Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

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jb
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by jb »

I'm not asking for an equation (which doesn't exist). I'm not asking for the internal document used by developers to balance factions (which, again, doesn't exist). What we have with Wesnoth is an interesting and seemingly well balanced game and I am wondering what lessons can be derived from it.

There is only one answer, and it will be dissapointing to you.

Play hundreds and hundreds of games.

If you do anything long enough you will see trends, patterns, unexpected side effects, and balance is spawned.
There is not shortcut. You can't play 15 games and say, "Ok, I'm starting to understand how this works." and change the balance of that small sample of playing time.

You must play hundreds and hundreds of games.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Joram »

The balance of Wesnoth as been years in the making. As in, a lot of years. And there are still occasionally minor changes (most recent noticeable one that I can think of is the Orcish Assassin getting marksman).
Say that you were tasked with creating the Standard Era for multiplayer. You wanted to create a faction where every single unit had a ranged attack and the majority of them could even get a trait that made their ranged attacks do more damage (the Rebels, DEXTEROUS for elves). Now you need to somehow sculpt that idea into a collection of units that are mechanically different but still balanced against the smashy faction with little range (Northerners), the faction resistant to shooting (Undead), the shooty faction that is weak to piercing damage (Drakes), and so on.
What really happened was that you had a collection of factions with just general ideas (elves are good forest, have lots of bows; northerners are cheap, strong, non-ranged; undead are ... etc.). As time went by, major balancing issues were noticed and fixed (removal of the thug; removing horsemen from the rebels; adding woses, etc.). As more time went by, smaller issues were noticed and fixed (change to the hp of a specific unit; minor changes in attack value; adding an attack [like the dwarves hammer] etc.). As more time went by, small changes kept getting made, till eventually the factions emerged the way they are now. They've always been this was in general, but they've been finetuned over years of close observation and carefully considered changes by the devs.


Some changes have been purely thematic; for instance, the undead used to be a balanced faction that was very un-fun to play against other undead; the devs then gave the ghost and the adept arcane attacks, and changed the dynamics entirely. But it was for flavor, not balance.

How do you test the balance of one faction versus another? Is there more to it than repeatedly pitting competent players against each other?
You can do a certain amount in theory, but theory can only go so far. So I would say the answer is: Yes, sort of, but it won't take you the whole way. :)
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Yogibear »

Well, to be honest, i don't know if things developed this way, but i could imagine it was similar.

I think the basic ground for developing a faction is some typical roles that every faction provides:
- Scout: A fast unit, normally not suitable for serious fighting
- Archer: A ranged-heavy frontline unit
- Fighter: A melee-heavy frontline unit

There are many more special roles, that are not given to every faction to make the game more interesting. Now if you start to balance those factions, upon playing them you will find that some things have a great influence and others are rather moderate.

For example, as moderate i would see resistances or cost. You will use that to do some finetuning, up or lower resistances by 10% or increase / decrease the cost of a unit by 1 or 2 gold.

However, the big influence issues are what you need to pay most attention to. I will name a few (not ordered in any special way and most likely incomplete).

Speed:
That speed is an important issue is easily seen by the fact that many maps need to provide great efforts to slow down Drakes. It's not their speed alone, it's also the fact that they are fliers and therefore are not slowed down by common terrain like forest, hills, mountains and shallow water. If you let Drakes fly around arbitrarily, they become overpowered quickly.
Another example how annoying speed can become: The bat. And look how weak it is to make up for that.

Healing / Poison / Regeneration:
There is a reason, that there is no level 1 unit with healing + 8. Think of how desperate you need villages when engaged in a fight. On a standard 1vs1, one of the biggest disadvantages of the attacker is the fact that he has no villages nearby to heal, whereas the defender does. This (and the usually better terrain of the defender) compensates for the boost that the attacker gets at his prefered time of day. Now imagine a healer as a mobile village for the attacker, being able to (theoretically) heal 6 adjacent units. Ok, practice will look different, but you get the idea. The two level 1 healers do healing + 4 and they have extremely low hitpoints and the shaman is incredibly weak. That surely is for a reason.
However, there is two level 1 units with regeneration and they have to pay with bad defense. Nevertheless, trolls and woses can't be countered well by the standard "get some heavy hitters and crunch 'em" tactic, because of their resistances to common melee attacks.

Backstab:
A specialty, of course, but a mighty one. Mighty enough, that it is possible to play HODOR with Knalgans, something that would be totally ridicolous without backstabbing thieves. You will notice, that those have few hitpoints + bad resistances (although their defence makes up for that to a certain amount).

