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Balance Changes: General Direction

By Nitocris | Thu 15 Sep 2022 09:00:00 AM PDT

Balance Changes: General Direction

The recent changes to Band of Air and Bone Devil’s Ribcage have brought up the question of how we make balance adjustments more generally.

It’s important to emphasize that we do NOT want to lower the power of an item just because “it’s too strong” in some abstract sense, or even because it’s stronger than we might have originally intended when we designed the item.

Items should be lowered in power level only if their current power level is actually hurting the game. That typically means one of three things:

  • The item strongly and directly damages the player experience.
    • An example would be if an item allowed a boss to be killed in just a few seconds.
    • Items that have server or client performance issues would also fall into this category.
    • Cases like this are fairly rare.
  • The item creates a real “haves vs. have-nots” experience all by itself. Of course, some characters will be much better-geared than others overall, but it shouldn’t come down to a single item!
    • If, for example, players who are forming groups are only willing to accept those who have some specific item, that’s a bad situation.
  • The item prevents us from making good new gear in its slot.
    • This is really important. A lot of the fun of Neverwinter is getting new gear for your character. Every time there’s an item so strong that all other items in that slot (not only now, but even in the future) are worthless, that takes away from that fun.
    • This is by far the most common problem of the three.

If we do have to lower the power level of an item, and it’s an item players worked hard to get (which is very often the case), we will try to keep the item strong and viable, and not just lower its power level to the point where it never makes sense to use it. That won’t always be possible, and even where it is possible, sometimes we’ll miss that target — it’s a hard one to hit! But that will be our goal. In practice, an item that is crazy good for everybody will often, when balanced, become an item that’s good for some classes and builds but only O.K. for others.

Balance changes will not generally lead to makegoods, but we might make exceptions in certain cases involving big power decreases for items people had to directly pay cash for — we want to emphasize that it is NEVER our intention to grab cash from some deliberately too-strong item and then lower its power level, so a makegood can be called for in those cases.

In order to get better at making these kinds of changes, and to make fewer mistakes in the first place, we have recently formed a “Rewards Council”. The Council has all the item designers, the lead systems designer, the executive producer, and selected “expert character builders” from other parts of the Neverwinter team. The Rewards Council reviews all the items for each module before they go out, and it also reviews any big item power level changes we make on already-released items. Note the Rewards Council does not just lower power levels; especially in the pre-release reviews, there is a lot of feedback along the lines of “nobody will want that, what can we do to make it better?” (So far, we have actually spent more time increasing power levels than lowering them, although we do both.) We hope the amount of worthwhile gear we release with each module will go up over time as the Rewards Council gets better at its job.

We know that every time a strong piece of gear has its power level lowered, it can be painful. We hope that by being careful, being consistent, and following the guidelines discussed above, we will nevertheless still be making Neverwinter a better experience, and that any pain from the lowered power levels will be outweighed by a more enjoyable Neverwinter overall.

For the official feedback thread on this topic, please visit the forums


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