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Subject: Balancing - How and what first rss

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Sean Croteau
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I've prototyped two games so far, both of which I've made way too nice but I have been happy with how they look. The first game I designed was interesting, fairly quick, and only required minor tweaks to be playable on my alpha test of it. I've had it beta tested once and other than theme consistency issues (I changed the theme after designing it and couldn't keep the two themes separated in my mind) I have not been told of any issues or boredom occurring during the game.

My second prototype has not worked so far. I currently have a couple of random draw elements in the game but when I alpha tested it (played it by myself to test mechanics) it was clear the game balance was severely off. I intended for the game to build up and be tense over 12 turns, but after the first round and a half none of my imaginary players was struggling at all. I have six unique elements interacting in the game.

The games theme is supposed to be a production environment based upon my internship in a manufacturing plant.

The primary element of the game is the production of 3 unique types of goods. I considered having different varieties of each unique good type and allowing for the ability to improve these goods. The varieties have not worked out, I cannot think of a convenient way to track each variety of the good that does not impede the flow of the game. The improvements to the goods are currently too powerful. Each type of good can be improved to a limited extent based on it's type. To be more realistic I've allowed for more improvements to more valuable goods since simple items can rarely be improved much while complex items can be improved often.

In order to produce these goods I've included levels of equipment that produce each item at different rates. It may be that this is where the game starts being unbalanced. I've made it so that every level of equipment can produce different levels of each type of good. I've also included improvements for each piece of equipment that can increase the amount of goods the equipment can produce, can make the equipment break less, or can make the equipment require less resources to run. Resources come in the form of workers. Each level of machine requires a different number of workers.

I also included conflict cards that can be used to cause problems for opponents and customers that will buy goods. I'm considering a general customer market that will buy any good while the specific customers will pay more for specified goods and will pay for improvements to the basic items. The general customers will not pay for extra things on the base goods, but will buy whatever is left. The specific customers will not buy any goods unless a player can provide them with the amount of goods they want.

I currently have specific customers that provide up 15 money a good for up to 2 goods while others provide much less. This does not seem to balance well, and some players picked up these types of customers twice while other players received worse customers.

Currently the game is all money generating and the only possible money losses result from buying new equipment, upgrades to equipment, and improvements to goods. Currently these prices do not result in much struggle to pay workers or to buy new equipment. I intend to score victory based on the income of each player. It seems that so far if a player falls behind they stay behind, and people that produce money, produce it in bulk. How would you go about fixing this? I feel like there is no competition here and no tension. Should I increase worker wages? Should I charge players to activate equipment each round? Should I reduce improvements or payouts for each good? Should equipment produce less goods? Should I change equipment to be good specific (capable of producing one specific type of good at a set quantity with higher prices for each good type)? I don't know where to go from here, I feel like this could become a solid game idea, but I can't make it cohesive.

How do you normally go about balancing your games after you've come up with a concept, system, and rules? I have all the components, but none of the balance.

I appreciate any advice.
 
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Samuel Hinz
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unless your a math genius, it's likely just a case or tweak, play, tweak play.

and that was pretty much what i was advised when i asked a similar question.

But i echo the OP's question to someone with more experience, as i have a balancing issue in a game i'm designing too.
 
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Steven Metzger
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Something that was clear from the first paragraph on: you are spending too much time worrying about the "look" of your game, and not enough on the "game." Find a fast way to produce what you need (see my post HERE) and don't worry about the look of the game before you worry about the game. I have hundreds of tiles lying around my house taking space because I wanted them to look good but don't have a decent game to use them with.

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How do you normally go about balancing your games after you've come up with a concept, system, and rules? I have all the components, but none of the balance.
Playtesters!
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Christian Fahlstrøm
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The way you describe your game its a positive feedback loop. The players invest money, then make money from their investments, invest again, etc.
I don't think tweaking goods values will help, because any advantage will still only be amplified. Just like in the real world rich people tend to stay rich, and the poor tend to stay poor.

