How to balance Skills ?

derge12

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Like the title reads. Im looking for ways to balance skills.

what is the best way to make skills balanced?
 

Willibab

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The best way it most likely to have a huge spreadsheet xD
I tend to use a simple point system. For example, every skill has 50 points i can spend on it. And then i assign how much each stat is worth. So for every 1x atk it does as damage, that costs 10 points each. And additional bonus stats each cost 1 point.

Example:

Sword 1:

Damage: 4x ATK (40 points)
Stat bonus: 10 DEF (10 points)
Overall: 50 points.

Sword 2:

Damage: 3x ATK (30 points)
Stat bonus: 20 DEF (10 points)
Overall: 50 points.

Then I use HarlekinLehl's method to test it and smooth it out if needed :p

Can be difficult to assign value to things like ''15% chance to put enemy to sleep'' so that will be up to you and how your game mechanics work.
 

Kes

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Balancing skills is not only a numbers issue. You also have to balance the skills across the different party members. For example, it might be quite appropriate that character type A has skills that do far more physical damage than anyone else, but maybe they have rubbish MDF and/or are slower than the others. Skills cannot be separated from who is using them, unless you are going for a mechanic which allows any character to learn (perhaps by buying) any skill. Which gives you other issues to deal with.
 

kirbwarrior

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No matter what way you start, it will always end in playing your games numerous times, especially if you have moves that can miss. HarlekinLehl pointed it out, but as is fitting it needs to be repeated. Like testplaying your game.

For a start, the main backbone that all skills will be weighed against is the Attack and Defend commands. Both are free except they cost a turn. Once you know both are worth using (and/or replace them with things that are worth using), then skills can come naturally from there. How your resource system is another huge part, traditional MP pools work vastly differently from even just TP.
 

Soulrender

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You must consider as most as possible available options how to fight enemies, find their weaknesses, how to exploit them and potentialy prevent it, are the skills divided into elemental set like water, fire, earth, wind etc. Wich element will be stronger against others or weaker...

In short... balancing skills is very extensive work and you will never get perfect balance, always something will break your assumptions if not in the begining of project, then later in further updates.
 

Milennin

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Yes, play test your game lots and lots. There are no shortcuts to balancing, but I guess the simpler your combat system is, the easier it'll be to get it right. The more variables and conditions that can alter the effectiveness of Skills, the harder it'll be to balance.

The best way to find out if a Skill is underpowered is if you find yourself never using that skill, or when you use it, it performing less effectively than other Skills.
 

Basileus

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Play testing is definitely the way to go.

That said, you need to make sure to actually play test all of your options. If you have a class system, then you need to try out all of the possible team builds. If you have a skill tree system, then you need to figure out all of the different orders that players might acquire skills. You need to figure out if an ability is broken if the player dumps all their points into a single tree and acquires a certain skill too early, or if a certain combination of classes makes bosses too easy. On the flip side, you also need to look out for team comps that can't beat bosses at the level you expect the player to be, or if it's possible for the player to make the game unwinnable by putting all their points into getting weak skills.

You don't just play the game. You put yourself in the shoes of a new player and try everything, even if it sounds dumb. Especially if it sounds dumb.
 

kirbwarrior

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Especially if it sounds dumb.
This 1000%. Two big reasons;
A) Your players don't know what sounds dumb. They might think combining these three pieces of equipment or going down this skill tree sounds like the best thing ever.
2) Broken or overpowered strats in games often utilize dumb sounding ideas. Players don't know that dumb sounding ideas are actually dumb.
C) Not all choices have to be equally optimal (I actually think an imbalance is good). But you want to avoid bad choices, especially trap choices that sound great because the player hasn't played the game enough to realize how bad it is.
 

lianderson

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*karake kicks a nearby tree, topping it over with a large crash of branches and debris*

Get a nuetral template!

Good day human.
 

Wavelength

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There's no magic bullet for skill balance. There are certainly techniques that you can use, but they will only get you to a point where most skills are reasonable and a few really need work. Only doing a lot of playtesting yourself, as well as getting feedback from other people who play - and then making thoughtful tweaks that address the underlying issues - can get you to a perfect place.

