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Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,916
Just so that this debate doesn't derail any other threads.

I know that many people here have expressed a dislike for balancing the game's space combat around duels. But let us collect the arguments for and against it:

Arguments that I see speak for balancing around duels:
  • 1v1 situations occur a lot in the game. In any PvP mode, you will have situations where 1v1 just happens. Having balanced the game around something else than 1v1 will essentially make some players feel like they are in an inferior ship. That is not a good feeling, and would thus be bad game marketing.
  • In fiction, 1v1 fights are exceptionally common, because they are attractive. It all depends on the hero and the villain, with no outside interference. "Who is the better man" is just an interesting question... in fiction. (In reality, it is a bit silly, of course, but that makes it no less attractive in fiction.)
  • It is much easier to test a combat system in 1v1 with multiple pairings than to organize a "test match" with a dozen or so people. It just requires less time, fewer people and less analysis to find out what is going on in 1v1.
  • It is easier to set up a system that is balanced for 1v1 which then scales well for higher numbers then to select a certain team size, balance everything around that team size, and then have it scale up and down properly so that people might enjoy anything else but matches of teams of exactly that size, because if one ship is a self-contained combat unit, bigger team sizes are just multiples of self-contained combat units, while when, say 4 ships are balanced as a self-contained combat unit, you have to find additional ways to have that half combat unit be useful in a 10v10 match, for example.

I would ask those who think that there are good arguments for balancing around a certain team size to list the arguments for it?
Career Officer
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 556
# 2
01-31-2013, 02:35 AM
A question: What is your definition of 1v1 balance?

Does this mean that for every ship S(1) with build B(1) and for every ship S(2) there exists a build B(2) such that S(2)+B(2) beats S(1)+B(1)? Or does it mean that one can (only) force a draw with the best build B(2)? Or does it mean that every build/ship can beat every other build/ship just via superior piloting skills?


A comment: You claim that it will be easy to scale 1v1 up to larger fights. Is that necessarily so?

Take for example chess. Nearly perfectly balanced 1v1, but how exactly would you implement a 2v2 chess match that is not just two parallel and independently played 1v1s? (I concede that chess is not a particularly good example.)
I am not convinced that it is particularly easy to implement 1v1 balance that scales up to bigger fights. Maybe you could offer an example of a game that uses this approach and works well?


Another comment: Look at Starcraft. Units are not balanced 1v1. On the other hand races are balanced in 1v1 and scale reasonably well in multiplayer fights. So I guess a 1v1 approach is not totally useless for balancing. On the other hand it if you take ships to be the equivalent of SC races, they will all end up being able to do pretty much the same.
I think much of the StarCraft 1v1 race balance relies on the fact that you can permanently adjust your strategy to match your opponent's attacks. In STO you cannot really alter your ship's boff and gear setup on the fly, so you would need to balance a static system for 1v1 and upscaling. Are you sure that this can be done without making all ships be almost identical to each other?
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Last edited by mancom; 01-31-2013 at 02:47 AM.
Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,916
# 3
01-31-2013, 02:57 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mancom View Post
A question: What is your definition of 1v1 balance?
"One ship fights one ship. If both captains are equally competent and gear is of equivalent quality, the fight has equal chances to have one ship win, or have the other ship win."

Quote:
A comment: You claim that it will be easy to scale 1v1 up to larger fights. Is that necessarily so?
Not quite. I say it is easier to have a game that works as 1v1 scale up so that it also works as 4v4, 10v10, 1000v1000 than to have a game that is balanced around, say, 4v4, and then have it scale up and down.

Because, when 4 make a team, then what are 6? One and a half team - but as half teams don't work (the game is not balanced for half teams, after all), two guys are either useless or imbalance the game entirely, because they add something while the game isn't balanced for having it added (because the game is balanced for 4v4).

But if one ship is a self-contained combat unit (with differing areas of specialization), then bigger teams are "just" groups of self-contained combat units. So in the 6v6 above, any "extra" players will still be able to equally contribute to the team effort, because one ship counters one ship in one way or another.


Now, what are arguments for balancing for larger teams? We want to collect arguments for both sides, don't we?
Career Officer
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 556
# 4
01-31-2013, 03:20 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by sophlogimo View Post
"One ship fights one ship. If both captains are equally competent and gear is of equivalent quality, the fight has equal chances to have one ship win, or have the other ship win."
Do I understand you correctly that this means that boff abilities and choice of gear (like beams vs cannons) is not really relevant (assuming sensible builds, not intentionally inferior ones) in your system? It would only impact the "style" of the combat and not the actual effectiveness?

Quote:
Originally Posted by sophlogimo View Post
Not quite. I say it is easier to have a game that works as 1v1 scale up so that it also works as 4v4, 10v10, 1000v1000 than to have a game that is balanced around, say, 4v4, and then have it scale up and down.
Do you have any particular arguments to back that up? Like maybe a different game that uses this approach?

Look at it this way: Going from 5v5 to 4v4 means a change in total power of -20% per team. Going from 1v1 to 5v5 means changing each team's power by +400%.

What seems like the easier approach?

