Perfect Imbalance – Why Unbalanced Design Creates Balanced Play – Extra Credits


Multiplayer games like League of Legends design content with specific strengths and weaknesses. When one strategy or “meta” becomes dominant, the counters to that strategy balance it out.
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(Original air date: July 18, 2012)

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  1. But League of Legends never gave me an option outside its predetermined choices 🙁 sure, it's more elastic than DOTA2, but always feels too confining for me 🙁

  2. Imbalance in games limits choices rather than create more of them. In most MMORPG's, if you want to be at the top tier level of gameplay there are only a couple of viable race and class combinations and abilities and everything else is just a red herring to hamper "noobs". It's not going to change. Game designers know that the money is in providing win buttons to angry 12 year olds whose parents have deep pockets.

  3. IF you play at 1/2 speed…. it sounds like he is very very drunk. I noticed by accident but it was to funny not to share.

  4. Come on balancing and no DotA 2? We have a god called Icefrog. Who mind you is the original Balance and gameplay genius.

  5. Care to expand on cyclical balance a bit more? I'd like to see your more in-depth thoughts on it, seeing as it's not ideal to make it "rock always beats scissors." It should be more like "Rock usually beats scissors, but a well-equipped/skilled scissors (plus team or other factors) can beat rock"

  6. this is nowhere near true for league is the past 3 or so years lmao. the balance team are a bunch of retards who are also motivated by monetary schemes rather than actual gameplay improvement

  7. Sword beats axe, hammer beats sword, axe beats hammer.

    Then lux comes in and stun locks you and constantly beams you because you picked a melee character.

  8. Honestly, part of what makes imbalance a bad thing in many respects is the "Meta" that you guys were talking about. In fighting games or card games or even strategy games, creating a meta means that until another form of power creep comes into play, the majority of players will use a certain group of characters or tactics, basically creating mirror matches because of the high level of utility some aspects of a game has over others that go completely unseen or unused. Its like choosing between gun or a sword to fight.

  9. The video that set competitive game design back a decade.
    The issues of Chess and Starcraft (if you even consider them issues) have absolutely nothing to do with balance.
    If anything, the huge number of openings in Chess is proof that balanced games have more viable strategies, not less.
    Actual game designers have largely discredited this video:
    For quality game design, check out

  10. Halo 3 The Pit (fuck pit stop)
    Perfectly Balanced.
    Only difference is red or blue armor.

    Oh I miss the good old days of bungie run servers.

  11. Chess definitely has a meta though. Look at the evolution of any neural network chess engine during self-play?

  12. It's not balance that makes chess "solve-able" unless you're defining "balance" wrong. It's how finite the game is. If the queen was slightly OP that would translate into having fewer strategies because of everyone focusing on that one piece

  13. Then, this goes for games like League of Legends, where the player plays a single character out of a selection of several dozen. Such cyclical imbalance wouldn't work well in something like Starcraft with its three factions, it'd only make it a game of "soft" rock-scissors-paper.

    In a strategy game like that, the factions should be externally balanced towards each other. Internally balanced, though, there's room for what the video calls perfect imbalance, between different units of the same faction. Mass spam of one unit shouldn't be a viable strategy, or at least it should be highly counterable. However, certain units can and should be more viable as the mainstay "grunt" of a faction. A good game design is one where the mechanics are such that there are viable simultaneous uses for different kinds of units, and there's a diminishing return to too much of the same kind of unit. A real game-mechanical reason for why combined arms warfare is good for you.

    The good part about game mechanics that result in diminishing returns for having too much of something is that there will always be a sweet spot somewhere of just the right amount. The game developers don't even necessarily need to find it themselves, just make a design that makes it inevitable that there is one somewhere, and let players figure it out and the metagame form around it.

  14. I'm really confused as to how Starcraft doesn't qualify for everything mentioned about asymmetrical balance. Warcraft 1 is a perfectly balanced game but Starcraft has different playstyles and strategies. This was like the blizzard forums perspective where it's just the 10% of players who like to complain louder than the other 90%.

  15. If League would just allow the metagame to develop on it's own instead of forcing a meta changing patch down the players' throats every two weeks.

  16. I had this idea:
    So A is better than average
    Thus it is used alot.
    People find B, witch can beat A, leading to a drop off of A.
    The A player' find C, witch can defeat b, so they look for something to defeat c.
    A can defeat C, leading to about even number's of player's using each.

  17. How’s this system work? Basically, I have three classes. Laser, Gas, and Melee. Laser shoots with quick mid-damage far-ranged attacks from strategic placements. Gas uses mid-ranged high-damage motion and timed bombs to take down enemies.
    Melee uses shields and heavy damaging rush attacks to approach enemies and take them out.

    Laser beats gas due to range, gas beats Melee due to it’s range and ability to attack around shields, and melee beats laser due to its shield rush. However, melee has a competitive edge over gas as well due to it’s rush down tactics, allowing it to be only slightly edged out in terms of tier by it.

    These are just the basic three enemy types, and I would add more fighters later on that would possibly counter more powerful types.

    Also, gas has a heavy attack that launches a large range high damage bomb (although this leaves it open to attack if missed).

    Is this an example of good imbalance?

  18. 2:50 XDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDDD i know its an outdated video but its funny to hear XD league and balance is no near to eachother

  19. honestly i dont think the creator of this understands how to make an actually fun balanced competitive game. League of legends is probably the worst example of a game that is fun and it is dying specifically because of what he is talking about. It's not fun to be forced to play specific champions because they are flavor of the month.

    Also he ironically criticizes starcraft for this, but is actually wrong in a lot of ways. Firstly starcraft 1 was literally impossible to master, and that was kind of the point. You didn't "need to reach a certain level of play in order to develop strategies". Day9 talks about this in more detail in his "starcraft remastered rant" video.

    Starcraft 2 is probably closer to what he is talking about, but even that is incorrect. I played at a high masters(which is effectively top few thousand people in the country) level of play on all three races, but my "APM" which is a common indicator of your ability to play the game fast was less than half that of a regular professional starcraft player(it was around 100). But i could still take some games off of people who were signifcantly faster than me because i played the game constantly and developed strategies that were extremely hard to stop, but relatively easy to execute, and knew the game well enough to develop a long term game plan that again was hard to stop but easy to execute.

    My point is that imbalance creates less variety, and makes a game stale even if you change what is imbalanced every couple of weeks.

  20. i have some big issues with this video:
    1> its a horrible game design for competitive games.
    every game that uses this system ends up a system that constantly needs nerfs/buffs. because its practically impossible to balance since every modification in one area affects one or more areas.
    for pro players this is a major problem since they constantly have to figure out the best options after each new patch.
    the only way to perfectly imbalance a game would be to have a perfect ai that can play the game and make the changes
    2> chess is a horrible example. its a slow game, with slow learning, and slow gratification. but some of the most popular multiplayer games in history are balanced games: pong, tron, bomberman, doom online, unreal tournament, halo. the only imbalances are created by the player.
    how many sports in history dont have the rules and tools in the game balanced for both sides? i for one cant think of any, besides activities that involve animals or vehicles
    3> the only reasons people enjoy imbalanced systems is because they enjoy overpowering others and enjoy having different options to execute a task.
    4> the name is stupid. even it implies the design is bad. it sounds like two cubes of the same size but different materials, which are imbalanced.
    what people should instead try to design is an imperfect balance. where things look and feel different but are ultimately the same


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