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Fighter: I can kill a guy in one turn.

Rogue: I can kill a guy in half a turn.

Wizard: I can kill a guy before my turn.

Cleric: I can get three idiots to kill guys for me.
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Rock is overpowered, but Paper is perfect.
Scissors

If you're building an MMORPG or Tabletop Games, you have to build a fun and balanced game while keeping it diverse. So, some "jobs" or classes will inevitably be better at some things than others, while having unique powers and weaknesses; hence, Wizards will be squishy and Warriors will have trouble outside of combat. So it's not unnatural or surprising when in Player Versus Player combat between support or non-combat oriented classes against pure combat classes, the more combat-oriented classes will win. This is balanced by the Inverse Law of Utility and Lethality; the support classes will usually be indispensable in the functioning of the wider game world or for difficult quests.

But we the players are fickle beings, and want to be able to burnify anything that moves. So while it's great to be on the wizard end of the Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards stick, warriors will cry foul. So will the Bards, Clerics, Cooks, Dancers, and so on down to Zookeepers. Add in "The Customer is Always Right", and developers are forced to make Martial Arts and Crafts classes where even cooks have a combat potential on par with seasoned soldiers.

The "Hard Place" in this dilemma isn't just the arbitrary empowering of some classes, but when classes end up Nerfed (to varying degrees) so that the game remains balanced. Basically, reversing Linear Warriors, Quadratic Wizards so that wizards never get to be Quadratic so that the Linear fighter players don't complain. It brings everyone up or down to the same level of mediocrity.

Basically, the phenomenon of non-combat (or heck, ALL) classes to have immense fighting power, regardless of in-game logic. So a game which is PVP-Balanced will essentially be built in such a way that a player, regardless of class, has an equal chance to kill a player in a different class of the same level.

That said, being PvP Balanced is not in itself a bad thing, especially if all the games' classes are already combat oriented to one extent or another, and the game itself is premised largely on PvP conflict. It's when taken to extremes that it gets ridiculous, much like Political Correctness Gone Mad. Expecting a Spoony Bard to singlehandedly slay a career soldier? Ridiculous. Expecting a Magnificent Bard to use their wiles to set the city guard against said career soldier by liquoring him up and goading him into feeling up the mayor's wife? Priceless.

For MMORPGs, the balance issue is even worse. In MMORPGs, the problem isn't whether it is realistic for a Bard to be able to go 1v1 against a Fighter. In an MMO, combat is about 99% of what a character does, so all classes are effective in some way in combat. The problem ultimately is PvP vs. PvE.

An MMO game that is balanced for PvE (Player vs. Environment -- that is, groups of players fighting AI-controlled monsters) almost certainly isn't balanced for PvP. In PvE, you have groups of 4-8 characters, with each character fulfilling a specific role in the battle. Some characters heal, others protect, others take damage, others deal damage.

So exactly what is expected to happen when a damage-dealer goes PvP against a damage-healer? Can the damage dealer kill the healer fast enough? Or what happens when a class designed to do ranged damage has to fight one that is designed to do melee damage? It seems unlikely that the ranged attacker is going to be like AI monsters and simply stand there to be attacked. Some PvE classes have the ability to stun or even temporarily gain control of AI monsters; do these abilities work on other player characters?

And if you have a game that is balanced for PvP, then you have a game where either individually or in small groups, player characters are able to effectively fight one another. PvP-balanced classes don't have certain abilities, like being able to control what happens when multiple enemies show up (stunning, gaining control, etc). There are a lot of abilities that are designed specifically for PvE play. So either one has to come up with a form of PvE play that mimics PvP, or they have to essentially have multiple sets of class abilities -- some that are useful for PvE and some that are PvP abilities. Which leads to other balancing questions, like whether a player can focus on PvP abilities and thus be better than more PvE focused characters, etc.

Similar to Competitive Balance. See An Adventurer Is You, The Great Player-Versus-Player Debate, and Fake Balance. Compare Lensman Arms Race. Beware Internet Backdraft. Usually an issue for characters who are newly Promoted to Unlockable.

