I promised some people I was going to "make a long post"... this is it and not finished (or edited). But, I thought I'd post it just to get some thoughts going, plus to keep that promise for people who wanted to know what I was thinking for so long. I'm coming back to edit this later. Have mercy on the grammar/rhetoric but feel free to critique on the content.
ASSUMPTIONS: Seriously. Play big maps first because doctrine reworks will NOT solve balance problems without being on bigger maps. If you want to know fucking why check my other posts on big maps. I have a LOT more to say about big maps too... but I'll save that essay for another day.
Problem: The structure of doctrines of specialized vs well-rounded will always cause balance issues.
-A lack in consistent doctrine structure will always create balance problems despite player skill level
-A consistent doctrine structure makes for better (and easier) balance.
There's a lot of things that seem out of place within doctrines, stemming from years of balance bitching. Warhawks wrote a bit on it here: viewtopic.php?f=30&t=2184
While Warhawks and I disagree on how things should be changed, I think we both agree that some doctrine fundamentals SHOULD be changed. The concept of specialized allies doctrines versus well rounded axis doctrines will ALWAYS leave escape for balance problems as much so as playing on small maps. This is why players will always complain why some docs have _____ but others don't, and how some docs are pure counters to other docs but have no counter of their own. A consistent doctrine structure makes for better (and easier) balance.
It's been a while since this topic was hard discussed, only softly mentioned and alluded to all over the forum. But I think if we bring it up in a consolidated place, we can voice to the devs to stick to one idea: either specialized doctrines across all factions or well rounded doctrines across all factions.
How does specialization vs well-rounded affect balance?
Assume games where every player is the best player possible, plays optimally, and coordinates harmoniously as if it were one brain. A specialized doctrine by design is only supposed to excel at handling certain situations meanwhile, a well-rounded doctrine is made to handle all situations. What this means is that there needs to be an exact amount players on the specialized team to match all possible situations in the game, else the well-rounded team will be able to exploit the "doctrine hole". At the same time, there cannot be more than that amount else the balance shifts the other way. What is the "doctrine hole"?
The game is MUCH more complex than rock paper scissors, but I want to take it as an analogy (like say paper means arty, rock means tanks, scissors means infantry). A well rounded doctrine (which i will now call axis) encompasses all rock, paper, and scissors. A specialized doctrine (which i will now call allies) would only have one. In a simple game of "team rock paper scissors" a 2v2 will always be imbalanced because while one team has all tools available, the other team will only have 2 of the 3 tools available to play with. So say the allied team is composed of rock and scissors, this means that the axis team can always play rock as a safety and exploit against the scissor player. This exploit I call the "doctrine hole". If we play the same game but a 4v4 scenario, then the allied team will double up on a tool and push that advantage. For example, if the allied team is composed of rock, paper, and 2 scissors then that team can exploit the paper within the axis team's composition. This means that the ONLY fair game would be a 3v3, so devs can't just say "don't play 1v1s" but they must say "only play # vs #" which is not how BK was intended. This grows in huge complexity in a game like BK where it's not just 3 tools available but the concept stays the same. Let's say I up the complexity one notch...
Let's say a allied doctrines are not just 1 specialty but 2... so a doctrine can be rock/scissors meaning its weakness is rock. Combine multiple doctrines together you can get a well rounded overall team right? Not quite.
Say you have a 2v2 where the allied team is rock/scissors + rock/paper combo... this team comp becomes a super scissors killer with the doubling on rock. The only way to "balance" this is to buff every axis doctrine's scissors to match. But, what if the team is different? What if the players decided to do rock/scissors + scissors/paper? Then the allied team becomes a paper killer. Buff the paper for axis? If you go through all the doctrine iterations one by one balancing along the way, you'll end up buffing every aspect of axis doctrines until axis becomes so powerful that you'd need to start buffing allied doctrines. It's a vicious circle of never ending balancing! Imagine the complexity of this with all the aspects of BK...
Beyond being impossible to actually balance, having conversations about balance is frustrating as well because there is a mismatch in decision making between doctrines. A specialized doctrine by design is only supposed to excel at handling certain situations. Therefore, the balancing method and decision making should rest on the question "does the doctrine over or under perform on handling the situation designed?"
Meanwhile, a well-rounded doctrine is made to handle all situations which changes the granularity of balance decision making. The question is "can this doctrine handle these situations" and become more of a per unit focus question.
This mismatch makes really shitty balance threads on the forum where people are just talking in all directions... This will become more apparent in the cases I will talk about next
In this next section I will go through actual examples of how doctrines have been attempted to balance and failed despite the most honest best intentions. The examples I use are not the only ones, I just would rather go into detail in one area to make my point.
I gotta go, I'm going to stop here and make an edit later to continue. Here's a preview of what I will talk about:
Case #1: How RAF was given rock+paper+scissors (and by next patch will be cut again but it won't help)
In the past few patches, I would say there were two major CW changes that really shook the meta of the game:
1. The earlier build of AT BOYS
2. The inclusion of the 95mm Cromwell for RAF
1) When the AT BOYS were moved as a unit before the LT, it changed the early game meta greatly. Prior to the AT BOYS change, every faction had multiple openings including: an infantry based opening (like US opening with rifles), a vehicle based opening (like WM opening with a schwimm), an AT based opening (like PE opening with a pak38). This created a rock paper scissors like gameplay in the beginning where every faction had an approximately equal chance to gain and lose advantage in the beginning... all except CW that is... CW lacked the vehicle opening. Back to my rock-paper-scissor "hole" explanation I gave above about doctrines, CW could not pull vehicles meaning an infantry opening was the safety opening for all axis factions. Additionally, AT BOYS came later after an LT was created essentially allowing an axis vehicle opening an extra punishing opening for the first 2 minutes of the game. This forced CW players to ALWAYS play defensively and ALWAYS rush AT BOYS after the LT, delaying any other stronger opening to make it to the 5th minute of the game without losing too much advantage. It because a choice of: lose a great amount of advantage on the small chance that the axis did play the most efficient tactic available (meta), or lose a smaller advantage in case the axis played the meta. By moving AT BOYS earlier, it allowed CW to stand a stronger chance against vehicle based openings and an receive a chance to actually GAIN advantage in an opening like all other factions were able to do. At this micro level, this was a good move in bringing balance because it made for a more fair rock-paper-scissor game (and honestly... the amount complaining of AT BOYS is so unwarranted right now because of how easily it's countered by an assault pio or MG42 opening... players are just not adapting or playing on bigger maps. One unit locking down an entire map within the first 5 minutes? Hm... I wonder how familiar that sounds to old allied players... seriously play bigger maps and learn new openings).
