We’ve had some discussion before on the matter of game balance, from a couple of perspectives. Most recently, there was Magic, Magic Everywhere, which looked at how magic and magic items are used not only as “expected” rewards but as a means of “balancing” classes.

Now, over at Game Career Guide, James Portnow has an article up on the matter of balance in games. His article is aimed at developers, but it’s a good read nonetheless.

His perspective is that of player choice, and is mostly (though not exclusively) concerned with in-game items. He believes that a “fair” game is not really balanced, and players prefer an interesting game rather than a fair one.

Interesting, here, means the player can make choices, whereas a “fair” game balances the values of all items, restricting choice. You’ll have to read the piece to get a better understanding of that; he has some good examples.

One thing he doesn’t mention, however, is the matter of “class balancing”, that idea of all classes having to be equal in power, which is always a touchy subject among MMOG players. And one, as I said in “Magic, Magic”, with which I don’t agree. I’d have liked to see his take on that topic.

Overall, he has some valid points. For instance, he’s in favor of unscaled encounters, but with a warning that the player is heading in over his head. And he’s against the “best way to win”, where one method of play supercedes all others.

So take a look at it, and tell me what you think: is he right that a truly balanced game is one about player choice? Or has he missed something?

The Fine Art Of Balancing Games on gamecareerguide