Examples of PVP-Balanced include:


  • Anarchy Online consistently has problems in this area, since while PvP was intended to be a major part of the game, PvE was also a big part, and considering the vast level differences between any two given characters (at launch, 200 levels were implemented, and as of this writing, about 320) as well as the vast differences between the theory and practice of how various professions engage in PvP, as well as the very open-ended skill system where anyone can in theory equip anything, just not as well as a profession that the item/weapon falls under, and you wind up with a PvP system where it's not only hard to figure out what, if any, balance exists (some professions were purely dog meat in PvP until recently, Meta-Physicists being bottom of the heap here), but also figuring out where your profession stands after the massive game changes implemented by the devs. (Fixers used to be top of the heap in PvP, now they're middle of the road at best.)
  • World of Warcraft unsurprisingly has problems with this as well, for the simple reason that there are at least four different setups that need to be considered when balancing classes: Solo/small group PvE, raid PvE, Arenas (small group Player Versus Player), and Battlegrounds (big scale Player Versus Player). For starters, PvE and PvP have vastly different priorities and rules (crowd control skills are less effective in PvP, for instance), and some abilities work better in small groups than in big ones. So if something is overpowered in a duel but mediocre in a battleground, it's hard to change it so that it becomes more balanced in the former without it becoming useless in the latter. Moreover, the player base itself is strongly divided between the four groups identified above, with each group clamoring for its own vision of balance, often at the expense of the others.
    • Much of the developers' effort is spent on addressing these issues, but even they have thrown up their hands with respect to 1v1 and 2v2 PvP, claiming that it's impossible to fairly balance the game at this level without removing nearly all distinctions between the classes.
      • Isn't that what happened with original Warcraft? When the human and orc sides had identical units?
    • Another problem they had early in the game's life was lack of gear. The function of most damage-dealing classes in PvP was to get people down as fast as possible... but the function of them in PvE? Simple... Deal Damage. Unfortunately, this causes a lot of trouble in PvP - because, while it did help to have PvP-specced gear, a lot of Damage-dealing classes could simply get their PvP sets by running PvE instances, and during the battlegrounds, they'd be able to kill the poor healers & tanks who were trying to get PvP gear by doing PvP and still had blues as a result. (It didn't help that the PvP specs for Druids was Feral or Balance... neither of which had gear in Vanilla WoW). This created a rather huge imbalance, and fans were screaming on the forums about how with every Tier of gear the developers added, they were further destroying PvP. (And rightfully so - several DPS classes who actually had Tier 2 gear were often on their side, or were all for PvP-specific gear). One of the few things most of the Unpleasable Fanbase actually agreed on was the addition of PvP-specific gear obtained solely through PvP. (Of course, this only applied to most of them... there were still raiders who complained about how they couldn't decide to PvP and already have their set.)
      • This has been further rectified by different stat focus between PvP and PvE to help differentiate the gear. As PvP gear has high health and defense values, along with set bonuses that reduce PvP ability cooldowns and further reduce stun durations, PvE-geared PvPers all become glass cannons with high damage and no way to mitigate it.
    • Of course, it doesn't help that the developers are their own worst enemies. Certain classes are given ways to mitigate their weaknesses whilst others are expected to deal with theirs etc etc. It's probably due to a lack of communication between the different departments, but it does feel like classes are all set to different standards on how powerful they should be.
    • As of Cataclysm and onward, Blizzard seem to have finally caved and started working in the aforementioned 'Warcraft' direction, first with giving all classes of each archetype the same categories of skills and then condensing the skill trees drastically. Actual gameplay still varies from class to class but everyone now has an official shared terminology if nothing else.
  • A source of never ending frustration for SOE MMO Star Wars Galaxies. Each class has a loyal gathering of players, and each wants to become the Flavor Of The Month (i.e. the class everyone wants to be in because it owns the other classes). Would not be a problem, were it not for the developers' constant tweaking and balance passing, resulting in nerf cries being thrown back and forth forever.
