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Thread: Why Balancing for High-Level Players is OK

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  1. #1

    Why Balancing for High-Level Players is OK

    I've been lurking and posting a bit in the balance forums since I first started playing HoN, and I've been a longtime fan of competitive gaming. A common point of discussion here is that S2 should not "balance for the competitive scene" or something to that effect, implying that by making balance changes based on the results of high-level games, the balance of the game for the majority of the playerbase will be negatively impacted.

    Without flaming anyone, I want to respond to this point in the hopes that people will stop using it in various balance arguments on here.

    First, it is worth noting that other highly competitive games like StarCraft, Counter-Strike and Street Fighter are primarily balanced on high-level play. It stands to reason that games which have been around for 5, 10, 15 or even 20 years (iterations of Street Fighter II are still regularly played for money at tournaments worldwide) have stood the test of time, and if they had poor balance, they would not have endured. However, I understand that "other good games do this" doesn't convince some people, so that brings me to my next point.

    A common issue brought up with competitive balancing is that a particular hero, ability, item or tactic may be effectively used or countered by players at a higher skill level, but ineffectively used or countered by player at a lower level. This complaint potentially has merit, but only if the balance issue in question is so significantly far out of the realm of a typical player's ability that it require an unreasonable amount of time to master. Is this really the case with many supposed balance issues in HoN?

    To illustrate this point, here's a comparison of two potential balance issues in other competitive games. One would be the AWP in Counter-Strike. The AWP is a weapon that kills its target in one hit, guaranteed. Many Counter-Strike players consider this to be an overpowered or 'cheap' weapon. However, it is not banned in Counter-Strike tournaments. This is because there are significant penalties to using the AWP (it is heavy, fires only one shot at the time, has no crosshair when it is not zoomed, zooming leaves the user vulnerable, etc.) and all players can in theory use it.

    Another issue is "roll-canceling" in the game Capcom vs. SNK 2. Roll-canceling is an exploitable glitch wherein any character with a "roll" type move can essentially transform that move into any other move that their character has while still maintaining the properties of the original move. This gives any character with a roll an incredible advantage, as their special moves effectively become invincible. Early in the game's competitive life, U.S. players (who did not use the glitch) matched up against Japanese players (who had mastered it) and were completely dominated. It is very difficult if not impossible to compete in CVSNK2 without using roll-canceling, which is only available to a handful of characters, and even then requires unimaginably precise timing to execute. Roll-canceling was removed in a port of the game and is considered to be an obviously broken mechanic.

    Why is the AWP fine, but roll-canceling is not? Primarily because while the former is accessible to any player in almost any situation, the latter is universally better than virtually all other options, and it carries an incredible 'time tax'. A time tax refers to the fact that certain basic mechanics necessary to high-level play in competitive games require that the player invest a certain amount of time into mastery.

    Some games, like Chess, do not have a time tax. A novice player has access to every single option that a grandmaster has, though their decisions on when to use these options will invariably be worse. Conversely, many fighting games have high time taxes (memorizing special moves, combos, frame data, etc.), and specific ones, like CVSNK2, have clearly ridiculous ones. The original StarCraft had a major time tax - micromanagement. This did not affect its status as a great game, but is an acknowledged issue that Blizzard has attempted to address in the sequel.

    You might be asking what the point of this discussion is, so I'll get back on topic: HoN is a game that has very few time taxes, and those it does are generally minor. The biggest of them is the requirement of memorizing the abilities of every hero and the effect of every item. If you do not recognize that Predator is using Stone Skin, or that Succubus can hold you for 4 seconds, that Marchers are necessary to increasing movement speed, or Night Hound becomes invisible at level 6, you cannot compete. It takes dozens of games (and even some external research) before any player can be expected to have mastered this 'mechanic' of HoN. If a player said, "I didn't know you could stun me - that's unfair!" would anyone accept this as a valid complaint?

