PS2 fundamental design causes balance issues

Discussion in 'PlanetSide 2 Gameplay Discussion' started by Greenfrog, May 2, 2013.

  1. Greenfrog

    so, I've been following PS2 since just after launch, watching the evolution of the game, and watching the forums flame and rage over this, that and the other thing.

    Like all gamers, I started thinking, just for fun, how would *I* go about balancing the game?...and, as I thought about it, I started running into more and more problems with my attempts at balancing, all of which seemed to stem from several fundamental design decisions regarding the structure of Planetside 2. In the end, I feel like I'm forced to conclude that at *some* levels, Planetside 2 CANNOT count on being balanced, for any *specific* encounter, because of several fundamental design choices, and I thought, for fun, I'd post my train of thought to see if anyone else can find solutions to the problems I think I'm seeing...

    FUNDAMENTAL DESIGN CHOICE 1 - Combined arms - Planetside 2 is *supposed* to feature air and ground vehicle combat, as well as infantry based combat. This isn't new or inherently unbalanceable - lots of other games have done so with considerable success (I'm mostly thinking about Battlefield 2, 2142, 3 and Bad Company 2, all of which I've played extensively, and have loved, even though some had more problems than others) - the problem with combined arms comes with some of the following fundamental design issues

    FUNDAMENTAL DESIGN CHOICE 2 - (and problem #1, I think) - Unrestricted, large scale terrain. Battlefield games control, to some extent, the effect of ground and air vehicles, by limiting how many can appear on any single map. Planetside 2 has no limitations beyond overall continent population, as to how many assets can appear in any single map space (For example, "The Crown" is a map space)

    FUNDAMENTAL DESIGN CHOICE 3 - (and problem #2, again, IMO) - only *partially* restricted access to air and ground vehicles for EACH INDIVIDUAL PLAYER at any given moment. Again, a major part of the balancing issue for vehicles in Battlefield, is that there were a set # of vehicles on each map. And the vehicles were typically pre-assigned their roles - each side (on the larger maps) got a single AA vehicle, maybe 2 heavy tanks, possibly several light tanks/apcs of some kind. While any *individual* player has semi-limited access to vehicles (using the resource system), there's no overall limitation on how many people can bring such a resource to any particular area.

    FUNDAMENTAL DESIGN CHOICE 4 - A *relative* balance between infantry and vehicular (air AND ground) combat WITHIN CERTAIN POPULATION #'S.

    In the end (and I think I'm starting to get a bit redundant), I think it's the unrestricted map travel, combined with the unrestricted population #'s (beyond the continent limits) that cause a great deal of the imbalance in the game. For example, you get a pair of tanks harassing, lets say, 4 guys defending a base - this can be a very balanced battle - the 4 guys can take any of a variety of layouts that can kill tanks, but the tanks are quite maneuverable and powerful and can take on the 4 guys relatively well - in the end, the battle will often be decided by who plays better and better manages their resources...

    but, you get 12 tanks outside a base with 12 guys, and suddenly the game balance starts to skew...and, lets say the 12 guys are still too hard to fight against - the 12 guys in tanks just pull up stakes, and head over to the next area where there are only 4 guys

    Same issue ends with air - AA is violently overbalanced, if you've got a single location defended by 6 dual bursters vs, lets say, any 6 ESF's...but, same situation with 2 AA maxes and 2 competent ESF pilots, and it becomes a knock-down drag out duel of heroic proportions - the same 2 ESF's with Rocketpods and air-shotguns vs 6 guys defending and unable/unwilling to use AA maxes, get murdered over and over again until they all get sick of it and log.

    Point is, the game has all the mechanics in place it *needs* to be balanced, but because the population using any particular asset can vary so wildly in any particular location at any given moment, and can pick up and move to any other location where it can maximize whatever over-balanced tactic it's currently using, the game becomes frequently imbalanced.

