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Subject: Game Balance: Symmetry vs. Asymmetry rss

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Brad Talton
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Since working on BattleCON, I've been doing a lot of thought on game balance and what kinds of processes are used to create it. I've decided to pen these down for general discussion as well as in hope that some aspiring designers will find them useful. In my previous game balancing article, I talked about what different kinds of thought go into balancing a game. In this article, I'll talk about symmetry and asymmetry--the similarity of the different sides of a game.

Symmetric vs. Asymmetric

In a symmetric game, options are the same for each side. Symmetry in a game begins to break down very rapidly in longer games, where players have different strategic options, so most symmetric games are short, or rely more heavily on tactics than long-term strategy.

Asymmetric games are those games where the players do not stand on equal ground. Different options provide different advantages and disadvantages to each player. Because a head on attack is more advantages for one player does not mean it is as advantageous for another player. Rock is no longer on the same level with Paper or Scissors.

Symmetry implies balance. If both players have an equal set of options (or equal odds) then only their individual skill levels or decisions will determine their success. On the other hand, Asymmetry does not preclude balance--an asymmetric game can still have statistical balance, even if the individual options are not balanced against one another.

Very few games are wholly symmetric or wholly asymmetric. They overlap and diverge in many different places.

Nearly Symmetric

“If there are no specializations, the game is balanced.”

Every game involves some degree of symmetry. In most board games, the players must take turns. Going first or last almost always carries some kind of advantage, and so the game loses symmetry almost immediately. Even in Chess, white goes first, giving them an uneven playing field against black. When the asymmetry in a game is so small as to be almost negligible, however, the game is generally regarded as symmetric.

If a game is supposed to be symmetric, but the inherent bonuses granted by turn order are too great to ignore, the game may mitigate this by handing some bonus or penalty to the players going later on.

Developmental Asymmetry

“If everyone has the same specialization options, the game is balanced.”

Just because we start on even ground doesn't mean that we're going to stay there. Even if all players have equal starting positions doesn't mean that they will for the duration of the game. In a game like Chess, there are no new units, no new powers—symmetry is unbroken. In a game like Civilization, however, after the first few tech tree decisions or culture merits, the game is no longer symmetric. It has crossed into the realm where players are now on different footing than one another, based upon their strategic decisions.

Such a system is inherently balanced in the statistical sense—everyone has the same choices available, thus they all can follow the same path to victory. For a game with developmental asymmetry to be interesting, the developmental options must also be balanced against one another, so they are all valid choices.

Specialized Asymmetry

“If every specialization is balanced against the others, the game is balanced.”

A 'true' asymmetric game gives the players a specialized role to play. This may be in the form of a character class, a different deck of cards, or a different set of units and tactics. If the players don't start the game with these asymmetries, they gain them soon after by choosing specializations. The specialists are designed to have specific strengths and weaknesses, but all are generally on the same level, and are equally effective at winning the game in their own way, without sacrificing the ability to interfere with and defend themselves against others.

Runaway Specialization

“If every specialization is balanced against the game, the game is balanced.”

In games that allow players to customize and specialize to a great degree (or in boxed games that encourage extreme specialization), you can find runaway specialization. In this case, the specialist has a very definite plan to win, and everything falls in line with that plan. The player excels amazingly at one aspect of the game, and plans to capitalize purely on that to win, perhaps with a few defensive measures in place as an afterthought. It is impossible to beat the specialist at his aspect of the game, and it is similarly impossible to win against him by playing the general game. The only option is to find another specialty that works better than the existing specialist's one. Thus, specialization begins to feed into itself, leading to a runaway where every specialist almost seems to be playing a different game within the same context, and the one who can play their game most effectively while disrupting the others will be the winner.

In this case, the specialists are not balanced against one another, but purely on their effectiveness at winning the game. In short, statistical balance taken to the extreme. There is little or no overlap between the capabilities of each player, making small-scale balance impossible.

Conclusions & Discussion

The scale of symmetry is not an absolute one, and can be subdivided down to as many different levels as you want.

* Do you see yourself designing games that lean more towards the symmetric or asymmetric?
* Which level of specialization/generalization appeals to you the most, and why?
* What categories of symmetry would you sort your favorite games into?
* Can you think of any games that don't fit into these categories, or might fall into several different categories?
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Sturv Tafvherd
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These are great discussions. Almost wish it can be compiled so that the threads can still be "indexed" somehow even if they sink into the depths of the forum.

