What is "flat balance?"

What is "flat balance?"

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smoth
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What is "flat balance?"

Post by smoth » 06 May 2014, 04:56

I noticed this mentioned in a few places on the zk forum and albator is bawing about it in the latest BA release.

What is flat balance? are there other paradigms?
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SinbadEV
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by SinbadEV » 06 May 2014, 05:09

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knorke
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by knorke » 06 May 2014, 11:17

http://springrts.com/phpbb/viewtopic.ph ... 10#p557691
For example reducing level dps rather than decreasing it speed so it looks more like a t1 tank, you could have make him slower, or whatever.
Problem: Leveler tank is too strong.
Solution 1: Make Leveler more similiar to other units
Solution 2: Make Leveler weaker, but in a way that differentiates it from other tanks.

1) Would be flat balance, 2) would be opposite (not sure if there is name for it)

Flat balance = each unittype is effective against many other units.
Makes game easier, because one does not need to think much what to build, or which enemies to engage with which own units.

On other hand, too flat balance makes the game focused on how many units player can spam, not which ones or how they are used.
("It is not possible to counter X metal with 0.25X")

Aircraft in RTS are usually not flat balanced because it needs special anti-air units to kill them.
(or even be able to target them at all)
Different in zK: Almost all units are at least somewhat effective against aircraft.
In discussion about zK "flat balance" and "flat techtree" are sometimes confused.
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Anarchid
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Anarchid » 06 May 2014, 11:26

2) would be opposite (not sure if there is name for it)
In ZK it's called Quant's Rule.

The canonical form is "Nerf weaknesses, buff strengths".
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Google_Frog
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Google_Frog » 06 May 2014, 11:35

SinbadEV wrote:Perfect Imbalance? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e31OSVZF77w
No.

Flat balance is the idea that no unit in the game should ever become obsolete. People can mean more when they say 'flat balance' so I will call this basic condition 'weak flat balance'. Starcraft 2 seems to have this sort of balance. Apparently people can spam Marines late into the game and they are the first combat unit.

For a stronger version of flat balance most units have to have the same level of accessibility. This means that the investment required to unlock a unit is the same across all units. Zero-K mostly has this type of flat balance. Most of the units take the same investment to unlock. This does not mean that unlocking units is free.

Flat balance does not mean that all units are viable all the time, just that their viability is not negated by some other unit which does their job better. For example planes are not viable when your enemy has a lot of anti air. You could destroy their anti air to make plane production viable again. Whereas if you have two tech levels of planes, T1 and T2, then it is not viable to produce T1 planes once you gain the ability to produce T2 planes. The distinction here is that nothing you can do can make it viable to produce T1 planes again.

The phrase 'flat balance' derives from the method of balancing used. It means that all the units would be balanced if the tech tree were flattened out. The units are balanced without the tech tree in mind.
knorke wrote:Flat balance = each unittype is effective against many other units.
In short knorke's post is wrong. This is not how the term 'flat balance' has been used in the ZK area of spring for many years. Discussions on the PA forum sometimes use the term in my sense probably due to ZK influences. It is an unfortunate term though because flat can be a synonym for boring and used as an adjective to describe balance. I would call that type of boring balance 'generic' or 'average' units.

In albator's post he talks about units being averaged towards a central point which results in boring balanced. So he is not saying anything about tech levels.
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Jools
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Jools » 06 May 2014, 11:43

You don't see a lot of nations of the world opting for the North Korean type of army: 'quality in quantity'. So I think it makes sense that units do become obsolete.
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Google_Frog
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Google_Frog » 06 May 2014, 11:48

What makes sense in the real world can guide game design but it should not be the only and final argument. You don't see real world armies collecting and processing resources on site to create more tanks yet every RTS has this mechanic. Your objection is not worth any specific defense.
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Jools
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Jools » 06 May 2014, 11:56

Perhaps I should stress that I mean no offense to the North Korean leadership: people are resources too and it would be unwise to not make use of what you have. My argument was only intended for theoretical discussion and was not intended to offend people.
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knorke
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by knorke » 06 May 2014, 12:20

Maybe "flat balance" was to mean something else, but that is what become of it.
Flat balance does not mean that all units are viable all the time, just that their viability is not negated by some other unit which does their job better.
Viability negated by a unit-choice in players factories or by something that opponent is doing?
I feel it always meant both:
In zero-K it not often that you have two armies where one can just "hard-counter" the other units.
Rarely do you get an engament where units just completly can not deal with the enemy units or situation.
Imo that is because: "each unittype is effective against many other units."

