Game balance and it's predicted effects on newbies


#1

I’ve been a participant in many a discussion about balance during the alpha, and how and why some people thought that the monster was OP or UP. I understand all the reasonings behind both, so the question I’m posing now is this:

Are the ways things seem to be balance in this game, specifically with the hunters having a high skill cap and skill floor, and the monster having a low skill floor and (maybe) high skill cap, healthy for this game?

I feel that there’s a lot of things going for the monster naturally (hunter killing flora/fauna, monster naturally blending in, head start, stealth mode) that the monster gets a pretty significant boost of power before he even starts really trying. Meanwhile, the hunters have all those things going against them, but the power of coordination, and all their utility, seem to have larger gains per unit of skill a player has. This seems to create a major difference in the win rates of skill levels.

From all the discussions I have had on the forums, I have come across a general conclusion that the balance seems to shift as the skill levels of both sides (assuming both are equal) rises. The low skill monsters seem to defeat the low skill hunters in the majority of matches, while the high skill hunters seem to win against a high skill monster in a majority of matches. I, obviously, have no hard evidence other than my talks on the forum, my personal win percentage during the alpha, and the 100% monster win percentage at GamesCon, so, true support for my theory will have to come from after the game launches.

My theory, though, is this:

The high skill floor, and requirement of good communication, of the hunter team may lead many newer players to leave before they can really experience the way the game is supposed to be played. Alternatively, this may lead to many new players switching and playing the Monster so they can win more, leading to higher monster queue times.

What are your thoughts on this? Do you have any other games where this kind of thing was normal, and it worked out alright? How much tutorial would be required to get the player to the point where they can feel good about their own play?


#2

Stats from the Alpha (55% win percentage for the hunters) would disagree with your basic assumption.

I haven’t played the game so is difficult for me to really comment too much on this. I would have thought monsters would have an easier time if the monster player was good and even one or two of the hunters were at a lower level.


#3

I know that devs for SC2 balanced around the top 20% or diamond level. Their reasoning was that if something is only good at lower skill levels and obsolete at higher… then its not a problem with the game but the low skilled player. The solution is for the player to get better. Of course if there is something that is extremely cheesy and game ruining they’ll address it.

I think unless its something that is egregious, I wouldn’t worry about minor imbalances at lower skill level. If the imbalance persists at higher skill levels, than it is a problem with the game, since the player can not simply get better to remedy it.

I think thats the route Evolve should take. Balance around higher skill levels, while keeping an eye for anything that makes the game intolerable for new players.


#4

Alright, I was not aware there was a definite win ratio for the alpha made available to the public. It does punch a hole into my argument, but I would have to make a request for stats on each of the three days (since that was the first release to the public, you can generally assume that familiarity and skill of the overall participants started at next to 0 and went up each day) before I say I am wrong.

This game is not necessarily hard, so the skill progression is fairly fast. It is not wrong of me to posit that the hunter mains’ skill passed the intersect point of the power graph (hunters being low initial power/skill with high rate of increase, and monsters starting high and increasing slowly) by the second day or earlier. Thus, the first day/early second day would have been skewed towards monsters, and the rest of day 2 and all of day 3 would have gone to the hunters. This would support my theory, and still agree with the 55% hunter win rate.


#5

See, the thing I am attempting to address is the possible falloff of new players due to monsters having a possibly large advantage at their early level, so I’m not addressing high level play here. While I was on the forums for each of the three days of the alpha, I saw a clear change in posts, from almost entire agreement on the idea that the monster was OP. There were calls for nerfs on day one, and it’s that feeling that I think that new players will struggle against if the game stays as is.

This is not a game where players are at equal power to start off. Both sides don’t have equal opportunity for advancement, as they do in StarCraft, and that is what is really going to create problems in balance. It’s not as simple as balancing around the top 20%, since things that could keep them from finding the monster too fast, for instance, could make the monster near invisible to new players who don’t have much in their hunting toolkit to begin with.