Maybe we can start a geeklist with links to threads on discussions like this? That way, it's not confined to a specific member's blog ... but rather, anyone's thread can be added to the geeklist as they look at aspects of game design.
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Joshua Yearsley
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Interesting article. However, I think balance can have two connotations. In your analysis, you state that symmetry implies balance. This is definitely true for balance between the two players. However, there also exists a balance between different strategies that players can take. If one or both players decisions as to which strategy they will employ are trivially solvable, then the "intraplayer" game is not balanced, even if the "interplayer" game is, and the game ceases to be fun. In this way, even a perfectly symmetric game can be unbalanced in a way. It's a nitpick, but I thought it was worth pointing out.
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Sturv Tafvherd
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Kyokai wrote:

* Do you see yourself designing games that lean more towards the symmetric or asymmetric?


I tend to start designs with symmetry ... and then slowly work in some forms of assymetry. Players do like have "variable player powers" and "specializations".


Kyokai wrote:

* Which level of specialization/generalization appeals to you the most, and why?

Nearly Symmetric, Developmental Asymmetry, and pushing toward
Specialized Asymmetry. I think it's the "munchkin" in me looking for a way to break the game ... and that munchkin is fighting the "must design a balanced game" aspect of me.


Kyokai wrote:

* What categories of symmetry would you sort your favorite games into?

Well, I can probably only properly comment on the games I have in development:

( begin shameless plug ! )


Mice 'n' Men : Winter 1584
(QPnP Entry) Mice 'n' Men : Winter 1584 (A colonization/survival game for 1 player (2 player optional); 60-90 mins)
Currently, it moves from "Nearly Symmetric" to "Developmental Asymmetry" if you take the current two player options. I'm planning on having future/expansion releases contain options that would lead to "Specialized Assymetry"


Hack'n'Run
(QPnP Entry) Hack 'n' Run (Internet Hacker Game for 1 or 2 players; 15-30 mins)
This one is arguably only "Nearly Symmetric" ... but I guess you can argue that as the hacker picks up tools, it turns into "Developmental Assymmetry".


InterPlaNet War
(LittleBox) InterPlanetary War (A quick space navy war game for 1 to 4 players; 8-15 mins)
The Terrans and Martians make for a "Nearly Symmetric" game, where the only real assymetry being "who plays first?". Once you include the Venusians and Jovians, it turns into "Specialized Assymetry"



And two are work-in-progress:

Colors'n'Shades
(WIP) Colors'n'Shades (secret teams / hidden traitor(s) game for 2-10 players)
I'm actually trying to get this to be PURELY symmetric by having some form of simultaneous turns. However, the "hidden traitor" concept pretty much skews it, eh?


Mice 'n' Men : Spring 1584
(no thread yet)
This one will very obviously be Specialized Assymetry right away just due to the desire for "different character "classes" or skill specializations".
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Nate K
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So what sort of balance would you say BattleCON has? Specialized Asymmetry?
 
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Joe Mucchiello
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I don't find this topic (or the prior topic) all that interesting. Symmetry is not something one really thinks about when designing, at least I don't. It either happens or it doesn't. Is there symmetry in a game like Stone Age? Is that even a meaningful question? What does knowing the answer do for me?

I think your series is starting from the wrong place. When is the "What is Fun? How is it achieved?" in your series? That's the nitty-gritty of game design. How do I take a handful or two of bits and 20" board and 4-8 pages of rules and turn it into something 2-5 players will enjoy doing? At what point was symmetry important to that question?
 
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Andy Van Zandt
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Joe, your approach to design is certainly valid, but so is Brad's. Symmetry (or lack thereof) is definitely something that gets thought about early in the design process of quite a few games. For example, quite a large amount of wargames have heavy symmetry considerations. The "nitty gritty" varies wildly from designer to designer, and from game to game.
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Brad Talton
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kurthl33t wrote:
So what sort of balance would you say BattleCON has? Specialized Asymmetry?


