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Unit Balancing Considerations

Discussion in 'Suggestions' started by Xmo5, Feb 10, 2019.

  1. Xmo5

    Xmo5 Lucky Number 13

    In light of some of the requests I've heard for balance patches and adjustments, I thought it would be worthwhile to pass along some of my personal input. While I believe that some unit balance issues have begun to manifest themselves in WarGroove, I'm hesitant to jump to the conclusion that certain units need to be re-balanced, and more hesitant still to endorse any specific means of achieving this re-balance (yet). The game is still young and we are just beginning to get a handle on the most effective strategies and best ways to design maps that work well for the game. These are important components in defining what true WarGroove competitive play looks like but, while we exist in this early state of rapid flux, it can be hard to distinguish between intuitively effective strategies with undiscovered counters and truly broken strategies that call for balance adjustments. Additionally, while many issues could theoretically be addressed with balance patches, there is no reason that general map design styles and principles can't or won't be adopted as a means of making certain units or strategies less viable.

    As a veteran map designer of the Advance Wars by Web community, it is my opinion that it's the job of map designers to understand how the different game mechanics function and use that understanding to paint a landscape in which they work together harmoniously, without favoring any one specific unit or strategy. I've watched this learning process take place for more than a decade with Advance Wars and it's funny looking back on some of the strategies that were once widely used or the maps that were considered good at the time. I have little doubt that a list of theoretical Advance Wars balance patches based on the prevailing opinions of the time would be met with great resistance by the modern community; it's doubtful that we are much more enlightened on this topic so soon after the release of WarGroove. So, while I agree that, yes, units like mages and spears seem to be too strong at this point, I also think there is a lot of exploring to do in gameplay and map design before we can begin to quantify how much is truly a balance issue and how much will be comfortably resolved as a natural result of the meta developing. As an example, my first custom map, Valder's Bane (HTRABT8H) was built around the idea of limiting the effectiveness of spears and the wagons they rely on, as well as trebuchets, while strengthening air presence. It's not perfect by any means, but a small step on the road to learning what can be accomplished with map design and what is a fundamental balance flaw.

    In summary, I do feel it's important to monitor and discuss perceived balance issues and their potential solutions, but it's an intrinsically complex situation, no small part because of the lack of established gameplay meta and corresponding good map design principles. I'm worried that any premature balance adjustments would risk being ineffective, resulting in a series of successive re-adjustments that prevent the meta from stabilizing and further muddying the waters. In my opinion, the game needs more time to stabilize in it's current form before we're ready to definitively and confidently support any specific unit re-balancing proposals.
      Beesafree, LfitLoyal and Yarott like this.
    • Zettard

      Zettard Space Hobo

      While I do agree that things shouldn't get instantly touched and rebalanced or whatever, building maps specifically around things to not have them be or get strong isn't really what feels natural or good either. It's the better approach, but just feels off and might ruin the experience in some ways. The entire 'objective' of playing with commanders is super risky already because if they die or get hit low, leaving you with nowhere to run away off to, maybe you forgot to look at weather or something, and suddenly you lost the game, but I don't think that's really something you can properly balance in a certain way to make it both fun, and not just pretty dumb at the same time.

      However, I still do feel like some things need to be revisited, mainly pikemen, maybe knights in the same breath. Xmo5, while you did make a map around them to not allow them to be as oppressive, whenever you don't play on a map like that, there's very little reason not to build them. Their cost efficiency is incredible, up to the point where it should not happen, One can compare them to the mech units from Advance Wars, yes, but with the difference, that Mech only used the bazookas on vehicles, not other infantry, which pikemen, or anything really, in WarGroove simply do not have. They have one attack, and that attack only. The crit is awfully easy to setup for, the easiest next to witches to setup in my oppinion, and the pay off is ludicrous. They might be slow, yes, but can oneshot quite a ton of enemy units at full health and crit, which only few other units that crit them as the attacker can, things like a battleship (though that might be on streets only), Dragons (which require streets) and trebuchets, which all cost faar more than the 150 (or selectively 300 gold if you want to count two pikemen together as one efficient unit), and that's a bit bonkers.

      The simple comparison to other grounded units is a bit much, Knights, which you could compare to tanks, kind of just lose to pikemen, crit or not, while the other way around, it's one attack and almost always a guaranteed kill, swinging you up by 300 gold over your opponent and still having 2 units instead of gathering up for 1. Even if you do say "Dragons can just roast them easily", that's still a hefty 1250 gold to spend on something to remove a unit worth 1100 less, and then there's another still, and maybe 3 more built in that turn. It's not the most effective way of gaining map control with their speed, but it is far too strong in terms of actual combat, and if you're saying "Well yeah, but they're slow and bad because of that." Giants cost 1200, move only one space more and technically deal less damage than pikemen with how easy it is to setup for the crit. (I can't speak for Giant's crit though, I've yet to really see it happen, and they mostly die before it can.)

