. “It would be nice (as an experiment if nothing else) to see a CC system that truly takes targets out of combat for a duration, that necessarily meaning said targets unable to take any damage. Just removed temporarily. Move to attack a better/more pressing target.”

      City of Heroes has had powers that do this since launch five years ago. Other than a brief spurt of popularity in PvP, they’re virtually never taken or used, being widely considered useless.

      Now, this may just be because CoX also has more traditional CC options.

    3. Can’t comment on CoX because I haven’t played it extensively, but in the case of Cyclone was it generally considered overpowered in arenas or BGs?

      I can see the case for overpowered in arenas when Cyclone takes away 50%-15% of your team with one click, but I imagine in BGs it would have a lesser impact.

      1. CoX’s problem with the phase shifting powers was both player culture (or lack of intelligence/situational awareness) and lack of clear /shifted/ indications or visual feedback.

        You’d shift out half of a spawn of 17 mobs, and players would continue beating on the shifted mobs, not figuring out why their hits suddenly weren’t connecting. And they’d keep on doing this like a fly butting up against a window, until the skill’s duration wore off.

        Telling them to change targets had as much chance of succeeding as “Don’t stand in the fire/lava/acid/green slime, etc!”

        PvP-wise, I never quite figured out the factors for making CoH CC land successfully. There always seemed so many ways to resist, mostly because if it did land, it was horribly binary and lasted an eon.

        Also seen as quite unpopular as once you get taken out of combat, you have nothing else to do but twiddle your thumbs and wait for the effect to wear off. Be they phase shifts or holds or confuses.

        I think a ton more people got mileage out of an unintended use of confuse, wherein you’d get a friend on the other side to confuse you, so that you could turn around and backstab your own.

  4. I’m no expert on BioWare’s history, but I know they have a great track record on single player games. Has BioWare ever made a multiplayer competitive title before? This may be the weak link in BioWare’s armour.

  5. I think the answer is they will be like LOTRO: Yes, there is PvP, as an afterthought.

    It also depends on the question if there will be open World PvP (unlikely in our times) or just battleground style encounters. Powerful solo features like stealth usually get diminished greatly in mass battleground scenarios.

    The mass battleground idea usually somehow seems to make devs believe that they can get away with screwed up pvp balance if they make it a total zergfest.

  6. God I hate PvP and what it does to MMOGs. Annoys the buggery out of me.

    Wish they would just kill it off from the current genre and not let it rear it’s ugly head again, or simply design the game around PvE and tell people to like it or lump it when it comes to any PvP factor going.

    1. they tried doing that with LOTRO, told people for years there would be no pvp. Eventually they were forced to add monster play, so just saying “no we won’t do this” didn’t work.
      So even though dev chats said there would be no nerfs to pve due to pvp, that didn’t even last 6 months.

      1. Nonsense.

        I played Lotro when it came out and it launched with monster play. First thing I did at level 10 was try it out. It kinda sucked though without any players high enough to fight.

  7. Tactics will play a key role with pvp in SWTOR. Hiding behind rocks, walls, trees, etc. will actually matter. Dodging, rolling, crouching will matter. Where you position yourself in relation to your allies will matter. You can avoid attacks manually, and that adds an awesome element to this MMO. It’s not going to be all about attack rotations anymore – it’s going to be all about how versatile a player you are.

    Now, if we are discussing arena-style play (2v2, 5v5, etc.), then that changes things a bit. I think arena-style play is best saved for FPS’s, while the whole battleground style combat is perfect for MMO’s, ESPECIALLY Star Wars. Heck, when was there ever a fair fight in Star Wars anyway? Not to mention mention the not-so-obvious, but there is one glaring fact people always over-look: generally a GOOD player will demolish a poor player, no matter what class he/she uses.

    1. Re: “when was there ever a fair fight in Star Wars anyway?”

      Especially in the original trilogy, Jedi duels were one-on-one fights. That’d be the PvP precedent for the game, I’d think.

  8. I’m right there with ya. WoW has always been rock-paper-scissors, and I hate being the paper to stealthy rogue scissors — much better to be the scissors to anybody else’s rock.

  9. I think it’s too early to worry about it. We’d have to know how PvP plays and is structured, and more about the classes themselves before flaws can be apparent. The smuggler could be able to set up motion detectors in PvP for all we know to counterbalance stealth, or the trooper could have passive resistances to fire shortening the duration of the stun.

    Every game though is never really balanced for PvP. Something is always screwed up though, and Bioware will be no exception.

  10. RE: “Tactics will play a key role with pvp in SWTOR. Hiding behind rocks, walls, trees, etc. will actually matter. Dodging, rolling, crouching will matter. Where you position yourself in relation to your allies will matter. You can avoid attacks manually, and that adds an awesome element to this MMO. It’s not going to be all about attack rotations anymore – it’s going to be all about how versatile a player you are.”

    Yeah, in wow its called pillar humping, its a legit tactic.
    Dodging/rolling/crouching is a FPS tactic, like hell it will matter THAT MUCH in a battlefield.

    Anything that makes you lose control of your character in a game that focuses on NOT GETTING HIT means you die. Like a WoW clothy being stunlocked but worse probably.

    Further more, rogues in wow showed that “stealth attack = win, non-stealth = loss” isn’t balanced, it does not work, period. You can’t have a class that absolutely must have stealth in order to win a fight be balanced. Either the papers will get destroyed every time, or the rogue is worthless in pvp.
    It works in balance, but its sucks to play and its not fun.

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