Yes, scaling a team game all the way down to 1v1 is tricky. But I am absolutely not convinced that 1v1 balance is an easier way to achieve team balance (without making all ships the same in the process).
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Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,916
# 5
01-31-2013, 03:43 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by mancom View Post
Do I understand you correctly that this means that boff abilities and choice of gear (like beams vs cannons) is not really relevant (assuming sensible builds, not intentionally inferior ones) in your system? It would only impact the "style" of the combat and not the actual effectiveness?
I am not sure what you mean by that.

What I mean is that, if both captains have equally competently selected their abilities and gear, and use the resulting ship build equally competently, then the fight should be balanced, that is, both should, all in all, have an equal chance to win the battle. Of course, the way they might win it will differ from ship class to ship class.

Quote:
Do you have any particular arguments to back that up?
I did give them in the part that you have certainly already read. If you don't agree with them, that's fine.

Quote:
Look at it this way: Going from 5v5 to 4v4 means a change in total power of -20% per team. Going from 1v1 to 5v5 means changing each team's power by +400%.

What seems like the easier approach?
Balancing around 5v5 means that a 4-player team is just not "80% of a full team", because in such a balancing situation, it entirely depends on which player is missing.

If it actually was 80% in any case, then it would be balanced 1v1, too, because then, of course, 20% of a 5-player-team is one player.

But when you have balanced specifically around 5-player-teams and not around a 1v1 situation, 1 player could be 5% of a team's power or 90%, in relative combat value and when broken down to 1 player. And then they end up in one of the many duel situations in the game, and see how imbalanced that one is.

The result of that will be that some players feel stronger in their ships, and others weaker, resulting in forum threads that complain how weak a given ship is.

And then, there might be slogans floating around like "Escorts Online" or the like.

Quote:
Yes, scaling a team game all the way down to 1v1 is tricky. But I am absolutely not convinced that 1v1 balance is an easier way to achieve team balance (without making all ships the same in the process).
Making all ships the same... that sort of is the conlusion. But don't take this out of context, because here's the catch: There are different styles to fight. Ships that can hold out longer, but do a little less damage. Ships that do a lot of spike damage, but have little durability. Ships that do all kinds of nifty technobabble stuff to defeat an opponent, and add disables to medium durability and medium damage.

That. at least, is the option that most people seem to prefer here on the forums. Another option would be to have them be best for fighting a given class of targets, but I was told that this was not popular at all (I am not sure why, though).

So what is there to convince anyone that 5v5 or any other team setup would be better to balance the game?

I asked for arguments for balancing for any team size >1, and for not balancing around 1v1 in the first place.

There don't seem to be any?
Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 372
# 6
01-31-2013, 06:30 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by sophlogimo View Post
I am not sure what you mean by that.

What I mean is that, if both captains have equally competently selected their abilities and gear, and use the resulting ship build equally competently, then the fight should be balanced, that is, both should, all in all, have an equal chance to win the battle. Of course, the way they might win it will differ from ship class to ship class.
The problem with this ideal is that it is for all practical purposes impossible to implement in the real world. You are never going to have two players of exactly equal skill, and you are never going to have different builds of exactly equal 'power'. The FAR more likely outcomes are that you end up with a 'draw' between two generalized ships, where neither ship can defeat the other, or you end up with a match between two specialized ships such that one is the 'hard counter' to the other, and the fight only ever can go one way. Neither of those situations are particularly 'fun' to me.

Now, I know that 1v1 right now has these same problems - what I am saying is that I don't think it is possible to fix them - at least not without totally destroying team play, which is certainly also an undesirable outcome. For example - let's say you balance damage and healing so that even the tankiest cruiser build in the game can eventually be overcome in a 1v1 setting. You seem to think there's no problem scaling that up to a 5v5, and you would be right, IF all ships targeted different opponents.

But we know that's not going to happen. People will coordinate, and as soon as focused targeting happens, the healing that was sufficient in 1v1 simply isn't enough anymore, and ships pop in seconds, with no practical way to respond. This is simply due to the way the math works.

Imagine that in 1v1 a cruiser can tank an escort such that the escort is only actually doing 20% of the cruisers health a minute. The cruiser will probably win, because it's highly likely that the escort can't hang with it for 5 minutes to get the kill. But who knows? Maybe the escort gets a lucky crit, or maybe the cruiser captain screws up. Either way, the sense of progressive damage over time, as well as the chance for a dramatic turn around probably makes that a fun match for both parties. Okay, yay. Pvp rocks. Now I want to get my friends involved.

There's the rub - now that it's a 5v5, the damage dealers have a HUGE advantage, assuming they focus their fire. Lets say that the total healing/dmg ratios stay the same - each escort can do about 20% of a cruiser's hull in damage per minute, after heals. Oops - that now means that the first cruiser goes down in 1 minute, not 5, and once it does, the remaining ships on that team are now facing the same firepower will less available healing. The next ship goes down in 40 seconds, the next in 25, and the remaining ships are down in the next 15 seconds or so, probably. The match goes from being fun in a 1v1 to totally unbalanced towards damage at 5v5.

I would argue, in fact, that this is how the game launched - ships were balanced for 1v1, and the result was that in team settings, dps and focus fire was king - hence the 'Escorts Online' moniker.

