1. Simple Balancing

    NOTE: This discussion is based on Savage XR 1.0 and Savage: Rebirth 1.4.10

    Savage has a long history of balance arguments. It has, at any rate, a long history. Many people have claimed imbalances, and tried to rebalance the game with various mods. Most of these mods either are never finished or do not serve the original purpose of creating balance. But the question and argument that no one has made is:

    Is it balanced when you can't handle the numbers?

    Savage suffers from arbitrary values for everything. I say it suffers because it's not easy for a player, at a glance, to understand the strengths of the units and the importance of various game mechanics. Does a player know what an improved hand weapon actually does? Or how much better is your leap after level 7? Even if the numbers were visible what do they mean? Arbitrary numbers that are then play-tested and tweaked to balance them are nice if you want to have fun while working. They aren't, however, going to give you simple, easy to understand rules for balancing a game. Savage presents a bit of a twist in that it's meant to be asymmetrical in nearly everything each race can do. Beasts favor attack and mobility, humans favor defense and range. Humans tend to win more in the late game, but beasts tend to win 2 out of every 3 matches on average. Beasts require more skill to handle in FPS, while it's generally harder to be the Human commander. These are all inherently unequal, and that's good. Games don't have to be rock, paper, scissors- or Terran, Protoss, Zerg as the case may be. But games do have to be balanced in some way, even if they are balanced in an asymmetrical way. If the players understand this asymmetric nature, they can create strategies that benefit their team. Savage also relies on individual player skill to do the work on the ground. It has simple but fluid fps melee, unmatched in probably any other game. This melee system is also asymmetrical. Beasts can leap or lunge around, humans can block incoming attacks. While a solid, simple set of balance rules would make this system easy to easy to understand and fun to play, a set of arbitrary numbers and no rules at all about balance would make it very confusing. So instead of rebalancing Savage again in Savage: Rebirth, we have decided to simple-balance the game while keeping the original tweaked balancing intact. (Mostly.) More on that later. First, let's talk math.

    Equations make things equal.

    So, here we will begin laying out the argument. Before we get started, a couple of notes: 1) everything is calculated for level 25, the SR level cap. Past this level nothing happens in XR either, so it's a good place to cap. 2) These XR equations are based on what was in XR as of April 2010 but we don't think they've changed. SO, let's start with a simple one: health. Traditionally in Savage, units have been given a base HP (B) and they receive a certain amount of hp (dh) per level (l). There's a cap, but let's just look at the base equation:

    ex: legionnaire is 550 + 25 * 0 + 10 + 10 + 50 = 620hp at level 25
    ex: nomad is 250 + 25 * 0 + 10 + 10 + 50 = 320hp at level 25

    This is straightforward, except there's a little catch. dh is always 0 and certain levels instead give you an extra bonus of health. To Savage vets, these are the "armor" levels, where you receive extra "armor" in the form of a bonus of 10hp, 10hp, and then 50hp at levels 3, 6 and 9 respectively. Leading to HP plateaus were the health doesn't represent level, and at level 8 a player are very vulnerable to attacks while not dealing any more damage. This means that all unit tiers gain health at the same rate, and only their base health differentiates them. These bases are also arbitrary and a little uneven.

    Other parts of original Savage balance aren't so straightforward: damage increases not per-level but all at once: Level 4 is the only place damage actually increases. Level 8 increases your damage vs structures, and that's about where it ends. Some attributes are race-specific like block power and stamina bonuses.

    So, let's take a look at what S:R proposes, starting again with health:

    (From Appendix A)
    ex. legionnaire is 10 + 25 * (3 * 0.5) = 47.5hp at level 25
    ex. nomad is 6 + 25 * (1 * 0.5) = 18.5hp at level 25

    This equation is very similar to the one from Savage: TBFN, but with one difference: dh is used to account for the unit tier as well as the level. This scales better, and looks like a smooth curve instead of a step function. BUT HOLD ON! The base HP of a legionnaire is 10?!?! Well yes, and the base hp of smaller units is even less. In the actual game, these values could then be scaled to something easier to swallow, like multiplying everything by 10 thus giving legionnaires a max hp of 475 at level 25. But... small numbers make for good times. So we will leave them small for our discussion.

    How Much Does It Hurt?

    Health is a good place to start, but of course it doesn't mean much if we don't know how much damage we are dealing.

    Let's take a quick look at original Savage damage:

    ex. legionnaire deals (80+10) * 2.6 * 1.0 = 234 on any swing at level 25

    A little more complex than the health equation. Bonuses are +10 damage at level 4, and +.5 to type modifier of structures at level 8. Again, we can see the plateau of damage here which I like to call the Great Plateau Where Nothing Happens.

