What makes a fighter balanced?


I don’t mean fighter as in the game but as in the characters. How do you balance them out. Is there some pattern or formula someone has come up with to determine the numbers are within a certain range of others?

Also, since I don’t want to go around making hundreds of threads. Would you guys play a fighting game that was like League of Legends? There’s 10 or so characters available a week and new characters are released every few weeks or maybe a month since it’s a fighter and requires more balance testing. Characters could be bought with in game points earned through playing the game. I’m not sure if this question belongs here. But I thought it would be a unique way to go about a fighter.


Nope, there’s no pattern or formula, since “balance” is such a subjective idea, that it’s really only sought after using playtesting, feedback, and making minor shifts in the data incrementally. There will always be strong and weak characters in an asymmetrically-balanced game, so you have to work to make sure the tiers are compressed enough in order to make a wide range of characters competitively viable.

At the conservative end of the extreme, you have SF1. Where you can only pick 1 character assigned to you, and they’re both completely identical. You have both have an equal start in the match, equal in terms of normal moves and special moves, and have no inherent built-in advantage over the other. This game is perfectly balanced, but also perfectly boring, which is why despite Chess being one of the most balanced and well-designed games in the world, it’s not exactly taking the world by storm as the best game ever.

On the other end, you have shit like this:


And LoL is the ever-changing game that doesn’t really care about inherent balance, so much as it is about always changing the balance of the game so that it’s never really an issue to begin with. The new characters that come in are overpowered, so you look for solutions to tweak existing characters or old character usage to combat that system, and then a new set of characters comes out, and you have to start all over again. So by having a game that’s constantly adding new elements or characters, balance isn’t really important, since you essentially shift the meta-game over and over and over again, which gives players no time to even make it worthwhile to fully explore.

Also, LoL an amazingly painful grind in order to reach level cap, and can be an awesome cash-sink, which has led to TONS of teh profits for Riot.


The second question deserves its own thread as they’re different topics altogether.

That said, the first one - There’s no pattern or formula or patches wouldn’t exist.
The only way to “balance” an imbalanced game is to put it out there, have people critique what happens and fix those issues.
For example: Let’s make up a fighting game, so I’m not pointing out any bad games here that could potentially start a war.

Let’s call this game “Sidewalk Fighter 2 Turbo” and it has 16 characters.

The game gets released and the players have at it.
A week after launch, a popular venue has the first “tournament” in the game, and the character “Ren” wins top 7/8 spots.

Is that game suffering from imbalance? No, not yet. Why? It was out for a week.
Fixing this would be a mistake, as we saw with a certain “OP” character in a certain crossover game that came out February 2011, when the real problem was another character that wasn’t nerfed at all.

Two weeks later, Ren has 1 spot of the top 8. Now, Bunly has 4/8 spots, and 3 other characters fill up the rest. The game is looking pretty balanced, yes? Keep in mind, this is still 5/16 characters.

Over the course of the next few months, Bunly is becoming more and more dominant. This character is seemingly causing a great imbalance. Another thing that was noticed is that John has never even seen top 16.

NOW, it’s up to the designers to analyze these matches. Why does Bunly have such a dominance and John has so many shortcomings?
So they realize that Bunly is a fucking wall that can hit confirm off of a stupid high-priority move and take half of your life that has a guaranteed follow up 50/50 situation where you could lose the rest of it. They should then decide to reduce the hitstun on that high priority move and remove some of the “wall” type moves. Then John loses to jump-ins because there’s no good anti air, and he can’t capitalize on a hit due to lack of variety in moves or poor hitstun, and even when he can capitalize, his damage output is horrendous. They should then decide to perhaps give him some better damage and more hitstun on certain moves. Perhaps buff his seemingly useless anti-air so he has a better option, as most jump-ins don’t come straight down, and they come on an angle.

Now, if they went ahead in the week 1 tournament and nerfed “Ren” when they didn’t need to, they’d make the character useless.