I started with specialized asymmetry with the different characters, but it just didn't feel like the characters had enough unique flavor to be really personal. Everyone had stats and effects and a general strategy, but different matches just felt like re-skins to some degree. I wanted everyone to feel completely different from everyone else, and every one of the 132 matchups to have its own different metagame. Introducing a new mechanic for every character probably upgraded from the specialized to borderline runaway--at least for some of the characters, and gave each match the unique feel I was looking for.

For me, the ability to "play it your way" is a huge part of the fun in a game, and games that allow a greater degree of asymmetry deliver that experience. That's the mindset that I'm using to build Level 99 Games--that players decide how they want to play their games. My goal is to build a label that encourages creativity and personality via games. Customization, specialization, and homebrew options are elements that I rely on very heavily in my designs... but now I'm just rambling. Good material for another thread though...
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jmucchiello wrote:
At what point was symmetry important to that question?


Its always important. Most games have at least some symmetry built into them from the start. I guess it was more of a subconscious thing in the early days of boardgame design but now games are much more complex (in general) so these obvoius factors require some careful consideration.
For example, in Monopoly, no player starts with more money than any other. (Although it would probably be more interesting if they did.) The Racing Car plays exactly the same as the Old Boot, there are no differing "character types".
I agree that fun is a very important factor (the most important) but you can't simply expect to dump a pile of tokens and some dice on a board and expect people to just "roll and move" until someone wins, because that just doesn't cut it as fun anymore! Everything's been done already so (a)symmetrical play is a way of keeping things interesting, and does deserve discussion.

I'm not sure if I've got my point across very well here, but the ghist of the message is- Please don't try and kill this thread because it's not your cup of tea!
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Philip Migas
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jmucchiello wrote:
What is Fun? How is it achieved?


Cool when will you start writing this Joe? This is a lot more difficult than symmetry. I don't blame Brad for tackling an easier topic. I feel game symmetry and balance is very important to any type of design work.
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Edwin Tait
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I wonder about the distinction you're making with regard to chess and Civilization. In chess, as each side loses pieces, asymmetry develops. Obviously this is true to some degree in every game, but in chess the particular combinations of the powers of the different pieces make for marked asymmetry in many games. So, for instance, if one player has lost three pawns and a bishop and the other player has lost both knights, the total strength is going to be theoretically about the same, but the way each side plays is going to be very different. How is this really any different from the asymmetry that develops in Civilization?
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Brad Talton
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Amandil wrote:
I wonder about the distinction you're making with regard to chess and Civilization. In chess, as each side loses pieces, asymmetry develops. Obviously this is true to some degree in every game, but in chess the particular combinations of the powers of the different pieces make for marked asymmetry in many games. So, for instance, if one player has lost three pawns and a bishop and the other player has lost both knights, the total strength is going to be theoretically about the same, but the way each side plays is going to be very different. How is this really any different from the asymmetry that develops in Civilization?


That's a good point, Edwin. You're right that as soon as one player loses any pieces (or even sets up better tactical moves) a degree of symmetry is lost. I put chess in the most general category because all players have access to all the possible moves and pieces right up front. In Civilization, there are tactics and strategies that a player cannot access unless he develops the proper technologies, culture, or units to utilize them. To me, Chess feels like it is meant to be symmetric as much as possible, but my interpretation is by no means the end-all, be-all laugh

Does gaining a fighter plane give you more asymmetry than losing a queen? That's a good question for speculation. Ultimately I would say, a game has symmetry or asymmetry only in respect to itself--it's impossible to compare the symmetries present in two different games, beyond a broad categorical analysis.
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Joe Mucchiello
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Geddon wrote:
jmucchiello wrote:
At what point was symmetry important to that question?


Its always important. Most games have at least some symmetry built into them from the start.

And most cards games involve holding cards in your hand. But why is it important? Symmetry is not a goal of game design. Symmetry is a characteristic of games, much like mechanics and numbers of players are characteristics of games. But game A being totally symmetric and game B being mostly asymmetric tells me nothing about the game. Maybe it will have some emotional impact on my willingness to start playing the game, much like I don't play too many games with Early Player Elimination mechanics. But I fail to see how symmetry IN ISOLATION is important.

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Please don't try and kill this thread because it's not your cup of tea!
I'm not telling anyone to excise symmetry from game design discussion. I just think can easily lend itself to navel gazing. I'm not trying to kill the thread. I'm just posting an opposing view.
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Joe Mucchiello
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pmigas wrote:
jmucchiello wrote:
What is Fun? How is it achieved?


