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An open letter to Bioware about how to balance this game

STAR WARS: The Old Republic > English > Classes
An open letter to Bioware about how to balance this game

Kirtastropohe's Avatar


Kirtastropohe
09.29.2017 , 09:48 AM | #11
Original poster...very well crafted and thought out. Makes total sense.

Hoppinswtor's Avatar


Hoppinswtor
10.01.2017 , 05:53 PM | #12
Thanks for the feedback, everyone - hopefully they will consider some of these points moving forward.
Hoppin, The Cutest Mercenary <Death Smile>
Hoppinator/Cutest Mercenary (Merc), Hoppin (Sorc), Hopposites (Mara), Hoptimal (Sin)
Hopalicious (Jugg), Hopperative (Operative), Hoptimize (PT)

Xargas's Avatar


Xargas
10.09.2017 , 08:06 AM | #13
I don't PvE so I won't comment on that.... Honestly I don't care about the numbers that I pull in PvP, what I care about is balance and the enjoyment of the process. High TTK is fun in my opinion since you have to learn to survive and think more, when you downing a player in seconds its not thinking, its button mushing which require less skill, with high TTK you MUST learn how to plan your moves more, since just blowing all your cool downs at once won't work to kill a player. You say "we", don't include me there, excuse me but f*ck the numbers....

realleaftea's Avatar


realleaftea
10.09.2017 , 01:22 PM | #14
Quote: Originally Posted by Hoppinswtor View Post
You decided on a target DPS that was LOWER than what virtually all specs were already doing. In other words, you wanted to nerf everyone except the bottom 2 or 3 specs. Everyone would get shafted so that they would be forced to gear up to clear pve content. You didn't want to touch the health pools in pve content for whatever reason.

[..] I would've expected enemies to get harder and have higher health pools instead. RPGs are about progression, not regression.
That's simply wrong. Three reasons: mathematics, relativity and practicabillity.

Mathematics:
There's no infinite progression. Percentages do have well defined boundaries... and SWTOR is based on percentages. 110% damage reduction doesn't make much sense, right? Even worse, the impression of progression is lost long before that. An increase from 86% to 87% doesn't feel like a game-changing progression.

So a common trick is to fake progression by introducing a 'windmill' system. The game tries to hide the fact that the resulting percentages stay the same by focusing on the numeric values of arbitary quotients instead, i.e. both the dividend and the divisor scale up the same way. Instead of 1/10, the players get something like 500k//5m. Mathematically the same, but using higher numbers looks like there's a progression. And in most cases, this illusion is achieved by implementing an automatically increasing divisor, players has to counter by achieving a higher dividend.

This gets problematic however, as soon as a game (not just SWTOR but other games like Diablo 3 as well) ignore these automatic 'nerfs' for some reasons. In case of SWTOR, it happened when BioWare introduced the Galactic Command System... a progression system that doesn't rely on character levels anymore. On the positive side, BioWare didn't have to feel obligued to implement new active skills, passives, etc. But on the downside, every new tier of gear bypasses the original nerf due to a higher class level and therefore brings the game closer to a mathematical cap.

To sum it up: Your request to buff classes isn't logical now that SWTOR has abandonned the original level system.

Relativity:

The latest chenges don't just raise or lower the overall effectiveness, they changes the effectiveness of one skill/class relative towards another. And if you want to achieve such a skill-to-skill or class-to-class balance, you have to stay within the same context. I.e. you can't really fix that by changing the environment (the hitpoints of a boss, etc.).

Two examples:
The first one - crit. damage bonus a.k.a. surge. The impact of this bonus depends on the crit. chance of the character. And that's what got out of control. BioWare first implemented a system that gives characters a benefit, should they achieve more than 100% crit. chance and then, they introduced a system that bypasses the automatic crit.chance 'nerf'. And that made crit. damage too powerful. What BioWare tries now is to undo this (at least partially) by lowering other existing crit. damage bonuses.

The second example - heal skills. Due to the fact that their effectiveness affected by all the stuff that keeps damaging skills in check (opposing defenses & damage reduction, but also the boss-level), there's no simple way to fix overly powerful heal skills by buffing the environment (hitpoints of bosses, etc.) either.
If BioWare would boost the DPS of every class to counter overly powerful heals, they would change the number of strikes needed to defeat a target that doesn't receive any heals. I.e. they would have fixed one problem by creating another one.