That’s how the games are balanced. You analyze what people are saying and showing being overpowered and underpowered and fix those things. Some people think it’s as simple as nerfing health or making some moves completely useless, but typically they have to be much more specific than this. An example of this is Akuma in Super Turbo. No character has a single answer for his air fireball, making that move alone what makes him broken. He’d be top tier for sure without, but not broken. They can decide to take the move out, reduce it’s power (perhaps if it only went half screen), or cause him to have a huge amount of recovery when he lands from the jump OR take the opposite direction and give every character something that they can use against it.


I think it’d be pretty interesting if a statistical analysis was done on games that have a long established history and to see if there was any correlation between stats across games that could be analyzed to see if there’s trend in characters who are top tier. Hitboxes aren’t something that can be easily analyzed, but things like average total damage, average damage across relevant BnB combos or the other few things that have actual numbers would provide for an interesting read at the very least even if not actually indicative of how good a character is.


Everyone has strengths to play to and each character’s strengths don’t just naturally dominate the other character’s strengths.

If nobody has an answer to fireballs besides jumping, fireballs are going to be strong. If people have big moves that punish fireballs on reaction, fireballs are going to be weaker. If these moves make fireballs useless, you’re doing something wrong. If there’s no answer to fireballs, you’re doing something wrong.


According to current fighting game design, what makes a game balanced is when all characters are pretty good in their own way (Marvel).

OR when there are two good as fuck characters and everyone else sucks. Kazuya gets buffed and Julia and Juri get nerfs out of fucking nowhere? Only poster boys are allowed to be competent .




I don’t think there’s ever been a game in recent history that’s ever made fireballs THAT strong. They were arguably the strongest they’ve ever been in WW, CE, and to some extent, ST and SF4. Fireball-ish type moves, such as beam moves or assists in Marvel, were considered very powerful, but there’s always been a solution around.

Otherwise, fireballs have always been a core part of 2d gameplay, but never over-powered for the most part. I think it’s been largely exaggerated by new players having a knee-jerk response to decent zoning game by calling “spamming fireballs cheap”


Noone ever agrees with me on this, but I’d still like some game to try it, just as an experiment.

  • First, you try to get your balance most of the way there. Nerf any horribly OP characters or moves, try to improve any characters/moves that are deemed useless. This is easier said than done, and requires analysis and feedback and some creativity.

  • Then, compile a big global table of all the times a character is used in major tournaments / top level play.

  • Once every X months, characters that are underused get a damage & health increase, characters that are overused get a reduction.

  • Repeat until every character is equally popular in tournaments / top play.

Given that people choose characters for reasons other than power (like appearance, or playstyle, etc.), it would be interesting to see a game that has equal use of all characters, yet mysteriously the characters are not actually balanced :slight_smile:

For those who say it wont work, I disagree - regardless of how OP or UP a character is, if you buff/nerf his health and damage enough, sooner or later he will be balanced. It might not result in good or fun gameplay, but it will be -balanced- :stuck_out_tongue:


You know, KOFXIII is coincidently a very balanced fighting game as of now. Every character has their strengths and weaknesses - some of the characters like Duo and Kyo are very well rounded in many aspects.
There are multiple factors to consider when playing KOFXIII - how much damage they do meterless/with meter. There speed, damage ratio, little noteworthy tools (like Ryo’s Parry or Mai’s ground Musasabi no Mai), HD combo potential, and what play style can get away with. Every character has a few viable options for conducting an HD combo - this is a game where every character is viable and tournament worthy.
I… COULD say the same for CVS2. The only legitimately bad characters in CVS2 are Dan and King (Although, earlier this year, some player on a CVS2 stream was really dishing out a serious butt kicking with King; he resorted to roll canceling and a functional rush down game). Then again, CVS2 is one of those games where the balance literally comes from the mechanics themselves and not the characters for obvious reasons, although the game is still very fun.
Another example of a pretty well balanced game would be TTT2 which recently came out - the tag team function of this game literally changed a lot of aspects of Tekken, thus affectively making every character viable. Some characters have a pretty straight forward game play methodology. Others can be a bit unorthodox (like Lei or Raven for example). And, you are certainly not likely to run into weird bullshit like a broken Jin Kazama back from the T4 days (that Laser Scraper…). Every character has multiple strings and methods of maximizing damage, all of which can be dependent on the partners you choose (or if you choose to play solo). The game has a lot to offer for every other character in TTT2.


in regards to that last section of your post, what makes a game flop is when the gameplay isn’t good or fun. Balance means nothing when you don’t feel like playing the game.


