In terms of the balancing in the game – between the human GDF and the alien Strogg – how does that work?
Well, going back again to Castle Wolfenstein
multiplayer. That was the first multiplayer combat game that had an assaulting team and a defending team, where it wasn’t two symmetrical bases with flags or pure death-matching. And they solved that initial problem of asymmetrical balance between sides of a map by having ‘spawn waves’ – so everyone arrives together and then adjusting the spawn timers at both ends so that they arrive at different location at the same time to create good battles in the zones where they wanted them to occur.
And they added to this also the idea of charge-bars. So you wait for your charge-bar to charge up before you can throw another air-strike.
And yes, I know it’s a bit of a game-ism, and it could be represented better by getting a character from high command instructing you “you need to wait thirty seconds before we can get another fighter to you…” or something like that. But I think gamers get that, they understand what’s going on. So, with ETQW
, to solve the problems of asymmetry…
In Wolfenstein Enemy Territory
, you see, we didn’t have that problem with the weapons – we used a ‘damage overtime formula’ which was very straightforward so, say, one weapon fires thirty rounds a minute and another fires sixty…so you half its damage and you have two roughly approximate weapons to start combat with and then you iteratively revise those as you go.
you simply cannot balance a Strogg Flyer Drone with a GDF Bird Eye Cannon… or the Strogg’s ability to create a spawn host against the GDF’s ability to call in a supply drop. They just don’t have alternatives. So, the first thing we do is make sure that each weapon, item, ability, deployable or tool in the game has a counter from the enemy team and that that has a counter coming back again. I hate using this analogy, but it is a good one, in that there is this ‘rock paper scissors’ thing going on between every item in the game.
Then when it comes to their attributes and values, rather than having a damage over time calculation, we just argue a lot. And that’s basically it. Lots and lots of, kind of, passionate debate. And thousands and thousands of hours of playing time from the QA teams here and at Activision; we have the closed beta test running and focus testing.
We take all of this stuff into account and then we figure out you know, that say, a Strogg Infiltrator shouldn’t get experience points from stealing a disguise, because if he does then he’s encouraged to steal disguises from everybody that he sees lying around and we don’t want him to do that because we want the technician on his team to create spawn hosts. Right?!
So there’s these kind of simple decisions that can end up being ‘circular’ … and some things can sit there for ages with no real easy solution… but in the main everything that exists in the game has a counter. And the attributes and values of those things have just been balanced over lots and lots and lots of human interaction. Just kind of ‘heuristics’.
Thanks for your time, Paul.
Read the third and final part of the interview right here.
Read the first part of the interview right here.