    Honestly, I have no solution to this particular problem - *some* degree of player-enforced balance can occur by moving reinforcing assets to the area to deal with the excess of enemy forces of X type (so, if Crown is getting mobbed by air, get your army to redeploy and bring in a mess of air to the crown - but of course, that requires using the command channel, and requires having people that will respond to it, and that's all up to the players), but as long as a large ground vehicle army can just pick and choose where it wants to go, there's nothing forcing it to confront enemy forces that *could* actually destroy it

    Now, I know, with the new *pipelines* feature, is supposed to corral forces along semi-predictable routes, so that there will be more "accidental" confrontations, and it will be easier to consciously intercept enemy forces (again, assuming anyone uses their command channel to coordinate to that extent), but I still don't know how that will control air forces, for example, or keep a tank line from getting decimated when all 50 of the defenders of Allatum Bio-Lab all switch to HA's with lock-on missiles.

    And that's the point - any one HA with a lock on missile is a reasonably challenging opponent for any single tank capable of movement (if you're dumb enough to just sit there, you get what your lazy *** deserves) - but what are 4 tankers gonna do against 12 HA's with lock on missiles? What stops the 12 guys from suddenly switching to 12 dual bursters if they 4 guys decide to switch to air? (obviously, certs AND infantry resources are *a* limit, but those limits don't take into account any one particular location, or the present enemies?)

    Again, I don't know how, or even if, there should be a solution to this problem. I just sort of accept it as one of the inherent challenges of playing Planetside 2 - Game Balance for any one weapon or vehicle is going to be very dependent on the local population at any given moment, and some of the rather extreme calls for nerf or buff are, I think, unwarranted, only because the calls to buff or nerf frequently fail to take into account the local population at the time some guy got ******** by it, and may unnecessarily skew the weapon's overall balance when taking a balanced population into account.

    Now, it's quite possible that some weapons systems and abilities have been *truly* overpowered, and that's fine - we'll deal with it, and nerf it somewhat if it turns out to be so, but anyone calling for this that or the other change to a weapon system or vehicle feature, I feel, really needs to take into account that EVERYTHING in PS2 is going to be unbalanced, too-powerful or not-powerful-enough, at any given moment, when the population swings too far in one direction or the other, and make your criticisms/suggestions/evaluations with that in mind.

    No TLDR...
    • Up x 4
  2. FlameGankin

    Personally i think vehicle combat should be somewhat rock-paper-scissors. Flak beats air, air beats ap tanks, tanks beat flak with variations and parts where it stems to infantry . Heat tanks beaten by AP tanks AA aircraft beats ground killer aircraft. Rockets deal noticeable but not to much damage to tanks, C4 deals more but not a death sentence, Tank mines dealing great damage but not solo free tank killers but overall armor should beat infantry most of the time. To balance it out base fights should be won by infantry with their combat being done somewhere armor/air can't interfere *cough*underground*cough*.

    On limiting tank counts i think separating driver and gunner would cut tank spam and limiting MBT terminals would do a lot. Limiting Air terminals wouldn't really reduce the amount of air because they can move so quickly around the map. Making flak more lesser flak turrets available at most bases to balance their power.

    I feel the biggest flaw of this game is how certs were handled. Instead of forcing specialization everyone can do everything. Instead of balancing the power of one thing by cutting access to another, balance must be made with everything always being present.
    • Up x 1
  3. cfnz

    I've generally been quick to blame the relatively unrestricted access we have to everything and have often wondered how this game would play out if we had to specialise. Not just vehicles and air but also infantry classes. I imagine this would create other 'challenges' and I have no idea whether it would be better.
    • Up x 1
  4. Revanmug

    The perfect idea from someone that has never stepped inside the game.

    Hint, it doesn't work. AA will be behind enemy line where ONLY air can reach. The moment your force actually reach the position of any AA, the place is lost anyway making the use of air completly pointless.

