During a panel at Eurogamer Expo dedicated to the multiplayer aspect of Killzone: Shadow Fall, Lead Designer Eric Boltjes was asked how the team plans to keep imbalances between weapons at bay. His response was quite interesting:
It’s very tricky business, balancing weapons. When you start developing a game like Shadow Fall, you have to imagine: nothing is there. Even though we started with Killzone 3, and had that as a baseline, we pretty much had to throw out everything, because it’s on the PS4, and start over.
So when you start developing weapons, imagine there’s no animations, no sound, there’s nothing there, so that’s really tricky. It’s a really long time.
But as you go along, the weapons take more and more form, and interestingly enough, even though you have a design for a weapon in mind: this how it’s gonna work, this is how it should be balanced…that changes.
So what we’ve done to counter it and hopefully provide weapons with a lot of balance is play a lot. Play a lot.
There’s a couple guys from the office with me, one of the guys is a QA tester… He’ll probably agree with me that we’ve played the multiplayer so many times that we’re sick of it as we played it too much…but we played it at lot.
But even now, even right now back in the office…I mean we’re not done yet. We’re still tweaking the weapons. We’re still playing every day. We look at telemetry to kinda see how many people are getting killed with specific weapons, how much damage per second a weapon does, its range, its recoil, all that kind of stuff… We try to collect all the data and then tweak the weapons again, and again…play again and kind of do that constantly.
Boltjes also quite honestly admitted that despite all the effort from the team, imbalances are always going to happen, but Guerrilla Games has a solution in place to help the situation without bothering players with patches.
But the problem is, even when you’ve done that: literally thousands of hours of playtesting… Once you put it out to the public, there will always be an imbalance. There’s almost nothing you can do about that.
What we want to do is actively listening to you guys, look at the telemetry, scour the forums, and if you say “hey that weapon is overpowered” or “hey that weapon doesn’t work”, we’ve put a system in place so that we can tweak that on the server side, so you don’t even need patches or anything like that. We can on the fly change balance and kinda see where we can tweak the game to suit your needs better.
That’s definitely a good way to approach the issue instead of making players wait for big patches once in a while. Honestly I don’t envy a team working on the balance of a multiplayer game, as it’s basically like playing whack-a-mole, but it’s good to see that Guerrilla Games has prepared a good hammer for it.