    Now let's see what S:R proposes (hold on tight):

    ex. legionnaire deals (((4+ 1 * 2)) - 2 + 0.5*25 + 0) * 1.0 = 16.5 on the first and second swing at level 25
    ex. legionnaire deals (((4+ 1 * 2)) - 2 + 0.5*25 + 0.2*25) * 1.0 = 21.5 on the third swing at level 25

    WHOA! Simple-balancing my butt, amirite? But let's break it down a little, and look at the example numbers. Base damage (D) is the same old thing, it's just a smaller value. Damage bonus (B) is something new. Damage bonuses are how we reflect certain milestones (improved hand weapon, your strength is unrivaled, etc) and this is reflected by the bonus level, (lb). So, damage bonus is by default 1, and then the bonus level increases a per the milestone

    Now let's try this all out together. Say we have a legionnaire dueling a predator. The predator has 46.5 at max level, and a legionnaire will be dealing 16.5/21.5 damage. So, if the legionnaire lands the first two swings, he has dealt 16.5*2 = 33 damage. The predator will have 46.5-33 = 13.5 health. Now, assuming he's not healing or regenerating life, the next swing will most certainly kill our poor predator. 3 hits to kill is pretty much the same as it is in original Savage. What if the predator is level 16? Well then his full HP is exactly 33, and he's dead in two swings. In fact, if the predator is level 19 and a level 25 legionnaire hits him with the second and third swing, he's still dead in two swings.

    On the other side, a predator deals 17.5 damage against a non-blocking legionnaire of the same max level. Now, a predator can do something to increase this damage (with say, Carnivorous) but assuming a duel scenario as earlier, he's going to have to hit as many times as the legionnaire did to kill an opponent. If, however, the legionnaire blocks an attack, he will only deal 14.5 damage. This means that if the lego can block the first two, he can survive the 3rd even without a heal. This works because the 3rd swing is not in combo, since the first two were blocked and didn't allow the predator to get to the combo 3rd swing. To be sure the legionnaire is going to be very low on life, but he's not dead yet.

    Of course, not everything happens at the highest level. For gauging duels, we've done well so far. Let's move back a little and see what happens when enemies first clash, say at level 4. I start with the nomad because we don't have to think about things like blocking when calculating the outcome. Going into this fight with full hp, the Nomad has 8hp and the Scavenger will have 7. Now, at level 4 the nomad has only just reached his first damage bonus, so he has 2+1*1 base damage, and the Scavenger got his armor upgrade at level 3 so he has 1*1 armor. So the final equation for the hit is ((2+1*1) - 1) + 2 = 4 damage against the Scavenger. The Scavenger will die in 2 hits at this rate, but he himself is dealing ((3+1*1) - 1) + 2 = 5 damage. They are, for the most part, quite even. They would each be left at 3 hp if each hit the other once. But since the Nomad can block, he will have a bit of an advantage if he can block the first strike, because he will have only taken 4 damage and will therefore be able to block 2 attacks before he would die on the 3rd no matter what. The Scavenger must move around and try hard not to be struck at all, and that's exactly the kind of play that we should see.

    In the End...

    Well that was all very informative and long-winded, but what does this all mean? What's the sum-total? It means that everything stays pretty much the same when it comes to how the melee feels. If your legionnaire hits a predator 3 times, he dies. There's some little details that may very well play big roles, like the 3rd swing bonus, and the outcomes have yet to be seen. But what definitively changes is how the level dynamics and specific upgrades feel. It also means that the faster you can level, the greater advantage you have over your opponents. A player has a clear idea of what that advantage will be. We discussed some time ago the changes to experience, and those become a lot more important now. There's quite a few other numbers that were not discussed here, like what various weapons and items can do to change values, building HP and armor values, and a myriad scenarios (like the fact that a predator can kill an unsuspecting nomad in one swing if that swing is the 3rd in a combo). These numbers are not set in stone, and community feedback plus thorough play-testing are going to play a big part in the final numbers. Everyone on the team is hoping for a lot of community involvement in finalizing these numbers. It's a fun and undiscovered land for Savage, and we hope it will lead to good things!

    Appendix A
    NOTE: All of these numbers will appear in the 1.4.10 version of Savage: Rebirth
    1. Nomad - 6hp, 2dmg, 1.2spd
    2. Savage - 8hp, 3dmg, 1.1spd
    3. Legionnaire - 10hp, 4dmg, 1spd
    4. Ballista - 80hp, 48dmg, .8spd
    5. Catapult - 120hp, 40 + 20dmg, .7spd (+20dmg is splash)
    1. Scavenger - 5hp, 3dmp, 1.1spd
    2. Stalker - 7hp, 4dmg, 1.2spd
    3. Predator - 9hp, 5dmg, 1spd
    4. Summoner - 60hp, 48dmg, 1spd
    5. Behemoth - 180hp, 55+5dmg, .9spd (+5dmg is splash)
    Full Article >
  2. Testing Matches

    With a few 1.4.X bugfix releases behind us, I think it's time we had some real SR matches to see how things are playing. All of the jitter has been worked out of the melee, and the physics upgrades have been tweaked to feel a lot more like original Savage (with EX2-style leaps)....
    Full Article >
  3. What 1.3.0 means for Savage: Rebirth

    Released about 3 days late, 1.3.0 is the first truly playable version running all the gameplay features planned for Savage: Rebirth. From here the course changes towards social web interaction (clans, friends, chat, achievements), improved physics and graphics...
    Full Article >
  4. EX2 Games

    I hear lots of nostalgia about the "Good Ol' Days" of Savage with EX2. Well, the S:R team has resurrected an EX2 server running on the same hardware as the SR US Official server! We also have a patched EX2 5b client available for download...
    Full Article >
  5. It's time for a real testing match!

    Sharpen your blades, check your shields, search your helmets and play the war drums!
    The time has come to see if the spirit and might of the Legion is still strong enough to resist the rage of the beasts...
    Full Article >