Dungeoneer Update – Game Difficulty Balancing

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Game difficulty and balancing is a difficult problem to solve, More so I find in already released titles. I recently released an update for one of my mobile games, Dungeoneer. The plan I started with was that I was going to fix the difficulty balance “issues” I had, seeing as I had seen a significant drop of in players making it through the latter half of the game. While making Dungeoneer I initially set out with the mentality of trying to emulate the old CRPGs of the 80’s. Those were difficult games, at least for me. They often required the player to wander around mapping the game areas out themselves, grinding for XP and gold, as well as frequently retrying areas and bosses to determine the best strategy. What I’ve come to determine about those games is that the battle difficulty is largely based around what level the player is recommended to be at for a given area. You can’t have battles be too easy or hard, and there is a factor of randomness around what enemies you fight and how strong they are in each encounter, so you could come across enemies that are really easy, or enemies that put up a huge fight. I found myself in a bit of a quandary when it came to re-balancing such a system. I wanted the later levels to me more accessible, but I also didn’t want to negatively affect the games of players that were already In progress. If I made enemies themselves stronger or weaker, players in the middle of their games might find themselves over leveled and the rest of the game might be a cakewalk, or under leveled and they would be forced to return to a lower floor to grind for a level or two. I wanted to avoid grinding in my game as much as possible, but in these types if the difficulty is too easy then there’s no point in fighting battles at all and you may as well be playing a walking simulator.

 

A part of my difficulty and balance issues is that while I allow players to choose their own stat point allocation, the game doesn’t really promote build diversity. All spells require points be put into intelligence to use, and without several of those spells such as shield and barrier the game would be nearly incompletable. To address this I added skills that have stat requirements focused around strength, vitality, and agility that will enable players that don’t put any points into intelligence to gain abilities that will allow them to deal with the tougher enemies and boss fights. The skills are locked behind both stat requirements and the player must reach certain levels in the maze before they become available for purchase. Players will be able to access most of the skills by the halfway point so anyone resuming a game should see the skills the next time they return to town. By adding these skills I give players that made different choices with their builds a better chance at making their way through the rest of the game, without negatively impacting players that have save games in progress.