Bioware announced major changes to the class system in the form of what they are calling Disciplines. This was the focus of zone chat several times as I played SWtoR the other day. The specific topic centered around how the change in the class system would affect balance. Both PvE and PvP players want balance, but no one could define balance which made me wonder if balance is all that important.
The best information I could find for defining, analyzing and fixing balance in an MMO is at gamedev.stackexchange.com by user Chris. Chris says that when considering balance start with simple statements to help outline advantages and disadvantages of the character classes. Essentially balance is best demonstrated in the game rock/paper/scissors. This is not a perfect example of balance unless scissors can also beat rock, paper can also beat scissors and rock can also beat paper. Now it is easy to see why the holy trinity as we know it exists in MMOs.
The holy trinity refers to three classes comprising of tank, damage and healer. If there are only three character classes then the job of balance is easier. In PvP balance means that each class can defeat the other two character classes as well as another character of the same class with all variables being equal. The variables are extremely important however and I will get to that later. Planning for PvE balance is similar because the non-player character takes the place of one of the character classes.
The variables of any game make me wonder if achieving perfect class balance is possible or even necessary. The biggest variable I want to address for PvE and PvP balance is player skill which I imagine is near impossible to quantify because it is a constantly moving curve. What I mean is that if it is possible to quantify player skill and average the numbers it would change at any given time as new players become better and the game gains new players.
So is balance all that important? Defining balance helps to guide the game’s combat mechanics for both PvP and PvE. However it still boils down to the player and balance or not; the most important question that needs to be answered is the player going to have fun?
What do you think?