Session: Rules of Engagement: Blizzard’s Approach to Multiplayer Game Design

Speaker: Rob Pardo, Blizzard Entertainment

Rough notes below


Game Balance

– solo to max level

– important role in a group, raid, and group PVP

– Starcraft – Race totally different

– Better players can win games fast

– Offense over defense (don’t want Starcraft 2 as a Sim City simulator)

– Creative strategies

– Every unit has a counter

– Be fun Game Balance

  • Game Balance: Math vs Fun
  • Math is the foundation
  • Everything should feel overpowered
  • Don’t balance the game into mediocrity
  • Must understand nuances
  • Can’t balance the game through replays (doesn’t show up in spreadsheet, pathfinding algorithm)
  • Balance for all skill levels
  • Shamans could buff (bloodlust) became much more overpowered, aoe spells needed to be adjusted
  • No super weapons
    • Super weapons are fun (not so fun for the other person)
    • Ex: Ghost, powerful weapon feels super (sees nuke silo), see ghost sneak in, nuclear launch detected
  • Use your beta
  • how i approach beta – 3 months get as many balance patches within that time, buff it a little more
  • UI affects balance
    • Unlimited selection vs 12 selection
    • Internal battle about
    • army of 100 zerglings, game became easier to play, overpowered?
      • Players didn’t understand why they could only select 12 units
    • Multiple building selection
    • Subgroups
      • Before Warcraft 3, all you would get is intersection of abilities (lowest common demoniator)
        • Hero can still cast spells
    • Wow – Click to move – play more like diablo, not the preferred way to play
      • Originally got put in a way to auto-face/pathfind to player (PVP)
      • In Wow Beta
    • UI Mods
      • has a dark side
      • What mods are out there
        • should we balance game for modders vs non-modders?
        • make the choice to break the mods
        • Mods are bad when they play the game for you (bot)
    • Balance – It Never Ends
      • Change is always bad to players
      • Maintain your game to keep it relevant
      • Still putting out Warcraft balance patches
      • Ban the cheaters –
      • plan patches, but leave time to be reactive
        • Talent reviews for each class
        • at any given moment, a strategy or bug will be uncovered
      • Don’t panic
    • Competitive Sports – Football
      • 3-4 Defense, Zone Blitz
      • NFL isn’t outawing defenses, enable players to find the counter
  • Player Psychology
    • Not always predictable
    • Perception of fairness –
      • Best balance spreadsheet and tester in the world
      • if players don’t believe it, it doesn’t matter
    • Can’t argue in forums with a million people
      • Arguing is not the answer
    • Players hate losing
      • Counterstrike can play 10 games
      • 1/2 hour – 1 hour long game if you lose, not interested
      • Alliance wins 90% of AV, lose AB 90% of the time
        • Make sure losing side still gets something out of it
        • 1 mark of honor and still get honor
    • How do they climb the ladder?
      • Need to decide what your goals are
      • Starcraft 1 ladder – ELO chess system
        • Not necessarily fun to play
        • #1 player in world doesn’t gain anything from playing
          • No incentive to be #1 until #2 passes you
    • Right amount of complexity
      • Starcraft II – 15 units is the right amount, depth to game, learn units and strategies, can still easily identify units, understand counterstrategy
      • Magic – The Gathering: Hundreds of thousands of options, turn based,
    • AV
      • Original vision o fAV was epic, huge battle zone including player controlled bases, npc support, quests, and capture point
      • av was ment to be fought in several smaller fronts with npc assistance in a war of attrition
    • isn’t exactly waht happened
      • How we designed map isn’t how we made it
      • incentive to get honor is to kill opposing NPC and just zerged to win
      • players ride by each other
      • wave emote on horseback
      • players on losing side still get honor
      • knew it was going to be a 30-60 minute match
      • AFKaving – players leeching honor because of insufficient incentives to actually play PVP
    • Inspect messages was creepy
      • [altair] is inspecting you
      • players felt they were getting stalked, removed the message, now everyone loves the feature
      • Rest isn’t a penalty it’s a bonus – original implementation, keep playing you get less experience, instead switch it to a bonus
        • Exact same system, now people love it
      • Warcraft 3 "thumbs" – thumbs up/down any map you wanted
        • Then changed it to a veto system to thumbs-down a map as players were asking WTF when they thumbs -down
    • Does a unit, gun, weapon, suggest it’s function and power
    • Special effects can cause confusion in battle
    • Team differentiation (Warcraft) races, and colors in Warcraft 3
    • Avoid hidden modifiers – do this very selectively
    • Visualization
      • does the art tell you who has more HP or who runs faster – art and balance is not aligned
    • MMO – much, much tougher
      • class-based armor sets – make the art of the armor set suggest the class – gear and equipment visualize
    • Home Stretch – Maps
      • Random vs pre-made
        • Age of Empires vs Starcraft
        • Player perception will be that map generator screwed me in starting point
      • Number of maps – more is not better
        • Starcraft II – 8 maps
        • more maps means players won’t world battle field very well
        • Black shround vs Fog of war
          • reveal resources
        • Size does matter
          • Bigger isn’t better – people want to be in the combat right away,
          • design as small as make sense for # of players
    • Matchmaking
      • Less buckets is better
      • What type of game play will it be
      • Don’t give players too many choices, no one in your matchmaking bucket
      • Feedback on system – LFG doesn’t give feedback, AV is in queue
        • momentum works against you so if matchmaking doesn’t work, it falls aparat
    • E-sports
      • Decide upfront if you want an E-sport game
      • Replays
      • Spectator mode
  • If a player beats me


  • World of Warcraft not designed to be E-sport game, now retro-fitting, I hope one day we can get a spectator mode into it, but it’s non-trivial
  • Why don’t we have stats on server on maps like there is in Warcraft 3.
    • We consciously don’t put up race versus race stats (Orcs vs Undead), you put that on the Web and players will jump onto Orcs
    • If we put up there that alliance always wins AV, horde will stop playing
    • Can balance stabilize: Starcraft is pretty well balanced, need
    • Warcraft: Cross-server interaction,
      • hardcore stance that we wanted realms to be their own communities
      • softening up – battlegroups, matchmaking (arena), battlegrounds (queues)
      • cross-server chat a possibility
    • Philosphy on super-weapons – is this for all games or subscription games?
      • For PVP, did the other side feel like there was no way they could have stopped it
Comments (1)

  1. Hey folks, Rather than spamming the forums with each session notes, comments, etc, I'll use this

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