Moreover, 1v1 I think has a far, far higher potential barrier to entry than 5v5 does. Consider the brand-new pvper - in a 1v1, he's going to be mercilessly stomped over and over by the more skilled player, and there's really nothing he can do about it. He can't try to find a different target to fight (there aren't any), he can't get support from a friendly to help keep him alive/deliver damage (there are no friends) and he isn't going to 'get better' with no role-models to watch and emulate. In a team setting, a player can 'win' a match because he had other players around to pick up the slack and show him the ropes. Not so in 1v1, which makes it much harder to learn from.


Quote:
Originally Posted by sophlogimo View Post
That. at least, is the option that most people seem to prefer here on the forums. Another option would be to have them be best for fighting a given class of targets, but I was told that this was not popular at all (I am not sure why, though).

So what is there to convince anyone that 5v5 or any other team setup would be better to balance the game?

I asked for arguments for balancing for any team size >1, and for not balancing around 1v1 in the first place.

There don't seem to be any?
Actually, every single reason why NOT balancing for 1v1 is functionally an argument in favor of 5v5, because they are zero-sum. You really can't do one without hurting the other, so they are mutually exclusive. At that point, the answer to your question of why balance one way or the other really comes down to preference - would you rather pvp be fun 1v1 but suck in a team, or be fun in a team and suck 1v1. I think many people prefer to play with friends, so team play is the superior option.

As for why people don't want to do something like "Escorts beat sci, sci beat cruisers, cruisers beat escorts"... I'm really not sure why that confusing to you, especially if you want a 1v1 setting - that kind of holy trinity balancing works in 5v5 because there is a reasonable expectation of having all ship types in some mix. In a 1v1, that set up just means that matches are decided by the match-up you get - if you are scissors, and the other guy brings paper, congrats! 1v1 rules! If the other guy brings rock, however, it's going to be a long day.
Career Officer
Join Date: Dec 2012
Posts: 556
# 7
01-31-2013, 06:54 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by sophlogimo View Post
Balancing around 5v5 means that a 4-player team is just not "80% of a full team", because in such a balancing situation, it entirely depends on which player is missing.

If it actually was 80% in any case, then it would be balanced 1v1, too, because then, of course, 20% of a 5-player-team is one player.
You managed to completely fail at grasping the point I was trying to make.

The idea is that balance should scale somewhat continuously, i.e. small changes in the start values give small changes in the result. So let's take an extreme example: If you balance for 1000v1000, your ruleset should work with basically no alterations for 999v999, but it might break down in a 10v10 situation.

This is why 5v5 should scale comparatively well to 4v4 (80%) or 6v6 (120%) (special UI issues with STO's team list aside), but it probably doesn't scale all that well down to 1v1 (20%).

On the other hand it takes a certain leap of faith to believe that increasing everything by a factor of 5 (going from 1v1 to 5v5) will work without any problems. Especially since there are mechanics in team situations (2v2 and higher) that are completely non-existent in 1v1: cross-healing, focus fire, target switches.
So not only are you applying a huge change in available raw power (500%), you are simultaneously introducing concepts that inherently cannot be balanced by testing in a 1v1 because they simply don't exist in that situation.
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Empire Veteran
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 395
# 8
01-31-2013, 03:40 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by sophlogimo View Post
"One ship fights one ship. If both captains are equally competent and gear is of equivalent quality, the fight has equal chances to have one ship win, or have the other ship win."
that is always true... since you stated that both players are equally competent and gears are fo equivalent quality. No matter what devs change.
Career Officer
Join Date: Jun 2012
Posts: 2,916
# 9
01-31-2013, 03:51 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by eurialo View Post
that is always true... since you stated that both players are equally competent and gears are fo equivalent quality. No matter what devs change.
That's a valid remark. So let me add:

A ship of equal quality (fleet level ship vs fleet level ship) should be considered equivalent gear, and any ship pairing of equal level should produce an interesting, balanced fight. Regardless of class - a cruiser vs an escort should be balanced, a sci ship vs an escort should be balanced, a sci ship vs a cruiser should be balanced, and same-class pairings, too.
Captain
Join Date: Aug 2012
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# 10
01-31-2013, 04:36 AM
Quote:
Originally Posted by eurialo View Post
that is always true... since you stated that both players are equally competent and gears are fo equivalent quality. No matter what devs change.
Well...no.

Take two players. Give each a quarter. Have them flip them about - heads/tails. They pretty much have a 50-50 chance of it being heads or tails.

Let's say heads is good and tails is bad. Still, 50-50 chance there.

Let's have them flip against each other.

Individually they had a 50% chance of something good happening.
There's only a 25% chance of something good happening for both of them.
There's a 75% chance of something good happening for one of them.

Opportunity is balanced. Outcome is not.

Then look at STO and all the RNG, eh? Hit, Crit, Weapon Procs, Ability Procs, DOFF Procs, Proc This, Proc That... the percentages might be smaller, but that one player is likely to have an advantage over the other does not change.

You could play against yourself - same you, same captain, same ship - and the odds favor one having the advantage over the other at any given point...
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