Skirmisher:
Another specialty but indeed a mighty one. Back in the old times, there used to be the "skirmisher rush" for drakes: You recruit all saurians in the beginning, slip through the enemies line and assasinate his leader. Saurians had to be nerfed down because of that. Similar to the thief, skirmishers have low hitpoints and bad resistances.
On a side note: You will notice that the saurian skirmisher has a positive pierce resistance. This is due to the fact, that back then drakes with their pierce weakness had to struggle too hard against the pierce heavy loyalists.

So once you got that right (more or less), you can start finetuning stuff, depending on many many games.

Hope that gives you some ideas about balancing.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Joram »

Yogibear wrote:Well, to be honest, i don't know if things developed this way, but i could imagine it was similar.
Yeah, you're right. Rereading what I wrote, it does make things seem a lot more random than I intended.

What I was trying to convey was that after you get the basic stuff done (including scout, archer, fighter, as per you post), get the basic theme of the faction, include a bunch of special roles (tank, skirmisher, magic/marksman/poison, etc.), and get the major issues ironed out, then it is basically just playtesting to finetune things.

You did a much better job though. :)


One thing though that your post made me think of, though, was that balance also depends on the map. On an all-cave map, the factions are certainly NOT balanced, as I'm sure all would agree. So the devs haven't always tweaked factions to get them balanced; sometimes it is a matter of tweaking the map instead.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Zarel »

Yogibear wrote:Another example how annoying speed can become: The bat. And look how weak it is to make up for that.
It's not so much the speed as the 60% defense plus drain that's annoying about the bat.
Yogibear wrote:The two level 1 healers do healing + 4 and they have extremely low hitpoints and the shaman is incredibly weak.
Shaman has a slow attack! That makes it very quite powerful.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Aethaeryn »

Joram wrote:One thing though that your post made me think of, though, was that balance also depends on the map. On an all-cave map, the factions are certainly NOT balanced, as I'm sure all would agree. So the devs haven't always tweaked factions to get them balanced; sometimes it is a matter of tweaking the map instead.
Yes, and as factions become more and more balanced, the effort will probably shift increasingly to balancing via maps. Sometimes tweaking stats could have too many unanticipated effects.
Zarel wrote:It's not so much the speed as the 60% defense plus drain that's annoying about the bat.
That's why they're 40% on villages: they were almost invincible when they were first improved in 1.3 because they could sit on a village behind enemy lines. That's an example of balancing by trail-and-error. The bat was made stronger, but it was made too strong, so it was actually made weaker on villages.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Zarel »

Aethaeryn wrote:That's why they're 40% on villages: they were almost invincible when they were first improved in 1.3 because they could sit on a village behind enemy lines. That's an example of balancing by trail-and-error. The bat was made stronger, but it was made too strong, so it was actually made weaker on villages.
They're still overpowered on sunken villages, mountain villages, cave villages, etc, etc... :/
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Caphriel »

They're especially overpowered on sunken villages, because most factions can't bring to bear suitable force to dislodge them, particularly at night, moreso if the bat is strong/res.

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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Eskon »

http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancin ... tions.html

Related to the topic of balancing, a series by what you would call a professional game designer/balancer. It made me feel like I gained some degree of insight on the topic, and is certainly an interesting read.

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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Velensk »

That was somewhat interesting however I feel that it didn't cover a few aspects very relevant to Wesnoth balancing. This doesn't make the article any less good (it wasn't there to talk specifically about Wesnoth balancing) it just is missing a couple points relevant to the balance of Wesnoth.

In particular it didn't talk about the relationship between terrain and options (different factions can/should play differently on different maps, therefore when balancing the maps that it will be played on must be taken into consideration) and it didn't talk about risk management in the Wesnoth sense.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Aethaeryn »

Eskon wrote:http://www.sirlin.net/articles/balancin ... tions.html

Related to the topic of balancing, a series by what you would call a professional game designer/balancer. It made me feel like I gained some degree of insight on the topic, and is certainly an interesting read.
It was interesting, and I was particularly surprised to see an unexpected mention of Wesnoth in the comments section in the third article:
  • "Since you named wesnoth i think you know the game. Even in that game there are 6 sides, and tehre [sic] is a tier list. Drakes and loyals are the high tier, Rebels and Undead the mid tier, and Knalgans and northerns the bottom tier. Of course inside each side there are better and worst units, but its not relevant."
I'm wondering how an experienced Wesnoth MP player would think about the whole tier system concept when it comes to Wesnoth: perhaps it's too subjective when the number is as low as six.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by SirTheta »

Aethaeryn - While not an experienced Wesnoth MP Player, I disagree - because of the terrain perspective, it is extremely hard to definitively classify any faction into a specific tier. Also, I feel they reveal a basic lack of knowledge when they say "Of course inside each side there are better and worst units, but its not relevant." because it most certainly is relevant - especially when taking into account terrain, the units that are "better and worst" change.

