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Aug 01 2007 -
Vocation Balancing
nly little more than a month ago, we have introduced some very significant changes in the gameplay affecting the balance in Tibia. The people in our office are already working on many more of such changes for the next set of balancing features. Balancing a game is a very delicate procedure and needs a lot of forward planning, careful consideration and a lot of experience both with game design as well as with the game itself. Today, we present you some in-depth information about how we approach the issue of balancing in Tibia.

1. Definition

1.1 Balance

What exactly is "balance", and what does it mean in respect to an online game? When looking up the actual meaning of the word 'balance', there are several definitions which seem to be applicable to a game like Tibia:

"A state of equilibrium"

An equilibrium is defined as 'a stable situation in which forces cancel one another'. Therefore, no force should be able to overcome the others in a way that this force would dominate everybody else.

Tibian example:
Two mages with level 150 walk around Carlin for an hour killing 50 people of all vocations and a group of 7 level 100 characters is unable to kill them. If you see something like that, you know that something is wrong.

"Harmonious arrangement or relation of parts or elements within a whole"

A harmonious arrangement means that all parts are in some way compatible with each other and together they form the whole. If you took away one of the parts, something would be missing for the whole and thus, the harmonious design would be broken.

Tibian example:
A group of friends wants to go hunt hydras, but ...
- '... damn, we don't have a knight. Well then forget about it.'
- '... damn, we don't have a druid. Well, we'll have to bring a lot more healing runes then. Let's hope the loot pays enough to make up for them.'
- '... damn, we don't have anyone to make summons. We'll have to be extra careful when the hydra changes target.
The best and most harmonious formation is a knight to go in close, a sorcerer to shoot and to provide summons and field runes, a druid to provide summons and healing, and a paladin for cheap shooting.

1.2 Game Balance

"A game is a collection of interesting choices" (Sid Meier)

An MMORPG is generally designed to offer many people from different backgrounds different ways to reach their goals. The main goal in a game is of course to enjoy oneself while playing. From this point of view, the more interesting choices can be offered, the more successful the game is likely to be in the long run. However, offering choices means making differences part of the game. The immanence of differences in a game, however, poses a conflict when it comes to the question of balancing that game.

Tibian example:
A player wants to be a mage, but which one, a sorcerer or a druid? Each vocation has different advantages. The druid is better skilled in healing characters while the sorcerer has more attack spells. Are they imbalanced or just different?

It is said that game balance is reached when players have multiple options or routes to victory, most or all of these options are about equally effective. In a game where various options have significant qualitative differences, the game is balanced if the options are roughly equal. Moreover, they likely lead to success despite their differences. In an adequately balanced game, players would make such choices based on their personal preference, strengths, and playing style, rather than selecting the option with the most advantages. If one option were weaker than the others, then it would rarely be chosen by any player and will not contribute to the complexity of the game.

Tibian example:
If the druid was just a weak sorcerer, there would be no reason to play a druid. Many players, however, do play a druid, simply because they are the type of guy who likes to heal others.

The more complex a game is, the more possibilities exist on how to balance the game. The most relevant factors are the balance of power, the balance of time and the economical balance (concerning both money and resources). A total balance will therefore always consist of many balance units in different areas forming a harmonious entity. In other words, the game balance is the harmony between all balance units in the game.

2. Ideal Balance

In order to create a balanced game, the game designers first have to decide what would be the ideal balance for their game. This, however, does not automatically coincide with a perfect balance where everything is exactly equal.

In the case of Tibia, the main options that can be chosen by players are the vocations. Therefore, the game balance depends on the balance between those vocations. Naturally, every single vocation must have various characteristics in order to satisfy different playing styles and preferences. Hence, the balance between those vocations in Tibia cannot be perfect. The ideal balance has to account for the wanted differences between those vocations.

2.1 Defining the Vocations

Before an ideal balance can be achieved, the game designers must clarify which differences between the vocations are necessary to keep the characteristic of each vocation:

a) The Knight
The knight is a brave warrior. He is very strong and resilient. His strength permits him to wear heavy armor as well as large melee weapons and shields and his resilience makes it possible to go into close combat with almost any creature. However, the knight is not at all magically gifted. Even though he can use very simple magical items, he is incapable to comprehend magic.

b) The Paladin
The paladin is a multi-talented fighter. He is not as strong and resilient as the knight, but still capable in physical training. He is especially talented in the handling of distance weapons. Additionally, the paladin has a certain affinity to magic. He has no great feeling for the control of it, but his intuition helps him to perform simple spells.

c) The Sorcerer
The sorcerer is extremely talented in the use of magic. His preference lies on destructive magic. The sorcerer is physically very weak and relies on the power of his magic. He will therefore prefer to stay at a distance when facing more dangerous creatures.

d) The Druid
The druid is equally talented in the use of magic as the sorcerer. However, he concentrates his studies more on the creative kind of magic. Through his studies though, he has also gained knowledge of the destructive effects of some elements. The druid is just as weak as the sorcerer and therefore also prefers to stay at a distance.