Of course, BioWare could then go on fixing any follow-up problem as welll, f.e. by increasing the hitpoints of every class, but that might cause more problems... a potentially endless reaction. Which brings me to the next point:

Practicabillity:

To put it short. It's about choosing the way that requires the least effort to achieve a goal. Adjusting the PvE content (higher hitpoints for all bosses & mobs) wouldn't be the a practicable one, because it won't fix any PvP inbalances. And likeswise, to increase the DPS score of every class isn't the most practicable one either, as it would break the 'time-to-kill' ratio.

If BioWare would have done what you've suggested and would have buffed every class, they would have had to make classes at least as powerful as Arsenal mercs were. Nerfing them doesnn't fulfill your 'it's all about progression' premise. Put to the extreme, it would mean every class has to have it's own version of Trauma Regulators.

But let's focus solely on the DPS score a bit. Increasing it for every class wouldn't be that hard. More problematic would be to keep all the other existing (in)balances intact. If you increase the DPS score however, you would also break the balance between percentual damage reduction and flat numeric damage-absorb shileds / heal-based defensive skills... and that means you would have to boost the latter as well. Not only that, you would have to increase the hitpoints of every class to make sure that the 'time to kill' ratio won't change, but the number of hitpoints a character has is determined by the gear he wears, so you would have to fix that as well.....

Likewise, if you don't want to lower the critical damage bonuses - which of course doesn't feel like a progression - BioWare would have to improve it for every class that didn't get that much of a benefit. That however would break the game by making combat dependant on lucky crits...

And unlike what you've stated, BioWare wouldn't be able to increase the HP scores of every PvE boss & monster. That would be an indirect nerf for every team constellation that would contain some of the least buffed classes. Making it worse for these team constallations would feel like regression and wouldn't be any different than nerfing certain classes. In other words, the game would have to become easier.

But back to the practicability issues:

What most players seem to dislke is the fact that BioWare chose the 'proper' approach and defined an overall goal to be able to measure their balance fixes against it. This 'goal' however made it obvious that there were other existing inbalances and BioWare then chose to address them as well and did so in the most practical way => by altering these classes/skills directly. IMO, that's what causes the displeasure. So let's have a look at these 'additional changes'.

Previous patch fixes to crit. chance, crit. damage and heals were too good and affected certain classes more than others. So what happens when we assume that reverting this either partly or completely is no valid option? Well, the first question that comes into my mind is "what to use as a benchmark then?".

These changes were made a long time ago. Should BioWare use some ancient metrics to see how the 'surge' changes affected each class? And how should they handle all the changes that were added later on? Extrapolate their benefit, applying that to the old metrics and somehow calculate how the game would look today?

Changes to crit. damage f.e. made the end-game content (NIM operations) easier. But that's also true for all the defensive / heal utilities BioWare added later on. So whst to use as a base difficulty for the calculation? The number of players that managed to defeat NIM bosses during 4.x? Or did players got used to all the improvements that made NIM easier, which would mean the 'easiest' situation ought to be used as the base!

All in all, it would be a lot of work and would have a high margin of error.... in other words, simply impractical !

A more suitable approach is to assume what would be an ideal state today and apply only the most recent data. And that's what BioWare did. They calculated a DPS score they believe fits to the current character hitpoints & defenses and adjusted all the classes to match the calculated score, taking only their current performance into consideration. A much lower margin of error, especially in regard of class-to-class and skill-to-skill balance.

So to sum things up:
I'm not a fan of the latest changes either, but for a different reason. Both developers and players failed to convince me that there's any significant drawback for sustained classes and/or melee classes. I've yet to see a PvE fight in which a sustained melee class loses every 11th attack on average (because that's what an inherent 10% DPS advantage actually means).

But although I disagree with BioWare's goal, I still believe that their approach is the only way to go. Even if some PvE fights become more difficult - especially the newly added ones, 'nerfing' classes is still the better and more practical long-term sttrategy... far better than to buff everything else.

