by Blake Propach
An Introduction to Balance
We’ve all played games that have felt like they had never been tested a single time before getting put on the shelf. Some of us have been lucky enough to fall in love with a game that felt like a strategic masterpiece, maybe simple, maybe complicated, but every part of it felt honed and complete. I personally take balancing very seriously. A truly competitive game is built on pillars that those playing the game expect to be solid. Not all players may be aware of the pillars. In fact, a game is best when no matter what level of scrutiny a player or group assesses it with, it should be just as competitive.
One, choices must matter. If the player is not inputting meaningful choices, they aren’t affecting the game enough to make it more than chance that they’re winning or losing.
Two, these choices should be reasonable. Reasonability for me comes in two steps. I should both understand the question, and the solutions that I have choice of. In an economy game, it should make sense the difference between constructing a resource building for later use, constructing a unit for immediate use, etc. I should have some idea of why I would build a unit before I make it.
And three is why I’m writing this. Choices must be equal. If I were playing some form of chess where I can add any piece to the board at any time, I’d want an equally good reason to choose a bishop or rook over a queen. When an obvious solution appears to a game, it becomes unbalanced.