    They tried it during Beta. I didn't work. Air went completly extinct and they nerf flak back down. We are slowly going back to Beta state of AA power.
  5. Greenfrog

    see, part of what I was trying to say, is that I think combat *IS* fairly well balanced *inherently* - flak beats air in sufficient numbers (and can do so because it's relatively easy to put 2 or 3 burster maxes up), air *does* seem to beat tanks fairly consistently (as most tanks either have to specialize FOR anti-air, or suffer from being uncovered, WHEN THEY'RE ALONE) - I'm not quite sure how/why tanks beat flak?...but I get your point, and the point I'm trying to make is that all these seem to work within fairly balanced ranges WHILE THE POPULATION OF EACH STAYS AROUND RELATIVELY BALANCED #'S...

    but, when any of these numbers get excessive (excessive AIR without sufficient anti-air just SAVAGES anything in the air, excessive tanks can make even flying fairly dangerous, excessive maxes and rocket-launcher populations can make ANY kind of vehicle a deathtrap, etc, etc)

    and the problem is, with the current resource system and the un-limited access across terrain, there's really not a significant enough barrier preventing massive over-population of any one particular focus - which is curious, because in order TO BE ABLE TO COUNTER OVERPOPULATION OF ANY ONE PARTICULAR FOCUS, the terrain NEEDS to be open, so that balancing re-enforcements can get to the area (even though frequently no one bothers, or they get there too late)

    as for solutions, there are LOTS of things that *can* be done to adjust populations, but I'm pretty sure they'll still vary wildly from moment to moment, because there are just SOOO MANY PEOPLE all making decisions at any given moment in so many different places.

    And the curious thing is, Cert specialization *might* have corralled people into more balanced populations, but it feels like it would have been a betrayal of another key feature of Planetside 2, which I'm quite proud of - I can play whatever I want, more or less, whenever I want. I'm bored being Infantry - I'm getting in a tank...or...My guys are getting killed by too many tanks, I can get in a tank and help out!! Bored of tanks - I can get in a plane - or, tired of slogging across the ground in a tank - I can pick up my own plane and use it to travel - and I don't screw my entire team out of the *ONE* plane just so I can travel fast, because *they* can all pick up their own planes too!

    So, by creating a much more open and versatile game experience for every player, which is GOOD, the game runs the risk of becoming unbalanced BECAUSE too many people who all choose the same focus at the same time suddenly tip the boat over, which is BAD.

    I'm suddenly reminded of another great man in history that has had this problem...

    anyway, nothing wrong with trying to find a new option...
  6. usages wnbgrintooth

    I agree the ability to play anything at any time hurts the game in many ways...but it is a big part of the game for many people. I like the idea of picking one class to specialize in. Spend your certs on that one to build it up but also let you play the other classes but just as a basic player...what you get from the start is what you get. Maybe even set a system up where a percentage of your certs have to go to your main class and the balance can be used on all the sub classes so you still have the ability to build them slowly.
  7. Holomang

    Since there's a post for virtually every weapon and vehicle in the game claiming they are either underpowered and overpowered, I'd consider this game fairly well balanced.

    The problem is with the attitude of the players and their refusal or inability to find fault in their own play - I didn't die because I was stupid/bad, I died because the lolpod/shotgun/MAX/mine/Gauss SAW/etc, etc is overpowered.
  8. Ashnal

    Hard counters like you see in RTS's don't belong in an FPS like Planetside for a good reason. Player's like to have some control over their situation, regardless of which role they pick. A good example of this is the Burster/AV Max. Both perform their roles well, but they aren't completely helpless vs. infantry. A burster Max can still kill infantry with good enough aim. Nothing is more frustrating than being unable to do anything vs your attacker. That's the reason why this game has seen nerf's to both ESFs and Tanks since release to allow infantry to deal with them better.
    As for the OP, you've basically described the unique balance problems PS2 has that no other shooter has had to develop solutions for. That is, how do you balance strong scarce units with weak numerous units when you have limited control of the amounts used in any engagement?

    In the end It creates a dynamic playing field where players have to take charge and bring the roles the faction requires at any given moment. This allows Organization, teamwork, and tactical maneuvers to really shine in the game. The unfortunate part is that it can leave solo players feeling helpless when they only want to play infantry without a squad.