2.2 Designing the Ideal Balance

The designers always have to keep the definitions of the vocations in mind when planning the balancing. In this article, we will exemplify the balance of power and the balance of time between the magical vocations and the knights.

As stated above, the knight is very strong both in melee attack as well as in defence. His strength reduces his risk when facing stronger creatures. The mages, on the other hand, can deal much magic damage but run a higher risk due to their fragility. They also have to take a break from time to time for various reasons, such as regaining mana, while the knight can keep fighting for a much longer time due to his very high endurance.

The goal of the last balancing round was to adjust the general speed with which every single vocation can be developed. Therefore, we first decided what we would consider the ideal ratio of experience per hour gained in relation to the level and the vocation.

We consider it fair that mages can make more experience in less time because they have higher costs and a higher risk while hunting.

3. Working on the Actual Balance

3.1 Analysis

Once the ideal curve had been planned, the next step was to analyse the actual ingame situation. In order to do this, we first analysed the average skills for each vocation at each level across the whole of Tibia. Then we calculated the average experience per hour ratio for each vocation at each level. We considered several hunting strategies for each vocation, the spawn rates for each monster and the experience that can be gained from each monster.

We put all this together and obtained a realistic average distribution of experience per hour relative to the character level for each vocation.

The areas in which the curve is flat show that a character of this level could have made more experience in one hour but the spawn rate of the monster that is best to hunt at that level does not provide more monsters to kill in that time.

The result of the analysis very clearly shows that the magic classes had a huge advantage over the knights with rising level. This clearly showed where changes were needed: As the imbalance was rising with the level, the connection to the level component in the formula of magic was obvious, especially as this was the main difference to the damage formula of close combat for the knights.

3.2 Designing the Changes

After this analysis, we had to decide in which direction we wanted the changes to go. The curve of the mages clearly showed that they regularly met the spawn limit. This was another indication for their overpowered strength. Therefore, the mages' damage output had to be reduced noticably. The other alternative would have been raising the knights' strength significantly. However, this way both vocations would have hunted close to the spawn limit and thus make hunting little effective.

From this point on, we experimented with many different approaches to change the formulae. We applied the most promising ones, tested them, changed them again, tested and compared and started again. We took quite much time to test the alternatives and finally, came up with the formulae that are now the basis of the damage calculation.

To illustrate the changes we have introduced with the last update, we have prepared the same graph as above, only with the new formulae and values:

As you can see from the example graphs, the recent update has brought us very close to what we define as ideal balance concerning experience per hour. Again, the mages often come close to the spawn limit due to the speed in which they can kill, only now they cannot go to the most dangerous monsters too early. Finally, the knights can now increase their rate of experience after level 90, too.

Knight: Oh my god! Woah! I am two times as good as I used to be! And hey, look at the mages -points finger at the next mage-
Mage: Oh my god! I can't believe it! I am just about half as good as I used to be! And on top of that, look at the knights -points finger at the nearest knight-
-A hand is raised in the background-: Hmm, but well, the mages are still more than two times as strong as the knights, aren't they?

4. The Future of Balance in Tibia

As said before, the balance of power is only one aspect that will contribute to the total balance in Tibia. There are numerous other areas that have influence on the total picture. Economics is of course a very important issue in this respect, the availability of equipment and resources is another closely related area. The definitions of the vocations, however, also offer another means to adjust the balance with further specifications for each vocation. Finally, the opponents, monsters and other players alike, are also a very important factor adding to the full picture of the game balance.

It may be a long way to walk, but we will only ever approach the goal if we dare to take the first steps. Rest assured that now we have done that, we will keep on walking.

-Takes a look around the office. People are sitting at their computers, thinking, planning, designing, typing, coding and talking.-
-Smiles to himself- The fresh breeze of the next update is already in the air.

Have fun in Tibia!
Your CipSoft Team

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