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I've seen a couple of examples of some game balancing techniques in books yet they are not comprehensive and not particularly aimed at MMORPGs but I'm looking for practical examples of game balancing techniques for MMORPGs. I am interested to know if anyone has documented the techniques used in popular games with proven success in this area. Ideally, any resource would cover most common types of stats and include layman mathematical models or techniques used to balance game mechanics found in advanced MMORPGs (I know it's a cliché, but WoW style)

Any help would be great!

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Have you tried just looking at what people have data mined WoW's formulas to be? wowwiki.com/Category:Formulas_and_game_mechanics –  Tetrad Dec 17 '11 at 7:04
    
WoW's formulae are so complex that you have to run monte carlo simulations millions of times to get a stable answer. Please start with something simple before moving on to your dream RPG numbers. –  Patrick Hughes Dec 18 '11 at 18:39

4 Answers 4

up vote 3 down vote accepted

For balancing mechanics, Grab some friends, and do it manually, the fun way. If your game is good i doubt they would disagree, just spend a weekend playing your MMO for a bit. This should help get the basics out of things like whether bleeding needs a nurf or buff, whether being crippled needs to slow down a character more or less, etc.

For balancing moves and such, try a beta, open or closed and give players the chance to give feedback. Given the fact that your balancing is for the players, maybe players should have a say in the balancing?

I know this isn't about documentation, but it is still THE BEST option out. Or i could save my answer by saying "Documents from players beat general guideline documents".

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I would agree with this for many types of games, but with an MMO you're potentially talking about far more players interacting at once than people you can gather to play test. –  Chris Dec 18 '11 at 5:02
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@Chris and that is why MMO companies run beta trials =) But realistically only a few people interacting will get you 75% of the way to where you want to be. And where you want to be is Fun and not purely Analytical so people beat spreadsheets every time. –  Patrick Hughes Dec 18 '11 at 18:41
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A few people will get you 75% of they way, and there'd still be at least 71% left ((-8 –  Nevermind Dec 19 '11 at 6:26
    
As Patrick said, noone plays an MMO to say "Hey man, the burn inflicted by my bonfire blade is great!" They play it for fun. The only time people ever talk about game mechanics like that is when they are complaining "<XXX> needs a nurf/buff!" In which case it is an excellent opportunity for developers to listen out for such comments, to analyze and act accordingly. –  Randomman159 Dec 22 '11 at 13:52

Have fun. Balancing a MMORPG is supposed to be one of the most difficult things in the industry. People have documented basic guidelines though and here are some articals I found on the subject.

Elder Games

Gamasutra its always a good place to start.

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Your first step is to define what an ideal balance for your game would be. The easiest way to start this is with simple statements. For example, "Character classes should not disadvantage players when fighting other players" or maybe "Character classes will have advantages over some other classes and disadvantages to others (think Rock Paper Scissors)"

You need to define what balance is for your game.

Once you've defined what balance means for your game, then you need to quantify it. Using the all classes are equal example above: "Average Class Kill/Death ratio, for any two given classes, should fall close to 1.0 within an error tolerance. The error tolerance is set at .5 when any new balancing is added and decreases to a minimum of .05."

So now you can identify what is in balance and what is out of balance with some statistics. The error tolerance part is to allow for statistical errors that should become less significant with more activity. If you see the numbers going out of this range, you know there's a balance issue.

All of this requires that you collect, keep and analyze data about everything in the game. You need this data to run against the quantitative balance checks.

When you do find something out of balance, don't fix it until you have a good idea what is causing the problem. Trying to fix things, without knowing the problem will make things worse. This is why you need to track data on as much about your game as you can, and not just the data specific to the balance.

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I always wonder, why don't mmorpg creators make a self-balancing system, where a skill/item gets it's strength from it's rarity. That is, every day a skill is more popular than an average, it gets weaker, and if it's less popular, it gets stronger.

That said, I remember playing the Witcher: Versus browser mmo, with 3 classes: frightener, sorcerer, wither. People were complaining on forum that witcher is not balanced (much worse than other classes), and developers were responding "it's a class taken by 80% of players!". Incorporating a self-balancing system here would make the witcher class even worse - but in my opinion that makes sense.

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I can't say I've ever come across this method in my years (at least not that I'm really aware of). But it seems like it would be really cool to implement this kind of thing in an FPS. –  Orin MacGregor Oct 4 '12 at 20:29
    
If every skill is available, then that would only makes it balanced in the sense of everything becoming equivalent, which is a bit boring. But if not every skill is available (eg. due to level restrictions), then those restrictions could make the skill rare enough to keep it overpowered. –  Kylotan Oct 4 '12 at 20:52
    
@Kylotan I agree on second part, but as for everything becoming equivalent - that's not the case as my example of the Witcher Versus shows. And even if it was true in some cases, it's still better than having 25% skills used and 75% skills just-to-be-there in the skill-tree. My solution could also bring one more, both positive and negative result: trends. Players need time to notice the best skill, and when they do, with time it will become the worst skill, be abandoned and than become the best again. At least if skill powers change fast enough. –  Markus von Broady Oct 4 '12 at 20:57

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