One of my favorite techniques to use in the pre-playtesting phase, though, is to directly compare all similar skills by first making assumptions about a relatively good scenario to use the skill in, and then do the math and determine whether one skill dominates the other (this means they are not balanced). A really easy example would be a damage skill ("Mega Slash") versus a damage-over-time skill ("Poison"). Let's say that Mega Slash costs 20 MP, has a 90% chance to hit an average enemy, and (based on assumptions about Level and Equipment) deals an average of 100 damage to a strong foe at a given point in the game. Now, let's say that Poison also costs 20 MP, has a 60% chance to inflict a Damage Over Time of 5% of the enemy's HP for 5 turns, and that a strong foe at this point in the game has about 250 HP. Mega Slash will deal an average of 90% * 100 damage = 90 damage per use. Poison will deal 60% * 5% * 250 HP * 5 turns = 37.5 damage per use. These two skills are not balanced against each other - Poison would need to become stronger, cheaper, and/or more reliable (but be careful that it doesn't become too overpowered against a boss with, say, 25000 HP!). Also be sure to run this math for at least three different points in your game - early, middle, and endgame.

You could also compare, for example, a Shield skill against a Disable skill by comparing the amount of the Shield and the chance that a character who gets the Shield will actually be hit within the duration of the Shield before it expires, versus the percentage chance to disable a strong foe and the amount of damage that foe would have dealt in the turns it was disabled. If the two skills would prevent pretty similar amounts of damage, they are balanced against each other; if one dominates the other, they are not balanced against each other.
 

Ouro

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Play your game. Over and over again.
And get other people to play your game as well, if you can. It's easy to develop biases as a dev on how skills are 'supposed' to be used, how this boss fight is 'supposed' to be fought, etc. This can totally blind you to potential issues. Sometimes all you need is a fresh pair of eyes, someone who'll try things you won't even think of.
 

HarlekinLehl

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I can recommend the perfect discord for having your games played / playing other people's games aswell. Not sure if I'm allowed to tho. Guess not so, OP, hit me up if you're interested.
 

Tai_MT

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Balance is whatever you decide it should be. Do you want an easy game? A difficult one? Somewhere in between? Do you want the player to feel like a demi-God? Do you want them to feel constantly threatened and leave them whimpering in the corner?

Pick what your balance should be.

Then, playtest for it. Over and over again. Every encounter. Make a spreadsheet of what players will have access to at any given point and test those variables too. "Balance" doesn't exist except in Multiplayer games. "Balance" in singleplayer games is just making sure that combat is consistent in what it is meant to make your player feel.

For example (shameless plug of my game):

I want the players using skills all the time. But, I also want them to plan where those skills should be used so it isn't spam. Skills are very highly powerful. Nearly game-breaking when used correctly. But, their usage is strictly regulated via MP. That is... players will struggle to obtain more MP. They will need to rely on Consumables and proper strategy to make every Skill Use count.

The Black Mage may have 6 powerful Elemental spells, but only enough MP to cast 10 spells before needing a recharge.

Monsters will probably die in one hit if you use the correct Elemental Spell. But, they can take upwards of 4 hits if you don't. Bosses will probably take 20 rounds (4 turns a round) by spamming "Attack", but will probably go down in 5-10 rounds (4 turns a round) if you use the correct Skills.

This is the "balance" in my game. I want to promote Skill Mastery or "being overprepared" in my players, whichever they decide. Use skills in the correct times and places to make each one count... or just stock up on MP Restoratives and spam skills to your hearts' content (provided you can find the funds for this sort of playstyle).

Balance is whatever you decide it is.
 

kirbwarrior

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Balance is whatever you decide it should be. Do you want an easy game? A difficult one? Somewhere in between? Do you want the player to feel like a demi-God? Do you want them to feel constantly threatened and leave them whimpering in the corner?

Pick what your balance should be.
I think you're conflating balance and difficulty. Balancing skills is a matter of making them worth using with each other. Difficulty is the spectrum of "god-like power" to "whimpering". You can have an easy game and a difficult game both have unbalanced skills and in regards to an extreme example (Final Fantasy Tactics), difficulty is based entirely on which skills and skill sets you choose.
 

