Jump to content
Sign in to follow this  
The Ich

General Balancing Approach

Recommended Posts

Hello everyone,

a game like Dungeon Defenders will stay and fall with it's endgame content, which is driven by challenging maps and the (long) grind for better and better loot to finally be able to handle these maps. This fundamental aspect has made DD1 so successful and motivating to play over a prolonged time - which was absolutely vital to build a core audience for this game.

So we have these two important aspects, difficulty and loot, which somehow correlate with each other.

DDE could have been an absolute great game, promising to be everything that DD1 was but with reasonable improvements and quality of life changes (for example being able to walk while repairing or building was just a nice little thing) and most important it was server-based, so without hacked gear or other cheats. It definitely had all the potential but one of the main reasons, why DDE failed so massively was the difficulty. The game overwhelmed you with good loot and way too high stats for a certain level, which made the further levels very easy up to a point, where the whole game became absolutely trivial. There was no need to grind anything, because you had - if I remember correctly - around 15-17k stats in the end, which made every content afkable. In addition to inflated stats, they made game breaking changes to certain defenses like the enrage aura. This aura could not only perma stun all basic mobs, but all mobs within the aura received twice or later on tripple the amount of damage.

There are different ways of grinds and achieving difficulty. DD2 used a different approach by hiding the stuff you need to progress behind mainly time-based grind walls. So for instance you would need to collect a certain amount of resource X to unlock something and you could only get a certain amount of X either per day or per run, hence you just had to invest the time and play trivial content again and again. I am not really up-to-date when it comes to DD2, but the "shards" sound exactly like another such a system.

So what exactly made DD1 so great in this regard? A simple design philosophy: In order to beat a certain map you need a certain amount of stats. But the loot, that would offer these stats would barely drop on the previous difficulty step. It might sound a bit paradox, but in order to beat a map you had to be able to farm that map. Maybe you remember the time, when the nightmare mode first came out. With all the best insane gear you were just running against a wall firstly. But eventually people found a way to break through, you would play the first few waves and hoped for that lucky mythical item drop that just made you a tiny bit better, so the next time you could get a little further and further. This was a really great time. And the endgame content does not really differ to much in this. You have to farm certain maps on high survival maps to get the gear for the next endgame-map.

So now to DDA. I do not want to talk to much about difficulty here, because we cannot really judge it yet. Also we just have access to the very first maps - all of them being simple one-crystal-maps and there is no nightmare or even massacre mode yet, nor hardcore or mixed mode (will that be a thing again?). But I was positively surprised that there were some steep difficulty spikes when playing insane survival for the first time and you actually had to progress a bit to reach the point, where you can comfortably beat it. That's a good sign. While writing this, I am doing a insane survival lab afk run - but I guess that is fine, since I would consider myself to be way overleveled and -geared for the Beta content now. But I also see a couple of warning signs, which I would like to point out: The enrage aura is foundamentally broken, maybe even more than in DDE, since there is no immunity system (yet). For further details I would like to point you to this thread: https://chromatic.zendesk.com/hc/en-us/community/posts/360055378192-Enrage-Aura

Also the monk buff seems to be really overpowered, already giving a x3 damage multiplier with the limited stats we can achieve in the beta. The fact that you can just place it and go and do somewhere else in between is already a huge buff and the mana costs allow you to maintain this buff indefinitely.

 

But the point here is not to nitpick on certain things, that are still subject to be balanced out. A crucial aspect is, as I said, the loot system. As far as I can tell, the loot system is mainly based on DD1s system, which is definitely a good thing. Many people here are confused and mistake the shown iPWR value as a sign, that it was taken from DD2, but DD1 also had such an attribute - it was just hidden and visible for the player. I do not want to explain the exact item generation process here, but one aspect of the loot system has been "fixed" or let's say changed: Negative Stats

This has a huge impact on the quality of items. When you found an item with one or more negative stats in DD1 this meant the following: The stat was randomly rolled and it actually rolled too high. It was too good for the items iPWR value and therefor it "overrolled" and became negative. This is no longer the case in DDA, the random range has been adjusted accordingly. I am pretty sure you can agree on having many occasions where you found an item in DD1 and thought "oh damn, if only this item would not have this negative stat there, it would have been absolutely awesome". And yeah... in DDA all these items will indeed be absolutely awesome. If you payed closer attention to the rolled stats on survival insane lab runs in the later waves, you will find that quite a lot of items have all 4 tower stats on them and most of them have at least 3. Items with all 4 tower stats were definitely much rarer in DD1.