I may edit and include an example or two later, but for now.. those are my thoughts.

(Also, I did go and read the relevant tier list, as well as the comment that was in response to, and the full comment.)

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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Eskon »

Starcraft and Warcraft III do have maps that need to be balanced as well. In Warcraft III, I think cases in which maps have been considered "pro orc" or stuff like that have often existed at some point; it's related to special map features like health fountains that benefit them more than other factions. Balancing Wesnoth maps, and juggling with the factions in the process, is the same, only even more hellishly complex.

My favorite is the fourth part of the series, which emphasizes that calculation alone can not substitute for experience and intuition, using anecdotes and examples from all kinds of sciences.

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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Rya »

Starcraft is pretty much known as the game with the best balanced races out of all games that have different ones. I was into it for a long time and read a lot balancing discussions. I really liked the thesis that "3 different races" is the maximum a normal human being will be able to fully balance.

Some things I want to point out:
1. In Starcraft the perfect balance was created by adding several new units that removed the 'week spots' of a race a year after the game was released and millions of players already played it. Most noticably they added units in contrast to Wesnoth which rather removes units (but I guess it's understandable because of it having 6 factions and not only 3). I'd still like to see the opposite. If the situation is "Unit X is overpowered against Faction B and C" then instead of removing Unit X a better solution would be to add Unit Y and Unit Z to Faction B and C that can counter Unit X effectively.

2. Regarding the 'map balance', that's somewhat a completely different issue and lies more in the hands of the game creators. "On my map drakes are overpowered" shouldn't lead to "Make drakes weaker on maps like that", but rather to "Fix your map".
In Starcraft it can be easily tested due to only the 3 races, by just playing maps. There are plenty of players and there are even websites only for statistically measuring the balance.
For example a map statistic will look like this:
Z vs P - 127:123 (wins)
P vs T - 122:128 (wins)
T vs Z - 125:124 (wins)
This would be considered a pretty well balanced map (maybe with slight advantage for terrans and slight disadvantage for protoss, but that could still be just the odds).
In Wesnoth getting statistics as 'obvious' as this is quite hard, because the Faction vs. Faction combinations are quite a lot with 6 Factions (4 groups -> 6 combinations, 5 groups -> 10 combinations, 6 groups -> 15 combinations, that's 5 times more than in Starcraft) and the amount of players is also lower.
It won't tell us much if we see a map statistic like:
Drakes vs Loyalists: 2:0
Elves vs Undead: 1:1
Undead vs Drakes: 0:2
Are Drakes overpowered on that map? Can't say for sure.
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Re: Missing Dwarves in Multiplayer

Post by Aethaeryn »

Rya wrote:1. In Starcraft the perfect balance was created by adding several new units that removed the 'week spots' of a race a year after the game was released and millions of players already played it. Most noticably they added units in contrast to Wesnoth which rather removes units (but I guess it's understandable because of it having 6 factions and not only 3). I'd still like to see the opposite. If the situation is "Unit X is overpowered against Faction B and C" then instead of removing Unit X a better solution would be to add Unit Y and Unit Z to Faction B and C that can counter Unit X effectively.
It makes sense that an expansion would add units rather than subtract them.

As for Wesnoth, the decisions to remove units were made relatively early on (before my time, even). Nowadays, I'd be shocked if they removed a unit instead of greatly changing its stats. The problem with making new units to correct imbalances is threefold: (1) adding a new unit would affect more than just the one match-up it was designed to correct and probably would cause a lot of headaches; (2) there is no major imbalance at this point in the game where such a drastic change is necessary; and (3) in a typical RTS, you tend to have more units than in a typical Wesnoth match so increasing your options of recruitable units is more feasible because more units will see play.
Rya wrote:In Wesnoth getting statistics as 'obvious' as this is quite hard, because the Faction vs. Faction combinations are quite a lot with 6 Factions (4 groups -> 6 combinations, 5 groups -> 10 combinations, 6 groups -> 15 combinations, that's 5 times more than in Starcraft) and the amount of players is also lower.
With enough games played, statistics can still be made of popular maps if someone wrote a script. After all, the replays are publicly available: http://www.wesnoth.org/replays/
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