Tai_MT

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I think you're conflating balance and difficulty. Balancing skills is a matter of making them worth using with each other. Difficulty is the spectrum of "god-like power" to "whimpering". You can have an easy game and a difficult game both have unbalanced skills and in regards to an extreme example (Final Fantasy Tactics), difficulty is based entirely on which skills and skill sets you choose.

"Balance" in the context of this thread is basically "difficulty". If you choose to make all your skills very powerful, then they must all be very powerful. This means the game difficulty would go down. The dev must decide what the "feel" of their game needs to be in order to determine how their skills should be "balanced".

That is, which skills are too useful or not useful enough? The "stand out" ones need to fall in line with the "feel" or rather "difficulty" the Dev envisioned for their project. Does the one very overpowered skill need to be weakened to be brought back in line with the difficulty and feel envisioned by the dev? Do the weak skills need to be strengthened to be brought in line with the feel and difficulty envisioned by the dev?

"Balance" doesn't really exist in a singleplayer game. You really only have "Difficulty". "Balance" really only exists in a multiplayer context for video games and it's used to make large amounts of options viable for many different players and play styles.

"Balance" in the context of a singleplayer game is basically, "make sure there isn't a way for the player to destroy the difficulty of my game" or, sometimes, "make sure the player wants to use all the skills in the game". But, these are the same thing as "Difficulty". You bring overpowered/underpowered skills back in line with your vision for the feel and difficulty you want your game to have. You make the skills "equally useful" typically for the same reason.

But, all the OP asks is "how do I balance skills?". The obvious answer is "balance is whatever you decide it is, and you playtest until all your skills reach the satisfaction point you determined it should be". The OP doesn't ask, "How do I make sure players will use all the skills I've made?" So, this isn't a topic about that. It's just a topic about how they can balance Skills. No further information given. Nothing specific asked.

The starting place for "Balance" is in determining what it should be. What is the feel of the game you are creating? Design everything around that. Playtest to ensure every skill hits that mark. Unfortunately, in a singleplayer game, "Difficulty" is going to be the primary "feel" of the particular game for most players. After all, it's the gameplay they will be engaging in most. If you want the player to feel powerful, difficulty is scaled down, and all skills should be balanced against making the player feel powerful.

We could talk all day long about how you make stats equal each other, but it's not very helpful, as it's fairly obvious how you make stats equal each other. The problems that arise from "all stats are equal to each other" and thinking of that nature... is it ignores reality. Namely, no plan survives contact with the enemy. Even if all skills were made equally useful, you then have to playtest them against every single enemy, every single stat your players could have, every single equipment they might have. Players might figure out that you don't really have all that many monsters weak to Lightning, so never use the Lightning skill. Players might figure out that they don't need to use a skill that buffs their Attack Damage, because they're already too powerful and can one-shot most enemies while bosses don't pose a threat.

If we're talking "make all skills useful to the player", then that's a different thread in which we need to talk about monster design, equipment design, and a myriad of other things in order to maintain usefulness of any particular skill.

But, if we're just talking, "how do I balance skills?", then the answer is merely, "playtest a lot, and decide what the feel of your game should be."

Unbalanced in one game means something completely different in another.
 

ScorchedGround

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But, if we're just talking, "how do I balance skills?", then the answer is merely, "playtest a lot, and decide what the feel of your game should be."

That is one of the beauties of singleplayer games.

You don't have to be overly meticulous in creating "balance".
Mostly because "imbalanced" skills create one of two scenarios:

#1 The player has the disadvantage, which is not "unfair" but rather increases difficulty. The dev has to decide whether or not that is desirable, but it is not strictly a problem in general.
#2 The enemy has the disadvantage, but who cares? The AI is not going complain that the player is too strong. The dev has to decide if the game becomes too easy.

You will need a lot of playtesting regardless of how you approach your skills.
"Perfect Balance" is nearly impossible to achieve.

The closest you can get is creating complex formulas for your skills that relate mana costs, cooldowns, raw strength, bonus effects etc. in a proper manner. And then you calculate the parameters for each skill individually.
 

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