Cool when will you start writing this Joe? This is a lot more difficult than symmetry. I don't blame Brad for tackling an easier topic. I feel game symmetry and balance is very important to any type of design work.

I'm not. Never claimed to be a blogger. Do I need to start one?

I never said symmetry and balance are unimportant to game design. I said symmetry is not important. The problem is I should have replied to the first article because my issue is balance.

Balance is certainly important and should be on the designer's mind. But it is also fairly ephemeral and subjective. Game playing is emotional. When one loses it is easy to criticize the balance or inherent fairness of a game. No matter how mathematical the game is, this reaction is natural for people. So while white-room balance is good in game design, it is not the most important aspect of game design. A game with some "broken" pieces that people love to play over and over is better than a perfectly balanced game that no one enjoys.

Can you tell me that Agricola and Puerto Rico are perfectly balanced games? If balance is so important, the top games on BGG would be the most balanced, right? Of course they aren't, yet the are in the top 5 games here. So what does this tell us about balance? It tells me that these games have something more that offsets their lack of balance. What is that thing? How is it achieved? I don't know.

Balance isn't so off the mark that I'd say you are barking up the wrong tree attempting to achieve it. I start this by saying balance is important. But it is also not the be-all-end-all of making a great game. Great games don't even depend on it. I don't want to derail the thread. But you asked, so I answered. Study of balance is good. Study of symmetry is less good but still positive. Discovery of what makes a good game is a Holy Grail and balance is not necessarily on the path toward that goal.
 
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Paul W
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How boring would it be if every thread on game design was on the same topic? "What makes a game good?" is a huge topic the has many subtopics, balance being one of them. If you don't want to explore that topic that's fine, but levy the criticism that the conversation isn't useful because you think other topics are more important is rather myopic...this isn't the only blog post in the world, it doesn't have to be the be-all-end-all of game design discussion.

Last of all, while I'd agree that perfect balance does not guarantee a great game and that great games don't have to be perfectly balanced, very *unbalanced* games are rarely interesting or enjoyable...and studying balance, both how to achieve it and how to decide if a game is "balanced enough" are interesting topics.
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Andrew Foerster
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Joe, for being so dismissive of such navel-gazing on a topic such as this, you're staring at your belly an awful lot.

Yes, the point of a game is to be fun. And you can always post that as an ultimate response to any philosophical treatise on game design, whether it be about balance, symmetry, variable character powers, theming, etc. End of story.

Except, not at all. Because, for as simple as the final objective of "fun" might be, it's something that can't be formulated and ends up being wholly subjective. What makes Agricola "fun" and Life "unfun"? Or, rather, why do I think Agricola is fun and others feel it's a chore? You can't say, except to point out that in some instances (or in the case of some people) the designer has failed his objective. I.e. navel-gazing.

What we can discuss are the components that, ultimately, comprise the fun. Understand that, for most gamers, balance and symmetry matter. Some people enjoy a well-balanced and symmetric game (oh, Chess and Go are near matches) in which the gameplay and resolution can be regarded as wholly contingent on player skill. Some people enjoy unbalanced and asymmetric games (e.g. the challenge of playing US in Twilight Struggle, I understand many wargames are like this) for the challenge, or because of the differing strategies and choices they offer, or because the imbalances and asymmetries are thematically accurate. And then, of course, any combination of the two elements (balanced or not, symmetric or not, though I don't know if you can have an imbalanced symmetric game ... any examples?) can each be fun or boring to different people (or even fun to the same people, in different contexts).

See? This is meaningful stuff when it comes to choosing which games to buy and, of course, in this thread, how to design a game that people will enjoy. (To reiterate above) A lot of people wouldn't enjoy a game in which they are at a distinct disadvantage (or have an advantage to make a victory "hollow") ... but they may enjoy it if it is possible to win, and the means of winning would present a rewarding challenge ... or if the design was thematic and the game is being played for its story over a test of ability.