      In my general oppinion, the current meta is just far too skewered towards the defending side, attacks just kind of don't feel worth it if you have a few units setup to defend yourself, which cost less and are just kind of more worth than their counterpart that's supposed to be used for offence, even more so in FoW maps and forests it's that much more significant, at least to me and some friends, and attacks, surprise or not, just kind of don't really work out that well.
        Beesafree likes this.
      • Miinow

        Miinow Void-Bound Voyager

        I've also played quick pairing 1v1 online now for few days. It's early but the meta is already building up. It is propably too early to go too deep into microblancing and into small inaccuracies and unfair details on maps, however, it is not too early to name the most obvious imbalances.

        Spearmen, spearmen and spearmen
        When attacking first, they can trade cost-efficiently against ANY unit and therefore have no true weaknessess. Not to mention that they have one of the best crit conditions in game which is extra damage when adjacent to another spearmen. Almost every map has bottleneck(s) in the center that can be completely blocked with spearman spam. If you float too much cash, you can build a giant, trebuchet or even dragon, but the meta seems to be: "when in doubt, recruit spearman". This wall of spears is impossible to bust through and if your enemy does the same, these matches turn out very stalemateish.

        My balance suggestions:
        • Cost increase to 250 or 300
        • Atleast one hard counter, that can't be attacked cost efficiently. My suggestion is the dog, which currently is very useless. Also archers could do more damage to spears.
        Extremely OP currently on almost any map and for that reason more than every other players chooses her, which is already getting kinda annoying. She can spawn hard counters immediately ready to pwn your most expensive units, commander or stronghold. This can't really be avoided. Also, only Valders groove charges faster, ugh.

        My balance suggestions:
        • Summoned unit can not move immediately.
        • Nuru can only summon ground units (not naval and air like now).
        • Summoned unit can not crit first turn.
        • Groove charges much slower.

        There should propably also be more maps, where all of the barrackses and wiz towers aren't completely out of action.

        Weather effects
        The fact that weather only changes before the first player favors him in the long run. The best example is when indirects are countering each other just out of range. When it starts to rain, first player can push his trebuchet and the second player must respond, or he'll be in range, when the sun is shining again. Similarly, when it's going to be windy, the second player must retreat our of range before he'll get attacked. Eventually the second player will run out of space and is forced to advance. This same phenomenon is seen with naval units movement increase/decrease.

        My balance suggestions:
        • Quick pairing has non-changing clear weather.
        • Make an option, where the weather can change before any player.
        • Xmo5

          Xmo5 Lucky Number 13

          Thanks for the replies!

          So first off I want to be clear that I definitely think that spears are too powerful. However, my point was basically to say that, just because we can recognize that within the context of maps and strategies that we've seen so far, doesn't mean that we have a good handle on exactly how much too powerful they are. Map design will default to styles that bring out the best in gameplay, just like they did in AWBW, and until we get a good idea of what that actually looks like, it's hard to have a firm grasp on the level of adjustment needed and the specific knob to turn. Do we change the unit cost? The unit function? Which function and how much? Do we instead change a potential counter unit cost, such as archers? Do we change a counter unit function? Which function and by how much? While we can speculate on the answers to those questions now, we're far from experts on a game that was released a little over a week ago and so I think that the devs making any balance patches to address issues raised by the community this early would be fruitless. It's sort of like suggesting edits to the plot of a movie before you've finished with the first act. Yeah, you know that some things just don't sit right with you, but you also really can't claim to know what changes would fit the flow and context of the movie better because you've never seen the rest of it. Maybe there's a reason that scene felt a bit odd but you don't find out why until later.

          We're only just now beginning to develop what I would consider the first round of potentially viable competitive maps and, frankly, many of them leave a lot to be desired. That's to be expected at this stage and before long we'll have a better map pool and more seasoned players that give us a good environment for properly evaluating balance and considering potential balance patches. Otherwise you risk nerfing spears or buffing a counter, only to find that it makes dogs something else a problem. Then, while the community starts adapting to this new problem, a follow-up balance patch attempts to address it and we're on to round 3 of figuring out how to best play the game and design maps for it. I just don't see that as a helpful or enjoyable environment for PvP, especially competitive PvP.

