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 DICE Developer Answers Your Questions on Gameplay Balance

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RedKnight
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PostSubject: DICE Developer Answers Your Questions on Gameplay Balance   Sat Feb 08, 2014 5:27 pm

Battlefield 4 – DICE Developer Answers Your Questions on Gameplay Balance
Yesterday David Veselka
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Answers questions submitted by Battlefield fans earlier in the week, Battlefield 4 lead core gameplay designer Alan Kertz discusses DICE’s ultimate vision for gameplay balance in a massive next-gen shooter like Battlefield 4.

He also dives into some of the reasoning behind a number of the design decisions you may never have considered and talks about sniper rifle smoke trails, ghillie suits, MAA, and more. You can catch it all on the latest Battlefield 4 blog, or read on below.

Q: Balancing Battlefield 4 must be challenging, what is your ideal vision for the game’s multiplayer?

A: The ideal balance for Battlefield 4 is a battlefield where each item has a valuable role, and no one item, weapon, or vehicle is the clear winner in all situations. Each item has a counter tactic, a fundamental weakness and a fundamental strength. Essentially, it comes down to one really big game of rock-paper-scissor: tank, infantry, airplane, boat, helicopter, sniper, and so on.



Q: What’s the main process behind rebalancing a weapon or vehicle? Do you just change the appropriate values based on opinions voiced on the forums/Reddit/Twitter etc., or is it a much more complicated process?

A: When balancing a vehicle or weapon we always start with the original intention for the item, and compare it to how the community sees the role. Sometimes we have a different idea of how a weapon is intended to work than the community does. Then there’s a period of analysis about how that differs and if changing the design of the weapon would change the game for better or worse. Generally a high level principal is that no weapon, vehicle, gadget, etc., should be the best at any given combat situation. We try to avoid all powerful weapons and instead rely on a rock-paper-scissors setup.

A good example of where the designer and community opinions differ are shotgun slugs. Vocal members of the community see them as ineffective in close range. Given that the intent of the slugs from a design perspective is to be effective at long range, we looked at the feedback and decided that making them effective in close range as well would essentially remove the role of the other shotgun ammo. So we decline to make a tweak. The opposite is true of the mobile Anti-Aircraft, where the community and the designers both agree that it’s role is to shoot down aircraft, it’s just too good at it. The final step in that situation is to find the cause of the power imbalance (in this case, gun range seems to be the biggest issue) and make an adjustment.

Q: Why do sniper rifles and hand grenades leave smoke trails?

A: One of our high level design goals is that a player should be able to understand what killed him and from where.  In the best of worlds, a player accepts his death as being earned by the other player. Battlefield moves very quickly and death can come quickly. Highlighting big quick kill threats like grenades and sniper rifles help players understand and react to incoming fire. It makes the player feel in control and when you watch a well thrown (or even lucky) grenade arc in the air and blow you up, you appreciate it more than if you never noticed it.

Q: Why wasn’t the ghillie suit an option for the Recon class in Battlefield 4?

A: Much of Battlefield 4 takes place in urban areas. A bush wookie outfit simply didn’t fit into those areas, and not every recon soldier is a sniper. We worked with our character concept artists to design a kit image that portrays the recon’s role as a sneaky intelligence gatherer with a spec ops focus, an image we think the recon soldiers today fit quite well. Sneaky, Urban, Annoying.

Q: Why was the MAA (Mobile Anti-Aircraft) added to the game as there seems to be enough threats to aircraft?

A: The inclusion of MAA in BF3 and BF4, gives us a “rock” to the “scissors” of aircrafts and the “paper” of tanks. Basically, it gives something tanks can hunt, which isn’t really a threat to the tank, and it gives aircraft something to fear. Given the number of pilot complaints about mobile AA, it’s plenty scary. However, given the ability to stay far back from the front where the tanks can’t get at it, it’s clear it has too much range. We will address the range difference in an upcoming update, and force the MAA back into the battlefield in order to be effective.

Q: Why were smart weapons added to Battlefield 4?

