The Art of Game Design Essentials 6

Balance The Game (Including PVP and PVE)


Every player(including NPC) has the same resource, rules, same everything, except the player’s own skills lead to the final result.


In this setting, usually players can choose different roles, and have advantages/disadvantages in a certain way. They can customize. Designer has more room to create dramatic situations. But overall, the game is balanced.

For example:
                Speed         Control         Weapon    
Plane A     Medium       Medium         Medium
Plane B       High            High             Low
Plane C       Low             Low             High

Or use counter unit. (Rock, Paper, Scissor)

  • Should this game be symmetrical or not? Why?
  • The game is to measure the most skilled player, or fun for everyone?

Challenge vs. Success

At this point, we need to balance the difficulty, make sure player has a challenge they can reach for.

  • What’s the challenge for player? And difficulty?
  • Is the challenge suitable for players with different skill levels?
  • The varieties of challenge.
  • Mind the final challenge.

Meaningful Choice

The meaningful choice should impact game progress( including gameplay, story, and reward.) For example, long way easy, short way hard.

Choices offered to player should be at right amount.

Choices > Expectation = Player is overwhelmed
Choices < Expectation = Player is dissappointed
Choices = Expectation = Player is satisfied

  • What choices in the game?
  • Is it meaningful?
  • Is the amount of choice appropriate?
  • Do we have a dominant strategy? 

Balance Skill and Chance

  • Game is to rank player(skill), or take risks(Chance)?
  • More serious(skill) or casual(Chance)?
  • Is game tedious? What if we add some randomness?
  • If the game is too random, what if we replace randomness with skills and strategies?

Mental and Physical

  • Gamers are looking for physical or mental challenge?
  • What if put in more physical/mental challenges?
  • Can provide different ways to win, to satisfy both mental and physical player?


  • Fair to all players.
  • Do people want to win the game? Why?
  • Is the game meaningful to high level player?
  • Is the game meaningful to low level player?
  • Is high level player confident to beat low level player?


  • Does the game provide effective ways for player to communicate?
  • How to facilitate the communications between players?
  • How to make the result of co-op greater than the sum of individual work?
  • How to differentiate players with same roles?
  • It emphasizes the co-op when single player can not achieve something.
  • Do we have the mission that forces player to communicate?

Length of Game

  • Does player feel frustrated if the game finished too early?
  • Does player feel bored if the game is too long?
  • Timer is one way to limit game’s length, but is it a good way to my game?
  • What if we separate the level into smaller pieces?


Applause:      praise player.
Score:           Give player something that can show off.
Extended Game Time: More time means higher score and more play.
New Unlock:   New way to play.
Marvel:          Show eyecandy to satisfy player.
Self-express:  Let the player play the game in his/her own way.
Perk:             Give player more perks as reward.
Resource:      More money, ammo, HP, etc.
Complete:     Finished all goals in the game.

  • Reward should gradually increase.
  • Let player understand the purpose of the reward, otherwise it equals no reward.
  • Reward should not be too predictable.
  • Rewards should be connected.


The punishment in the game is a motivation for player to win the game. Punishment is the counterpart of reward. If we don’t have punishment in the game, reward will also be less meaningful.

  • We need punishment in the game.
  • What’s the purpose of punishment?
  • Punishment should be fair.

Freedom and Scripted Events

Freedom is not always a good thing. Too many choices can only intimidating player.

Even if you want to make a sandbox game, still fun is your main target, so try filter out the boring part of the real life.

Simple and Complexity

Emergent complexity is what we are looking for, which causes a certain randomness, and dramatically increases the pressure curve, and also creates surprise.

(a simple example would be patrolling hostile NPC.)
Start from simple gameplay, if it’s not fun enough, then look for more complex mechanism.

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