          Some specific comments:

          "building maps specifically around things to not have them be or get strong isn't really what feels natural or good either." - While I agree that map design shouldn't have to bend over backwards to accommodate anything (such as spears), there is absolutely going to be an ideal range of map design parameters for enjoyable and strategic gameplay and people are going to figure them out. I know several (including myself) that are working on this right now. You can change the unit balance all you want, but this will always be true. The difference is that the ideal range of parameters will shift as the game balancing does. So until you get to the point of bending over backwards to accommodate something (we may potentially be at that point with spears), there's no sense trying to circumvent map design development that's going to happen anyway.

          "In my general oppinion, the current meta is just far too skewered towards the defending side" and "Almost every map has bottleneck(s) in the center that can be completely blocked with spearman spam. " - These two go hand in hand. It's not the meta that skews this game towards the defending side. It's the maps. Compared to AW, WarGroove is significantly more offensive in nature due to generally high damage values and the added crit conditions. You can break walls far more easily than in AW and I think this makes WarGroove a much more offensive based game. However, if the maps all have bottlenecks in the center, that just goes to show that we don't have decent maps to play the game with. Just because your soccer ball doesn't bounce doesn't mean it's a problem with the ball. Fix the muddy field and you might find your ball is in better condition than you thought.

          Nuru and Weather - I will concede that certain components of the game are more open to early balance changes than others. While much of what I said still applies (perhaps Tenri becomes significantly more powerful on open maps than tight, congested ones), commander grooves sit a level above the rest of the gameplay mechanics and are easier to balance relative to each other when strong ones stand out. Nuru and Tenri are horrifyingly good and very flexible to the situation while Greenfinger and Ryota need more specific setups- I'm in favor of finding ways to rebalance those sooner, if that's what the devs and the community want. Similarly, I'm fully against random weather in competitive play without some serious changes to the way it works. There are a few problems I have with it, but the important part is that it needs to be fixed before it can be used for anything other than casual matches.
          • Fawxkitteh

            Fawxkitteh Phantasmal Quasar

            Spearmen definitely feel strong.
            Their limiting factor is supposed to be that they're slow, and you need 2 of them in order to get the crit.

            I think the real issue is that maps are small and compact.
            This negates their disadvantage of low movement speed, but also allows them to block off choke points easily.

            I also think that one of the most important changes that can be made would be to make "Neutral" buildings owned by an AI player.
            In Advanced Wars the first player might reach a building first, but it takes 2 turns for a full health Infantry to capture the building.
            So while they're capturing it, the second player can get an attack in with the attacker's advantage and attempt to steal the building.
            In Wargroove the first person to reach a building claims it in one turn without any resistance. This forces mirrored maps, and even still favors player 1.
            By making buildings owned by an AI Player 3, player 1 might reach the building first, but if he attacks it he risks either having Player 2 just steal it or having Player 2 use the attackers advantage just like In Advanced Wars.
            • Zettard

              Zettard Space Hobo

              "Balancing" weather can be a much more fun experience with just a single thing changed about it: Make the weather wheel not just "Yesterday - Today- Tomorrow" but a span of like 5 days total, it's probably supposed to spice things up and make it less stale, more variable instead, but with how little info you get on "whoops, well now you're in the rain and your archer you positioned to attack is basically useless now, as is your dragon" just feels really bad honestly. The same thing goes for wind, you place yourself out of range and prepare something, suddenly there's wind next turn and you really have to change things up or you'll get blown up.

              With how weather is done currently, it's mostly just frustrating to deal with, rather than engaging, and the very little time you have to react to the change just isn't enough to balance that bad-feeling out, give another day of preview to it and it might be much better already, though still a bit iffy with the whole "player 1" issue in these kind of games. (Also make bad weather affect vision as well, rain is a normal thing in a way and understandibly doesn't, but with the other biomes having blizzards and sandstorms, it just doesn't feel right for vision to remain the exact same if those make you basically blind in other games.)

