Good day (or night), everyone! It’s Sunday, and that means it’s time for me to post yet another lovely editorial involving something you (don’t?) want to hear about! What do we have this week?! Is the title itself deceiving you, and am I in fact not talking about balance? Well, I’m afraid not. Well, not as in the title itself is not deceiving you…uhm…please turn the page…
Alright then, we already know this game is balanced, as it’s something that Bioware themselves have stated to Samm. We also are all aware they don’t say something that they don’t entirely mean, right? Correct. Don’t get me wrong, I have a feeling they likely woke up the morning after they made that statement, and as they were eating their evil pancakes and drinking their evil coffee, what they said finally hit them…and then lead to a frantic, almost instantaneous head-to-desk collision. All that behind them (as well as us), though…I’d like to believe Bioware will be doing their best to keeping things level and in harmony. After all, by driving the hype for this game up as much as they are, they seem awfully well-coursed in what the community needs. This may be their first MMO (Massively Multi-player Online [Game]), but I have a feeling they’ve done their research with the communities of other MMOs, as well as those MMOs themselves to know what NOT to do, as well as what to do.
Moving on, the real subject here is more defined; I wanted to point out all the things they’ll have to balance, why it needs balancing, and how they could balance those things. To start off, I’ll go in the direction of least cried about issues in most games to the most cried about.
Player Vs. Environment
PvE is generally something people are capable of adjusting to given what they’ve got. It’s a set number of enemies with a set AI and a set of regular abilities, eventually people can adjust and use repeatable methods to over-come most situations…with that said, I’m pretty positive that The Old Republic will hold a fantastic balance as far as PvE goes along (as few will care), but it’s still something that could worry you or I slightly. Bioware has pushed that we apparently won’t be required to take along any certain classes for encounters, as you do in WoW (i.e. – some fights require a certain class to be present, and cause others to be somewhat useless). They’ve also indicated that no matter your spec and the spec of your fellow party members, you ought to be able to progress through any of their encounters fairly well with their innovative addition of companions…but saying something is different from actually doing it.
If this is to work out they’ll have to twist the holy triangle (the trinity system) into more of an arch, meaning: In most games, you need the 3 points of the triangle to properly complete a group. In tOR, they’ll have to design it to where no matter where the people fall on the line, with the addition of companions it should fall on or near the highest point of that arch for success. Should this fail to happen (which it likely won’t), you’ll find groups requiring certain classes of certain talent paths with certain companions, even if those are paths not many people really want or like to go. Bioware has a reasonably different mold for this pillar, and I’m interested to see how well it holds up.
Faction imbalance is generally a huge problem for any game, especially at launch. Since Bioware is hyping this game up LONG before their release, they’ve got to actually watch how they market each side to apply “cool factor” to everything they release. They have the issue of making sure that both parties are created equal, which means they will have to have pizzazz on both ends to make things work; they have to point out nitches for everyone on each of the two factions to spread it out. This way, there’s a difficulty in people choosing which side to play, a conflict within you could say. in the end, though…I feel that would create a reasonable balance between the factions as far as numbers go. Going further into class balancing, when it’s broken down: they have to also make sure that the force users aren’t mightier than their blaster-wielding compatriots and enemies, otherwise the generally more popular choice of class will over-power and snuff out the likelihood that we’d ever see a Smuggler or Bounty Hunter.
With all of this, Bioware will also need to give each side of the war a proper, exciting story that is motivating and exciting enough to keep a player engaged for the proposed 200 hours of game-play they suggest will be required to play a class to its’ maximum level. If the Sith or the Republic’s grand story is completely lame, it’s very likely players will reroll on the other faction thus creating an imbalance caused by The Old Republic’s “forth-pillar” that this game appears to be primarily stationed upon. Similar to the previous paragraph, you may also break it down to Bioware being required to make each individual class’s story relevant and interesting, but don’t worry much on that. I personally believe these stories on their own will hold their ground in the interest of their player.
Player Vs. Player
This topic, I do believe, is likely the most important subject of balance in any open-world game for any player who steps outside of their capital city. Honestly? I’ll say it right now, PvP can NEVER be balanced. By never, I really mean…well, NEVER. In fact, this is such a rough subject for balance that I really don’t have an answer that I could work with for this article that would keep it less than 2,000 words, let alone its’ OWN article with less than 2,000 words. Perhaps I’ll cover this more in depth next week, but I’ll give you the jist of how I feel this can be partially (by partially, I’m talking minutely) balanced. Don’t include PvP.
You were Deceived
Feel free to discuss this on the—
Gotcha, right? No, I actually have a few items to cover here. I’m going to use the “model MMO” for reference, WoW. In World of Warcraft, the PvP and even the game itself is in CONSTANT flux. Why? Because of PvP. At first, it started only with world PvP, then they added in the concept of instanced PvP (Battlegrounds), eventually…they brought the death-bringer to PvP balance: Arenas. With world PvP and instanced PvP, WoW had it alright. The encounters weren’t constantly small, organized, equal-numbered teams against each other. In a way, Arenas pin-pointed each possible exploit with each class, and brought it under a bright spotlight. Though class exploits were often found before, they popped up like stars in the night sky through the darkness the arena set upon the Developer’s lives.
To reduce the amount of fine-tuning and massive amounts of time/patch downloads they’d have to put out, they could just not include an arena-type PvP in the game. As much as this would disappoint me, it would likely work out for the better as they would have more time and resources to put into future content…They could also just reduce arena-play to actual dueling/gladiatorial arena settings, doing only 1v1. This would cut down the work they would need to do as they wouldn’t have to calculate possible combinations between the classes, and would also tie-in with the balancing of classes as a whole. 1v1 arena-type would offer good input in the PvP of classes versus other classes, as well.
So those are just a couple of ideas on the vast subject of balancing this aspect of the game. Don’t get your hopes up, though. Balance is fairly relative, as the scales of the balance itself are constantly shifting. The scales will never be still, thus balance will never fully be achieved. It’s something everyone can wish for, though.
There’s still the subject of classes to cover, but I feel they were covered pretty well in each of the 3 primary concerns I went over. I’d like to state again that you shouldn’t walk into this game expecting other players to be an equal match, as no matter HOW much tweaking and balancing they do…player skill is a large enough RNG (Random Number Generator) that it will always cause new imbalances in anything Bioware can fix.
For those of you who are still reading this, and weren’t thrown into a fit at me saying not to include PvP…You like imbalance, you don’t want to be equals with others. The Communists are equals, and look what happened to them…
They were deceived.
Note: due to the release date’s effect on my motivation to speculate as well as other things occurring in life, I my editorials will likely be occurring less often. I’m sorry if this disappoints you…but there will still be more!