This is what happened with MSH vs. SF. Nobody gave a shit enough to play it, but going from XCotA ALL THE WAY to UMvC3, it’s the most balanced of the entire series. I think Wolverine and Omega might have been considered OP or whatever, but it wasn’t even close to a two-man show. But the game was just boring as fuck. It was so fucking boring. Oh so fucking boring.


If I remember right, even Logan and Red played somewhat like everyone else, just that they had some extra BS on top of the basic MvSF character template.


A balanced fighting game shouldn’t mean that everyone is the same, or has equal attributes. My opinion of a balanced fighting game (or game) is one where logical decisions are rewarded and experience matters, in spite of a character’s (or piece’s) ability or lack thereof, and “doing stuff” is devalued. Example, you can’t just “do stuff” in most organized games and win.

If Lebron James runs at top speed during a basketball game he runs the risk of gassing himself. He has to think about how he uses his tools. In chess there is development. Development exists in fighting games, but ,in spite of this, any player of any skill level can still throw 100 Tiger shots, or Hadoukens or use any move over and over again without any impediment.

That’s why low tiers exist. They don’t exist because character x has less abilities than character y. Low tiers exist because the characters who have more abilities can use those abilities Ad infinitum, if they so choose. I’m not saying that a novice Sagat is going to mop the floor with an experienced Guile player just by spamming full screen Tiger shots, but they can still make the game drag on, and be a pest. That doesn’t happen in other games. A novice basketball player isn’t capable of being a pest against an experienced player. The same is true of a novice chess player vs an experienced player. Unlimited access to moves might inspire novice players to keep playing, but that same unlimited access to moves is what starts to limit the game as skill level increases.

A game like Third Strike made an attempt to limit the power of unlimited moves, but the mistake it made was that it gave the opposing player the ability to limit a move rather than asking the offensive player to be mindful of their own tools. Going back to basketball, defenders can’t press a button and stop Lebron, but if Lebron gasses himself then that’s on him. The closest thing to parrying in the NBA is the “Hack a Shaq or Dwight” tactic, but that only works because they’re ass at shooting free throws. The only reason that people don’t “hack a player x” all the time is because they stand to lose something. Focus attack tried to add that element of risk, but unlimited “stuff” still exists. Capcom was headed in the right direction, but they didn’t want to lessen the fun factor of throwing Hadoukens. However, when people got good enough at the game that’s essentially what happened. So I guess I’m saying balance should be all that stuff I said, but it should ultimately be a fighting game that’s fun, and interesting when you first start playing it, and when you gain experience it’s still fun and interesting no matter what character you wish to use.


Giving too much attention to “character balance” is a shallow way to look at a game. Erase the concept of “character” for a second and look at everything as a collection of moves and tactics. Part of playing a game is discovering the best moves and tactics. Once you discover “everything” there is to be discovered, and learn to utilize it, there’s not much point in playing the game anymore. It becomes stale.

So you actually don’t want to have “balance”. You want to encounter “imbalance” as a reason to think hard and find solutions to it, and that’s the game. Even a 5-5 matchup becomes boring once you reach the peak and have no direction to improve in anymore.

For example let’s say you are Ogawa, and you are the best Eddie in the world and you kick most of the asses out there easily. Why would you be excited to have a new version that changes all the shit you know and practiced, and forces you to start all over again again from a point where you are a worst player at this new game? Exactly because discovering the best tactics and improving at them IS the game.