Hoppinswtor's Avatar


Hoppinswtor
10.10.2017 , 04:32 AM | #15
Quote: Originally Posted by Xargas View Post
I don't PvE so I won't comment on that.... Honestly I don't care about the numbers that I pull in PvP, what I care about is balance and the enjoyment of the process. High TTK is fun in my opinion since you have to learn to survive and think more, when you downing a player in seconds its not thinking, its button mushing which require less skill, with high TTK you MUST learn how to plan your moves more, since just blowing all your cool downs at once won't work to kill a player. You say "we", don't include me there, excuse me but f*ck the numbers....
I disagree that people have to focus more on survivability in a high-TTK meta. On the contrary; it's easier to survive because you have a higher margin of error in the form of extra defenses and health. It's important to remember that the enemy can down you in seconds just as you can down them. When TTK was lower, people had to be far better at positioning, survivability, and cooldown management If your cooldown use sucked, you could get globalled. If your awareness sucked, you'd get destroyed. If you overextended, you were punished for it. You had to be aware of all the heavy hitters in the game and how to handle them. Now, you can eat an autocrit ambush and barely feel a tickle when you have a tank and two healers on your back.

Hardswaps in this meta are indeed tough to pull off, but that's mostly just because of the amount of defenses and the health pools (and now the lack of real burst for some specs). You can play it perfectly and still fall short of the mark a lot of the time. If anything, PvP in the current meta is a lot like PvE - teams parsing on each other until one team gets worn down. With a lower TTK, you are rewarded much more consistently for good hardswaps and the like.
Hoppin, The Cutest Mercenary <Death Smile>
Hoppinator/Cutest Mercenary (Merc), Hoppin (Sorc), Hopposites (Mara), Hoptimal (Sin)
Hopalicious (Jugg), Hopperative (Operative), Hoptimize (PT)

Hoppinswtor's Avatar


Hoppinswtor
10.10.2017 , 05:02 AM | #16
Quote: Originally Posted by realleaftea View Post
That's simply wrong.
I appreciate the in-depth response, though I don't really have the time right now to go through your points. I do agree with a lot of your logic, but I think you missed the point on some things and I'll get to that when I have a chance.
Hoppin, The Cutest Mercenary <Death Smile>
Hoppinator/Cutest Mercenary (Merc), Hoppin (Sorc), Hopposites (Mara), Hoptimal (Sin)
Hopalicious (Jugg), Hopperative (Operative), Hoptimize (PT)

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mugsybugsy
10.19.2017 , 02:33 PM | #17
so true..but what do we know we're just rats doing the maze
Elite Warlord Iwynn,Elite Warlord Towelai,Warlord nnywi,Warlord Towelei

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supertimtaf
10.19.2017 , 04:55 PM | #18
It's getting late and I don't have all the time in the world to answer every of your point, however I'll just give a quick look at why the class balance wasn't done properly imo.

Quote: Originally Posted by realleaftea View Post
Practicabillity:

To put it short. It's about choosing the way that requires the least effort to achieve a goal. Adjusting the PvE content (higher hitpoints for all bosses & mobs) wouldn't be the a practicable one, because it won't fix any PvP inbalances. And likeswise, to increase the DPS score of every class isn't the most practicable one either, as it would break the 'time-to-kill' ratio.
This is the point where I disagree the most, because the main PvP inbalance wheren't about damage output in the first place. At the start of 5.0, and even now, the damage output was never a problem. The only one that where really an issue were Virulence/Engineering sniper, also maybe a bit of Immortal Jugg (Piercing Chill, fixed in 5.5).
The issue about TTK was from some defensive ability who are way beyond what is needed. This is what everybody asked BW to fix first, because solving this issue would have solved almost every pvp imbalance.

Mercenary only needed Responsive Safeguard in order to be viable. I don't know why the class balance guy (again, it's only one person in charge of this, not a team, this is also important to say because it explain a lot) thought it would be a practical idea to give a 70% heal and a heal-to-full shield on a class that only needed the reflect ability. The same could apply to the heal given on a sniper's ballistic shield, to only quote those.