22 hours ago, Alhanalem said:

[...] The game also seems more generous with (relevant) loot than it was in DD1, making it unnecessary to me to abuse splitscreen to get more stuff. (Besides, I view it as an exploit rather than a feature in DD1)

Alhanalem has raised my attention with this statement, whether this is just his personal impression or if he knows more than we do, I do not know. But with the reason stated above, I would confirm his statement. Without knowing, what nightmare and massacre will exactly look like and how "rare" certain "rarities" are going to be, it is out of range to make any real judgments here. So I can just say, that I have the feeling, that the loot system could be(come) a bit too generous in this regard and as pointed out above, this would have really negative effects on the endgame-gameplay experience and longevity.

This example shows again, that finding the right balance is a very difficult and challenging multi-dimensional task (we have not even talked about the actual difficult, made up from the mobs damage, HP and also speed values). So I would like to finally come to my initial idea for this thread or let's call it a guideline of how I would advise the developers to approach balancing questions in general. Obviously, in an ideal world, everything should be well balanced. But when balancing a game you will often find yourself in a situation, where you are not really sure if it will be too hard or too easy and here I would advise the developers to always lean always lean more towards the "hard" direction. This might result in content becoming maybe a bit too hard. But that is nothing, that cannot be changed with further patches. The other way around does not really work, because if they release content, which is too easy, fast players will have already farmed the hell out of it. Any future adjustments would just make it harder for the other players to catch up and the ones, who already farmed the gear, which they shouldn't have at that point, can continue farming.

In addition, I can see a lot of ways to gather a lot of valuable data from such a situation. Maybe some players can still manage to beat that content? You could analyze, how they did it. Maybe a certain defense is just overpowered? Maybe you identified some cheaters here? Or maybe they just figured out a really strong build and played actively and well-coordinated with 4 good dps chars? Maybe the 4 players difficulty scaling is much easier than solo or vice-verse?

 

This has become a lengthy post - I hope that at least some of the aspect were interesting - and as I conclude it, so does my afk survival run. And the game has rewarded me with this nice giraffe:

image.thumb.png.ede80cdb1e09d8b4812740d94ba5a861.png

I will just leave that here as a reminder, that getting good loot should always be an exciting moment.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

But I liked negative stats. :( (Though do agree 100% that they should ALWAYS ALWAYS err on harder content. You can nerf difficulty, you can't buff it.) 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
13 minutes ago, Xurtan said:

But I liked negative stats. :( (Though do agree 100% that they should ALWAYS ALWAYS err on harder content. You can nerf difficulty, you can't buff it.) 

As long as google and $20 can't get you a full set of hacked gear and a super pet it will work out.  That is what killed DD1 for most of us.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Just now, fluffycalico said:

As long as google and $20 can't get you a full set of hacked gear and a super pet it will work out.  That is what killed DD1 for most of us.

Fair. That was sure as hell a large issue in DD1. Thankfully I don't think they'll make the same mistake - client side anything tends to be a mistake companies only make once. 

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, The Ich said:

So for instance you would need to collect a certain amount of resource X to unlock something and you could only get a certain amount of X either per day or per run, hence you just had to invest the time and play trivial content again and again. I am not really up-to-date when it comes to DD2, but the "shards" sound exactly like another such a system.

So what exactly made DD1 so great in this regard? A simple design philosophy: In order to beat a certain map you need a certain amount of stats. But the loot, that would offer these stats would barely drop on the previous difficulty step.

Correct me if I'm wrong but don't these sound like exactly the same thing? Both require you to play a map you have already beaten for something that drops infrequently to continue progressing. Sounds like you tried knocking DD2 down a peg but ended up toppling DD1 with it

53 minutes ago, Xurtan said:

Though do agree 100% that they should ALWAYS ALWAYS err on harder content. You can nerf difficulty, you can't buff it.

