Session: Rules of Engagement: Blizzard's Approach to Multiplayer Game Design

Feb 20, 2008 • 6 minutes to read

Speaker: Rob Pardo, Blizzard Entertainment

Rough notes below

Game Balance

  • solo to max level

  • important role in a group, raid, and group PVP

  • Starcraft - Race totally different

  • Better players can win games fast

  • Offense over defense (don’t want Starcraft 2 as a Sim City simulator)

  • Creative strategies

  • Every unit has a counter

  • Be fun Game Balance

  • Game Balance: Math vs Fun * Math is the foundation * Everything should feel overpowered * Don’t balance the game into mediocrity * Must understand nuances * Can’t balance the game through replays (doesn’t show up in spreadsheet, pathfinding algorithm) * Balance for all skill levels * Shamans could buff (bloodlust) became much more overpowered, aoe spells needed to be adjusted * No super weapons * Super weapons are fun (not so fun for the other person) * Ex: Ghost, powerful weapon feels super (sees nuke silo), see ghost sneak in, nuclear launch detected * Use your beta * how i approach beta - 3 months get as many balance patches within that time, buff it a little more * UI affects balance * Unlimited selection vs 12 selection * Internal battle about * army of 100 zerglings, game became easier to play, overpowered? * Players didn’t understand why they could only select 12 units * Multiple building selection * Subgroups * Before Warcraft 3, all you would get is intersection of abilities (lowest common demoniator) * Hero can still cast spells * Wow - Click to move - play more like diablo, not the preferred way to play * Originally got put in a way to auto-face/pathfind to player (PVP) * In Wow Beta * UI Mods * has a dark side * What mods are out there * should we balance game for modders vs non-modders? * make the choice to break the mods * Mods are bad when they play the game for you (bot) * Balance - It Never Ends * Change is always bad to players * Maintain your game to keep it relevant * Still putting out Warcraft balance patches * Ban the cheaters - * plan patches, but leave time to be reactive * Talent reviews for each class * at any given moment, a strategy or bug will be uncovered * Don’t panic * Competitive Sports - Football * 3-4 Defense, Zone Blitz * NFL isn’t outawing defenses, enable players to find the counter * Player Psychology * Not always predictable * Perception of fairness - * Best balance spreadsheet and tester in the world * if players don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter * Can’t argue in forums with a million people * Arguing is not the answer * Players hate losing * Counterstrike can play 10 games * 1/2 hour - 1 hour long game if you lose, not interested * Alliance wins 90% of AV, lose AB 90% of the time * Make sure losing side still gets something out of it * 1 mark of honor and still get honor * How do they climb the ladder? * Need to decide what your goals are * Starcraft 1 ladder - ELO chess system * Not necessarily fun to play * #1 player in world doesn’t gain anything from playing * No incentive to be #1 until #2 passes you * Right amount of complexity * Starcraft II - 15 units is the right amount, depth to game, learn units and strategies, can still easily identify units, understand counterstrategy * Magic - The Gathering: Hundreds of thousands of options, turn based, * AV * Original vision o fAV was epic, huge battle zone including player controlled bases, npc support, quests, and capture point * av was ment to be fought in several smaller fronts with npc assistance in a war of attrition * isn’t exactly waht happened * How we designed map isn’t how we made it * incentive to get honor is to kill opposing NPC and just zerged to win * players ride by each other * wave emote on horseback * players on losing side still get honor * knew it was going to be a 30-60 minute match * AFKaving - players leeching honor because of insufficient incentives to actually play PVP * Inspect messages was creepy * [altair] is inspecting you * players felt they were getting stalked, removed the message, now everyone loves the feature * Rest isn’t a penalty it’s a bonus - original implementation, keep playing you get less experience, instead switch it to a bonus * Exact same system, now people love it * Warcraft 3 “thumbs” - thumbs up/down any map you wanted * Then changed it to a veto system to thumbs-down a map as players were asking WTF when they thumbs -down * Does a unit, gun, weapon, suggest it’s function and power * Special effects can cause confusion in battle * Team differentiation (Warcraft) races, and colors in Warcraft 3 * Avoid hidden modifiers - do this very selectively * Visualization * does the art tell you who has more HP or who runs faster - art and balance is not aligned * MMO - much, much tougher * class-based armor sets - make the art of the armor set suggest the class - gear and equipment visualize * Home Stretch - Maps * Random vs pre-made * Age of Empires vs Starcraft * Player perception will be that map generator screwed me in starting point * Number of maps - more is not better * Starcraft II - 8 maps * more maps means players won’t world battle field very well * Black shround vs Fog of war * reveal resources * Size does matter * Bigger isn’t better - people want to be in the combat right away, * design as small as make sense for # of players * Matchmaking * Less buckets is better * What type of game play will it be * Don’t give players too many choices, no one in your matchmaking bucket * Feedback on system - LFG doesn’t give feedback, AV is in queue * momentum works against you so if matchmaking doesn’t work, it falls aparat * E-sports * Decide upfront if you want an E-sport game * Replays * Spectator mode * If a player beats me


  • World of Warcraft not designed to be E-sport game, now retro-fitting, I hope one day we can get a spectator mode into it, but it’s non-trivial * Why don’t we have stats on server on maps like there is in Warcraft 3. * We consciously don’t put up race versus race stats (Orcs vs Undead), you put that on the Web and players will jump onto Orcs * If we put up there that alliance always wins AV, horde will stop playing * Can balance stabilize: Starcraft is pretty well balanced, need * Warcraft: Cross-server interaction, * hardcore stance that we wanted realms to be their own communities * softening up - battlegroups, matchmaking (arena), battlegrounds (queues) * cross-server chat a possibility * Philosphy on super-weapons - is this for all games or subscription games? * For PVP, did the other side feel like there was no way they could have stopped it

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