You could introduce some system of risk/payoff balancing, of course high risk might make the game too random for your taste.
Another option would be to create several different routes to making money/points.
A third option would be to increase player interaction, by making resources/equipment scarcer. I like the customer idea, maybe that could be tweaked to enable more competition.
Finally you could split the money from the points. I am thinking of Agricola or Puerto Rico here. IIRC neither game gives points for food/dubloons, they are just tools you use during the game.
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Sean Croteau
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So from what your saying, I accomplished my goal of making a realistic simulation of my work experience.

I like the idea of risk balancing but I'm not sure how that would be accomplished other than the breakdowns I already have. I think I did breakdowns backwards though. I have the more automated machines break down less and produce more, which I believe is a mistake since automation usually means more repairs and problems.

I tried to provide several options for making money in the types of goods and varieties of goods, unfortunately the varieties of goods are too difficult to track separately while keeping a clean and simple feel to the game.

I was trying to avoid doing a separate points system from the money. In the real world you don't win by gaining magical points. You win by having more money than you need, and in the case of this game, that's more than anyone else.That does give me a different idea though. I currently have customers owned by each player with a patience value of a total number of turns before they stop waiting for a shipment.

I could instead do a bidding aspect where a player sacrifices extra money or goods to sell to a market of customers. If someone else can beat them in the bid they get to sell the customer those goods and the customer walks away happy (gets shuffled back into the customer pile). Then there would be competition to get the best customers for your goods.

Then you are doing much the same as Agricola where only one person can get an action each round and if you don't claim it first, you lose it. I could also require workers to move the goods, increasing the costs to run machines. And I could have the workers require pay at the end of each round.

I do need to scale the money levels a bit though, since the players currently make money up to the maximum of my scoring track in 4 out of the 12 rounds.

Thanks for the ideas, it gives me many things to consider. The biggest problem I had was some customers were really good to control, and if a player had two of that type, they would be unstopable. I had set the customer limit to two, so if a player had two customers the rest of their goods went to the general market, but a set of customers that leaves when satisfied would up the competitive aspect and would make selling to the general market riskier since players would not know how the market would change.
 
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Sean Croteau
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metzgerism wrote:
Something that was clear from the first paragraph on: you are spending too much time worrying about the "look" of your game, and not enough on the "game." Find a fast way to produce what you need (see my post HERE) and don't worry about the look of the game before you worry about the game. I have hundreds of tiles lying around my house taking space because I wanted them to look good but don't have a decent game to use them with.

Quote:
How do you normally go about balancing your games after you've come up with a concept, system, and rules? I have all the components, but none of the balance.
Playtesters!


Well, as much as I spend time on the look of the game, I find it allows me to think about the game more while I design it. For me, look is as much a part of the game design as the game mechanics. If I hadn't thought about it first I would not have had any idea how to organize all the information I wanted on each card in any presentable way, so for me this is the best option. I have a very disorganized mind so forcing it to organize thoughts with nice design helps. And I only ever create game components after I have mechanics written down, so I don't feel I will have hundreds of pieces lying around taking up space.

I do like the idea of playtesters to work on a design, but only after I have something that is playable. In the case of this game it was done over a period of 9 or more months, so I knew there would be some problems and i didn't want to playtest it with people if there was any possiblity that it would be a complete flop. I'd rather tweak mechanics with play testers than come up with them on the fly. Changing values up and down I can see in playtesting, but only if the values are close to working. Like I have said in another post, these values were no where close to working, they literally failed to produce any of the results I wanted so I would have subjected people to pain rather than a slightly amusing or mildly frustrating time.
 
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Sean Croteau
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abodi wrote:
unless your a math genius, it's likely just a case or tweak, play, tweak play.

and that was pretty much what i was advised when i asked a similar question.

But i echo the OP's question to someone with more experience, as i have a balancing issue in a game i'm designing too.


Well, I don't feel you have to be a math genius, you just have to be able to mentally do a few turns in your head to figure it out. The only problem with tweaking and playing is that you have to be close to tweak. Here I feel like it needs an entirely new iteration before it can be tweaked. I think the other two posters ideas are helpful for our question though. It seems that different mechanics or different values would balance better.
 
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