The Truth About Game Balance

This article applies to card games, video games and other types of games.

Looking back at many of my balance opinions from years ago, on Yugioh and various video games, I’m a bit embarrassed.  I gave opinions that I wasn’t qualified to give.  And blissful ignorance creates unwarranted confidence.  When you’re a newer or less knowledgeable player and you suddenly start learning about a topic and absorb a lot of information, you have way more knowledge than you did before.  But as you learn more and more, you become more aware of your weaknesses. 

Most opinions you see online will be from average players (possibly in the 40th to 60th percentile bell curve).  On forums and other communities, you’ll see far more content from that 20% of spread of average players than the top 1-5% of the very best players.   Even though the best players are the most qualified.

Before making a posts about game balance on forums:

  1. Get a good grounding of the game.  It could take months or years of learning the game before you have balance opinions that are mature.
  2. Go outside of just your own experience.  Talk to other people.  Go outside of just your own local area, see how tournaments are in other areas.
  3. Seek the knowledge and opinions of high-level players who may know something you don’t. 
  4. See other discussions about this what you’re about to post really something that better players haven’t seen or refuted before? 
  5. Look at data from tournaments (pickrates, winrates, what decks are topping).  Maybe data has some limitations (i.e. some factors like fun aren’t as quantifiable), but data is one of the many factors to consider.
  6. Be calm.  If you just played a game, maybe wait a bit.  Wins can be thrilling.  Losses can be frustrating.  Let what you write breathe a bit before posting.
  7. If you are making a proposal, be clear about what skill level this change is aimed toward.  And what specific problem your proposal is intended to fix.