    These problems aren't necessarily problems.
    I think that it's the players who are unwilling to perform the roles required, those without creativity and resourcefulness, that complain about these facets of the game.
  9. VexTheRaven

    breaking news! 12 players beat 4! You heard it hear first!
  10. Jachim

    You're overthinking this.

    There is no fundamental design problem here. The freedom to pick up and move wherever you want both as infantry and as armor/air is a pretty integral part of this game. Without it, the mobility of outfits and the like are hindered.

    Let's wait and see how the lattice system plays out, I think you'll find the focus of combat really will help the combined arms aspect of the game.
  11. Hobo Jack

    i think reducing the number of resources available to each player would help a lot to reducing vehicle spam. you can do this buy removing getting a kill in X territory gives you y number of z resources. (just make 1 kill=2 infantry resources while spawned as infantry, 2 mechanized for every kill you get or gunner gets while driving, and perhaps 10 air resources for every kill pilot or gunner earns (not favoring flybois but generally planes are high risk and do not get large killstreaks generally if you kill 2 or 3 ground or air targets in one life you did a good job).

    half the resource boost to members and give them more monthly SC to compensate to either 700 or 1000 sc/month.

    the goal is to make resources work on a bounty system maybe even throw in an extra 5 resources for "extreme menace" kills. What the bounty system will do is allow the good vehicle players to weed out the bad ones and once you kill a bad player in their vehicle you know there is a good chance that 2 more will take it's place. also goal number 2 of the new resource scaling will encourage continent domination that 10% discount is suddenly a HUGE deal. This will (hopefully) get people out of the spawn rooms and into galaxies so they can increase their resource bonus for their faction so they can have more vehicles and more of an advantage.

    the resource system is there to curb the vehicle spam but right now it is a joke. for example: I have the passive re-spawn on my vanguard maxed out and i can die IMMEDIATELY after spawning my vanguard and 3 mins after the timer is up i can just hop in another one ALL DAY LONG. As auraxium member i allways have resources to spare they are coming out of my nanites everywhere. When i log on i spend 750 infantry resources on grenades,c4, revive grenades and i never miss them because before i even put a dent in my supply i'm back up to 750! i damn-near have max supply of everything i have unlocked ffs! I can't be the only one!

    Sunderers should feel like an investment in your team; currently, they are not. Tonight while defending the crown during an indar alert VS had a 50+ sunderer conga line there was sunderers EVERYWHERE. we managed to blow all of them off and SOMEHOW defeat the odds. it was quite an accomplishment because it would apear that VS put a lot of "stake" into the attack of the crown but in-fact they did not invest anything but actually this victory was just cheapened because it was not an investment i'm sure they got all of those resources back in 4 mins or less! the more i think about it the more it maddens me. IT feels so epic at the begining of alerts to have this herd of vehicles roll from the warpgate and eventually clash into an enemy of similer force. but the numbers of vehicles of the like should be thinned out over time not just never ending vehicle spam.
  12. Zan_Aus

    Not really, he's essentially correct.

    The problem in balancing PS2 is the comparative balance of small vs large numbers. When SOE design a new weapon they have to assume that this weapon will be used in 1v1, 4v4, 30v30 and 200v200 fights.

    This is why we end up with problems such as 1 rocket user is meaningless but in that 30v30 or 200v200 battle, everyone swaps to HA and all of a sudden vehicles cease to exist within 500m. 1 Burster is an irritant but 6 can keep an entire hex cleared of aircraft.

    My personal opinion is that a contributing part of this problem is they also gave too many weapons the ability to damage too many things. Too many HE and machinegun(ish) weapons damage vehicles, missile launchers can hit infantry, heck, tanks can even shoot ESFs with their main gun.

    While this is a game I think they should take some pointers from real life. A tank gunner shouldn't be able to score a direct hit on an infantryman with a HEAT round negating the whole size/flak armour advantage, he should have to take HE, then the flip side is that his HE cannon will have zero effect on the front and side armour of another tank.

    By the same token a machinegun on a sundy shouldn't scratch the tank. In the real world most shoulder mounted missile weapons have no effect on a tank's front armour but have great effect on its side/top/back (we have a bit of this but distinction isn't great enough, front tank armour should be MUCH higher).

