Balancing Acts

This past week, there have been a myriad of game updates and patches dropping all across the digital space.  Many of these patches bring competitive adjustments aimed at fixing perceived problems and creating new and exciting gameplay elements.  This brings a few important topics to mind, one being the importance of trying to keep a game fresh and the other being the balancing act of not only the game’s balance, but the community’s perception of balance as well.

While these concepts are particularly potent in the digital realm of game design given the recent events, balance across all games is a worthy endeavor.  And while balancing a tabletop game post-release may be more difficult than a digital game, accepting and acting upon feedback from testers and players is important.

The majority of the unrest stems from an update posted to the popular first-person shooter, Counter-Strike: Global Offensive.  In this update, the developers chose to not only implement a new, powerful weapon into the fairly stable ecosystem that had been established up to that point, but they also adjusted the accuracy of many of the other weapons available.  There are a wealth of lessons to be learned in this update, like taking care to properly test new gameplay elements before introducing them to an unsuspecting world.  But the real changes I want to discuss are the accuracy changes.

For days after the adjustments were made, the community raged against the changes, claiming that they encouraged luck over any element of skill.  These arguments seemed rather hostile until one u/mLalush on Reddit posted this data-driven look at the accuracy values of the guns in question.  Within hours, the developers had put in place a patch reverting the accuracy changes and providing context via blog post.

The takeaways I gleaned from this situation center around being willing to sift through the feedback provided for useful information as well as being concise and factual with my own feedback.  It would be easy for any designer or developer to dismiss the mountains of vitriol being heaped at them for controversial changes.  The real challenge is maintaining the discipline needed to find the valuable information and the fortitude to ignore the rest.

As consumers of games, we seek to have our voices heard by the designers and developers of the products we love to change them in ways we think are for the better.  When we provide feedback, we need to reflect on whether the suggestions we offer are based in facts and data or are driven by passion for the game.  If the points of discussion center around data, it can be much easier for us to have meaningful discourse and make progress towards a better product for everyone involved.

 

Charles Weigand

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3 thoughts on “Balancing Acts

  1. as much as it is true, that you need to make decisions and responses based on factual evidence, there does come a time when decisions have to be made for the “feel” of a game. I think as much as your blog post is proving one side, I think you should try to find examples of a different kind of balancing input as well. Not saying that what you wrote is wrong, just saying that there are tons of reasons developers post changes, and not all of them are based in factual evidence for the need to do so.

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    1. Thanks for the comment and input! I was particularly inspired to write about this because of all of the negative press that Valve and Counter-Strike had been receiving on Reddit from rage-fueled knee jerk reactions to the Winter Update. I agree that having a game that “feels” right can be just as important as the balance or facts regarding a certain change. I really wanted to implore people to better articulate what it was they found fault with in a product. I also hope that being able to communicate with the developers more eloquently will facilitate a better investigation and result in a better product for everyone.

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