How Games Get Balanced | Game Maker's Toolkit


Balancing a game is one of the most complex pursuits in game development – especially when you’re dealing with a cast of completely distinct and diverse characters. So how do devs do it?

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Jeff Kaplan | Forums

Jaime Griesemer | GDC 2010
(“Design in Detail: Changing the Time Between Shots for the Sniper Rifle from 0.5 to 0.7 Seconds for Halo 3”)

Rob Pardo | GDC 2010
(“Making a Standard (and Trying to Stick to it!): Blizzard Design Philosophies”)

Kosuke Yabuki | GDC 2018
(“ARMS: Building Mario Kart 8 Insights into a Showcase Nintendo Switch Fighter”)

Akali’s win rate has plummeted—here’s why | Dot Esports

Developer Update – Symmetra Redesign | PlayOverwatch on YouTube

Leroy Athanassof & Geoffroy Mouret | GDC 2018
(“Intelligent Game Design on Rainbow Six Siege”)

Stefan Engblom | GDC 2017
(“Quest for the Healthy Metagame: Balancing Cards in Clash Royale”)

Analysis: Why We Should Buff More Than Nerf | Core-A Gaming on YouTube

Epic pulls overpowered Infinity Blade from Fortnite, says it ‘messed up | Polygon

Live Gameplay Q+A Issue #1 | League of Legends Boards

Find out more

Developer Insights: Arena Balance Through Science | Hearthstone

Rock Paper Scissors – A Method for Competitive Game Play Design | Gamasutra

The Unbalanced Design of Super Smash Brothers | ForrestTheWoods

Games shown in this episode (in order of appearance)

Call of Duty: Infinite Warfare (Infinity Ward, 2016)
Overwatch (Blizzard Entertainment, 2016)
Super Smash Bros. Brawl (Sora, 2008)
The King of Fighters XIV (SNK, 2016)
Tetris 99 (Arika, 2019)
StarCraft II (Blizzard Entertainment, 2010)
Super Smash Bros. Ultimate (Sora, 2018)
League of Legends (Riot Games, 2009)
Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege (Ubisoft Montreal, 2015)
Street Fighter V (Capcom, 2016)
Call of Duty: WWII (Sledgehammer Games, 2017)
Splatoon (Nintendo, 2015)
Mario Kart 8 Deluxe (Nintendo, 2017)
Hearthstone (Blizzard Entertainment, 2014)
Halo 3 (Bungie, 2007)
Call of Duty 4: Modern Warfare (Infinity Ward, 2007)
The Walking Dead: 400 Days (Telltale Games, 2013)
Arms (Nintendo, 2017)
Dead or Alive 6 (Team Ninja, 2019)
Halo Wars 2 (343 Industries / Creative Assembly, 2017)
Pokémon: Let’s Go Eevee! (Game Freak, 2018)
The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt (CD Projekt, 2015)
Life is Strange 2 (Dontnod Entertainment, 2018)
Team Fortress 2 (Valve Corporation, 2007)
Clash Royale (Supercell, 2016)
Dota 2 (Valve Corporation, 2013)
Fortnite (Epic Games, 2017)
Killer Instinct (Double Helix Games, 2013)
Rocket League (Psyonix, 2015)
Call of Duty: Modern Warfare 2 (Infinity Ward, 2009)
Monopoly Plus (Ubisoft Pune, 2014)
Apex Legends (Respawn Entertainment, 2019)
Prismata (Lunarch Studios, 2018)

Music used in this episode

Race Driver GRID, ARMS, Wii U System, TowerFall Ascension, 3DS System

Other credits

The Simpsons © Fox

KatEvolved VLADIMIR vs KATARINA (MID) | KDA 7/2/5 | NA Challenger | domisumReplay

*NEW* Fortnite – Complete Guide on how to MASTER the INFINITY BLADE! | postboxpat

6 Kill Game | Free To Use Tom Clancy’s Rainbow Six Siege | Freedom GamePlays

Normal match in DOTA 2 as Zeus | bravenetcowboy

Jason, The Undefeatable Giant Hog Deck Montage | Clash Royale Tournament Highlights

DOMINATING Halo 3 Team Snipers Gameplay | Domey

Shuffle V – Vinnie (Ice Climbers) Vs. ZeRo (Meta Knight) – Grand Finals – SSBB VGBootCamp

G2 (Perkz Akali) VS PVB (Zeros Jayce) Highlights – 2018 World Championship Group D6 | OPLOLReplay


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  1. CSGO's R8 revolver update. It was an 850 dollar awp, which is a gun that usually costs 4750 dollars.

    It could one hit in the chest and stomach from across the map, fired much much quicker than it does now, accidentally shipped with the ability to fire during a freezetime where no other gun can shoot while you're stuck in spawn, and for the entire duration of its introduction up until its nerf nobody was using anything BUT this new gun in competitive matches.

