What Every Developer Struggles With . . . Character Balancing

“I think every person has their own identity and beauty. Everyone being different is what is really beautiful. If we were all the same, it would be boring.”

– Tila Tequila

     Any game developer that creates multiple characters in their games would agree that one of the hardest parts in creating a character is making it so that he/she (or in some cases, it) does not become so powerful that players will only play as that character over the other characters. This is a challenge because no matter how hard game testers check every nook and cranny of the game, most of the time players will discover ways to make a character better than what was originally conceived.


Balancing in the Super Smash Bros. Series

     One example of a character balance controversy comes from a series of games a lot of gamers are familiar with, the “Super Smash Bros” series. In the first title for the Nintendo 64, most players would pick either Picachu or Kirby because they had better options over the rest of the cast and with a game that had difficulty recovery options, their recoveries were some of the best in the game. In their second installment, “Super Smash Bros. Melee,” Kirby is considered the worst in the game by many. Not only for his sluggish speed in general, but he could die easily too, even with his good recovery. It wasn’t until “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” the third installment of the Smash Bros. series, where the best character in the game would cause a lot of controversy. If you ever asked anybody who played that game who the best character is in the game, they would respond with “Metaknight.” His speed, recovery options, high priority, high knock back, and of course that annoying tornado move of his that can hardly be countered, makes him a solid threat to every other character in the game. A lot of players frown upon Metaknight users and on January 9, 2012, he was banned from being used in any tournaments. Eventually he was legal to use again though many people to this day still believe he should be banned. If you look at the Smashboards website (A website that follows the activities of Smash Bros. tournaments) you’ll see though this link:(http://smashboards.com/rankings/brawl/league/teams) that Metaknight has been used 753 times. More than doubling the usage of Marth, the second most-used character (342). Game developers hope that they create characters balanced enough so that players will play a different variety of characters.

Metaknight_ban_poster_by_KojinSagara

Metaknight, the most controversial character in the entire Super Smash Bros. series.


Balancing My Characters From My Game 

     Now to talk about the characters I have worked hard on over the years trying to develop, balance, and make fun for everyone. Characters, in my opinion, are easier to balance whenever there are less characters to deal with. My first game, “Calven & Clyde: A Glimpse Into Darkness” only has 7 playable characters versus 39 characters from “Super Smash Bros. Brawl.” However, even though I conceived all the characters during the 3rd grade, I still struggle to this very day with character balancing. I spent all summer trying to figure out multiple scenarios and still find moments where characters can be caught in a tough situation against other characters. I ended up nerfing (weakening) 3 of the playable characters (Linda, Invisible Man, and Travis) and buffing (strengthening) 4 of them (Clyde, Calven, Jack, and Pirate). But through the balancing, I continue to worry about what sort of tricks players will find out and hope that I do not create another Metaknight (see “Balancing in the Super Smash Bros. Series” to learn more about him). Clyde’s ability to switch his moves during a fight, Calven using powerful attacks while preserving stamina, Jack’s fast mobility and easy-to-link combos, Linda’s powerful defensive and keep away options, Pirate’s ability to get stronger the longer a fight progresses, Invisible Man’s overwhelming strength, and Travis’ range with decimating counter attacks. Any character could easily become stronger than the rest. Yet, the more I think of the moves I have given my characters, the more I feel satisfied of all the work I have contributed to my game. I know what I want my characters to be like. They are all different and therefore they will play differently than any of the other characters. This is why character balancing is so difficult. As long as a character is different in any way, players will always compare them and decide who among them have better options against the other players. Therefore, there will always be a character some consider better than the others.

UMvC3 Character Select

A game like Ultimate Marvel vs Capcom 3 would be an absolute nightmare to balance because the game has a cast of 50 characters!


Why Players Choose to Use Characters That Aren’t Considered The Best

     If you know me, you will know that in “Super Smash Bros. Brawl” I use a character called “King Dedede.” Based off of what is called a “tier list” (a list that shows who the best characters are from best to worst through a formula) he ranks at 12th which is just slightly high enough to consider him a high tier character, but just barely. He started off as a joke character to me because of my last name and how I like to play as any type of ruler, but I eventually realized how good I was with him and surprised many by wining my first online tournament with him even against multiple Metaknights. Even at my first local SSBB (Super Smash Bros. Brawl) tournament, my first match was against a Metaknight and won without even losing a single life and I was using “Mr. Game & Watch” a character even lower on the tier list than King Dedede. Even though I know for a fact that Metaknight is the best character, I still choose to use King Dedede and Mr. Game and Watch because I have more fun with them than any other characters in the game. There are other players that use who are considered the worst in the game because they have more fun with that character than anyone else. Therefore, the reasons why players choose who they use is heavily influenced on not only who is the best, but whoever they enjoy playing as the most with fun ruling out whoever the best is most of the time.

TH3KING's Sig

King Dedede and Mr. Game and Watch. Both characters who I have used competitively, but are not considered the best in the game.


Conclusion

What I hope people take from this blog and any other developers like me, I hope you take these points:

  • Fewer characters does not exactly mean there will be balancing issues.
  • As long as a character is different, there will always be an imbalance between them.
  • The characters considered the best and most fun influences the player heavily in their decision of which character they will play, with fun outweighing whoever the best is most of the time.

I hope everyone who reads this blog enjoy my thoughts on character balancing and learn from what I have learned. Thank you again for reading and supporting my blogs 🙂

Sincerely,

Patrick King

 

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My First Blog And Its About Videogames

“Imagination is the beginning of creation.

You imagine what you desire,

you will what you imagine,

and at last,

you create what you will”

– George Bernard Shaw

 

Patrick King B:W 

       Hello everyone, my name is Patrick King. I am a rising Junior at Pfeiffer University and majoring in Computer Information Systems. I hope that one day I can find a job where I can program and design video games. The video game industry as a whole makes over $60 billion and is still growing to this very day. I have developed some of my video game ideas since I was in the 1st grade and hope that a company will be willing to make my game become reality. This will be no easy task, for I will have to work up the ranks and convince the people I work with to use my idea. I feel that the games that I thought up of will teach the players who play them valuable lessons, how to problem solve, receive a positive impact, and most importantly have fun and find happiness though whatever I create. Hopefully these future blogs about video games and other information about my life can give people an understanding of such and what it means to me. Thank you for reading my blog and I hope everyone reads whatever I may pour out of my mind in future blogs 🙂

 

Sincerely,

Patrick King

 

 

But now, O LORD, You are our Father, We are the clay, and You our potter; And all of us are the work of Your hand.
Isaiah 64:8