Player Balance

Player Balance

Players have equal chances of succeeding with actions in a game or winning a game.

Most players want games to have the mechanics that give them the same or better chances to win or succeed with actions as other players. As this typically means that all players need the same chances to win or succeed, most games try to have Player Balance. However, this Player Balance does not usually consider the skill of players and usually only apply to the beginning of games.

Example: the symmetry in traditional board games such as Chess or Go guarantee a high level of initial Player Balance, although being the first player to do a move usually has some advantage.

Example: fighting games can allow players to modify their health by a percentage to give different players different health values and thereby counter imbalances in the skill of damaging the opponent.

Using the pattern

Player Balance can either be desirable in a game design at the beginning of game play through how the set-up is conducted or during gameplay due to the way evaluation functions and goals are constructed. Player Balance during gameplay can be achieved by avoiding the occurrence of imbalances and through correcting any imbalances that have emerged. Typical causes of imbalance depend on Geometric Rewards for Investments, Asymmetric Abilities, Asymmetric Goals, or Asymmetric Resource Distribution of Resources between players or variations in the Game World. Correcting imbalances can be done through Balancing Effects, and can avoid disrupting players' Illusion of Influence by putting the Balancing Effects under the players' control through Player Decided Results, ganging up, or Player Defined Goals. These are especially effective when all players have Non-Renewable Resources since the leading player is likely to have a smaller amount of Resources that a groups of players. Paper-Rock-Scissors designed can also have Balancing Effects are they can allow other players to adjust to the strategies of the leading player or can create Randomness which when repeated gives Player Balance. Diminishing Returns can also create Player Balance since a player that managed to use a successful tactic or strategy cannot do so throughout the game.

Asymmetric Abilities occur as soon as players receive New Abilities or Privileged Abilities or suffer from Ability Losses and Decreased Abilities. This is especially true if the effects are permanent, example through the changes in the abilities of Characters. If other players can receive the new or privileged actions, the imbalance may be temporary although if the possibly of becoming better always exist this can give rise to Red Queen Dilemmas, which are both an indication that Player Balance can be disrupted and that it can be corrected. Supporting Goals and Ephemeral Goals can give individual players advantages unless all players have their own goals of these types. Strategic Locations are the most common causes of player imbalances due to the Game World, either due to the locations of Power-Ups, places that allow Camping, or disadvantageous Spawning locations. Reconfigurable Game World can cause player imbalance, especially if players cannot control their starting positions and the reconfiguration is random.

Repeated uses of Randomness in a game ensure a certain level of Player Balance if no Closure Points exist between the uses. Tournaments combined with Role Reversal can be used to achieve Player Balance for games where it is difficult to guarantee for individual games. Players simply exchange the roles they have so that any advantage one player had in one game is balanced by the other player having that advantage in the other game.

Player Balance in the beginning of gameplay is often used to make it easier to notice Game Mastery, especially in games with Competition. Player Balance can be guaranteed to a high level of accuracy before gameplay begins through the use of Symmetry in the set-up of the game, for example Symmetric Resource Distribution of Resources, and through the use of Handicaps decided by Negotiation. The later case does take player skills into consideration and can provide the Right Level of Difficulty for several players which have different levels of Game Mastery.

Player Balance between all players in games with teams automatically gives Team Balance but avoid possibilities for Orthogonal Unit Differentiation and possibly Competence Areas.


Player Balance gives players a Perceived Chance to Succeed in Multiplayer Games. However, if the Player Balance is enforced throughout the game by Balancing Effects, it may negatively affect players' feeling of Empowerment and ruin their Illusion of Influences.

Character Development, especially in Red Queen Dilemmas, negatively affects Player Balance, at least temporarily, when they give player concrete Empowerment to perform new actions in the game or have greater chance of succeeding with existing actions.


Instantiates: Illusion of Influence, Perceived Chance to Succeed, Team Balance

Modulates: Multiplayer Games, Player Defined Goals, Competition, Game Mastery

Instantiated by: Symmetry, Player Decided Results, Paper-Rock-Scissors, Handicaps, Balancing Effects, Randomness, Diminishing Returns, Negotiation

Modulated by: Tournaments, Red Queen Dilemmas, Supporting Goals, Symmetric Resource Distribution, Reconfigurable Game World, Decreased Abilities, Ability Losses, Spawning, Characters, Right Level of Difficulty, Role Reversal, Game World, Strategic Locations, Resources, Non-Renewable Resources

Potentially conflicting with: Asymmetric Abilities, Ephemeral Goals, Red Queen Dilemmas, Asymmetric Goals, Power-Ups, Privileged Movement, Camping, New Abilities, Empowerment, Privileged Abilities, Character Development, Asymmetric Resource Distribution, Geometric Rewards for Investments