I know that the fact that there was a lot of pride during the alpha kept everyone going, but I saw the frustration right at the start, and it worried me. Seeing more people now at GamesCon, who very likely have no gameplay experience, going 100% as the monster, brings this problematic idea back. I know it will not be a problem for me, nor anyone I know, but I worry that it might result in the game not getting the community it needs. I worry that it will go the way of Natural Selection 2; a fantastic game, but one that required SO much skill, just to be able to play at all, that it has next to no community anymore.


#6

if your trapper and/or medic are bad it’s really REALLY hard to win


#7

I assumed that the reason Maggie got turned into the tier 1 hunter was that it gives those newer players a boost in finding the monster during a period where perhaps they’ve not got used to the “usual spots” or the general tactics of hunting a level 1 down. I don’t know that things are as dire as you say when it comes to the notion of difficulty.

Yes a team needs to work together, but actually just having someone there who knows how to do one of the roles properly, particularly trapper I’d say, will give the newer players the space to learn the game. I don’t know that many players drop off too quick when they understand that there are a) things to learn and b) that it isn’t going to be a ridiculous effort to learn them.

The wider community can help in these situations as they did with the original Natural Selection by wanting the game to succeed and not being douchebags about people not maximising the potential of their class. There’ll be a whole bunch of people that pick up this game, like with Natural Selection, that don’t understand that running and gunning isn’t always the answer (or running and biting), and that need coaxing into a different style of game play.

Monsters winning at lower skill levels is only a problem once people don’t see a route out of that situation. I’m sure there are plenty of people that value their fun at whether they win or lose, but hopefully the majority of people can see a close match where they lose is as valuable as a win in terms of their experience?


#8

I love this thought ! I hope it’ll be like this.


#9

I think there are stats actually, if I recall.

You checked out the “Telemetry and Game Balance” thread yet? @MacMan frequently updated that thread with stats about the Alpha so your best bet is to check there. :slight_smile:


#10

I think you have part of it right and part of it wrong. The part that I think you got right is low-skilled monster players win against low skill hunters and high skill monsters lose to high skill hunters. However I think it wouldn’t be new players playing as the monster, i think they would play monster first then if they lose a few gmes change to hunter side so they aren’t by themsleves. Also if we were to add medium skill level to this. The game does have a ranking system and this it was i’m a little scared of is that the best monster could only be playing at a med level of skill whereas the hunters they play are highly skilled vice versa.


#11

TRS are doing their best to ballance evrything out be4 release and will keep doing so after release… That´s all I can ask for at the moment and until I get my hands on this game its hardly possible for me to judge ballance.
Lazaurus worried me a bit but was instantly looked into like @MacMan said so I don´t worry too much about this!
If this is still an issue in march 2015 I will gladly join in on this discussion.


#12

I don’t think people will just give up. There are a ton of games with a steep learning curve. I play ARMA 3, for example, and that game is ridiculous. I’ve got about 100 hours in and I only know the basics. I’m not even close to knowing the nuances. Granted, it’s a simulator, so it’s a bit more technical than a shooter, but I’d say what about Call of Duty and Battlefield? Those games are tough on noobs simply because so many people have played them and have a good idea of what to do going in. Yet, more and more people keep getting into the games. They might get beat up for awhile, but they stick with it.

I think that what you’ll find with Evolve is that new players will simply go to private lobbies with some friends/bots to get it all figured out. TRS seems to have balance at the forefront of everything they do, so any true imbalances will be corrected. Everything else will just fall into place as people play more and get more experience. Evolve is a rare game where winning isn’t everything. You can have fun without steamrolling the other side.


#13

I think quite a bit of people will give up unfortunately. With stuff like Call of Duty and Battlefield out there, you can be decent at the game even if you only play like, 2-3 hours a week. Because you can kill so easily in those games (every weapon 1-hits on headshot right? Even the tinniest pistol) you can still get a decent K/D ratio even with little practice. And that’s what the people want: Being spoon fed and have an easy game they can be good at without putting much effort into the game. I’m not saying that cod or bf are low-skilled games: I’m sure the skillcap for aim and teamwork in that game can be quite high. However, the skill-floor is so low that, as I mentioned, you can be decent even without practice.