    I wouldn't call this a rock/paper/scissors approach but just a little more rationality to the weapon design.
  13. Hobo Jack

    with the new update front armor is MUCH higher when you have the front armor perk. that 5% is a lot of effective hit points.
  14. Purg

    Couldn't get past the first one. This is where we don the rose coloured glasses. BF games where there was a queue to get into air in BF2 since it's where you owned. BF3 pilots would top the leaderboard in score and K/D. Attack chopper got above you in your tank in BF3, goodbye. Same flare mechanic, defeat any missile coming at me and stop you from locking onto me for some arbitrary amount of time.

    Just accept that SOE has admitted to collecting extensive data from every engagement in the game. I'd much prefer they balance and work with the community to find a fair equilibrium than a single person in a massive battle.
  15. moooosa

    OP, the TL;DR is that the game doesn't attempt to provide a controlled experience, therefore the concept of "even, fair matches" doesn't really exist here.

    Almost every multiplayer game has striven to provide a game format where every player or every team is given equal chances to win and the outcome is entirely decided by the skill and execution of the players. In PS2 this doesn't exist, at ANY level, because at any given moment you could have 1000 vs 400 across the continent, you could have 100 vs 40 at any base, or you could have HE Prowler vs. an Infiltrator. There's any number of heavily skewed situations and there is nothing in the game to compensate for them (aside from a small experience boost which doesn't effect gameplay).

    That's why zergs exist. The rules of the game are "bring more, bigger guns to win." And that's why there's zero matching of skill levels in this game because skill isn't very significant compared to most online games.

    So yes, the fundamental design of massive, wide open continents full of players is flawed in this way, though there ARE possibilities for ways to mitigate this. Since I've never seen SOE say anything to suggest that they get this and that they could do something to improve it, I'm not holding my breath, but this is one of the biggest and most fundamental flaws in the game.

    Kudos for figuring it out OP.
    • Up x 1
  16. FlameGankin

    If a squad were to go in and remove the AA from a base behind enemy lines Air would be able to rip the defending force apart allowing forces to push the lines forward much quicker. The same would go for the attacking force, if all their AA was killed of by flaking armor like lightnings & the new harassers. Defending air would be able to wreck most of the enemy force and the pushing defending force would quickly end the battle.

    Unfortunately since maxes can be pulled from sunders and lock-on launchers exist for everyone. This means the only real way to stop AA is to remove all spawns.
  17. Hobo Jack

    honestly i dont ever see air come in with enough force to put a dent in anything. it is allways 4 or 6 esfs tops and maybe 2 libs all flying in one at a time. and they are complaining because 3 or 4 AA maxes and 6ish lock-on G2A missiles shut them out and suddently AA is "broken" if you want to provide air support you need initially a lot more birds in the sky. how many? you can never be sure but if there are dozens of boots on the ground you are going to at least need 12 or more birds in the sky and you need to fly in quick and spread out in a formation not in a single file line. and you also need to react quickly the longer you wait the more dug in and spread out and the more AA is on each little mountain top that you have to hunt down.
  18. Zenanii

    My outfit tried this once. When assaulting a amp-station, our platoon leader called for a massive air offensive. We pulled around 5 liberators (all them 2/3 or 3/3) with around 3 scythes for support. The enemy had no AA at all when we first arrived and the initial shock was quite powerful, we were able to temporary lock down enemy movements. Then AA started sprouting like weed, a burster squad of 4 maxes popped up and started targeting us down at the same time every single engineer was making a run for the AA turrets, as well as every HA dusted of their lock-on launchers and in the end our efforts had no impact at all.

    In it's current form air is only useful against ******** or new players (without access to lock-ons, skyguards or bursters) or for harrassing smaller bases where people are reluctant to pull dedicated AA to deal with a single aircraft.
  19. Czuuk

    Thanks for you opinions! Battlefield is a different game and we like Planetside 2.
  20. twitch_uk

    Excellent analysis, OP!