    Another time tax is last-hitting. This is a very minor one, and most players can pick up the concept of last-hitting quickly, getting to a competent level within a reasonable amount of time. Again, nobody would accept a complaint that "I don't know how to last-hit, it's overpowered" is legitimate. Then there is the targeting and usage of hero skills. Compared to the multitude of twitch-based games out there, aiming Pyromancer or Witch Slayer's stun is incredibly easy (think about the coordination required to achieve a headshot on a running opponent in Counter-Strike, yet this is a skill any CS player has become at least competent at.) So, in sum, HoN's time taxes are fairly inconsequential.

    When you watch a competitive HoN games, the players obviously have a very thorough knowledge of every hero and item. They are excellent at last-hitting and denying. They can land their stuns accurately. But these are not skills that require an enormous time tax to master, or at least become proficient. The difference between a 1900 player and a 1600 player has less to do with their ability to last hit, or their knowledge of what hero does what, and more to do with their strategic decision making - when to use a given skill, when to farm, when to gank, where to gank, and so on.

    However, the difference between a 1600 player and a 1300 player has a LOT to do with their ability to last hit, and their knowledge of what hero does what. How many times have you seen an inexperienced pub player die to Blood Hunter's ult? How many people would say Blood Hunter (or his ult) are thus overpowered? The average PSR of HoN is, by definition, 1500. At this level (and certainly below it), many players have not yet mastered the mechanics necessary to playing HoN at a competitive level, despite the fact that these mechanics require a relatively minimal time tax.

    It should then be self-evident that it makes sense for game designers to balance their games based on the assumption that people have mastered the requisite mechanics of the game to play it at a competitive level. (Note that this is different than assuming players have the tactical knowledge or predictive skills necessary to play at a competitive level.) If pub players die consistently to Blood Hunter's ult, is it because Blood Hunter is overpowered, or because they don't know the effects of his ult? If pub players are losing consistently to Tempest, is it because Tempest is overpowered, or because they aren't aware of the various counters to him (Vindicator, Tablet of Command, etc.)?

    A possible argument against this point might be a hero or item that is very hard to master or counter, and everyone at a competitive level has mastered it (and its counter), but it is infeasible for most people to complete the time tax required to get to that level. My response to this would be NOT to mindlessly nerf the hero/item in question (which would throw off balance once people DO learn it), but rather to simply make it easier to achieve that level of mastery. Making it easier to learn, play or counter a hero or a particular item does not affect high-level balance, but it does help lower-level balance, and there is little reason not to use this approach in situations where the issue in question is simply requiring a large time tax.
    Last edited by zircon; 04-09-2010 at 01:47 AM.

  2. #2
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    Approved. (Does not mean I agree or disagree, but please, when discussing, keep it civil and logical. Thanks.)

  3. #3
    FYI Succubus holds you for 5 seconds.

    Other then that I agree, all balance should be for competitive play. The only exception to this rule would be a balance issue that completely breaks pub play on nearly all levels as S2 does have to make money.

  4. #4
    i like it!

  5. #5
    Theres very little to disagree with.

    A complimentary TL: DR

    It is important to balance around high level play, but it is essential to make it as easy as possible for lower leveled players to learn the basic mechanics of the game.




    Sort of offtopic Side note: I believe EM does far worse than good with this aim. It should be called Rush mode.
    Easy mode should have periodic "Denyable" signs that come over creeps/towers. "Last hit" indicators etc. It should TEACH players to play with hints, it should advise at (odd).45 that a rune spawns in 15 seconds etc. It should be a seemless progression from the toutorial.
    STR Hero Contest
    - Azuh`ril - Jester

    INT Hero contest
    Fredrick - Airship Captain

    AGI Hero contest
    Lance - Airship Captain

  6. #6
    There are a few skills I still haven't gotten the hang of due to their time tax:

    1) Juking - Admittedly this one is more out of laziness, but I'm still pretty sure there's a significant time commitment involved in memorizing Viole's jukemap. ;_;

    2) Jungling - Again, not saying this particularly hard, but it's not something you pick up very quickly. Takes a bit of practice before you get the timing and strategies down. On the plus side, it is something you can practice by yourself.