              I don't know if it's allowed to "link" over to another thread, but I explained my issue with the defensiveness of WarGroove in FoW in suggestions too, and I'm honestly a bit surprised you call it "a more offensive game", as for me, the offensive just isn't worth it. The entirety of offensive units cost more than the defensive, not to mention archers excel when standing still due to their crit, making those too stronger when defending, rather than attacking. A knight costs 600 and cannot onehit a pikeman with the crit, while the other way around is very much true still, and the retaliation fire from pikemen if there is another one adjacent is still a harsh 20% of just trying to break through them, not to mention that Knight is basically guaranteed to die considering where it is, and even if you argue with "attack both pikmen with two Knights", you're still paying 900 gold more just to be able to make an impact with your attack.
              If your answer is "commanders" however, I can't really say much to that as we (my friends and me) mostly played without, since the games we played with them on all ended in a dumb way because a commander got killed because of one thing or the other, and if that is the 'base idea' of offensive gameplay, that's awfully risky just to attack if a hidden trebuchet can ruin your commander for over half health if you didn't know. (At least in FoW battles)

              I still agree that we can't just say "Do X" to the devs and think that'll be a better balance/change for the game this early on, but a simple Health decrease for pikemen should allow things to be much better in my oppinion, they excel at too many things at once: They can't usually be wiped instantly in one attack, while having a devestating attack with an easy crit, yet costing as little as 150 gold each. A double edged sword feels far better for balancing with their mechanics, rather than have them be a bludgeon with a shield that will crack your skill if you attack it.
              • Xmo5

                Xmo5 Lucky Number 13

                I still think that map design has a lot to do with making spearmen more powerful than they need to be. I actually just made another map today with the idea in mind that pikemen are too powerful on the current maps. A lot of interesting options here, but there's a strong air and merfolk presence that keeps pikemen from overrunning the place, in addition to the terrain barriers. Plenty of considerations in the capture phase and none include pikemen. Once the battle is developed, it's dynamic enough that mobile units like cavs and harpies really have the opportunity to shine over spears.

                If you're interested-

                Map: Forgotten Waterways
                Code: VG7NEKZU
                • Miinow

                  Miinow Void-Bound Voyager

                  I have to disagree with the above about spearmen overpoweredness being related to map design. They are strongest in crowded terrain and currently most of the maps are like that, that is true. However, their superior strength is related to the ridiculous cost effectiveness and lack of hard counter. As I mentioned before, when attacking, spearmen trade cost effectively against EVERYTHING. Even without the ridiculously easy critical hit. This is pure math. That's why I recruit tons of them in every map with excellent results. I mainly build other units if I'm floating too much cash and that shouldn't be the case.

                  When it comes to losing control of air or water, that is typically game ending. You should not do that. Amphibian is another extremely good unit that will totally wreck everything if the water is lost.
                  • Xmo5

                    Xmo5 Lucky Number 13

                    I don't disagree that spearmen are very cost effective. My point is that it's exaggerated due to the map styles that are currently in circulation. When you look at a map like the one I posted, mobility is more important and you can't possibly get clumps of spearmen everywhere. You limit yourself and the enemy will just attack where you aren't to gain an econ advantage. The enemy can be more nimble and consolidate forces faster for a powerful strike that overwhelms one area and delivers a game-determining blow.

                    Granted that spears are stronger in WG than mechs are in AW, but that's exactly why mech spam is a poor strategy on competitive maps,even if it would be a great strategy on maps like those in the current WG pool. No, maybe it doesn't make spears as ineffective as mechs, but it does balance them out a great deal and make way more strategies and units viable. You just can't turtle when the front is that wide.
                    • Fawxkitteh

                      Fawxkitteh Phantasmal Quasar

                      The map I made Keeper's Lakes (ZHPV2DW9) is a scenario map, because I was testing having Neutral buildings owned by a non-existent third player and setting buildings at low health. Scenario allows more exploration than skirmish, and there are some things I think really should be explored.
                      The goal was to make it so the first person to reach a building doesn't automatically get it as they have to attack it first.
                      In addition to that it makes your hero much more important for bringing buildings to neutral.
                      Since buildings become harder to capture as time goes on, early game Pikemen have difficulty spreading out and taking the map.

                      I'm doing some redesigns though.
                      New changes cut out some of the roads in the middle and use beach, wall, tree, and village to create an area that's only 1 space wide for wagons, but when the wall is broken it is 4 wide for almost anything else, allowing cutting off wagon routes with something else mobile.
                      Most production facilities besides the starting barracks and the tower you can capture on turn 2 have only 2 areas of deployment, so they can be blocked off without needing to take them. This, plus making villages harder to capture as the match goes on makes a rush for Barracks in enemy territory a risk that doesn't automatically pay off, which meant I could decentralize production. At least in theory.

                      Though I did start the players with 500 gold (and a 100 gold income) so they could choose to attempt a rush with a knight, or a wagon. Or they could rush for air or sea. Or they could try to secure economy or production. I need a person to play against.
                      • HairyBeast

                        HairyBeast Poptop Tamer

                        I agree spearmen may need a balancing tweak, as the power/cost ratio is so effective I tend to use as many as I can to great effect on the maps many choke points.

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