Thursday, October 11, 2012

Regarding Ship Balance in Vorp (A Space MOBA)

(This post is largely about our first MOBA game, Vorp.  It's free to play on Kongregate, check it out if you haven't already!)

MOBAs by nature are very competitive games. Action is intense, defeat is agony, victory is bliss. Community debates around ship balance tend to get emotional and irrational pretty quickly. For example, on our Vorp forums, there is much arguing over which ships are OP (over powered) and which are "useless". I'm posting a few thoughts here to illustrate what really factors into ship balance on a macro level for us, and I thought this might help keep the discussion calm and logical. Ha ha right!

For the week leading up to Oct 10 (basically the week before Turbo Hawk was released and a few other balance changes hit), this chart represents stats from all games played, filtered by Commanders Rank 10 and above (so presumably, players that have a pretty good idea how to play Vorp overall). The data sample is thousands and thousands of uses.

Overall Ship Metrics, Vorp, Week prior to Oct 10, 2012, minimum Commander Rank 10

NOTE! This is not the only chart we look at, but it's the most immediately understandable for how any ship is fairing in general.

My takeaways on this are:
  • A range of .9 to 1.6 KD (Kill Death ratio, i.e. how many times does this ship kill other players, and how many times does it die) is not too shabby, especially given that 1 month ago we had ships averaging 6 KD and .4 KD.
  • Shinobi and Iron Wolf are meant to be high DPS (damage per second) assassin roles. I expect them to be on top but not by much, which looks to be the case. Shinobi should have the edge here over IW since IW also has some defensive posturing naturally.
  • The next 5 ships are literally almost neck and neck at 1.3, a very good sign for them generally.
  • Most ships above 1.0 KD, again expected given the data set does not include lower ranking Commanders (newer players)
  • The two anomalies I see at first glance by role intent currently are SS Venture and Angel Fire.
    • Having support abilities, I would expect SS Venture to be lower in kills than most, on the other hand, it's also very survivable, so it probably doesn't die as much. Looking at Average Kills per match, SS Venture is 4th lowest, so I'm pretty comfortable with that.
    • Angel Fire, however, is an aggressive high dps ship. It is vulnerable to dying a lot if it is not played patiently, so I do expect slightly lower KD but not this much. I don't like where I'm seeing it in average kills either, just a little below where it should be. Clearly it is also not a popular choice. So this would be an instance where I say, that ship needs a bump.
    • For the other ships below 1.3 KD here (Xxggghhr, Circe, Torpaz) based on their intended roles these numbers seem not too far off where they should be. These ships are best suited to area deny, structure killing, and getting lots of assists in the KD game.
  • There is no clear "OP" ship currently from this view. Many times it will feel like some ship is OP because a ship or player is countering you very hard, and you can't figure out a way to beat it, and games are emotional (you should see some of our dev debates after internal matches, lol!). Also I believe we are having some lag or perceived lag issues consistently enough to affect this perception.

Having said all that, I play Vorp every day just to understand the "feel" of balance, because stats can lead you astray if they are your only viewpoint as well.

There are hundreds if not thousands of variables that go into a ship's design, changing any of which can have cascading effects to overall game balance. There is also a learning period where players figure out complementary team play between different ships (especially the newest releases). Because of those two factors, we are very patient and considered in applying balance changes. We listen to community input for a general emotional sense of balance, but we tend to make decisions much more on what's really happening statistically across the game.

For our Vorp fans specifically, this is why you will rarely see a dev join a discussion on ship balance in the forums and chat. It is good to debate merits and tactics, but we stay out of the emotional side of things as much as we can. Rest assured, however, that we all want a well balanced exciting game and we're going to keep ships  interesting and unique as much as we can at the same time.

Hopefully that gives some insight into why we do what we do on ship balance. Now. Go figure out how to spend that 4000 free Bang! we just gave everyone in the last update and get back to battling!


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