So you cant add hp, dmg or dmg resistance to enemies? Add new enemies that have counter mechanics? You can totally buff difficulty, they just listen to players and make things too easy because players want it easy. I agree though, more difficulty please. No more starting on Insane difficulty when you are playing your first map.

37 minutes ago, Xurtan said:

client side anything tends to be a mistake companies only make once. 

DDA is stated to be client side, you will not need a constant internet connection to play like DD2.

Edited by Exglint
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
5 minutes ago, Exglint said:

So you cant add hp, dmg or dmg resistance to enemies? Add new enemies that have counter mechanics? You can totally buff difficulty, they just listen to players and make things too easy because players want it easy. I agree though, more difficulty please. No more starting on Insane difficulty when you are playing your first map.

Honestly? No. Can you add HIGHER difficulties that do that? Yeah. But it's very, very, very rare that you find a company willing to try and add difficulty to something that is already out. (EG, if after a month Nightmare is too easy, if you buff it way up everyone is going to complain and whine and it'll be a big mess, not least because everyone that did manage it in that time is now going to be way ahead of the gear curve)

As far as client side, it's fine up to a limit - the issue comes when you're able to edit files client side to effectively hack the game via items, stats, etc. DD1 was rife with it, as are most games with a client side focus. I'm curious how they end up handling the server/file architecture and such in general, tbh, but haven't seen much about it yet. 

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I do not envy the developers here one iota.. With RNG being such a huge factor in how quickly the typical player can reach Massacre difficulty the game doesnt really have a straight forward linear progression as other games might. Some people through no other reason than bad RNG might take 3 times longer than another. You will always find the top 10% or so complain the game is too easy and the lower 20% or so complain its too difficult and everyone else feeling its about right.  With the constant push pull between all sides there are always going to be players unhappy. You have to make the grind long enough to satisfy the more hardcore players, but also easy enough to allow the more casual ones still get to the end game.

Where and how to add difficulty has various solutions, but I am not sure which is the best one. Adding in enemies that have some sort of counter to overcome, add in more loot with lower stats to inflate the RNG, add in extra layers of RNG, and possibly many others. I like being able to ADD difficulty that I choose and is not chosen for me. I liked having the option to run with or without hardcore etc. I understood this made the process longer, but I didnt mind grinding more if it meant going in a pace that suited me. I like that the modifiers are returning for DDA. I see it as a positive sign that developers are looking to try to accommodate all players.

Without level requirements on loot and possibly inflated stats on loot in the Beta, I dont feel I can judge the present progression curve. I worry that the Beta is giving people a false sense of progression and it will result in a game the majority find too difficult or frustrating.  I dont feel without seeing the full game with all modes and such implemented anyone can accurately judge how difficult or easy DDA is. 

I will add though, if a defence is not acting as intended as the OP suggests then it should be fixed. I did not play DDE so have no experience with the changes made there. I did not find the Enrage Aura in DD1 to be worth its DU cost and I do feel it needs changed. After reading the post linked (hence the edit) I agree that if there is a way to change the aura and keep it worth the cost it should be done. There are other defences that may be looked at like the bouncer blockade and slice and dice which at present dont seem to be functioning as intended. These I feel we can comment on even with the limited amount of content available in the Beta.

Edited by dizzydiana
read post linked
  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, Xurtan said:

But it's very, very, very rare that you find a company willing to try and add difficulty to something that is already out.

CG did this twice....in the same year in DD2 Onslaught. I dont think its all that rare if it is warranted. One of those changes was so unbelievably hard that it is referred to as "The HP wall" and is literally impassable.

31 minutes ago, dizzydiana said:

 I dont feel without seeing the full game with all modes and such implemented anyone can accurately judge how difficult or easy DDA is. 

Agreed, including certain mechanics that are currently disabled that will make things even easier like upgrading gear (not to mention carries which 100% will happen like every other DD game)

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
21 minutes ago, Exglint said:

CG did this twice....in the same year in DD2 Onslaught. I dont think its all that rare if it is warranted. One of those changes was so unbelievably hard that it is referred to as "The HP wall" and is literally impassable.