    3) Micro - You mentioned this one yourself, and it's one of the more significant barriers I've seen encountered by players. There's a reason so few people play Ophelia, but man when they're good, they're GOOD. This is also the reason I gave up on Wildsoul. -_-

    3) Disjoints - I realize that as a 1600 player I'm probably ignorant of a lot of high-level techniques, but this in my opinion is the roll-canceling/wave-dashing of HoN. Since I started playing HoN, I've only ever witnessed one player capable of pulling this skill off consistently (he ended up carrying the team as Magmus as a direct result). The reflexes necessary are just not something you'll find in most average or even above-average players. Disjoints *can* be countered by feints, but that in itself is a significant time tax as well.

    I'm not saying any of these things are bad...I wouldn't know what to suggest even if I was. Just kinda wanted to bring up some potential counterpoints to the assertion that there are no significant time taxes in HoN.
    Last edited by Dhsu; 04-09-2010 at 03:07 AM.

  7. #7
    Nicely written, but most of this really should be common sense.

  8. #8
    Yes, it should be, but I've seen it mentioned dozens of times... "balancing for competitive players means you're ignoring most of the playerbase!" etc. Also yeah there are an assortment of minor skills like juking that you can perfect to increase your game, and micro is important for Ophelia. But the difficulty of doing these things compared to executing a link combo (1/60th of a second precision in SFIV) or microing an army of 100 units in SC is incomparable. Thankfully HoN's mechanics are more forgiving than a lot of other games.

  9. #9
    Quote Originally Posted by inFe_eD View Post
    Nicely written, but most of this really should be common sense.
    i'm not trying to be mean when i say this, but common sense is very lacking in a lot of the posts on this subforum. there's a massive amount of misinformation and incomplete knowledge being put out there on the topics of balance as a result, thus a topic like this kind of helps imo.

  10. #10
    Stickied.

    Please listen to this guy, he knows what he's talking about.

    What he is saying, in short, is that Heroes of Newerth should be balanced for high-level play because doing otherwise would make absolutely no sense from a competitive perspective; and that bad players are usually that way because of a lack of experience, not an imbalance in the game itself.
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  11. #11
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    As a Counter Strike player I understand what he is saying. When somebody is using an AWP you make out a counter tactic to make his gun useless.
    The same should easily be applied in HoN, as to avoid ruining the high-level games.
    If HoN is only balanced as to match the demands of low-level players, it will cost us the high-level players, which is a far greater loss than the cost of a few low-levels.

  12. #12
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    Quote Originally Posted by Dhsu View Post

    3) Disjoints - I realize that as a 1600 player I'm probably ignorant of a lot of high-level techniques, but this in my opinion is the roll-canceling/wave-dashing of HoN. Since I started playing HoN, I've only ever witnessed one player capable of pulling this skill off consistently (he ended up carrying the team as Magmus as a direct result). The reflexes necessary are just not something you'll find in most average or even above-average players. Disjoints *can* be countered by feints, but that in itself is a significant time tax as well.
    What are Disjoints? Please explain since my mothertounge isn't english...

    AceL

  13. #13
    Thanks for the sticky.

    Balancing a game because somebody can't play it good enough has always been a "moo" point anyway

  14. #14
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    Quote Originally Posted by AceL View Post
    What are Disjoints? Please explain since my mothertounge isn't english...

    AceL
    Witchslayer fires his ult, while the bullet is en route to magmus, he has begun to use his stun. The 'disjoint' occurs when he is travelling from A to B and stops the projectile from hitting him. Works for witch slayers stun, pyros stun, valks arrow etc.

    That's the basics of it. Requires neato timing but can ruin someone as mag if they run in to stun you and you 'disjoint' through it into stunning them.

    On topic:
    O.p. makes sense, balancing for EVERYBODY turns into a giant cluster **** where 50,000 people complain that A is op, B is op, A Is underpowered, B is underpowered, C needs to be more like A, etc. This is mostly due to inexperience.

    A simple analogy is this : you do not change the rules of football at a professional level because the under 9 league says somethings wrong.

  15. #15
    Important post that everyone should read before posting on the balance forum.

  16. #16
    Quote Originally Posted by Im_a_PONYomg View Post
    Witchslayer fires his ult, while the bullet is en route to magmus, he has begun to use his stun. The 'disjoint' occurs when he is travelling from A to B and stops the projectile from hitting him. Works for witch slayers stun, pyros stun, valks arrow etc.

