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How to make a 1v1 match balanced & fun, even with mismatched players?

Discussion in 'Game Design' started by JoeStrout, Dec 7, 2018.

  1. JoeStrout


    Jan 14, 2011
    Background: we have a rhythm game for Oculus Go (Beatron 2000) that's doing quite well. Targets spawn at some distance, approach you along a track, and you have to slice or bash them to the beat. It's currently a single-player game, with local high scores and friend/global leaderboards. But players are starting to ask for multiplayer options.

    Our current idea is a sort of "deathmatch" setup: you face your opponent across a long track, with a spawner in the middle that spawns the targets. As you do well, it pushes the spawner away from you and towards your opponent (and obviously the same for him). Anywhere near the middle, this doesn't much matter, but if it gets too close you start to have less time to react. This probably means you'll do worse, and end up failing completely.

    Such a positive feedback loop is a good thing in many games, since it brings the game to an end quickly once the outcome is pretty clear. But in Beatron, that's not really necessary, since a match has a definite end anyway (at the end of the song). And in discussing the idea with players, some have expressed concern that this is a bit brutal — we get a fair number of kids and casual players, and they could be crushed by serious players, in a demoralizing way. Some have pointed out that Nintendo games tend to make everyone feel like they can at least keep participating, even if outmatched on skill.

    So, how can we do this in our rhythm game?

    Obviously we could just have you next to your opponent, playing the same song at the same time and competing on score (like side-by-side Dance Dance Revolution in the arcades). Seems a bit dull and uninspired, though.

    One user has suggested you can earn boosts (maybe by hitting long combos), which you can trigger to push the spawner away from you. You can use these at any time, or not at all. So when playing with a kid or new player, you can just choose not to use your boosts, while encouraging them to use them all, bringing a bit of voluntary balance to the game.

    Anyone have any other ideas?
  2. newjerseyrunner


    Jul 20, 2017
    I think you need to decide what type of experience you want all players to have. I suppose your want a game to be an intense back and forth for a bit then go off in one direction once a winner is clear.

    Positive feedback loops would only give you the last part so I suggest having a positive and negative feedback system and have them shift priority during gameplay.

    Maybe at first players have negative feedback so players have to work extra hard to get any kind of advantage and even poor players can get the upper hand for a brief time, then slowly swing the balance to let positive feedback allow someone to finish it decisively.
    SparrowsNest and JoeStrout like this.
  3. Antypodish


    Apr 29, 2014
    I think in game perks for disadvantaged is good way to try keep balance.
    If your match making knows, the strength of players, this will help to balancing game play.
    You can add some starting time handicap for example.

    But if you don't know and you want to decide based at current gameplay, this may be bit problematic. You don't want situation, where somebody get playing weak for purpose, to make system think about disadvantage player, to get busts, then at sudden, player reused them, to crash opponents.

    Voluntary not using perks, may be difficult to execute, specially along young people. Some will get better than others.
    SparrowsNest likes this.


    Jun 1, 2017
    I wouldn't count on the higher skilled players not using perks to encourage others.

    Without knowing the game, I think the best thing I could suggest is what some competitive shooters do -- calculate a player level based on their win/loss and match them with similar levels. I don't know how involved that is, or maybe it requires a certain quantity of players before it becomes viable, but I don't think there is any real way to absolutely eliminate noobs from getting demolished sometimes and having a negative experience.

    Maybe some kind of in-game bonus currency could be awarded if you voluntarily rematch somebody who beats you by a large margin. In the rematch, if you should have to earn like a small minimum amount of points or whatever, jsut so that you do actually have to try. This way it kind of encourages you to not be upset when you go against somebody much better, as you know that at least at the end of the song you'll get some goodie points for it. And it kind of rewards you for taking on a challenge, which is a positive message especially for young people. If the person who gets demolished is the sole decider in whether or not there is a rematch, this may encourage the highly skilled people to either play private matches or sometimes take it a bit easy if they don't want to encourage others to always be trying to rematch them.

    And, of course, this could be exploited, so you have to find a way to mitigate that... but maybe it's useful idea.
    Antypodish likes this.


    Jun 1, 2017
    Or, better yet, you might say, if loser rematches winner after a crushing defeat, they automatically get a small bonus (currency, random skin or whatever kind of stuff you can earn in the game) at the end of the second match. But if they rematch and achieve a higher score than they did the first match, they get a larger bonus. Something significant.

    Idea here is to suggest to player that "yeah, getting stomped sucks and it happens, but if you can take on this challenge and improve a little bit -- not beat the other player or anything unrealistic, just try hard and improve a small amount -- you'll get amply rewarded for it. This is behavior the game values."
    JoeStrout likes this.
  6. SeelenGeier


    Jan 28, 2019
    You could try a balancing with powerups.
    Give the player that is behind some powerups or abilities and make them more frequent or more powerful the further behind the player is.
    He should only be able to use the powerups while his opponent is in the lead (e.g. more score points or in your case the spawner being closer to the player than the opponent).
    With this, even a very bad player can easily catch up to the leading player with those powerups, but all he can do is catch up until they are equal.

    The leading player could also be penalized, but often buffs and positive effects are better perceived than negative ones.

    Considering your spawner, you could make the rhythm based part easier for the player behind the further behind he is.
    The leading player would have to match the rhythm almost perfectly while the player behind can slack off and still get a lot of points, making him able to catch up again. This however would mean that experienced players are able to crush inexperienced players.

    Of course you can combine those two ideas as well to enable the player behind to slack off a bit and catch up with powerups, while the player ahead has to stay on his toes just to keep being in the lead.

    Mario Kart does exactly this. It gives players in the back of the field better powerups and speeds up their cart to enable them to catch up and keep the field together. Meanwhile the player in first is hit by a lot of shells (blue, red, green...hahaha) and only gets miserable items (banana peels, item boxes, etc.).

    It all depends on if you want both players to reach the same score in the end or if you want some competition where skill is necessary.
  7. Hunubul


    Dec 17, 2018
    The idea is pretty cool to balance the game. I would alter it a little bit tho:
    -After a combo of X (10 for example?) start pushing the spawned a little bit, and for every additional combo, push further. So people who never make mistakes get "punished" more. Similar to your idea.

    -long anti-combos (failing to hit anything) could pull the spawner in addition. You need to tweak the numbers so not doing anything, or failing purposely shouldn't win the game for you, no matter what. You still need to try and get combos going. In addition you can give the failing player a bonus pull for breaking the anti-combo with a combo. That would make the success even more sweet for a failing player.

    These 2 would make the game balanced for bad/average players mostly. Pros would still feel they do great. You can even add achievements for 100% score or a high score system in addition to winning/losing the game (and high score could be either personal or global). A kid would appreciate winning more, while pros would appreciate the ability to break high scores.

    I don't know the numbers, so I don't know what balanced numbers could be. But this is my idea to balance it even more by changing the game mechanics. I think that your idea wasn't bad either, with fine-tuning it could be fine. But you can try my ideas, either or both of them, or using them alongside yours or someone else's.
  8. Kiwasi


    Dec 5, 2013
    Late to the party, but I would suggest reversing your design.

    Instead of pushing away the spawner, make the player pull the spawner closer to them. This gives a natural advantage to the player who is loosing. Your core gimick still works, but now the game length is set to match the song length. Good players can still win without needing to crush their opponent to dust. Poor players still have a lot of fun.
    AcidArrow likes this.