Now in Evolve, A good monster will wipe the floor with you if you don’t know what you are doing. And vica versa, you will get your ass kicked as the monster if you don’t know the basic ‘rules’ of the game (AKA: monster needs to avoid hunters and stage up etc). The skill-floor is at a medium level (not as bad as Arma, but higher than CoD/BF). And I haven’t seen a proper tutorial either that explains the game. Sure there are little video’s explaining each character, the in-game tips won’t cut it when it comes to explaining the basics.


#14

I think the main issue here isn’t that it’s a “skillcap” per say, but that this game requires that the hunters work together. It doesn’t matter if the match is between a monster and hunters of a very high skill level or a very low skill level, if the hunters are going win they must cooperate. The factor that is going to draw people towards or drive people away from this game isn’t whether they meet a certain skillcap, but whether or not they can cooperate with other players.


#15

What I’m getting at is I would first give newer players time to get better and remedy the situation. 3 days in an alpha and a handful of games at game conventions is not enough time for this to happen unfortunately. The focus should always be directed more at higher skill level when it comes to balance. I am not saying ignore lower skill level, but balance with an understanding that newer players can remedy a lot of things by simply playing more and getting better. Of course correct things that are game breaking and ruining the game for newer players.

I was not in the alpha so I didn’t see the discussions you are talking about, but like others have said, the stats given to us by Macman paint another picture. In E3 it seemed hunters were always winning. It wasn’t until we saw higher level play from the devs that we saw a monster win. What probably happened at gamescon was a skilled player got their hands on the monster and roflstomped newbies. This skill mismatch is inevitable with no matchmaking.


#16

That was the first report. You are sort of correct. It started out as a 53% to the hunters and eventually moved up eventually to 56%. But I don’t think these numbers are skewed enough to have much effect on newbies, not from a balance point of view. People who have played the game tend to have reported pretty positively even when they have been thrashed.

It has been balanced mainly for advanced players, which imo is where balance is more important. When newbies KNOW that the game is balanced, that will relieve a lot of anxiety, even if their current skill level doesn’t understand why it is balanced.

We can’t be sure that it is perfectly balanced or not but we do know that TR are putting an emphasis on that and that they have enough different things they can change easily so I am fairly hopeful that the balance will be good.


#17

I do want to stress that while I agree with you about balancing for advanced players, if new people do not have the means to easily learn how to become a better player a game will fail.

Tribes Ascend was balanced for the top tier players (and there was huge disconnect between competitive level and pub level but we will ignore that :stuck_out_tongue:). The problem with the way that game was modeled was new players couldn’t watch tutorials, didn’t have hints or in game guidance.

It’s very important to balance for the top end but make it easy for new players to learn. TRS devs have mentioned multiple times that there will be more tutorials in game as well as the ability to watch them from the main menu. I think that this is a step in the right direction. I think having different difficulties for AI/Bots is another way to help new players. Say I want to try a new class I’ve never tried or try a new monster build, I’d probably want to play against an “Easy” bot(s) just to get the hang of things. These are tools for people to get better :smile:

This actually is a good question I guess. @MacMan The ranking system, is it PER class or per user account? Hypothetically, could I be level 99 at Trapper but level 1 at Assault? I know this is really simplifying the level system but yeah :wink:


#18

The advantage that this game has though, is that battles aren’t over in a split second. It gives a lot more information to work with. Instead of getting head shot from a sniper because you happened to not hide behind the right wall/cover, this game at least lets you get more of an idea of what went wrong, even if you can’t identify it straight away.

In fast paced games, you don’t realize you lost because there was someone knifing/shotgunning from behind before it’s too late. Even if you are on the losing team here, you should be able to identify it easier than in the faster paced games.


#20

For the normal matchmaking system, we saw that the role preferences worked really well in the Alpha. People got to play what they wanted most of the time (sounds like a good addition to the telemetry stats thread.) So we don’t worry about ranking you on a per role basis. We also see that as players increase in skill, they increase in skill across multiple classes.


#21

@MacMan Oooo, does your matchmaking system already take into account a “hidden elo?” I suggested this in one of the alpha threads if it hadn’t been done already.