This is a hard concept to understand – especially for FG players as they are always stuck on the small scaled genre scope and fail to see the big video game picture – but you want the game to be as complex as possible so that it will take more time to reach its finalized state (at which point it will die) and as long as it’s still in the not-yet-finalized state (i.e. alive and interesting) you are bound to counter “imbalances” aka challenges you need to overcome.


Eyo, Tataki just won the fuck out of this thread.


I don’t like the idea of a purposeful low/high tier, like the Dan Hibiki design philosophy or when, for Super SF4/AE, Capcom said they were okay with huge power gaps as a means to force players to improve.

That said, there definitely should be something to figure out, lest the game gets shallow.


Imbalance for its own sake is not always good.

There are two types of imbalance in any competitive game. The first is imbalance or failure or favoritism in the system. For example, dirty referees, steroids/cheating, poorly designed broken or OP characters in fighting games, resistance to change (like lack of instant replay in baseball). The second type of imbalance, the good imbalance, is natural individual imbalance. Examples are Lew Alcindor, Michael Jordan at the height of his powers, Bobby Fischer at the height of his powers, pre car crash Tiger Woods, Barry Sanders. Fighting game imbalance, inside the game itself, is not organic. It’s designed by the game’s developers, which makes it bad imbalance. The reason that it isn’t organic is because people aren’t tweaking the overall system to accommodate the wild variety of the characters, which is what makes the games interesting. They decide who is good and bad in the game, thus stunting the real talent and individuality of the players. This is proved by the fact that you say if Namco were to change x then Ogawa might be worse off.

Good imbalance is based on human talent and intellect. In the second example those people seem to defy the rules of the game, but not by cheating or by any other unfair criteria. They just think and behave differently. The fighting game equivalent only exists in terms of individual strategy since anyone can use any character, whereas every team in the NBA can’t produce a Kareem or a Shaq; and in fighting games there isn’t really anything that player Joe Shmoe can do with character x that no one else can do. If that were the case then we’d see low tiers winning major tournaments, and character attributes wouldn’t matter as much, but they do.

The only way to achieve true balance and good imbalance in fighting games is to add limits to how often a move can be used, or to limit its effectiveness over time (I don’t mean frame data or damage scaling). This doesn’t damage, or drastically alter individual characters. What it does is force the player using the character to alter their strategy, just like how an NBA coach must alter their strategy whenever Lebron or whoever becomes too tired to play effectively. I agree, focusing on an individual isn’t the way to approach things. When college basketball instituted the no dunking rule to just to stop Alcindor it was shortsighted.


Humans aren’t created equal either, but video games only reduce the gaps, never completely demolish them. The only game that will completely demolish any gap is a luck based game like a coin toss instead of a skill based game. But a game where all the players are 100% balanced/equal like that will be boring. (Unless you are playing Russian roulette. Then I promise you won’t get bored.)

Asking for balance among characters is silly because you just chose a random layer and went with it all the way. How about asking for balance among all the moves/tactics within one specific character? No one asks for that last time I checked, but it’s the same thing. If 3 people can play the same character in 3 different ways and all will be effective, it’s not any different from having 3 valid characters who each plays in 1 specific way.


Why would a game magically become boring when it’s balanced? I don’t have more fun watching someone slaughter his opponent in an 8-2 matchup which could also be played by a limbless tortoise than seeing a 5-5 matchup played out at the highest level. Not even mirror matches have to be boring.


You missed my point. By suggesting a “matchup” you already assume that the game is fully explored and that you play at the highest level, and that’s the phase you don’t want to be in. Of course if you get in a situation where one player can 10-0 the other with ease, it’s not going to be fun for both players, no matter if that’s the game’s “fault” or because of the disparity of skill between the players. But during the course of exploring the game you sometimes end up losing a lot to something, and then you overcome it and you feel great when you do.

In short, throw the words “balance” and “imbalance” out of the window. What you are looking for in a game is simply “more depth”, more stuff to uncover and explore.