    • Has a problem-within-a-problem: Given the timeline that Galaxies is set in, Jedi are not supposed to exist, excepting Luke Skywalker, between Episodes IV and V. Yet they do. This makes just about every Jedi player The Scrappy in the eyes of the other classes.
      • Blah blah, something about Kyle Katarn, blah, training, blah blah.
      • Problem-within-a-problem-within-a-problem: Prior to November 15, 2005, Jedi was an unlockable experience. As of aforementioned date, Jedi was then changed to be available as a starter class. THIS caused a lot of animosity toward the "clicky Jedi" by the veteran Elder Jedi players.
  • The 4th edition of Dungeons and Dragons is (surprisingly, given how hard they failed in previous editions) PvP and PvE balanced. Both Fighters and Wizards are (mostly) linear now, due to having more similar mechanics.
    • While 4th edition allowed non-spellcasters to be competitive, certain roles are now weaker in PVP environments thanks to their PVE balance. Specifically, the Leader and Controller classes. To make Leaders viable, some arenas houserule that healing powers that are specifically worded to effect allies will effect the caster. Controllers, who are designed around crowd control, still fall behind other roles in PVP settings and are rarely used.
    • One of the major reasons for the current state is the nerfing of out-of-combat non-blasting spells, the one use only limitation on many class/weapon/racial/miscellaneous powers, the nerfing of static class features and the inability to multi-class in the 3.5 sense of the term. While Munchkins might appear to be the only ones opposed to this, many players who don't Min Max still feel like Wot C is railroading the entire playerbase to the complete opposite of 3.5's unbalanced but customisable mechanics to 4th edition's balanced but genericized system in the name of milking profits from new players who would likely be turned off the chaotic mess of prior editions.
  • Avoided, to an extent, by Guild Wars. After much trouble over the fact that changing a skill because of PvE reasons would unfairly make it useless in PvP, and vice versa, they decided to make some skills function differently in PvE than they do in PvP. Unfortunately other MMOs can't do this because they don't keep PvE and PvP separate.
    • City of Heroes has tried the same thing in its endless struggle for PVP balance, though the fanbase doesn't seem to want to give feedback.
    • Guild Wars actually did not originally do this - when the game was new, you simply had default abilities if you started a PvP-only character, and unlocking abilities was much easier when running through the PvE campaign. Thankfully, they remedied this relatively quickly (As in, before they added four more professions) with the addition of Balthazar faction and putting in some pre-made character builds in, so it was much easier to do it. And even then, while there was still a PvE and PvP segregation in regards to builds and abilities, they didn't specifically nerf or buff abilities for quite awhile, which unfortunately lead many people to scream how often they nerfed their favourite build(s) when it was a nerf made for PvE/PvP and they did the opposite. Now while it is still highly possible to play PvE and unlock some stuff like inscriptions, abilities, runes, and the like for PvP characters (and heroes), it's just as possible to do the same through PvP. However, they don't (as of this update) have the PvP-premade characters anymore; so arguably it can still be easy to unlock abilities for PvP through PvE, you just have to know what they are. (Guild Wars has loads of abilities)
    • Another way Guild Wars has PvE-PvP Balance was with gear. One of the problems in a few games was "Tiered Gear Sets", so while that person who has had the character since 2006 may have all the cool looking sets and that nice looking weapon, a PvP character with generic equipment skins could hold their own against that character because they are virtually the same outside of aesthetics; since that PvP character may have all the same inscriptions and runes, and everything else. Some games may not actually have this kind of gear segregation, meaning a PvE character would get gear that's better for PvP, or PvE is the only way to get gear that can be used for PvP. (Some games in recent years would specifically make PvP/PvE-only gear and not just specs, this was one of the ways Blizzard and Vivendi helped remove the PvE-characters-performing-better-at-PvP-than-people-in-PvP-gear situation of "Vanilla WoW")
    • Guild Wars manages to be relatively balanced due to the massive amount of skills and the fact that a player is capable of only taking 8 skills with them at a time.