    It completely destroyed the balance of the game for a while, from a developer that says it "carefully considers all avenues and only ships the best updates".

    The game is in a good state now, but holy hell that was an oversight and a half.

  2. I remember Smash Bros Melee where Yoshi was, for the longest time, considered unviable for tournaments until one day a Yoshi main won a tournament saying that he's not unviable but just has an extremely high skill ceiling

  3. I play a lot of competitive multiplayer games, and I believe Dota is the consistently "balanced" game. Icefrog is master at tweaking the game and keeping things fresh. I've gone on and off many different games since I was a child, but DotA always feels fresh with always something new to learn and try out. Recently there was power creep after a series of patches for the last 2 to 3 years buffing gold throughout the map, so Valve decided to a pretty much across the board nerf the amount of gold on the map and do a reset back to how old 2012-2014 style of DotA was. Icefrog also tends to buff strengths and create special niches for heroes and keeps overlap to a minimum, so each hero feels like a tool and the team the toolkit. I think it is a beautiful game and a great example of emergent gameplay being valued very highly by the devs.

  4. Best balanced games: TF2, Dragon ball fighterZ and smash ultimate because although they have a lot of different characters and stategies all are viable and able to win and characters with high/low skill ceilings are also ranked accordingly, although this doesn’t mean one is ridiculously better than another.
    Worst balanced game: Brawlhalla’s crazy axes and cup head since I die in three or four hits but the enemy seemingly takes hundreds

  5. As far as asymetric games go, MMORPGs (like WoW and FFXIV) are probably the most balanced games around, mainly because the devs know that imbalances can cause actual social issues. (ie: You don't get invited to the raid because you play a shaman and shamans are not good this patch.) But MMOs often have somewhat boring skill sets and customization compared to what a single-player game, likely to make sure nothing sticks out too much.

  6. Hey. Could you make a video about skill based match-making? How to balance players. I'm World of Tanks Blitz player and community is quite toxic (no teamwork, noobs, etc.) So many of players suggest that SBMM would be a good call. How other games are dealing with such problem?

  7. Smash Bros Ultimate is so well balanced, that even very low tier characters like Rosalina or Little Mac are viable.

  8. on the topic of balance, I'm still chaffed that they absolutely fist fucked the arc troopers in Battlefront 2. I used to be walking mini gun with those guys.

  9. Azir had this problem before the new Akali. He was always meh and lower plays, but really strong at higher elo with teams that knew how to work around him, and players who knew how to play him. So now he is nerfed into the ground and unplayable for about 2 years now 😢

  10. Street fighter 1 is perfectly balanced, but there are only two characters, and they’re the exact same.

  11. Worst video of this channel. Only raised questions with no real solutions and only go into justified the balanced crazed. I hate balancing. A game need to be interesting not balanced !

    Of course total imbalance that leads to no match games are pointless but look at all the battle wargamers love to play: They are all heavily imbalanced. Why do we like to play Alamo or Dien Bien Phu battles ?

    Reality is a permanent imbalanced. So I prefer to go with the chaos of it. Don't balance games make them interesting !

  12. Just wanna mention balance is pretty damn important in single player too, an imbalanced sp game can render massive parts of the game obsolete.

  13. honestly balance in overwatch is rarely as bad as the community says it is, and the devs do a rly goo djob to keep things running. obviously thats had its exceptions, GOATS at pro level and the doomfist meta, old mercy , shit like that, but in general they are and have been really good and at least personally i've rarely hated playing the game like so many profess is inevitable

  14. On the concept of win rate and how that one leage character had a low winrate dispite being op on a pro level reminds me of a story I heard a while ago.

    In wow early on, the warrior class was looked at ad super underpowered, he had lackluster skills and most people cleared dungeons faster by playing as other characters, so it was basically abandoned. Until it got nerfed. Wait what? Why would it get nerfed if it was essentially unusable? Because somebody figured out how to use them the right way, and solo'd the hardest dungeon in the game that usually takes a party of over 10 people. He was able to out damage, heal, and tank everything an entire team would all by himself, and proved that the warrior was actually super overpowered, it just had overlooked potential.

    That is probably a potential problem with a lot of games, characters looking weak until some crazy shit is pulled off proving they aren't what they seem, and thats the kind of thing that keeps game devs up at night.

  15. So, the Jokenpo style is a good strategy to balance games, as far as the feeling of power is present? Or did I get it all wrong? =/

  16. Heroes of Might and Magic 3 is infamously unbalanced. The Conflux city and Necromancer heroes are overpowered, if I remember correctly.

  17. I've wondered before if dynamic balancing could be a thing in the future. So much data is collected that this could be run through all kinds of statistical tests and algorithms that the engine could automatically send out balance patches every month or so. I think this could be useful especially with older games that don't get much dev support nowadays, but still have active players.


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