One argument that comes up a lot in PvE games is how do you balance them? After all, you’re fighting AI, so balance should be easier, right? After all, there’s no human players around to bother you. You can’t hurt the feelings of AI characters and NPCs. They’re not alive, so they don’t care how badly they get their asses kicked by us. A common argument is that it’s just PvE stuff, so balance doesn’t matter. We can be overpowered all we like, nothing can stop us.
But in all honestly, this argument just doesn’t hold up. There needs to be some balancing in games, even PvE ones. Not just because, well, you don’t want games to be too easy or too hard to the point of being unplayable. But because you need to present an attractive game to a wide audience.
Two ends of the spectrum.
The issue isn’t so much whether being overpowered is a problem. It’s more about balancing two different sides. One side wants a challenge, a mountain to climb. They want to achieve goals and push forwards, defeating bigger and bigger obstacles. These players are often the hardcore side of a game’s player base, always scavenging for more challenges and competition. Of course, not all players are like this, and there’s different levels of challenges and desires to do them. You have groups like achievement hunters and speed runners, alongside people who just want to make the biggest numbers possible. Some will even create their own challenges. For example, in Pokemon, we have Nuzlocke challenges, where you have to release a Pokemon from your team if it faints.
On the flip side, you’ve got more casual players. While some, yes, want everything handed to them on a platter, this type of player is very varied. Some want to indulge in power fantasies while murdering huge swathes of enemies with ease. But even then, this sort of player needs a little bit of a challenge. After all, the power fantasy needs to be engaging, not completely mind-numbing. Some of these players might even gradually become hardcore players too.
My point is, you have a lot of people you need to please. In order for a game to be successful, you need to appeal to a group of players. But to be incredibly successful, you need to have a much more universal appeal.
This is where balancing comes in. Game developers need to carefully balance their games so that you can attract as many people as possible. But it’s also vital to have your gameplay be not too hard or too easy enough to keep people engaged. After all, engagement is the most important part of any game, and if you don’t have that, even in single player games, then do you even have a game at all?
It’s harder than it seems.
Of course, doing such a thing is difficult. Swing too high, be too difficult and you lose casual players in droves. Be too easy and you won’t get players that stick around.
So what is the point of all this? It’s all a point of perspective. Because it’s easy for us to say that X nerf is too harsh or Y buff makes the game too easy. But we have to see these things from multiple perspectives. Not just from the developers’ point of view, but also from the view of other players. Because we’re all playing these games together, and we’re all different.