  • Air Rivals is a primarily PvP game. So much so that some job classes are much more PvP friendly than PvE friendly, and vice versa. The Healer of the game constantly find themselves in center point of any conflicts, but levels the slowest due to their quirk (amongst others, the innate disability of having a really low offensive power). The literal Tank of the game, similarly, needs to find specific maps that has a lot of ground for them to land and unleash mayhem. Same case with the Nuker bombers, who needs decent ground enemies (or large, slow, flying ones) to cash in exp. The only one least affected by these is the equivalent to the Fighter class, which, unfortunately, is the least PvP balanced of all four and dies very, very often (unless you tune it to a specific build).
  • Perfect World International has an interesting way of working with and around the inherent problems of PvP vs. PvE. First, they have two kinds of servers: 4 servers that are PvE intensive and 2 that are PvP. In each, the way one goes about committing PvP acts is different. On the PvP servers, once a character reaches level 30 they are open for the slaughter, but can in turn attack anyone they wish. This adds an element of chaos and paranoia that some people grow to love and others tend to shy away from. On the PvE servers, one has to activate PvP mode, and it shows on their name, so everyone recognizes when someone is in "killing mode." This makes people who enjoy the madness caused by PvP to think of PvE players as "Carebears." Additionally, there is a large difference in damage inflicted on mobs and player characters. In fact, the amount of damage done to player characters is only 1/4 of the damage done to monsters. This keeps Nukers from raining fiery doom down and one shotting everyone with area of effect spells. It also keeps every other character type from one-shotting every other character type. However, in recent months a wide spread problem has occurred with the Petmaster class. A certain pet that must be bought with real money (or ridiculous amounts of in game coins)can learn a certain damage over time attack. The problem is that the attack does PvE damage in PvP. And the monster that uses is so strong that one can get "bled" for 4-9 thousand damage a second. (The toughest class in the game usually doesn't have more than 12 thousand hit points. And that's near level 90.)
  • Final Fantasy XI relegates PvP to the "sports" of Ballista and Brenner (which are vaguely similar to Basketball, and Capture the Flag, if killing opposing players were required to score), and is generally agreed to be ludicrously unbalanced, favoring the two fighter-mages, then pure mages, then damage-dealers, then tanks, and lastly the pet jobs. A sufficiently-prepared Red Mage or Blue Mage (the aforementioned fighter-mages) can easily lay waste to 4 or 5 melee attackers at once, and Red Mages/Blue Mages on opposing sides tend to employ the Foe-Tossing Charge to get at one another, each being the other's only real threat.
    • The disparity in power is so great that in a widely-read Red Mage forum, the advice for defeating each class will be given in great detail for defeating another Red Mage or Blue Mage, then moderate details on dealing with mages, a general strategy for obliterating melee attackers, and then a disclaimer for pet jobs (this comment in regards to Puppetmaster): "It should be a universal understanding amongst all PvP participants to let PU Ps run around and humor themselves in peace. Don't enfeeble them, don't engage them. It's just a courtesy thing; I don't think I need to elaborate much. Maybe toss them a "Blind" or something so they have an exciting story to tell after the match."
    • That said, PvP is a very small part of Final Fantasy XI, which many players do not ever take part in, with almost all of the game's focus on Player Versus Environment gameplay.
  • Eve Online's developer, CCP, is notorious for wielding the Nerfhammer quite liberally. About 6 months ago they boosted the Falcon an ewar ship, recently they just nerfed it for Balance. Granted it was needed but not to the extent they did it.
    • CCP in general takes a conservative approach, releasing new ships in a pre-nerfed state to avoid wild fluctuations in strategies. When they conclude that certain ships are too rarely used, they'll carefully bring them up to par with the rest. Ships which went through this process include Black Ops Battleships, Stealth Bombers, the Falcon's cousin Rook and the Caldari & Minmatar Dreadnaughts.
    • No matter where the nerfbat swings, this will always be true in EVE: Caldari. PVP. Solo. Pick two.
  • Atlantica Online has issues in this department as well. Because of its unique system of hiring up to 8 comrades of wildly different classes, in any combination a player wants, there are a huge variety of possible tactics and builds; it's almost impossible to fully balance them. Like WoW, there are multiple "basic" setups: Hunting PvE, Raiding PvE, Free League PvP, and King's Judgement PvP.
