GDC Thoughts

In an interview I had while at the Game Developer’s Conference last week, the primary question they focused on was approaches to MMO game balance.  They wanted a strategy on how to set item attributes, loot tables, gold drops, spawn rates, etc. so that nothing in the game was out of balance.  How do you ensure there are no game-breaking holes that result in too much money being generated, too much boss camping, over/under-use of a particular character build, etc.?

The game the interviewee was making was not meant to be a “Virtual World” style MMO (think Raph Koster’s vision of Star Wars Galaxies).  They were making more of a City of Heroes, Guild Wars, or Diablo II type game, hoping to make something that would allow players to be able to jump in and out of the game without having to invest too much time building up characters and such.  A noble goal as I see it, but I think it’s a bit of an impossibility to truly balance such a game.  That just means that you must be willing to accept a certain level of “borked-ness”, and you must realize there will always be justified playerbase frustration.

Here’s a quick blog post that’s says it pretty well by Brooks Brown.

However, that being the case, it has got me thinking about what various approaches there are for MMO balance.  Well, the balance of any RPG-style game, Massively Multiplayer or otherwise.

One thought is to analyze things from a cash-flow perspective.  Figure the max theoretical income situation at a few character level ranges, then compare those with theoretical expenses at those levels.

I would like to hear some others.