    That's the basics of it. Requires neato timing but can ruin someone as mag if they run in to stun you and you 'disjoint' through it into stunning them.
    Hate to be a stickler here, but it seems like you're confusing disjoints with plain ol' dodging. Pyro's stun doesn't actually target anyone directly and can be avoided by moving out of the way, without requiring some form of a blink or invincibility frames, same goes for Valk arrow.

    A disjoint occurs when you use something like a blink or pseudoblink to evade a targeted projectile while it's still in midflight. Typical examples are Andromeda's Comet and Hammerstorm's Hammer; you can't evade those by just moving out of the way, but you need to leap/blink/spin/lavasurge to dodge them.

    Ontopic: Very nice read, agree with most of it, and congrats on the sticky

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  17. #17
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    Quote Originally Posted by Im_a_PONYomg View Post
    Witchslayer fires his ult, while the bullet is en route to magmus, he has begun to use his stun.

    Probably the worst example possible, because Witchslayer's ult can no longer be disjointed once it's reached its casting point, and Magmus' lava surge no longer disjoints projectiles. (neither does madman)

    Portal key sure does, though
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  18. #18
    Better example. Andromeda tries to use Comet to stun Magmus. While the projectile is in the air, Magmus either Portal Keys away, or uses Steam bath. The stun does not hit.
    Build a man a fire, and he's warm for a night. Set a man on fire, and he's warm for the rest of his life.

  19. #19
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    I think that a major problem in "Disjointing" is the lag that a lot of players experience. I cannot get less than 320 ping as I live in Tasmania, Australia. Sucks for me, but I understand that this applies to a minority of players, so it's not high on S2's to-do list to introduce servers closer to me...

    More on topic though, zircon is correct. Balancing the game according to the wishes of people who think that carry Succubus is a good idea is just silly.

    The balance opinions of 1650+ players, who have obviously learned how to play, are what should matter. Competative play is where people of 1650+ skills can actually work as a team. I could tell you the costs, mana costs, effects, cooldowns, damage etc. of every single item and ability in the game, deny and last hit entire waves with ease and pick counters to basically any hero lineup, and yet I have <1700 PSR. A combination of Pinoy teammates and helping new players is what has done this. There are plenty of ako ako 1700+ players, but the issue with winning a game alongside these people is not a lack of skills, but rather a failure to communicate. Learning teamwork is the key.

    A team of 1650 players who all speak English, all have microphones and are all in the game to win, rather than ruin other peoples' experiences, is going to beat a team of 1750 players who speak 3 different languages between them and have a total of 2 microphones and 4 sets of speakers between them too. A competative match displays perfect teamwork. A public 1700 match displays singular "good plays", eg. a Soul Reaper ulti at the right time or a good Tempest + Forsaken combo.

    I believe that when it comes to balance, seeing a competative team take advantage of an otherwise unnoticed overpowered skill should spark concerns for change; but also, a 1700 player stating that "60% here is overpowered, and it should be nerfed because of <this>, <this> and <this>" is just as valid, as a 1700 player clearly has the necessary experience to make such judgement.

  20. #20
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    So right

    Quote Originally Posted by Im_a_PONYomg View Post
    Witchslayer fires his ult, while the bullet is en route to magmus, he has begun to use his stun. The 'disjoint' occurs when he is travelling from A to B and stops the projectile from hitting him. Works for witch slayers stun, pyros stun, valks arrow etc.

    That's the basics of it. Requires neato timing but can ruin someone as mag if they run in to stun you and you 'disjoint' through it into stunning them.

    On topic:
    O.p. makes sense, balancing for EVERYBODY turns into a giant cluster **** where 50,000 people complain that A is op, B is op, A Is underpowered, B is underpowered, C needs to be more like A, etc. This is mostly due to inexperience.

    A simple analogy is this : you do not change the rules of football at a professional level because the under 9 league says somethings wrong.
    This Guy is so "piiiip" right!
    why cant just players stop complain :S

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