But then also is the danger of throwing a word like "balance" around without any nuance. I mean, Puerto Rico is generally balanced among players in that (outside of turn order / start player) players generally have identical options for their turn (sure, taking a role eliminates a later player from taking it, but that role can later be taken by any player). Agricola has similar "player" balance in that each action is, at some point or through some means, available to each player. Of course, the cards in Agricola disrupt this balance, but then again you have (loads of) people who always play with the cards for the variability and (I'd think fewer) people who only play the family variant to try and eliminate the luck of the draw.

The other matter, though, is "game" balance in which the elements of the game have equal benefit or value. Is Puerto Rico "game" balanced? Well, each player is presented with similar options ("player" balance) but I understand some of those options to have a generally worse payoff than others (the infamous "Craftsman" role). Is Agricola? "Family Growth", if available, is clearly a strong move, but it also carries with it certain punishments (punishments that don't make it equivalent in value to, say, fencing or hiring fair) but, with the player balance, all players have some means at using this option.

But you also have games which are balanced, in that all options are roughly equivalent. Go, where pieces are strictly identical in their function, or Ingenious, where the pieces are different but behave pretty much identically, dependent on context (unless, say, a tile with duplicate symbols is over-/under-powered). But even in these games, a bit of game balance is compromised. In Go the pieces might be identical and you can't say any stone is over- or under-powered, but the board certainly isn't balanced. You could probably train a computer to take a game state and produce a heat map showing which spaces are "overpowered" and which are "underpowered" (I'd love to see this!). So, even the most abstract of all abstracts is imbalanced but, you know what?, that's exactly why we play ... if every game option were identically strong to any other game option, well ... it wouldn't be much of a game. (Note: you can have interesting games in which the options, in net, are "balanced", but are quite imbalanced dependent on context ... in fact, that's probably great design, but if I were to design a game in which you can 1) take 1 VP or 2) take 5 coins, with 5 coins able to be converted to 1 VP at any time, well ... you get my drift).

Anyway, philosophical waxing or not, I find this stuff fascinating.
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Stepping away from the meta-discussion, I am a huge fan of games with specialized asymmetry. I think there are a couple of reasons for this. One major one for me is that it inherently added replayability to a game: if N roles in a game play very differently, then from a player perspective you've almost purchased N different games instead of a single game.

I suppose that some of my enjoyment of specialized asymmetry in games also come from just general appreciation as someone interested in design. Creating multiple roles in a game that play very differently and yet are on roughly equal footing in terms of chance of success is very difficult, and it's always quite satisfying for me to observe a game that pulls off such a feat well.

Perhaps it falls under one of these above heading, but another kind of asymmetry that comes to mind is positional asymmetry. By this I mean games in which all players are subject to the same mechanics/have the same set of actions, but differ in their starting position or resources available to them. The game that first came to mind here was the base game of Memoir '44, though I'm sure many other examples can be found. In such games there is inherent balance in the mechanics, as those are symmetrical, but variations in position and resource richness can create very different play experiences for each side.
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I've had the damnedest time with balancing a game I'm working on. It's tough because I'd like the game to work for three to six players, and it starts out with one player facing off against everyone else. That player can turn the rest of the players to his or her side, which ought to help, but I just can't seem to adjust the knobs so that the Humans and the Hive Mind have a roughly equal chance of winning. I'm shooting for specialized asymmetry, and I just can't get it right. It's very frustrating shake
 
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Sturv Tafvherd
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kurthl33t wrote:
I've had the damnedest time with balancing a game I'm working on. It's tough because I'd like the game to work for three to six players, and it starts out with one player facing off against everyone else. That player can turn the rest of the players to his or her side, which ought to help, but I just can't seem to adjust the knobs so that the Humans and the Hive Mind have a roughly equal chance of winning. I'm shooting for specialized asymmetry, and I just can't get it right. It's very frustrating shake


Well, as Joe Mucchiello was essentially saying: you probably don't need to fine tune it that much! If the game is fun without having that finely tuned balance, then maybe you don't need to fine-tune it at all!
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Stormtower wrote:
kurthl33t wrote:
I've had the damnedest time with balancing a game I'm working on. It's tough because I'd like the game to work for three to six players, and it starts out with one player facing off against everyone else. That player can turn the rest of the players to his or her side, which ought to help, but I just can't seem to adjust the knobs so that the Humans and the Hive Mind have a roughly equal chance of winning. I'm shooting for specialized asymmetry, and I just can't get it right. It's very frustrating shake


Well, as Joe Mucchiello was essentially saying: you probably don't need to fine tune it that much! If the game is fun without having that finely tuned balance, then maybe you don't need to fine-tune it at all!


