(Courtesy: Core-A Gaming)
In this article, we explore why balancing game characters with buffs/nerfs is incredibly difficult to achieve, especially without upsetting a large portion of the game’s playerbase.
If you had to choose between finding 100 dollars and not losing 100 dollars, then you would probably pick the “not losing 100 dollars” option. This is because of to the loss aversion theory, losing feels twice as bad as winning feels good. This works the same with game balancing. It doesn’t feel good when something you’ve spent a huge amount of time on gets removed from the game. For example, Aatrox is a character from League of Legends that was infamous for being underpowered. He was only seen 3 competitively throughout 2015-2017 and had a bad win rate in soloQ, which is why he got a rework. This rework made Aatrox viable, but the Aatrox mains were upset. People will dislike changes, even if it changes a character for the better. This is because they have emotional value attached to the thing being changed. As mentioned before, you don’t want to lose something that you’ve put a lot of time and effort into.
Changing a character could make them lose their integrity as a whole. If Echo’s stun shots were removed, would he really be the same? If Pulse didn’t have his C4, would he really be the same? This is why we often see small nerfs/buffs or reworks rather than changes to specific abilities. When Riot removed Aatrox’s ability to revive many people questioned the decision. As seen in the clip below, LS, a League of Legends coach and streamer, asks why they took away his unique ability to revive instead of just gutting his stats until they figured out what they wanted to do with him.
One Trick Ponies
"you only smurf because you cant win on main" yes >:-D pic.twitter.com/cb7PShMCZs
— RAT IRL L9 (@Aatroxcarry) April 21, 2017
Rat IRL is a League of Legends player known for having high win rates in soloq with his niche Twitch jungle pick. Twitch has only been played 3 times competitively this year, and that was in his intended role. If Riot wanted to buff Twitch, then they would also buff niche one tricks such as Rat IRL. It could lead to the one tricks wreaking havoc in soloq. This makes it so difficult for dev teams to buff/nerf characters. They have to take all parts of their community into account. A small change could lead to disaster.
What Do You Think?
There are usually more nerfs than buffs. I personally dislike this, but it’s a safer route for the devs to take. Buffing a character may result in said character being OP. Nerfing a character doesn’t have this potential. It’s basically a game of risk-taking. Calculating what impact a change will have is incredibly difficult. Devs should listen more to their player bases, especially pros. Pros play games for hours every day, they know their game inside out. I think that balancing around the pro players’ opinions while also looking at statistics would get multiplayer games into a healthier state. What do you think? Is there a way to make a game better for everyone while still keeping it interesting?