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The Casual Life by Wintyre Fraust

An older, casual player's perspective on MMOG's in general and GW2 in particular.

Author: Meleagar

GW2: An Argument Against Balanced Classes

Posted by Meleagar Sunday October 14 2012 at 7:53AM
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What does the term “balanced” mean, when it comes to classes? In most MMOGs, IMO, a “balanced” class means different things when it comes to PvE and PvP.

In PVE, balance generally means that a perfectly played, maximally efficient class will be the functional equivalent of any other class when it comes to the acquiring content that is part of the linear character progression. IOW, when reduced to a mathematical formula, every class (when perfectly played) produces the same value when it comes to gaining levels, farming resources or gold, or contributing to group or raid content.

In PvP, balance means that a perfectly played class will result in a draw with any other perfectly played class (when measured statistically over time).

The concept of “balance”, in any non-arbitrary, objective sense, must refer to a statistical analysis in regards to acquiring specific, mathematically-reducible products. IOW, if any class is not equivalent to any other class in terms being reduced to a numerical variable towards some kind of linear product, then the class is “not balanced”.

My question is: should classes in GW2 be “balanced” at all? Or is this simply a notion rooted in the very kind of MMO structure that GW2 is designed to escape? Doesn’t striving for universal equivalence of professions limit the possible variety, and doesn’t it impose the mentality that all your character is, essentially, is a numerical value in regards to how much it can contribute in a give PvE or PvP situation?

When characters are essentially reducible to how much tanking, dps or healing they provide, then it seems they can be balanced; I’m not sure how one would go about “balancing” the classes in GW2. When you consider all of the variables – all of the variant dodge roll effects, the ability to generate combo fields, character foot speed in aiding in the evasion of MOB attacks and effects, quick revive skills, etc. – unless you just line up one class mano a mano against each other with players dedicated to perfecting those particular classes in PvP, how can anyone claim to have “balanced” anything?

It seems to me that ANET should just abandon the whole notion of “balancing” classes, free up the future for all kinds of new class variations, and just let the general population figure out what they prefer playing. Then, if very few people are playing a certain class, they might take a look at changing something – but, then again, why not have classes that few people enjoy? I think trying to accomplish an even spread of class choices is also a mistake – an attempt to homogenize class appeal. Even if a class is difficult to play, so what? Lots of people enjoy playing difficult-to-play classes.

It seems to me that the idea of a set of “balanced” classes is really only viable when the productivity of a character in a given PvE or PvP setting is essentially reducible to numbers in a formula. Given the structure of combat in GW2, I think that “class balance” should be an idea throw into the same garbage bin as the holy trinity.

alkarionlog writes:

feh that is new, i'm acostumed to hear people cry and say that class is imba, now someone complain about not having a imba class? that is new.


also in theory what you preach is true to all MMO, but is never like that, you complain about balanced, only thing I saw is we can roll with any group without losing time with need a healer and a tank for X instance, and gw2 combat at least I have to move, dodge do more then just stand and press 1,2,3 rinse and repeat. also here each class play diferently from each other with is good for replay value if you like, and some classes are harder to play at maximum efficience depending on your play style. only diference now is you can't just over gear in a RGN hoping to win all, even though the RGN is still here you can over came it with shear skill.

in my IMHO the game still have 2 imba classes who will see a nerf soon, also several bugs to iron out. but for now its pretty good and bring new things to the table, finally a mmo who is not all copy paste, hope it will force devs to look for more inovations, not just copy EQ model, with the easy mode with is wow and hope to make millions out of it

Mon Oct 15 2012 11:50AM Report
carpal writes:

Well I agree, how many developers out there would love to be able to say we aren't balancing at all because of...

But that notion is horseshi*t.  Why?  Because once players figure hte best overkill class they all player.   You can log into GW2 and figure out which class is dominate, if you haven't figured it out already.  Then you get this whole wayyyy to many of that said class players, and the classes that are the suck, no one plays.  This is the rule of the late 90s games.  That one or two classes that you just don't play.  Sorry, but game designers and balance has to be done, and quickly at that.  The problem is the tweak, don't over do it.  Make small changes to make sure you don't gimp the class.  

Mon Oct 15 2012 9:25PM Report
Meleagar writes:


I agree that most if not all min-max efficiency-oriented players will gravitate towards the most efficient class, and the most efficient build for that class, but that is hardly "all players".  GW2 is designed to be more appealing to "world-experiencer" players who aren't that interested in mathematical character efficiency.  The reason I conclude this is because unlike virtually every other MMOG on the market, min-max efficiency players do not have access to any substantive, superior content in GW2.

If GW2 has designed a game to be appealing to "world experiencers" like me an many other casual players, IMO it shouldn't be their priority to put too much effort in making every class statistically equivalent because it harms the variety potential of classes, and it sends the message that min-max efficiency is what is driving class design and build options.

I'm not saying that the min-max mentality is wrong, only that GW2 wasn't built to cater to that mentality, and that using the min-max model to "balance" classes into bland equality is, IMO, a step outside of the design philosophy of GW2.

Tue Oct 16 2012 6:52AM Report
Aeander writes:

Without balance patches, there is an inevitable stagnation, especially at this point in the game where balance is in its worst state. 


It's unhealthy to have most builds be unviable - especially given how few builds there currently are - and a few builds (like Bunker Guardian) be required to succeed in PvP.

Wed Oct 17 2012 4:31PM Report writes:
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