I was checking the latest “buff X” / “X was buffed but should have been buffed MORE” thread, and I figured I should write a general response to these objections.
Generic class balance FAQ
Q. Why isn’t the warrior more powerful?
A. We feel this represents an acceptable or generous balance between ease of flying and performance.
Q. Why is the warrior weaker at skill cap than the hunter?
A. The two skill caps are very different in magnitude.
Q. I have noticed a pattern of hunters being offered higher skill caps and thus higher potential performance than warriors, what gives?
A. The game is intended to be playable and enjoyable by everyone, not just the top n% of skill. Mythic warriors seem to be offered every season and every tier as an accessible option.
Q. Are you saying that class is a de facto difficulty slider?
A. That’s been the emergent trend, yes.
Q. Do you think that’s good?
A. No, although the traits chosen as a basis for class differentiation make it hard to escape. (See below.) It’d be nice if the game offered a greater diversity of styles of gameplay.
Q. Why don’t we see more high skill, high results warriors?
A. GREAT question! I don’t actually have any special knowledge on this subject, which leaves me free to speculate.
Based on what I’ve seen as a player, high skill cap warriors like UVS are much less popular than warriors that offer wins even when flown poorly. I would venture some of this is a branding issue and the de facto class-as-a-difficulty-slider dynamic that has emerged; given the options, players willing to try challenging things are used to picking the hunter, players who like easy things are used to picking the warrior. In a system where we don’t let people test drive things before they commit to a choice, setting expectations to minimize frustration using a recognizable feature like class is a pretty reasonable thing to do, and disappointment when expectations aren’t met is similarly reasonable; i.e. this reasoning isn’t “haw haw, warrior flyers SUCK” but more a statement about the effects of inconsistency in a game where players have to make decisions with limited knowledge.
The other part of the answer is that class is a pretty loose abstraction in WD terms; its only hard characteristics are HP and breath type, and its soft characteristics include the types of spells that typically show up in designs for that class, which do form clusters. Warriors have the easiest options locked for the hard characteristics (breath type: unlimited, HP: the most), and generally have the least skill-intensive options as a pattern for the soft characteristics (spells that do not need to be targeted, spells which grant immunity to everything, spells which pierce storm shields).
All that said, I’d welcome a high skill, high results warrior design. Not sure the target demo would share my enthusiasm, but I’d be happy to be proven wrong.
Q. Are there examples of warriors you thought were underpowered?
A. Danav, Archon, Cerberath, and Brutus were pretty weak.
Q. Are there examples of hunters you thought were overpowered?
Didn’t get Neptus, but on release he was extremely overpowered, in part because he was coreleased with a global tower nerf.
Ronin and Pathox both seemed on the strong side to me, but I wasn’t endgame at the time, and the quality of my defenders wasn’t very good.
Narlyth, but that was a weird case, in part because of bugs on release, some specific to him, and some introduced during his season which affected the general viability of all dragons and fragile hunters in particular. Also, it was a new style of hunter with a decently steep learning curve, so results on release were very different from results at the end of his lifespan.
Hau2 was too strong in that he didn’t have many ways to fail; on the other hand, strength relative to Lockjaw was about right.
I’d say Calavore’s balance was pretty perfect as a lead, though the rage refill makes him quite overpowered as a follow.
Mordred probably should’ve been a bit weaker to make the “slap your iPad” flying style less viable.
Q. Isn’t that a lot?
A. Yes, but I’m a good flyer, and I also am applying wildly different standards for hunters vs. warriors. “Too strong” here means “oh gee, I got good results but the tricky things weren’t that tricky, and I maybe recovered from a mistake that should’ve killed me” whereas “high skill warrior” means its design requires you to do literally anything challenging at any point during the flight to beat 2 defenders. (One defender, and you can get by without.)
Q. Why aren’t there underpowered hunters?
A. There are! Part of the issue is that they offer more skill differentiation, so there are more things that a top end flyer can do to get good results even with an underpowered dragon. Examples include: Noctarn (excellent design, probably should’ve passively started flight with 2-3 shriek stacks), Medusys, Keth, possibly Sylvix.
I beat double defended maxed bases with Noctarn and Sylvix, but they seemed much harder to make work than other comparable offerings in their time.
Q. What about sorcerers?
A. With a few exceptions, they seem to be a very unpopular class, in part because their breath attack is pretty clunky. Nowadays warriors have more overpowered spells, hence there isn’t anything that sorcs could be said to be the best at. You can make cool technical sorcs that require timing, though these don’t seem very popular.
Q. What about invokers?
A. Design-wise, it seems like what sorcerers should be, and it’s possible to allow for substantial skill differentiation. The main issue on dragons without a reload spell is that the three normal shots can’t kill anything, and being able to do something once every four seconds seems pretty boring, though that’s a matter of personal taste. Soft class features include powerful defensive spells, which I don’t love, as a concept, although in practice, the difficulty is probably in a decent place.
Q. Are there any problematic global balance issues?
A. The largest one is that the unbuffed breath attack of all dragons has gotten quite weak, relative to towers that they’re supposed to be balanced against. This affects all classes but has different effects on each:
- Sorcs: never really rely on normal attack, hence not strongly affected, but also have been pretty weak in designs
- Invokers: first three shots in clip can’t do anything, unless it comes with a reload spell or some large damage buff. Is a problem.
- Warriors: they suffer the most in theory, but this is compensated for in terms of by far the largest steroid spells, and also reliance on extremely powerful AoE spells that limit the need for normal attacks.
- Hunters: as the class most reliant on breath attacks, they are most affected by this. Result has been increasing reliance on steroids, reloads, and one-hit knockout spells, which mostly preserves difficulty but decreases diversity in available design space.
Q. Are there any design trends you find problematic?
A. Anything that reduces complexity. One-hit knockout spells are the clearest example of this, one-hit knockout spells that pierce shields are the worst offenders among them. Massive untargeted AoE damage spells also count. Abilities that are powerful and that you don’t have to aim (all exploding shields, roars, flash freezes) can be problematic. Abilities that reset limited resources can be okay but can also reduce complexity. Rage reset on launch a la Calavore or Garnath are generally a really bad idea; it was only ever a good idea on Fafnyr, who had a corresponding large weakness. To a lesser extent, e.g. Narl’s ability to ensure he was always full rage, full HP between islands is a reduction of this complexity as well; in some dragons, it’s justifiable, but in others, not.
Q. What is the purpose of public balance discussion threads?
A. I don’t think there is one. They tend to be dominated by people who are limited by their own skill rather than the dragon’s parameters. Getting feedback from the average player can be valuable; even getting feedback from a below average player can be valuable, as long as they have enough ducks to give to write decent analysis. But frequently they ask for power buffs to compensate for skill issues, and which would cause balance problems further along the curve.
Q. I think the warrior should be BUFFED!
A. That’s not a question.