On "how it is used", the first result I found was two zK devs disagreeing what it means ;)
So think it is bit loose defination...to me it always meant the above, or at least that was what it resulted in, making it mean that.
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SinbadEV
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by SinbadEV » 06 May 2014, 12:58

Google_Frog wrote:
SinbadEV wrote:Perfect Imbalance? https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e31OSVZF77w
No.
I was mostly responding to the "are there other paradigms?" part (The video mentiones StarCraft and Chess which are what I think of as "Flat Balanced", could be wrong though)
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Jools
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Jools » 06 May 2014, 14:05

Chess is not flat balanced. It would be if all pieces were pawns. Now the abilities of the pieces are very specific, they are good vs others in some positions but not in others.
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Google_Frog
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Google_Frog » 06 May 2014, 14:16

knorke wrote:Maybe "flat balance" was to mean something else, but that is what become of it.
Flat balance does not mean that all units are viable all the time, just that their viability is not negated by some other unit which does their job better.
Viability negated by a unit-choice in players factories or by something that opponent is doing?
I was a bit unclear there. By "some other unit" I meant "the ability to produce some other unit" (as in teching). So being able to produce unit A does not make it pointless to produce unit B. I don't quite know what "unit-choice in players factories" is. Is it your own factories? Enemy factories? Technically if you need 3 of a unit for some purpose but already have 10 then producing an extra one is a bad decision. Units will also not be viable based on what your opponent is doing, for example planes when the map is completely covered in anti air.
knorke wrote:I feel it always meant both:
In zero-K it not often that you have two armies where one can just "hard-counter" the other units.
Rarely do you get an engament where units just completly can not deal with the enemy units or situation.
Imo that is because: "each unittype is effective against many other units."
Most units are able to fight most other units but that is not the same as units being effective against many other units. Each unit type is certainly not effective against many other units. Zero-K balance is actually pretty extreme in the sense that some units completely roll over other units. You don't see this happen particularly often because people use many unit types in their armies to make them able to deal with many things. Also if someone has an army which is very vulnerable to counters they will try to make sure that it does not engage its counters.
knorke wrote:On "how it is used", the first result I found was two zK devs disagreeing what it means ;)
So think it is bit loose defination...to me it always meant the above, or at least that was what it resulted in, making it mean that.
That is a fairly minor disagreement which I mentioned in my first; that there are varying 'strengths' of flat balance. In that case Saktoth wants to make all factories viable throughout the game by themselves. It is not saying that all units are viable all the time although it is a stronger version than mine. These are just details about its implementation in a particular game. The general concept is still the same.

Flat balance is not relevant to chess because it barely has a unit production aspect. You can't have a choice between producing unit A or unit B when there is never a chance to produce anything. Technically chess is not flat balanced because you would never promote a Pawn to a Bishop or a Rook because the Queen makes those pieces obsolete (except in the rare case that promoting to a Queen immediately causes a stalemate).

At its core flat balance does not deal with how effective units are against each other. It is a statement about whether unlocking access to new unit types makes production of any of your previous unit types strictly bad.
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CarRepairer
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by CarRepairer » 06 May 2014, 18:14

It's not a loose definition. It's very specific and easy to understand. Saktoth created it, but albator hijacked the term and competely misused it to mean something else. He has no idea what he's talking about. GoogleFrog explained it perfectly but people like Jools keep responding and showing they don't get it. There are no zk devs who disagree.

Flat balance is not:
All units are mostly the same.