2) When the 95mm Cromwell was introduced to RAF, RAF became one of the best META doctrines for allies because it had EVERYTHING (rock, paper, and scissors) and that's why it was used SOOoo much to the point that the strategies around RAF grew and matured faster than other docs. This made it hard for the typical non-adapting BK players to react to and figure out how to properly face. It became nearly the only doctrine CW players would play kind of like how luft with their updated infantry became the only doctrine PE players would play (same problem but that's not what this case is about). RAF had everything to operate alone as a rock-paper-scissor machine with both efficient direct and indirect fire weapons. I've seen even the best RAF players become completely addicted to using just the cromwell instead of finding any other solution to tackle problems, essentially making other units and options within the doctrine obsolete (who has seen the allegedly once OP field gun anymore? who has seen the incendiary off map plane bombs anymore?). While the changelog for 4.9.9 says that the 95mm cromwell will be removed for the doctrine... is RAF going to return to be a 2-tooled doctrine or will it still be 3-tooled well balanced doctrine? I still don't think it will in its current state. The Firefly has been a pivotal unit within every CW doctrine which (with the exception of few players such as my beloved shadow) was a secret unit that most didn't use until recently because of the excess in manpower generated by the efficiency of the 95mm cromwell (quick breakdown: the extra arty eliminated the manpower spend needed on commandos to take on axis strongholds allowing players to invest and test in newer units such as the firefly). RAF still has MULTIPLE capabiltiies including anti tank: typhoon fighters AND fireflies. This makes it an extremely capable doctrine not just in unit assortment but capability which from a game design perspective more important than unit assortment.
Is it okay for the RAF doc to be so "addicted" to a tank? I don't know. That's a game design decision left to the modders and their vision. Let me know if you want a PvP opinion.
Case #2: How WM Grenadiers balance is all fucking over the place from patch to patch (price raise, price drop, hp buff, hp nerf, weapon changes, omg it's hilarious to just go change log to change log, grenadiers have gone through everything)
Here is a log of DIRECT changes to grenadiers:
- Lowered build time of Grenadiers to 40 seconds (from 45)
- Lowered the cost of LMG42 upgrade to 85 ammo (from 100)
- Incendiary grenade cost increased by 5 ammo and cooldown increased by 10 seconds
- Added a cooldown of 90 seconds to the "For the Fatherland" ability
- Grenadiers now cost 410 MP
- Terror grenadiers can no longer buy additional MP44 after upgrade which gives them 3 for free (those who upgraded it before will keep it)
- Changed incendiery grenade cost to 25 Munnition
- Terror grenadiers Special Combat Training CP needed increased to 3
- Slightly tuned K98 values
- WH Fixed fragmentation sleeve grenade could have been thrown without cover
- WH Grenadiers MP44 upgrade gives 2 MP44s instead of 3, reduced munnition price by 15
- WH Reduced grenadiers cost to 400 MP (33 MP Reinforce)
- WH Grenadiers fragmentation sleeve upgrade is now free for defensive doctrine
- WH Grenadiers can now have 3x MP44 upgrade, that means Terror doctrine can have 6x MP44 on grenadiers.
- WH Grenadiers in Terror doc now have Nebelwerfer fire ability
- WH Removed Grenadiers flamethrower upgrade and HHL3 from Terror doc
This does not include INDIRECT changes that would have likely changed the net impact of grenadiers to the entire game. An example of an INDIRECT impact would be the upcoming change where volks and pios will not have the same buff from defense doc bonuses as the grenadiers. This change is meant to encourage the use of grenadiers which can alter strategies involving def doc as well as counters to def doc.
Notice how much grenadiers were directly change, getting major buffs in 4.8.5, nerfed in 4.8.6, buffed again in 4.8.8, nerfed from 9.3 to 9.6, soon to be buffed in 9.9. Some people might argue "oh but that's because KCH changed and grenadiers needed to fill that huge gaping power void". That is true and a major reason for the 4.8.5 changes. But it has been nearly 3 years since KCH have left the mod and grenadiers are still getting jerked around without finding a nice balanced home. This is because of how much the mod moves around the unit and how sensitive it is to ANY other changes... how sensitive Axis "balance" is to any change...
If you notice the difference on how Axis doctrines are balanced compared to Allied doctrines where Allied doctrines get makeovers and entirely new additions/removals of capabilities. Meanwhile, Axis gets this roller coaster of efficiency buff/nerfs. This goes in line with my "specialized vs well-rounded balance cycle" where we are trapped in a loop of forever balancing a circular referential system.
I'm not saying Axis are overly strong or overly weak right now, but the faction is constantly swaying *cough*andpeoplearenotadapting*cough*. This will never end unless some fundamentals change.