I'm fine with that in theory, but in practice, it just doesn't feel fun. I think it's a bit more enjoyable when the Hive Mind (who starts out being all by him- or herself) has the upperhand, but I can't seem to tweak the numbers so that the Hive Mind has an advantage, but not a major advantage. It's not fun if the Hive Mind always wins by a landslide, but it's also not fun if the Humans can easily gang up on the "bad guy" and kick his or her butt. So far, though, I haven't found a happy medium.
 
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andrewfoerster wrote:
Joe, for being so dismissive of such navel-gazing on a topic such as this, you're staring at your belly an awful lot.

I knew that would get picked on.

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Except, not at all. Because, for as simple as the final objective of "fun" might be, it's something that can't be formulated and ends up being wholly subjective.

My point is that the value of symmetry is also wholly subjective and cannot be formulated.
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What makes Agricola "fun" and Life "unfun"? Or, rather, why do I think Agricola is fun and others feel it's a chore? You can't say, except to point out that in some instances (or in the case of some people) the designer has failed his objective. I.e. navel-gazing.

I do not recommend navel gazing as a method of game design. Unless you are making a game about navel lint.

And symmetry and balance have absolutely nothing to do with why you like Agricola. It contains an ever-changing landscape of opportunity that you find inviting. That is why Agricola is fun. It is an action drafting game where the action locations is fluid and expanding over the course of the game. What is symmetric or balanced about that?

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What we can discuss are the components that, ultimately, comprise the fun. Understand that, for most gamers, balance and symmetry matter.

So they say. And for some people it can even be true. But I'd posit that the "illusion of fairness" is what symmetry and balance support. Games that provide the "illusion of fairness" are the games that people replay and consider fun. Balance can support this and that is why they can be worth studying. But there is a level above balance that adds to game fun. I'm calling it the "illusion of fairness". And doing so derails this thread even further.

Notice I only said balance above. Symmetry is still lower on my list. It's contribution is less than balance's contribution. And it is more important to pulling someone into the game than the actual play. I need more time to develop this further but basically

Quote:
Some people enjoy a well-balanced and symmetric game (oh, Chess and Go are near matches) in which the gameplay and resolution can be regarded as wholly contingent on player skill.

And yet Chess is not "balanced" since among equally skilled players, the player playing white wins more often than player playing black. Chess players get past this imbalance by playing multiple matches, right? But if someone says Chess is not well-balanced would they be wrong or right?

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Some people enjoy unbalanced and asymmetric games

So some people like balance and it isn't there while other people like imbalance because it adds excitement. And these terms are important again, why? Sure, they exist and people discuss them but ultimately they are not the reason the game is fun.

Quote:
But then also is the danger of throwing a word like "balance" around without any nuance. Puerto Rico.... Agricol ....

I disagree with these definitions of balance. But I don't want to derail the thread further. It isn't important whether those games have balance and/or symmetry.

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Anyway, philosophical waxing or not, I find this stuff fascinating.

I hope that includes my prattle.


Stormtower wrote:
kurthl33t wrote:
I've had the damnedest time with balancing a game I'm working on. It's tough because I'd like the game to work for three to six players, and it starts out with one player facing off against everyone else. That player can turn the rest of the players to his or her side, which ought to help, but I just can't seem to adjust the knobs so that the Humans and the Hive Mind have a roughly equal chance of winning. I'm shooting for specialized asymmetry, and I just can't get it right. It's very frustrating shake


Well, as Joe Mucchiello was essentially saying: you probably don't need to fine tune it that much! If the game is fun without having that finely tuned balance, then maybe you don't need to fine-tune it at all!

I'm not saying it does or doesn't need more fine-tuning. But there is such a thing as designing the fun out of a game. Achieving perfect symmetry (or in this case perfect asymmetry) could destroy the game.