Flat balance is:
No unit obsoletes another
<=> There is no pair of units A,B where A is ALWAYS better than B
Nearly all units are equally accessible. There is no pair of units where one has a higher tech level than another.

A giant gunship is not the same as a flea but they are flat balanced with eachother.


Over 95% of units in ZK are flat balanced. The strider mechs are a small exception.
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FLOZi
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by FLOZi » 06 May 2014, 19:14

FWIW S44 followed a similar philosophy, though it doesn't adhere to it as strictly as we have a tech tree (but f. ex. armoured cars are still useful even when you have tanks, and basic infantry are essential at all times)
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Jools
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Jools » 06 May 2014, 19:17

CarRepairer wrote:people like Jools
What kind of people are those? Flat?
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CarRepairer
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by CarRepairer » 06 May 2014, 19:31

Jools wrote:
CarRepairer wrote:people like Jools
What kind of people are those? Flat?
Well I guess that would be Jools, knorke, SinbadEV in this thread. Saying a lot of stuff that is diluting the truth. It is frustrating because that is what leads to someone misusing "flat balance" in some other random thread and people get a totally wrong impression of our design.
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smoth
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by smoth » 07 May 2014, 03:41

So ZK guys decided to make up this term for their balance paradigm?
  • all tech1
  • no hard counters
  • most units are viable late game
Am I missing anything?
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knorke
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by knorke » 07 May 2014, 10:09

In other forums I have read about "flat balance" as well, sometimes even for non-RTS games.
http://forums.relicnews.com/showthread.php?122425 (from 2005, that is before zero-K or CA)
Google_Frog wrote:I was a bit unclear there. By "some other unit" I meant "the ability to produce some other unit" (as in teching). So being able to produce unit A does not make it pointless to produce unit B. I don't quite know what "unit-choice in players factories" is. Is it your own factories? Enemy factories?
I meant that "unit is viable" depends on two things:
1) Can I (I, as in the player) make a unit that is better?
2) Can/does the enemy do/produce something that counters my unit?
Most units are able to fight most other units but that is not the same as units being effective against many other units. Each unit type is certainly not effective against many other units. Zero-K balance is actually pretty extreme in the sense that some units completely roll over other units. You don't see this happen particularly often because people use many unit types in their armies to make them able to deal with many things.
I think in practice it means almost the same:
In zero-K most units are allrounder enough, that they can deal okay with many situations.
(exception: artillery and anti-air)
If two armies are of similiar metal value, then rarely will one "completly roll over" the other.
But even if there was more hard counters: "people use many unit types in their armies."
Maintaining such mixed army is very easy in zero-K:
Each factory can produce all needed unit types, and all units cost the same resources.
:arrow: To me, that too is flat balance.
On other hand in Age of Empires, a mixed army is harder to maintain: One needs different buildings, unit cost different amount of resources. (gold, wood, food, rock, not in 1:1 ratio)
Also if someone has an army which is very vulnerable to counters they will try to make sure that it does not engage its counters.
Yes, imo being able to do that is also something that flattens balance. One player might spam some fast, cheap unit that on the battlefield gets countered - but zK eco buildings are so fragile, that by raiding eco he can get away with just making those units whole game.
Even if enemy has the counter units that win in battlefield, eco wise it evens out.
:arrow: To me, that too is flat balance.
Google_Frog wrote:At its core flat balance does not deal with how effective units are against each other. It is a statement about whether unlocking access to new unit types makes production of any of your previous unit types strictly bad.
I can not think of any RTS where one unlocks a new unit type and then previous units become useless like that.
That is not satisfying definition to me.
I think flat balance is basically the opposite of RPS, always understood it more as question of "how important is unit choice?" In zero-K unit choice is not as important as in other RTS. It is more how/where/how many you use.
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Anarchid
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by Anarchid » 07 May 2014, 11:09

Knorke's post in one line:

"To me, any balance is flat."
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knorke
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Re: What is "flat balance?"

Post by knorke » 07 May 2014, 11:12

i accidenly a sentence too much:
Age of Empires is example of not-flat.
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