I do agree with your view that it is possible to add in modes or such to make it more difficult even to DDA. I also agree that "boosting" will be a thing regardless of what is added to the game. My only concern is what player should CG listen to when adding such difficulty spikes?  I have seen in some other games where the developers seem to listen more to the PVP players than those who only do the PVE elements provided. Or they put more emphasis on pleasing the top 5 % hardcore players than any other player. It comes down to who shouts loudest for the most part and those who are pretty content with the content as is tend to get ignored.

It isnt an easy choice for developers when the playerbase is so varied in skill level and playtime, trying to balance a game such as this. I only hope that the game is balanced in a way that focuses on the majority of players, but allows those who fall outwith it to still be able to play in a way that suits them.

Edited by dizzydiana

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
3 minutes ago, dizzydiana said:

It isnt an easy choice for developers when the playerbase is so varied in skill level and playtime, trying to balance a game such as this. I only hope that the game is balanced in a way that focuses on the majority of players, but allows those who fall outwith it to still be able to play in a way that suits them.

I had this huge thing typed up but I decided screw it, you cant change people, they hate and that's what they are good at no matter how disrespectful it is to CG. Tldr was, pvp vs pve is there its just DD1 vs DD2 for us. Im with you, this probably wont have any easy decisions and I dont envy their position atm.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
1 hour ago, dizzydiana said:

I do not envy the developers here one iota.. With RNG being such a huge factor in how quickly the typical player can reach Massacre difficulty the game doesnt really have a straight forward linear progression as other games might. Some people through no other reason than bad RNG might take 3 times longer than another. You will always find the top 10% or so complain the game is too easy and the lower 20% or so complain its too difficult and everyone else feeling its about right.  With the constant push pull between all sides there are always going to be players unhappy. You have to make the grind long enough to satisfy the more hardcore players, but also easy enough to allow the more casual ones still get to the end game.

[...]

Be careful with the math here. Bad or good RNG won't have a major impact here, because

• the sample size of loot is huge (a lot of items are generated, you do not see a good amount of them because they never spawn due to the item floor limit)

• small step increments (let's say you have an average of 4k tower stats, a nice upgrade might get you to 4.1k then)

• 1/exponential scaling (you need more and more stats to increase a value by a certain percentage - the difference between 6k and 8k tower stats is not as huge as 2k vs 3k)

• multiple item slots (sure, you might find a really nice item here and there, but you have multiple slots to fill, which means the nice item is averaged out)

All these things considered, "bad RNG might take 3 times longer than another" is an extreme exaggeration. Furthermore the potential difference in player stats due to RNG and therefor power becomes smaller and smaller, the further you progress. You might see a few spikes in the beginning at low stats, but that's where the content is easy in any case (campaign) and most stat points are derived from leveling and not so much from items. Or in other words you could say, leveling mainly determines your progress in the beginning and flattens out potential differences in loot.

And yes I agree, you will never satisfy everyone, when it comes to difficulty. But should a casual player be capable of beating the latest bonus map on massacre survival hc? And with casual player I mean one, who does not even bother to level up specific or lots of multiple builders/heroes. Someone who just sticks to his mage towers (yeah, there are such people, but you most likely won't encounter them here in the forum). The campaign is designed with these players in mind. Which is ok I guess, but please let us have fun in the endgame content.

3 hours ago, Xurtan said:

Fair. That was sure as hell a large issue in DD1. Thankfully I don't think they'll make the same mistake - client side anything tends to be a mistake companies only make once. 

DDA is not fully server-sided and will be therefor very prone to cheats and item modification. We can just hope, that the devs implement some basic security and counter-measures.

2 hours ago, Exglint said:

So you cant add hp, dmg or dmg resistance to enemies? Add new enemies that have counter mechanics? You can totally buff difficulty, they just listen to players and make things too easy because players want it easy. I agree though, more difficulty please. No more starting on Insane difficulty when you are playing your first map.