    • For Hunting PvE (typical questing/grinding), using lower level gear is fine if it has higher grades on it (+1 through +10). A typical setup uses 3 tanks, 3 damage dealers, and 3 support units.
    • Raid PvE tends to be more compact than Hunting PvE, and therefore cuts some of each type of mercenary. Most people tend to use either multiple healers or NO healers, and more melee power combining tank with DPS. Again, lower level armor is fine with high grade.
    • Free League PvP tends to have builds centered around single strategies, for example, a bow-rich formation for quickly dispatching critical opponents' mercenaries one at a time, or multiple wide-shot mercenaries (artilleryman, gunner) to build stun counters. Higher level armor of low grade is preferred in Free League than lower level high grade gear because of the unique nerf of weapons/armor in that mode of PvP.
    • King's Judgement is a tool that high-ranking players can use to essentially force PvP on other players; losing a King's Judgement (Or KJ for short) causes the player to lose a random piece of equipment. None of the Free League nerfs are in place for a KJ so virtually any build will work, so long as a player's gear is superior in every way. High level, high grade gear is preferred for KJ. (A side-note: For those wondering how anything gets done in Atlantica with the possibility of KJ -- Doing so repeatedly or with malicious intent can be reported to GMs for review.)
  • The Old World of Darkness had problems with this, as several supernaturals had long-standing grudges that went back millennia. In one case, this was vampires versus werewolves... where one werewolf could likely wipe the floor with a handful of average vampires. And then there were the Tremere vampires versus the Forces-happy Order of Hermes mages. When the New World of Darkness rolled around, supernaturals were retooled so that a) they stayed in their own relatively different worlds, and b) if their paths did cross, each type would either have a one-on-one fighting chance or the ability to escape relatively unharmed.
    • However, straight combat almost never happens in the World of Darkness. Vampires will kill you in your sleep, Werewolves kill everyone in the general area- not just the players, and Mages tend to be too busy fighting against the general forces of the Abyss to bother kicking anyone else's ass. If you do kill a vampire, you're playing into another vampire's plans, and he'll have you shot by someone else as soon as he doesn't need you anymore.
    • Played straight in the New World of Darkness, however, especially when Hunter: The Vigil comes out to play and the hunters are Conspiracy members with Endowments. Virtually every trick every supernatural entity has can be countered by a certain piece of equipment or Tactic, which is appropriate considering how near-helpless a normal human is, and Hunter is all about turning the tables on the supernaturals - if you do kill a vampire, you've spat in the darkness' face and lived to tell the tale... unless the Storyteller wishes otherwise.
  • Exalted plays this remarkably straight. Most of every single namesake superhero is basically expected to be a competent combatant Plus competent something. In a world where Aggressive Negotiations are almost the default method of discussing matters (with actual diplomacy ensuing in the event of some kind of stand-off in the initial effort at fast and pragmatic solution) this is naturally to be expected.
    • This led to the funny and unusual effect of "dedicated combatant" subtypes (Dawn/Dusk/Slayer for Solar-tier) being widely criticized as getting the bad deal, because there's very little they do more efficient then other subtypes and usually much in the "other something" area they do worse. The little help could come from the fact that mass combat is a different game then melee in Exalted, and that mass combat is normally their "other something" and from the fact that a Dawn/Dusk/Slayer has the side benefit of versatility in combat. It doesn't matter if that Twilight is a better Archer if you disarm them and beat them to death with their bow.
  • The old-old start of Drowtales when it was based on Dungeons and Dragons sessions. Deliberately averted hard in favour of story over balance in the current main comic and something new readers should keep in mind/be aware of.
  • The Starcraft series continually wrestles with this issue due to the prominence of competitive play. The original game and its expansion pack are widely considered to be as balanced as they are purely by accident and each race is only on even ground with the others by virtue of having its own Game Breaker strategies. With the sequel Blizzard has decided on a method of constant refinement based on the feedback of dedicated and high profile players but certain issues like the Terrans' raw versatility, the supremacy of Protoss micromanagement and the Zerg tendency for runaway economy are persistent thorns in their side.
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