Welcome and Disclaimers...
As I am writing this, the game version is now 526, 2 A.M, October 11, 2019.
This is going to be VERY unprofessional and not everything that I write on here 100% reflects the direction of the game or how I'm going to balance classes. So do not take things from this blog and use it as absolute evidence for why we are doing certain buffs or nerfs. Not everything is my decision and most of this are just my thoughts on the current balancing patch or situation surrounding it.
This first post is also going to incorporate a lot ranting/venting so be prepared.
We just got finished going through a major PvE balancing patch that Alistair and I designed. Long discussions were had and we finally drafted a lot of it on a Google Doc and fast forward a couple weeks later, here we are. Most of the patch went through as expected, we of course had plenty of bugs that were recently fixed. There are many of things that I want to do with classes but not enough time. Recently, most of my time was dedicated directly to the content development and designing so I haven't done of class balancing designing besides the here and there discussion with people the Discord servers I'm in. We haven't had a extensive PvE balancing patch in about 3 weeks so it's about that time to shift focus back towards that.
Current State of Balance
Right now, it's pretty obvious which classes are outstanding, at least in my point of view. Right now, we're at a pretty bad state in terms of balancing. Some classes are oppressive while many others are very lacking. I would say approximately half of the classes are at least somewhat viable, but not competitve. There are about 15 very solid classes. As for a couple of the outlier classes that I (and probably most of you) have noticed. In no particular order of strength:
- Abyss Walker
- Blade Dancer
Some of these are more obvious in RDNVC where boss HP bars don't get blown up instantly. People seemed to disagree about some of these when discussion were had about nerfing them. Of course many of those disagreements comes from bias. But I would say most of it also comes from unfair comparisons.
My Qualms With Balancing
People like to make unfair comparisons to classes. Straight up. That's one of the biggest pet peeves I have about managing how we do balancing on this server. We went through a very bad phase where classes just got buffed with no real explanation and now we pay the price. Blade Dancer is still oppressive from the period that they got buffed a long time ago.
Complains About Adjusting the Same Classes
I've seen complaints coming from people that say "why are you buffing or nerfing the same classes over and over again" or something like that. The answer is simple, we know those classes. Most of the time, these are classes that are popular. Therefore, we have more reliable data. From that data we are able to make estimates on how much to buff classes. That's why we are so reluctant at times to buff classes that are "out of the meta" considering we have no clue as to where they stand most of the time. Sure we can buff classes based on assumptions, but that will only bring us back to the era of balancing that I stated just earlier in this paragraph.
That's why we keep buffing, nerfing, or adjusting the same classes. It's not because we don't want to touch other classes, it's just we don't have the data to do so. This brings me to my next point
The Infinite Loop...
We simply do not have the amount of players to test every class and play every class at the top level. Yet people expect us to do balancing like we know every class. Quality Assurance and the Development team is fairly limited in terms of what classes we play. I play Gladiator, Dark Avenger, Clerics (except Arch Heretic), Black Mara, Pyromancer, Defensio, Ruina, for the most part. Kozima plays Assassins. Vahr plays Lunar Knight and Clerics. Alistair plays warriors. That's just developers of course. I'm not gonna list out every member of QA cause It'd just be a redundant. Basically, you should get the point. We're limited.
So why not just add more members to QA? If you saw what went on behind the scenes with the whole development team, you'll probably say "what the fuck, you guys are unorganized as shit." And well, you'd be correct. We're trying to fix that but it's difficult through different time zones, schedules, and all. If we added any more people to the development team, it'd be quite the task to keep them updated as well as not get things mixed up as it is. We have systems in place to avoid as many mix ups as we did in the past, but that doesn't solve everything. We have bugs that clearly slipped through the test server and into live. That is enough evidence. If it was up to me alone, I would definitely get more test server players. I think we don't have the man power to test every single potential thing we add to the game. Just recently, there was a fairly large exploit with Cerberus Nest and Vibrant Sun gear. You could extract the Vibrant Sun gear for Lebrium Points for Ardent Dawn converters. Thanks to one of our good samaritans this was found and we resolved the exploit before many people caught on. Things like this would not even happen in the first place if we had more testers.
This leads into an infinite feedback loop. People complain, we try to address and fix issue, tested on test server, sent to live, people notice bug, we fix, send to live, someone in QA/Dev team uses the wrong file, same bug re-emerges. It's happened plenty of times. Look how Guardian bubble removal on Divine Vengeance needed to be fixed like two times already since it was supposed to get removed a couple balancing waves ago.
Complain Syndrome, Hiding DPS, Hypocrisy
This honestly started as a meme but it has evolved into something much more than that. Complain Syndrome is huge. Honestly, if I was just a player, I'd complain too. But I'm on the developing side of things as well as being a player so I 100% understand where all of you guys are coming from. All you want is a game that is well balanced and you can play the class you want to play without getting blown out of the water in DPS by a Pyromancer or Abyss Walker. I understand. That is why we have class balancing patches that we have right now. When we write up an idea and share with everyone as we did in the public google doc (that everyone has access to but don't take advantage of), we expect to get feedback. When we do, it's great. When we don't, well, we don't know what to do then.
