External Balance

Written by Alex Harkey

This month we are examining types of game balance and how creators can implement balance into game design. This week we’ll look at External Balance; gameplay elements beyond the control of players, or more simply everything the designer is responsible for prior to the start of a game. External Balance has a strong relationship with the concepts of perceived balance and symmetrical gameplay. External Balance relates to gameplay mechanics such as randomly distributed player powers and starting resources and locations.

Symmetry holds a special role in nature. Bilateral and radial symmetry carry an important role in biology to ensure balance and efficiency in organisms. Facial symmetry has been shown to have a positive correlation with evaluating attractiveness of humans. In game design symmetry has played an important role in the longevity of games. Chess, Checkers and Backgammon are among the world’s oldest surviving games and are also several of the most popular games of today. Each one features the usage of symmetry.

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Internal Balance

Written by Alex Harkey

This month we are examining three types of game balance and how creators implement these types into game design. This week we’ll look at Internal Balance; the opportunity cost between available options on a player’s turn. Internal balance covers objects such as locations for worker placement or a player’s upgrade decisions using a tech tree.

A primary concern of game designers is to ensure a game has strong replay value and provides a varied experience each time it reaches the table. Internal Balance increases the longevity of games by eliminating false decisions and regulating dominant strategies.

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Introduction to Balance

Written by Alex Harkey

Writing a blog on game design can share a similar challenge with its subject matter; how can we juggle trying to summarize extensive topics while ensuring we include enough detail. Balance in game design is our monthly topic for January and it is appropriate there are no shortcuts to help us explain it. Join us each week as we explore three primary areas of balance and review the most effective methods to apply to your next game design.

We know when a game lacks balance, but how do we know this? Games generally lack traditional measurement tools to make objective judgments, yet nowadays games quickly become labeled “well-balanced” or “broken” upon release.

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Classifications of games

Written by Matt Pavlovich

This month, we’re writing a series of introductory articles about the many different ways to think about games and gaming. Last week, Alex wrote about what might motivate a gamer to play a game; today, I’ll focus on the games themselves, and I’ll discuss various means of classifying games and why those categories can be useful to a game designer.

Classically, the most common means of categorizing games has been by component. For some games, the parts that the game is played with, or the medium where the gaming occurs, is the single biggest factor in describing the game. Board games are played over a large, flat surface where pieces are moved around; Go, Sorry!, and Kingdom Builder are great examples of board games. Card games are typically played with a hand of cards and no board, and well-known examples of card games include Bridge, Uno, and San Juan.

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What motivates us to play games?

Written by Alex Harkey

When we decided to start a blog on game design I began thinking of exactly why board games can be such a compelling activity. Why do we play games and what determines the types of games we enjoy most?

In the 1960’s Psychologist David McClelland introduced a motivational model that has come to be known as “Need Theory”. In the theory he identifies three primary motivations which drive the actions of human beings: Achievement, Affiliation & Power. McClelland’s research has found that these motivations are learned behaviors and exist in everyone regardless of age, gender and culture. A variety of characteristics will give each individual a dominant motivator. Let’s look at how these motivators and how they apply to those of us who enjoy games.

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About Me – Matt

Written by Matt Pavlovich

Matt Pavlovich is a graduate student in chemical engineering at the University of California, Berkeley. When he’s not studying novel disinfection strategies, Matt can be found playing the trumpet, brewing wine, and of course gaming.

During my undergraduate career at Georgia Tech, I had a number of friends who introduced me to a breed of strategic gaming completely unlike anything I had played before. Through card games like Saboteur, two-player tactical games like Blood Bowl, and board games like Around the World in 80 Days, I began to appreciate gaming on a new level. In my first week of grad school at Berkeley, I played both Settlers of Catan and Dominion for the first time, which was the last push I needed to get hooked on Euro-style games for good.

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