Play-Testing: Balancing Nevera Duels
This post is regarding some of the balancing decisions I have made as a result of play-testing Nevera Duels. Specifically balancing the minions' abilities. Each minion has four abilities, and the goal is for none of the abilities to be overpowered or under-powered, which is a high bar, but worth pursuing as diligently as possible.
Early in the design process I determined as the basic economy of Nevera Duels would be that one resource would be worth inflicting three damage. I could then price each ability accordingly, so that inflicting six damage would be worth two energy, inflicting nine damage would be worth three energy, and so on. The real challenge would be determining how many energy would drawing an extra card be worth, or how many energy would having an opponent's minion skip a turn be worth.
This was the focus of the bulk of my play-testing; properly costing the non-damage causing abilities.
Each ability comes in four tiers, scaling up in energy cost and power, and so you will see me refer to abilities by batches of four names. I will include card images to help contextualize the information.
Embrace, Stifle, Constrict, Choke
These abilities allowed you to prevent the opponent's minions from using an ability of your choice, this was a little too powerful in being able to shut down the opponent's options. However instead of simply increasing the energy cost to use these abilities, I changed the lower power versions to only prevent the opponent's minions from using a damage causing ability of your choice, which helped the ability scale better in the early game.
Burst, Blast, Cyclone, Plasma
Originally these abilities would cause one, two, three, or four damage multiplied by the number of energy cards a player had on the board. This very quickly showed itself to be way too powerful by the middle of the game, and so instead I changed them to two, three, four or five damage multiplied by the number of cards the player has in hand. This mitigated the power to an appropriate level and also gives the player another path of strategy; of holding more cards in hand to increase the power of these abilities in exchange for fewer options on the board, or trying to draw more cards to increase this ability's potential.
Sorrow, Dirge, Despair, Anguish
These abilities allowed a player to look at the cards the opponent held in hand. This was simply not as useful as the other abilities available to the player, and almost never worth the energy cost compared to simply inflicting damage to the opponent. In response I lowered the cost of the abilities, but also added the extra effect of looking at the next cards the opponent would draw for a bigger tactical advantage.
Addle, Misfortune, Discord, Peril
These abilities affected the dice rolls of the opponent, meaning that the player could cause the dice rolls of the opponent to automatically have a negative outcome. This was very under-powered because there simply are not enough abilities that require a die roll to make this an effective option. It was already a cheap ability, so instead I changed it to cause an opponent's minion to have to make a die roll even then they wouldn't. This gives the ability a much more playful edge and can really mess with the opponent's strategy.
Spark, Shock, Thunder, Bolt
Originally these abilities would inflict a little damage, but also have the added effect of forcing the opponent to return an energy card from the board to their hand. The intention was to set back the opponent's progress in accumulating energy. However because all of the energy cards are also the minion cards, in the late game this can be really beneficial to the opponent who might get back a card that would give them new options or get them out of a bind.
After a few minor adjustments failed to change the nature of the effect, I eventually changed the effect of the ability to simply tap (or make unusable) one of the opponent's energy cards for that turn. This improved the balance of the ability and the flow of the game greatly.
Flash, Aura, Shell, Beam
These abilities removed effects on minions, however it was not clear which minions were able to be targeted, and whether negative and positive effects could be removed. This led players to have a lot of confusion and questions about how these abilities could be used. In the end, in the interest of clarity I changed the wording of the ability to only remove negative effects, but also to safeguard it from future negative effects to keep its usefulness high.
Next we'll be looking at the larger design decisions of the game and how they impacted the final version of the game.