Sure you can always add difficulty, that is not the point. The main question is, when to do this. Preventive? (before the faster players use the situation and grind out the easy content faster than you can patch it) Reactive? (makes the overall balance more reasonable but you split the playerbase into those who already farmed the content and those, who are confronted with a steeper wall all of a sudden). I would definitely prefer the preventive approach method, because if it turns out, that the content was really a bit too hard, you can still nerf it and keep the integrity of the players loot and therefor the economy and most importantly the whole game.

2 hours ago, Xurtan said:

Honestly? No. Can you add HIGHER difficulties that do that? Yeah. But it's very, very, very rare that you find a company willing to try and add difficulty to something that is already out. (EG, if after a month Nightmare is too easy, if you buff it way up everyone is going to complain and whine and it'll be a big mess, not least because everyone that did manage it in that time is now going to be way ahead of the gear curve)

[...]

Exactly this. Once the easy content is out, it is too late and every "fix" will do more harm than it would actually help. And the content, from which you expected that it would keep the playerbase busy for a good while, until you have created the next content patch or DLC, is completely wasted at that point.

Edited by The Ich

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I mean I'm in total agreeance, I have advocated the need to make DD2 harder for a very long time because there are some absolutely trashing content. Looking at DDA though and my experience in the Beta, we are already starting on the easy side and I'm hard pressed to say that will change in any significant way. I started on Deeper Well on Hard and after the first wave decided it was too easy and went to Insane and beat the map. That's 3 out of 6 difficulties I outright skipped cutting the game in half. That in itself is going to make the game a lot shorter and my only suggestion to the devs for that is to put in map and difficulty locks so you can't ever skip anything. You have to do every map in the first difficulty before moving onto the next, but all of this should be made much more difficult so that this kind of thing isn't possible to skip.

Ideally, it should be that in order to do harder difficulties you need to complete easier difficulties to get the gear with progression being smooth from start to finish so you don't skip maps/difficulties or feel bored out of your mind slogging through afk content because of gate locks.

  • Like 1

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Quote

Alhanalem has raised my attention with this statement, whether this is just his personal impression or if he knows more than we do, I do not know. But with the reason stated above, I would confirm his statement.

Now don't read things that aren't there lol... Basically, I've casually observed how often I pick up an item as useful to one of my four heroes, or at least look at and consider picking up, compared to the number of drops i flat out ignore. Pretty much until the point you're breating everything in the beta, you have a fair chance to pick up at least a couple potentially useful items per map (compared to DD1 where by the time you're at endgame you're lucky if you find a useful item in a dozen map runs). Granted, we aren't at and don't have endgame yet, but as a rule, until you get that far in you should be periodically seeing potential upgrades without having to repeat maps over and over.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

To be fair to those advocating difficulty increase my view is somewhat skewed by my personal experience with DD1 and DD2. Since I view myself as somewhat average in skill level I am going to be slower than many others. I will eventually get to higher difficulties but at a markedly reduced rate. I understand that modes like mastery in Dd2 are not something I can comfortably do. I understand saying it taking 3 times longer is an exaggeration. when you find yourself seemily being the one person who has bad RNG over and over it skews your view of how fair the RNG is. I spent every day with around 13 hrs each day doing nothing but farm C3 for deadly Strikes shard for 3 months before I found 1. I spent weeks trying to find loot that would allow me to progress in DD1, but never got the lucky drop that would let me progress without buying loot from others. I wanted to reach the hardest difficulties in both games, I was prepared to spend the time grinding. I felt like something I could not control got in the way and has made me leave for extended periods in both games. 

 I too get frustrated with those who only play the campaign once and call it good. I believe there has to be a balance that allows those willing to put in the time a way to complete the game without making it too easy for others. there has to be some sort of compromise on all sides where the game is not skewed towards only those who are highly skilled players. I want to try to find a way to keep top level players happy, but also allow players like myself to feel able to progress at a speed that suits them. I dont mind multiple fails, I dont mind spending possibly months instead of weeks, just give me a way to get to high level content I just feel the need to point out just because YOU find the content too easy or too difficult doesnt mean everyone does, more often most people will find it about right. you never hear from those who are happy with difficulty since there is no reason for them to complain.

Edited by dizzydiana

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

×
×
  • Create New...