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Future Balance Discussions And Planning

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#1 Paul Inouye

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Posted 07 June 2018 - 04:15 PM

Future Tuning and Development for Weapon Balance

I’d like to take this opportunity to break down our approach and observations when it comes to changes being made to weapons in the past and future.

There are so many considerations we have to keep in mind when it comes to approaching any type of change to weapons. It’s very easy to come up with ideas to approach certain issues or things we’d like to see happen in terms of balance, but there’s a huge wall of ‘what if’ scenarios we have to run through. Sometimes things work out perfectly, sometimes the community finds loop holes through the implementation of a change. This is why a statement of “just do this” is not a black and white switch of changing a value. While it may make sense on a spreadsheet, something a spreadsheet will never take into consideration is player behavior and player skill.

Player behavior and player skill will radically change the environment of balance and will also skew perceived notions as to what works and what doesn’t. What works for one player doesn’t necessarily work for another. The different ways players use the MechLab also adds to this conundrum of balance. You have people who boat and people who build multi-weapon platforms and all of them have differing levels of effectiveness on the battlefield. One of those methods is a pure min/maxing of available weapons/skill point distributions and overall player ability. This brings me up to the first and foremost item we have on our plate and I’d like to discuss with everyone the direction we are taking and open these directions up for community discourse.

Right now we have a number of ‘Mech/Weapon combinations out there on the Clan side of balance. These platforms can reach a staggering 94 damage Alpha. This damage output is well outside of our desired Alpha damage capability let alone being anywhere near a multi-use firing method. It is this issue and other high damage Alphas which brought about the Clan heatscale nerf that was backed out due to community reaction. It was a heavy handed move on our part and could have been communicated much better.

That’s what this and future balance posts will be about. We are going to explain to you the issue we want to address and how we plan on doing it. Our plans are open for discussion. You may have a better means of getting to our desired goal, but one thing that has to be kept in mind... we need to reach our desired goal. What this means is, we will be addressing and reducing the 94 point damage and that, is not really up for debate. We won't be putting blinders on for other possible solutions, but the problem must be addressed in a way that will not require a rework of the entire weapon code base.

We are not going to grandly scale all ‘Mechs and weapon systems upward to meet this level of damage output as that would lead to severe power creep and degradation of gameplay even in its current state. This touches on a community based balance document that has just started circulating. That document is a full upward trajectory of power creep. This does NOT mean there isn’t valuable information in there. There are some number changes we can make and underutilized weapon systems pointed out in the document and the points made about them are very useful feedback that we will address as we move forward.

Case Study 1

Below is a set of graphs that show what power creep is vs baseline balancing:

Posted Image

Fig 1 - The first graph, shows a loose representation of what we have in game right now in terms of weapon/mech combinations that are currently on the battlefield. There are a few outlier 'Mechs at the top of the charts (orange), there's a large cluster of 'Mechs performing in acceptable ranges (yellow), and then there are under-performing 'Mechs below that group (blue).

Fig 2 - This second graph is balancing all 'Mechs/Weapon combos upward. This is something we've commented on before about direction of balance. We do not want to power creep weapon power upward. Looking at the current community doc, it is requesting buffs to 71 out of 109 weapons in the game. There are 4 nerfs to upper end weapons but that is the crux of the problem. The top 4 nerf recommendations are good, but the buffs recommended pull the rest of the weapons upward causing the power creep.

Fig 3 - This graph shows a balance compromise where top performing and low performing weapons are buffed and nerfed accordingly to adhere to desired outcomes. The community doc shows the severe under-performing weapons which we will be targeting soon after we deal with the 94/high damage Alphas.

Our first step is going to be dealing with these outlier ‘Mechs at the top of the charts with the 94 damage Alphas. We will be toning them down and how they get toned down is coming up in a post I’ve asked Chris to write up with our plans and alternate solutions that we think will work and achieve our end goal.

These plans/solutions are what we are going to be discussing with you. I invite all players of MWO to join the discussion if you have an opinion of how these solutions will affect your experience of MWO. These are not popularity posts/voting, it’s a chance for the community to voice options on getting to our design and balancing goals. We will be doing what’s best for the game on a global scale and not focus directly on any special interest groups specifically.

Please keep in mind, each balance pass that is significant in nature, will be done in a phased, step-by-step implementation and will utilize the Public Test Server (PTS) to preview changes. We will use both feedback and PTS metrics to discuss and layout final implementation.

In short, we’re opening a wider discussion avenue for balance on a step by step basis and that all starts with the 94 Damage Clan Alpha. As for the community suggestion document, it's a good place to start these discussions. I ask that feedback be directed into the post that Chris puts up so we have a focused area to look at it all. There's a compromise position between both the community feedback document and our needs from the development side of things and that's what this new form of feedback and implementation is going to address.

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