Wyvern Game Balance

Wyvern needs to be well-balanced. What does that mean? I want to talk a bit about the current game balance, and how I plan to improve it. If you play Wyvern a lot, you should read it, since it'll give you some clues about what things might change in the future.

Game Balance - Defined

Game balance is complicated to get right. It's even a bit hard to define, but I'll take a stab at it here.

In a well-balanced game:

If I think of other properties of a well-balanced game, I'll add them. I'm sure there are others.

The bottom line is, the game should never get boring. An unbalanced game will either be frustratingly hard (if it's underbalanced) or boringly tedious (if it's overbalanced). Right now, ironically, Wyvern is a little of both.

Wyvern's Balance

Wyvern is NOT well-balanced, at least not as of 11/7/2001. That's the primary reason it's still labeled as being in "alpha test".

(Note, added 9/13/2006: it's still not balanced now, either, although it's improved a lot over the years.)

What's wrong with the balance? Well, among other things:

The balance is much better than it was 6 months ago, or even 2 months ago. It's constantly improving. But it's got a long way to go, and I'm going to be making as many changes as I think are necessary in order to fix it.

Warning Signs

There are a few sure signs that the game balance is off. Two of the main ones are:
  1. Players seem to be doing something over and over again. Perhaps it's visiting a certain area, or using a certain spell, or carrying a certain object around.
  2. One or more players suddenly shoot up on the XP chart for no readily apparent reason.

I regularly look for warning signs of bad balance. Here are a few I've seen lately: You can rest assured that when I see warning signs, I'll do anything it takes to fix them.

How to Fix It

I need to fix the balance, and I'm going to fix it, even if it causes you a bit of short-term pain.

One thing I'm NOT going to do, if I can at all help it, is reset all the players to zero. I did this on June 30th, 2001, and all the players went away. It took months before our player base built up again. It was a bad idea. I should have adjusted the players who took advantage of the bugs, rather than penalizing everyone in the game. The only resets I'll do again are one before Beta test (possibly), and another one before we do our final production launch (again - maybe).

Here is a brainstorm of different ideas I've had. It should give you a better understanding how just how bad I think the balance is right now:

  1. Charge for Vault Usage - basically, you'd have your vaults on a rental basis (paying gold pieces for storage) instead of a free basis.

    I feel this would help address 2 problems at once:

    1. Players have too much money.
    2. Players have too much good stuff in their vaults.

    I think one of the main problems with the balance is that people get to keep anything they want in vaults, with no penalty. Expect this to change in the future.

  2. Reset everyone's inventory - I'll only do this if things get drastically bad, but I've considered removing all vaults and everything you're carrying. You'd get to keep your XP, skills, spells and so on. You'd have to start building up your collection of stuff all over again from scratch.

    I will do this if I can't get any traction on fixing the game's current economic problems.

  3. Make all magic items wear out. - you should never have an item that lasts forever. I'm making changes to all the main items to have either hit points or charges, and after using something for a while, you'll have to get yourself another one.

  4. Making the monsters tougher - in fact, I've got lots of nasty changes planned, including:

    • Monsters that fight in groups and can ambush you.
    • More exploding monsters, and monsters with counterattacks.
    • Monsters with spells that players can't get, such as giving liches "curse" spells to curse things in your inventory.
    • Monsters with steal attacks (they steal something from you and teleport away).
    • Monsters with xp-drain attacks.
    • Monsters that can wound you, lowering your max hit points until you're cured.
    • Diseases that permanently afflict you, at least until they're cured (at great cost).
    • Monsters that can follow you between maps.

    My goal is to make this game less of a slaughter and more of a war. When you go out to fight the monsters, you'd better be prepared.

  5. More no-save artifacts - those who've played a while are probably aware that there are certain very powerful magic items that you can get, but you can't keep them if you quit. I will probably make more of these - and the Imperial Crown of Samhoc is top of my list right now.

  6. Stop generating certain items - right now you can find and buy almost anything in the game in a shop, if you get lucky. Down the road, I may change it so that many items cannot be bought in stores for any price - you have to do a quest (possibly a hard one) to get them.

I've considered all these ideas, and many more, all geared towards making the game more of a challenge for higher-level players.

The Game's Too Hard

No, it's not. I get this complaint a lot, though. People whine at me constantly that they can't kill skulls, or that spell reagents are too hard to come by, or that their potions aren't healing them enough, or whatever.

You're not supposed to be able to kill skulls (at least not easily), and reagents are supposed to be hard to find, and so on.

Think about some of the changes I've made to make the game easier:

I've made dozens, if not hundreds, of changes to make the game easier to play. I will continue to look for ways to make the game more fun.

You have to talk a fine line, though, between "fun" and "boring". Sure, going through monsters like you've got a machine gun can be fun for a little while, but ask Grumpf how long it lasts. The game has to stay challenging or it won't be fun for long.

The Bottom Line

When you play Wyvern...

You should always wish you had some item to make it easier. If you have everything, you'll be bored.

You should always have grave difficulty (pun intended) killing certain monsters. If you can kill everything easily, you'll be bored.

You should never feel like you have enough money. If you always have enough money, you'll be bored.

You should never be able to enter combat and then walk away from your keyboard. If you fall asleep, the kobolds should gnaw your face off.

It's going to take some time to get there, and some changes we make may be painful for you in the short-term. Long-term, though, the game will become interesting at all levels of play, and you should never become so powerful that the game becomes tedious.

Keep those suggestions coming, and please - no whining. When the game is really balanced, it'll be a LOT more fun.