There is a lot of complaining in #pve, #general. Some of the complaining is warranted, that's for sure. And people's complaints are what makes us fix stuff in the first place. But some of it is complaining without even testing it out for themselves or even considering it as an alternative. Even if we did go through with changes and it wasn't well received. It isn't very difficult to revert changes.
Another issue, and frankly probably the worst offender, complaining without even reading. Beneath pretty much every class balancing change we do, we have a description of why we are doing the change, the logic behind it, and how our changes should resolve the issues at hand. People just can't read it. Bias plays a major role here too. People just want their class to be BIG STRONG. People saw Barbarian do like 8 billion damage Ultimate Circle Swings and they say "WHY DOESN'T MY CLASS DO THAT". Well you see little Jimmy, every class plays differently and relies on different things.
I'll just say, many variables come into play when you judge how much damage a class deals.
- Enemy attack reductions
- Self Heals
- Party Heals
- Party Buffs
- Damage mitigation
- Long range or close range
- Skill cap
Some of these are weighted much higher than other obviously. But these are generally the metric that we use to determine how much damage a class should deal based on their classfication (ex: Pure DPS, Support DPS, Tank, Healer, etc)
Hiding DPS and Hypocrisy
This also began as a meme but it's honestly annoying. I play along with the joke. But honestly, it gets to my nerves as one of the people that is trying to adjust and balance the game for everyone. "Don't post your DPS when Joorji is here, he'll nerf you!" Of course every statement comes with some truth, but how are we ever going to get to a balancing point if everyone hides their DPS. We've even had internal discussions to make the game force people to post their DPS in chat at the end of a boss just for data sake. We can't buff or nerf classes if you just hide your DPS. We don't take a single boss or something as legitimate proof a class needs buffs or nerfs. It's an aggregate of consistent bad or good performance that gives us an indicator of what needs buffs or nerfs
Many people only post their DPS if they do "low" damage relative to other people. How do you think we get data to balance classes. One of those ways is Battle Training Ground Golem, the other is through actual content. Most of the time, we only get the BTG DPS and that doesn't really help. Many classes do very well in BTG and do piss poor in actual content. It's just based on the content itself and the weakness of the class. Every class is good at different things. If a boss has low HP and we burst the bars, of course classes with burst damage are gonna out DPS consistent dps classes. That's why Barbarian is so good. They can get out their swings and inflate their damage while other classes have things like set up time or just constant DPS. That's why getting DPS numbers from things like BDN and sometimes even DDN is not reliable. This is why balancing is so nuanced. It's not some braindead process like putting in numbers and hope that it works.
If people want things to be balanced, post your DPS. Show us what is strong, show us what is weak. Understand that people have different gear. Don't compare someone inn Ardent Dawns to someone in Twilight Luna. Don't compare the DPS of someone in a party full of buffs to different team compositions.
We will get to balancing your class, don't worry. It's going to take time to get it right though.
Addressing Developer Bias
Most of this is traced back to Kozima, but also myself. People seem to believe that we only buff and nerf classes that the developers play or hate. Part of this has to do with that's just what we play, so we have a good understanding of where a class should be given their strengths, buffs, utility, and more. This ties back into us having the data to support balancing changes to these classes. We're going to have some bias, that's unavoidable for any human being to dodge bias. However, we try our best to limit it. That's why no one person does all the balancing for classes. We have checks and balances within our system through sign-offs and many thorough internal discussions in our Dev/QA secret chat channels.
"Just Buff Weak Classes to Where Strong Classes are 4HEAD"
Just buffing leads to power creep. Many people play classses that they want regardless of how strong they are. They'll just feel the pain of being not contributing much to the party. The other portion of the population are the bandwagoners. They'll play what is strong. There's nothing wrong with that though. It strategically makes sense when you're starting off to make a strong class to help gear your weaker main class. But that's why we get so much data for the strong/popular classes. That ties into why we balance the same classes over and over again once again.
When you complain about your unpopular main class not getting buffs. Trust me, we hear you. This leads me to my next point...
"Developers/PvE Balancers Don't Take My Feedback!"
We do. To put it straight and harshy, many of these ideas follow one or many of these outcomes:
- Unorganized, difficult to read
- No data to back up your claims
- Impossible or very difficult to implement
- Does not fit the identity of the class
- Lack of explanations to your changes
We listen. Just because we don't respond doesn't mean we ignore it. I can't speak for all the QA members or Developers, but as for myself, I lurk in #general or #pve all the time. We see what you guys send us and most of it is discussed internally and some of these suggestions the community produced plays a major role or are the core beliefs behind certain class balancings we've done in the past. It's just a matter of how you present your proposal, logical explanations, and proof.
Getting Back on Schedule
Now that the PvE content patch revamp is out, we can get back on schedule for balancing. Expect to see more documents that you would usually see on Google Docs to get ported over to this webpage as we make our transition.
Currently, I recently finished adjusting for some bugs that went out in the hotfix patches. I'll get back to working on Project Flow changes for the few classes left. Design some class balancing and implement some of those changes and testing.
This was mostly a long rant about the current state of the game and the worst parts of the community. Written at like 2 AM. The situation frustrates me, but that only makes me want to improve the game more to reach a state where all classes are viable and there are no crazy outliers in DPS.
Promise next time there won't be as big of a rant and more actual class balancing discussion. I just needed to get this off my chest as context as to what is to come in the future.