Most of the time when one things of developing a video game, the mind tends to shift towards the technical aspect — graphics, sound. The one aspect of gameplay the sometimes gets overlooked is balancing. Especially in the RTS genre. So much of the game is banked on balancing units, powers, and resources.
Over at HaloWars.com, Vijay Thakkar shares some of the experience of creating leader powers, and what went into the balancing of them.
The first power brought up in discussion is ‘Rage’. It’s exclusive to the Arbiter, and is known to cause some massive amounts of destruction to the table. Thakkar discusses some of the development of Rage:
It didn’t take much time to get something up and running, showing the Arbiter running around and teleporting to attack by flicking the right analog stick. It turned out that controlling the Arbiter like this and hopping across the battlefield in a matter of seconds was just crazy fun. I knew we were getitng somewhere when I could bring a coworker over to my desk to try it out and the result was a giddy smile on their face and a thirty minutes of brainstorming ideas on how to improve it. That process of just excitedly throwing ideas around with fellow gamers is absolutely one of the best parts of game development.
The next power to be discussed is Vortex, and is exclusive to the Brute unit. This physics based power can really turn the tide of a battle, but like other powers must be used a certain way to be effective. You can tell that a lot of tweaking had to be done to this power to make sure it didn’t become overpowered. Vortex also has a unique style, and mechanic to it as addressed by Thakkar:
It became important to have Vortex stand out from the other powers: it needed to have its own chaotic nature and feel in its camera and controls. We prototyped a variety of potential solutions, from a fixed camera over the shoulder of the Brute looking forward onto the Vortex to directly controlling the Vortex the same way as Cleansing. There was even a version where the player controlled both the horizontal and vertical movement of the swirling death ball with both analog sticks. As we iterated, freer camera control stood tall and I’m quite glad that we could find something in the middle, controlling similarly to Cleansing but with some unique twists. In the final version, the camera is focused on a point between the Brute and the Vortex, effectively keeping both in the player’s visibility, and the Vortex’s vertical movement is automatic in a sinusoidal pattern (which also helped to give the internal objects some more motion). Finally, Vortex employs a similar system to Rage in that its cost changes based off of the state that it is in. It is the only power that costs nothing to maintain, (only taking resources when dealing damage), and is also the only power that actually improves its potential damage the longer it is active. As the Vortex picks up more and more pieces, the power of the final explosion increases to devastating amounts, which combine with the damage inflicted by the thrown debris, providing an effect that was a bit more chaotic in nature.