I’ve been doing some back and forth with Rakuno in the last 24 hours, specifically about XIV, the new races, the lack of a new healer, and that ever present topic in any game, MMO or otherwise, balance. FFXIV is so central to my perspective, though, that this post almost seems more about that game’s balance than the general topic I was meaning to work through.
We use it much like a noun, as though it is some tangible thing that exists or can be created. I’m beginning to think, though, that it’s more of a verb. It’s a thing a developer does, constantly. I also don’t believe it has a specific definition, really, but one that reflects the needs and concerns of the observer.
The best way I can describe the typical usage, though, is to say that “every class/race combination is comparable in performance.” While most are using a fairly predictable source of DPS, HPS, and enmity, in various combinations, I think some also consider ease of use to be a valid measure of balance.
My only real way to relate to this problem, though, is with FFXIV. It’s the only MMO that I’m familiar enough with to really compare classes at endgame or anywhere in-between. Even then I’m somewhat limited. I only have one healer at max, Scholar. Only one tank, dark knight, and a number of random DPS, Summoner, Black Mage, Machinist, and Archer come to mind. Of those options, the only ones geared for actual current content are Scholar and Machinist.
As Rakuno pointed out, each class has a fairly good identity that is unique to it. In the case of healers, White Mage is the big direct heal class. If you have a structured settlement and you need health now, call the White Mage. The Scholar, on the other hand, is more of a shielding class. You don’t get the big heals, but you can nullify and/or reduce damage so that the actual healing needed is less. There’s also the Astrologian, which I know a lot less about. It’s a utility healer with two different stances. It’s popular due to the amount of utility it has, and if you include shield and regen potency sits closer to White Mage in power.
This comes up because apparently White Mage has fallen somewhat out of favor lately. This is pretty normal, at least for XIV, as the meta tends to favor group utility over raw potency. It’s essentially the same reason why Ninjas are preferred over Samurai. Specifically a 10 second boost to all party DPS and an ability that reduces enmity production for the party. That said, a lot of these things apply specifically to the highest tier of end game 8-man content, the Savage level raids. Mostly because people tend to do these with a static group so they can coordinate that 10 second boost to line up with everyone’s burst window and just dump an extra 10% damage during the burst. Normal PUGs just don’t have the cohesion to make that work, generally, and it’s not typically needed in the 4-man content.
Outside of that level of content, everything is balanced well enough that as long as you can perform basic mechanics and don’t constantly take dirt naps you’re going to be okay. Some classes are definitely easier than others, though. High end Summoner rotations, for example, are absolutely absurd when compared with something like Black Mage or Red Mage. I’ve seen similar complaints about Machinist as well, but I found it easier to execute than Summoner, though easier still meant I had to create two new hotbars so I had a “burst” section and a “normal” section.
I feel like I’ve wandered off topic into the nuts and bolts of FFXIV balance. The bottom line I think, is that balance is hard. Trying to make every single class unique while keeping everyone on an even-ish playing field can’t be easy, especially when considering the different types of activities and the level of accessibility each one should have.
I’m gonna shut up now. I wasn’t trying to talk specifically about XIV, but I don’t think I have the experience required to really broaden the subject any more. Y’all take care.