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Article - 'Balance & Consistancy' by Angroth

An item about Game Design posted on Jan 14, 2004

Blurb

Gives help on keeping a good balance of everything in your game.

Body

The Introduction Bit
Balance and consistancy is something which subconsciously affects you. It just one of those things which you won't particularly notice when playing (unless it has no consistancy at all) but if you were to sit and think about it, you would be liable to really notice it. Most people might think that a games balance only applies to graphics maybe, or perhaps something else and it infact counts for every little aspect of the game imaginable. If in a playstation game the music skipped between slow midis to quick mp3s it would sound pretty odd. Even things such as the gameplay is affected by it. Fighting really hard monsters and then battling with a super easy boss wouldn't be a very good balance of consistancy. So what am I writing this for? Hopefully I can give you some ideas of things which you might not think of to keep balanced, thus overall improving any game you might be making.

The Middle Bit
Here are some ideas (as mentioned above) which you might not have thought about so much but really should because they still effect your game, this is mainly aimed at rm2k / rm2k3.
1 - Weather: Is it always plain? Always raining? If the weather doesn't seem to change much then you should try to add some sections where it does, to add a little bit of interest. But if it's changing almost every map then you're just going to annoy a player or confuse them, unless thats your intention of course.
2 - Terrain Types: Where does your game take place? If you go around the world it would pay off to have chances to access areas which aren't just grass, have as much snow, desert and swamp as there is grass itself. And if you are mainly in a city or town, make good use of different chipsets to express the areas. But as with all things, too much variation will make the game look like a jumble and very unprofessional.
3 - Music: Maybe a little obvious but nonetheless I wanted to get the point across that if your game is full of slow music, or full of fast music it will crush chances of building tension and emotion or produce too much that it is crap. but keep it balanced, too much variation and it will get the same bad effect.
4 - Language: Don't use lots of informal jibba jabba and then get all medieval and philisophical by the end, if the people are speaking a certain way keep it consistant, only change it for different countries and lands.
5 - Mathmatics: Weapon's strength, armour's defence, item's and spell's power and effects. This is something very important to get right, if your weapons strength is a bit too weak and then the next one you get is vastly powerful or eve a little bit too powerful and ruins the gameplay, its no good. Balancing the maths and keeping the difficulty consistant can be a pretty tough thing but without it, the core gameplay is doomed (if you're using combat in your game).

The Wrapping Up Bit
Balance is notably one of the most important things in a game. Many people say many different things are very important which I must agree with everytime, it seems many things are important (which they are). But the balance of a game seems one of the most important to me. If the graphics jump from cartoony to more realistic (monsters) or if the character sets change from little default dudes to really tall, less colour shaded characters, its not very good. Balance makes the difference between serious games and amateur games, realistic ones and silly ones.