A: Battlefield 4 is a game set in the modern warscape, and in order to properly convey that we included smart weapons. Obviously in real life smart weapons are amazingly powerful, and no one in the business of combat is looking to make it balanced; Battlefield is intended to be balanced, and thus we try to counter the ease of use of the smart weapons with their damage output, and other effectiveness values.  The level of our success in that delicate balance is lower than we’d like, and we’ve taken steps towards balancing these smart weapons for a future update.

Q: How did you determine the unlock order of the main weapons and side arms?

A: Actually, we generally try to pick the easiest weapons to pick up and use at the start of an unlock tree (hence the NLAW being a default unlock) and then the more difficult to master items deeper into the tree. We also have to balance that with the player having interesting options early on, so we may offer a new flavor quickly.

Learn anything new?
___________

READER COMMENTS - NOT PRETTY.


PI3KY
• a day ago

I'll just say that this is a pathetic excuse of a Q & A. Thanks Alan for answering the softball questions, because everyone who is really passionate about the game and want to understand the actual core decisions you guys make really care about which order weapons are set to unlock.

A waste of time.


dpg70 PI3KY
• a day ago

Did we expect anything less? Honestly?


Cameron
• a day ago

They chose to answer some horrible questions.


MegaMan3k
• 21 hours ago

Why not ask a tough question like "Why is this game not designed to allow a skilled player to succeed?"


Katana67 MegaMan3k
• 20 hours ago

Because that would require them to wholly contradict their "working as intended" product.

A very good question indeed.


awkenney MegaMan3k
• 20 hours ago

I wish they would do just that. But most developers are really driven to make a game that is fun for the widest audience possible. DICE is no exception.


Katana67
• a day ago

A puff-piece. Atrocious.

"Why was the MAA (Mobile Anti-Aircraft) added to the game as there seems to be enough threats to aircraft?"

I have never seen a question dodged so well!

"The level of our success in that delicate balance [smart weapons] is lower than we’d like"

Thanks for the Active Radar missiles, really appreciate un-counterable missiles.

"Generally a high level principal is that no weapon, vehicle, gadget, etc., should be the best at any given combat situation"

"The ideal balance for Battlefield 4 is a battlefield where each item has a valuable role, and no one item, weapon, or vehicle is the clear winner in all situations."

These two statements are contradictory.

In the words of Steve Carrell, how many pots have you smoken? Instead of balancing the overall experience by giving weapons a FIXED ROLE, you've balanced individual weapons to be proficient at everything (i.e. bolt-actions). Balance has two meanings, equivalence and equilibrium. You've gone for the first rather than the former, like a caveman.

And Kertz's justification for smoke-trails for grenades/sniper rifles is laughable. It can be translated to "We want the player never to exercise his/her own awareness and we want to forcefeed information to the player regardless of skill". I guess that's why all weapons ONLY FIRE TRACERS, because actually being aware to some degree of where you're getting shot at from is too difficult, so we've got to make every round fired a blinding flashlight to make it easy.



awkenney Katana67
• a day ago

I think ground-to-air missiles really should really have no countermeasure in this game. The main benefit to the aircraft is that they move you from point-to-point faster. Otherwise they contribute only to the sandbox, and not to the objective. So the balance of ground-to-air smart missiles is that they keep sandbox gamers in check and hopefully returning to the objectives more often. That's good enough for me.


Katana67 awkenney
• a day ago

So fighter/attack aircraft (with included AA and CAS weapons) are only to be used as a glorified ferry?

I'm sorry, I get that this is your opinion, but that is the most ludicrous thing I've ever heard. I've never heard anyone who's satisfied with the jets being used like a roll of toilet paper.

You'd rather have them be ONLY used for transport, in not having CMs over having a more robust CAS system in place so that jet pilots could actually support ground operations?

I've seen your posts before, and your preferences. I couldn't disagree more with them.

But regardless of our personal preferences, BF has never been purely about the objective. It has always been about combined-arms efforts. Hence why we've had aircraft, always. Hence why we've had long-range combat, always in the franchise.


