Creating Gameplay Balance System – Part 1 – Fun

This won’t be typical tutorial. I want to share theory with you about gameplay balance:

  • Hi level of creating gameplay balance system,
  • Why it’s needed,
  • How it should look like?
  • …and much more

I already have some early gameplay prototype:

Let’s break it to pieces.

First of all – I’m not a gameplay designer and my knowledge comes only from what I have seen during my job as producer. Keep that in mind and don’t follow me with 100% accuracy. This is my theory that probably hasn’t been proven! 😉

Balance == Fun

Yes. Keep that in mind. Your balance will determine how fun your game is. Especially arcade game like Shooter Tutorial. Focus on this topic deeply and as always – take your time!

Gameplay Video Analyze

Let’s focus only on enemies and what I’m doing with aim. Shooter Tutorial is a without movement fist person shooter. The goal is to kill enemies before they kill me. Which core elements have impact on balance? (if you see more – please comment!)

  • Distance where I’m starting to see enemies. This is critical – I can increase difficulty making fog closer to player,
  • How fast enemies comes to me – how much time I have, (their speeds, their types)
  • How big enemies are – drones are harder to kill because I need to focus to aim,
  • Position of the enemies – this is critical as well and this will be main focus for me. I can drive gameplay depending on where enemies will spawn (left, right, top, bottom side of my aim),
  • Pacing – I need to have places to chill out or reload my guns,

There’s much more of course:

  • Enemies HP,
  • Weapon DMG,
  • How hard is to aim,
  • Which weapon I’m using,

But I don’t want to focus on them this time. The aim here is to create fun gameplay in first place.

And what have impact on fun of the Shooter Tutorial? Rhythm. (first part of the video) To be more specific my aiming rhythm. Aim rhythm will be something which I will focus on “Creating Gameplay Balance” tutorial series.

Why aim rhythm is so critical here? Because my only input comes from mouse! It’s like eliminating/avoiding obstacles in a puzzle game. Challenge comes from my mouse movement. More I’m moving my mouse – I’m more happy. If the movement comes with rhythm as well I will be more than happy!

Rhythm

I will try to explain by quick example. Right -> Down -> Up  -> Left:

rightaim bototmaim topaim leftaim

Now try to imagine that game challenge me to move my mouse exactly in this pattern. Would it be fun to play? Comparing to shooting at random locations and random enemies – OF COURSE!

Thanks to rhythm I will have control over the balance and pacing of the game. I can make rhythm faster. I can challenge player to move mouse from one side of the screen to another. I can make him chill, and most importantly I can make game harder by time.

Goals of Gameplay Balance System

OK – I know that I need to have rhythm but…which goals system should achieve? Basically when working on gameplay balance what should I focus on?

  • Something that is super easy to work with. If your designer can’t visualize patterns of rhythm means he won’t be effective as much as he can. Don’t prototype rhythm in XML/CVS or other text editors.
  • If you can’t test rhythm pattern in one second means you won’t be effective. (the same thing comes with testing couple of patterns connected to each other)
  • Simple solution works the best. Programmers have tendency to create big systems. (me too btw it’s hard think out of the box – so take your time!)  You should create system that everyone can use. Everyone should be able to create patterns without deep knowledge about the system. It should be self explanatory. The goal is to give the tool to someone that is outside of the project and he would be able to do some patterns for you without a problem.
  • The more limitation the system have the slower the production. Balancing gameplay is long task – you can create a system and couple of months later your game will change so much your system won’t be able to work with the changes. (for example: powerups, new enemies, new weapons) system should be generic.

Good theoretical example is octaves used to play specific keys on piano. Of course for this example it should be much more simpler. Like this:

rhythm

This makes Left > Center -> Left rhythm pattern.

I won’t be using such system because I can’t see which enemies I will use as circles. I can’t do up/down patterns as well. Another thing this will require creating separate tool which will generate some XML/CVS files that Engine can read. Pipeline won’t be simple and quick. I just wanted to explain you guys the point. Hope it sounds reasonable for you!

Some tips

  • Prototype using card of paper. Almost every game can be prototyped using card of paper. I can draw aim map on the cards and try to create cool patterns before sitting to computer. This will boost your creativity and you will imagine the gameplay that comes from the patterns,
  • Start simple: don’t use all enemies – use one/two of them in the first place and check what’s fun and what’s not. I have created to many different enemies and I won’t be using them all. I need to know which of them are hard which are easy – I need to know more about the game to be able to create fun balance,
  • Play a lot of rhythm games that required mouse aiming – find good references!
  • Take your time – great balance won’t come in a day. It require a lot much time!

Hope you get the point. I encourage you to talk about this stuff in comments! I haven’t eaten all of the brains in the world.

In next Tutorial I will move with implementation of such system!

Creating ShooterTutorial takes a lot of my free time.
donateIf you want you can help me out! I will use your donation to buy better assets packs and you will be added to Credits /Backers page as well. Implementing game is taking time but writing about it is taking much more effort!

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  1. Pingback: Creating Gameplay Balance System – Part 2 – Patterns and Manager | Shooter Tutorial

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