Those ability makes absolutely no sense for any player with a bit of common sense. And that's what BW's balance really lack in fact. The issue isn't "why nerf over buff ?". The issue is that this balance isn't made by a player, someone who knows the game or understand its mechanics. The guy in charge of the balance don't play the game, because the change the balance made weren't "smart", they aren't "player friendly". Sure, they work, that's a fact, nearly every spec of the game is brought in line with the intended target dps.

I want to take a moment to observe Carnage Marauder for example, which is a spec that isn't brought in line with its target dps. Do you know why ? Because the main dps increase (clipping through the ferocity window) isn't taken into consideration. Still, it's a major thing that every decent carnage player knows. And yet, the dev team haven't figured that out, because their knowledge of the class is only based of theory, not real practice or test. Carnage was overperforming before, it is still overperforming now because of this clipping ability.

Another class as an example : Corruption Sorcerer, and how it became so unfriendly for everyone.
Everybody agreed that the hps input of the sorcerer was way too much. A nerf was expected on this side, sure. Still, the way those nerfs where handled is basically "remove the speed of the sorcerer. Then remove the low-cost of those spells, and then nerf every ability in terms of hps". Sure, the hps target was reached, that's a fact. However the class became horrible to play with.
You get from a fast, strong and on-demand burst healing to a slow, not so strong and costly "burst" healing. Sure, good players can still play the class correctly, however, none of the interesting things of playing sorcerer heal is still there.

This is why I was talking about nerfs that weren't "player friendly". Because they aren't thought for the player, they are thought about theorical values. A player isn't a machine. It won't do an endless "correct" rotation and call it an "optimal parse", a player must feel that a class is enjoyable to play, which is no longer the case for Corruption Sorcerer. There are other things rather than dps and hps target that are more important to fix first, because they also have an impact on the hps and dps of a class. You don't nerf the playability of a class in order to balance its output, this is wrong and don't lead to a possible "balanced game".

This is why the nerfs to mercenary healers seems strange, out of the three healers, I didn't expect this class to be the target of a nerf, because in pvp for example, 5% of the hps made by a healer merc is made with the healing granted by the overpowered utility points + reflect. Still, it seems like those 5% where too much, and thus the class rough hps was nerfed while the broken ability stayed intact.

It's also the same for Operative healer, who got a decreased TA gain, and no improvement to burst healing at all (in fact, it is almost worst now, due to the high reliability on cast, without any interrupt immunity). I don't know if you've followed the post and discussion about operative healers change, but everyone was litteraly begging for an interrupt immunity if they received a nerf. They got the nerf, without any noticeable improvement to burst healing and without any sort of interrupt immunity.

This is why in a sense those nerfs aren't "practical". Because they don't take into consideration the game, just theorical, parse values. The goal of a nerf is to tune down a surefficient output. Not tune down the playability or interest of a class for everyone (I also use the term "interest" because in some case like Deception Assassin, the class isn't interesting anymore for most group, because what it had to offer -raw dps and nothing else- isn't there anymore).

Besides, you stated that adjusting the hit points of a boss wouldn't be the way to go... Still, I recall there is some boss (like Styrak HM) who demands way, way more than the regular "hard mode" content. Those where already difficult to beat for most players with 248 gear, in fact, they were nearly impossible to defeat for players that weren't extraordinary good with the first intended gear set (236). So yeah, I think that increasing the hit points/damage dealt by a boss and buffing some class to meet the newer dps check could have been a way to go, possibly more viable than what we actually have. The work weren't that difficult honestly, some boss where already hard, you just had to bring the other in line. In fact, this would have maybe helped solving some of the issues or bug still present in some operations by the way.
Furthermore, I doubt this would require to "buff" every mob on every planet. They aren't that hard to defeat, they still aren't after the nerf and aren't also if you buff some class. The initial game (lvl 1 to 50, maybe even further) has been way too simplified. A buff for some class wouldn't change the "leveling content" by much.

Again, we're not arguing about if these nerfs don't bring a class to its target dps/hps. Instead we're trying to look at the whole game to judge them, something that the class balance guy hasn't been able to do, even when he worked on "balancing" said class for the 5.0 release.

That's all for me tonight, I'll see if there is some other point that I could discuss with you, but not today.
Cya laters folks
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