Guest Katana67
• 21 hours ago

I'm not saying that players shouldn't use aircraft to support ground ops. I'm saying they don't do it often enough. Partly, I'd say that's by design.
Are my opinions unpopular? Yes. Does that mean that I am uneducated about how to put the objectives of a game before anything else? No.


awkenney Katana67
• 21 hours ago

I'm not saying aircraft shouldn't be used to support ground ops. I'm saying players don't do it nearly as often as it was intended by DICE. That's due, in part, to the design of the game. Due to the sheer number of things that a player can get distracted by in BF2/BF3/BF4, DICE has pretty much guaranteed that BF will always be too complex to ever attain balanced gameplay or focused objectives.

I'm aware of how unpopular my opinions are here and just about everywhere else. Does that mean that challenge and competition are irrelevant in the games industry? No. More recently its been shown that people are still very attracted to challenge and competition in games. But I don't think BF supports this because the gameplay and mechanics are not directed enough.


Katana67 awkenney
• 21 hours ago

Which is where I wholeheartedly disagree with you. Games are not about challenges or competition for me. They can be, sure, and by definition a game is a competition. But they are also about the experience, for me at least, which is much more important. But that's a fundamental difference that we'll just have to agree to disagree upon.

I'm not saying anything towards your credibility, or popularity. Things like that don't really concern me, as I have pretty unpopular views on certain issues in BF as well. Nor am I concerned with the gaming industry as a whole, there are games out there for everyone. What concerns me is Battlefield.

I'd rather them bolster what they've got (with regards to jets) so that jet pilots can effectively support ground troops. Whereas now, they're neutered by overwhelming AA, ineffective CAS weapons, and poor coordination with players on the ground.

For instance, if I were able to actually engage infantry targets effectively with the main cannon... that would allow me to support the advance of a squad under fire. Or if said squad were able to mark a non-vehicle ground target for CAS. Or if I wasn't 100% visible all of the time due to zero atmospheric effects.

Likewise, taking your notions of advancing an objective to heart, I'd love to see the Conquest game mode specifically get a revamp. Whereby there are ground/air zones which are controlled by mere team population which could affect ticket counts/bleed. In addition to fixed CQ flags which play a heavy role in dictating ticket bleed as they do now.

I guess my way of looking at it is this. You've got the so-called "sandbox" versus "objectives" as you describe it. So you've got endorsed ways of playing the game that don't actually affect the objective. So instead of taking these ways of playing the game away, why not GIVE them an objective to advance? Same applies to long-range snipers.


awkenney Katana67
• 20 hours ago

If the game had a better way of dealing with emergent gameplay and horseplay, I'd like your idea. It's not a bad idea. I'm just pretty sure the majority of players would find a way to screw up the concept. Most of the players are too busy saying "I wonder what happens if I do this" instead of playing the damn game.


Clay Johnson Katana67
• 15 hours ago

I agree with you. Mostly in your case regarding jet ineffectiveness. From my small time playing, BFP4F, I can say that air vehicles are definitely more effective in that game. Pilots know what their doing and Jets have more maneuverability to evade multiple missile threats rather than rely on an failed countermeasure mechanic. Plus they look like they fly a bit faster too. The. Jets in BF3 and 4 fly like the bomber planes I'm Battlefield 1943


dieger
• a day ago

": Why do sniper rifles and hand grenades leave smoke trails?

A: One of our high level design goals is that a player should be able to understand what killed him and from where. In the best of worlds, a player accepts his death as being earned by the other player. Battlefield moves very quickly and death can come quickly. *Highlighting big quick kill threats like grenades and sniper rifles help players understand and react to incoming fire.* It makes the player feel in control and when you watch a well thrown (or even lucky) grenade arc in the air and blow you up, you appreciate it more than if you never noticed it."

i think people get they are getting shot at by a sniper when they hear a huge bang and the entire screen is blurry...how much more help do they need?!

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