Again, symmetry and balance have their place. I'd say it is more important at the start of the design since it gives you a place to start from. But once you start playtesting, the comments of your playtesters are far more important than some kind of balance ideal.
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So they say. And for some people it can even be true. But I'd posit that the "illusion of fairness" is what symmetry and balance support. Games that provide the "illusion of fairness" are the games that people replay and consider fun. Balance can support this and that is why they can be worth studying. But there is a level above balance that adds to game fun. I'm calling it the "illusion of fairness". And doing so derails this thread even further.


so balance and symmetry are contributing factors to the illusion of fairness (and occasionally to actual fairness), and people tend to find fairness fun. ok.

Quote:
So some people like balance and it isn't there while other people like imbalance because it adds excitement. And these terms are important again, why? Sure, they exist and people discuss them but ultimately they are not the reason the game is fun.

but... wait... you JUST said...

Quote:
But there is such a thing as designing the fun out of a game. Achieving perfect symmetry (or in this case perfect asymmetry) could destroy the game.
and it might NOT, too.

See, the thing is, ultimately it CAN be the reason a game is fun. a whole is constructed of many parts, and making sure that PART (in this instance, symmetry and balance) of your game fits your goals for the game can be the tipping point between fun and meh. It's too bad the thread has been derailed so heavily at this point, because it was a useful and interesting topic- not only design-philosophy wise, but also in the sense of discussing valuable critical vocabulary in the field.

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Please remember, I'm not saying death to all balance discussion. I'm just saying I don't find it important. YMMV. It's not like I'm making millions off my games-design-fu.

truekid wrote:
so balance and symmetry are contributing factors to the illusion of fairness (and occasionally to actual fairness), and people tend to find fairness fun. ok.

but... wait... you JUST said...

You don't see the difference between something "being the reason for fun" and "contributing to the existence of fun"? My statements aren't really contradictory.

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See, the thing is, ultimately it CAN be the reason a game is fun.

Which of the top 10 BGG games are perfectly balanced? Top 20? Name the last game you played and afterward said, "Wow, that game was so balanced I couldn't have had a better time playing it!"
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jmucchiello wrote:


truekid wrote:
so balance and symmetry are contributing factors to the illusion of fairness (and occasionally to actual fairness), and people tend to find fairness fun. ok.

but... wait... you JUST said...

You don't see the difference between something "being the reason for fun" and "contributing to the existence of fun"? My statements aren't really contradictory.
you did not provide enough explanation, evidence, or indicators for anyone to make the distinction based on language used or context. in fact, it could very specifically be argued that those two statements mean the same thing.
Quote:

Quote:
See, the thing is, ultimately it CAN be the reason a game is fun.

Which of the top 10 BGG games are perfectly balanced? Top 20? Name the last game you played and afterward said, "Wow, that game was so balanced I couldn't have had a better time playing it!"

1: there are TONS of things that go into successful game designs that the end user doesn't recognize. that doesn't mean it's not there or not a major contributing factor to their experience. most people don't comment on negative or positive feedback loops in games, but they are not only almost universally present, and they are a staple consideration on the design end.

2:nobody said any, most, or all games are "perfectly" balanced or need to be. again, this does not mean striving towards the degree of balance or perceived balance you want in your game is not useful.
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Thanks everyone for the comments and interest. I posted this topic because I felt that creating some terms to talk about symmetry would be useful to designers that perhaps hadn't considered the full gamut of possibilities for utilizing this aspect of the games they are making.

I never intended to say symmetry is fun or un-fun--just that it's a tool in the designer's toolbox and to give it a little attention and analysis for those designers who may not be aware of it or may be interested in studying it further.

All that said, I'm more interested in hearing about how you would categorize the games you're working on, or how thinking about symmetry/asymmetry has influenced your current designs.

fizzmore wrote:
Perhaps it falls under one of these above heading, but another kind of asymmetry that comes to mind is positional asymmetry. By this I mean games in which all players are subject to the same mechanics/have the same set of actions, but differ in their starting position or resources available to them. The game that first came to mind here was the base game of Memoir '44, though I'm sure many other examples can be found. In such games there is inherent balance in the mechanics, as those are symmetrical, but variations in position and resource richness can create very different play experiences for each side.


That's a pretty interesting one that I haven't considered. I guess it's kind of the opposite of developmental, where we start on uneven ground, but the similarity of options ultimately brings us closer to one another's ground in the long run. I've not played Memoir '44 myself, but would you say that's an accurate description?
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