Hello Count Tofifti, at the beginning of our interview we would like to thank you for finding some time to talk with us.
Hello tibia-stats, although we are really busy due to the upcoming winter update it's my pleasure, I hope you guys are fine
Before we will start talking about your main work tasks, which as far as we know is balancing topics, we would like to know a little more about you. We know that you are a man, but besides that your persona is one big question mark. So would you mind sharing some more info about you such as your hobbies, what did you study and so on.
Well my name is Alex, I'm 34 years old and my studies brought me to Regensburg where I finished in information science, education science and psychology. Hobbies: having time for friends and family, cooking, I like sports especially outdoor (football, basketball, tennis, mountain biking...) and of course gaming.
Your name is interesting, is there any story behind it?
Yes and no. It was a suggestion of a colleague as I was searching for something with a number and balance relation and well it fit, didn't sound too serious and I like it.
A lot of players got an impression that "CIPs" (in this case people responsible for game designing, balancing etc.) don't have real Tibia experience (as a player). How does it look in your case? Did you play Tibia before getting the job as a "game content designer"? Or maybe you started playing it after getting the job?
During my studies I checked out Tibia and with my application I started playing regularly. "Tibia experience" describes a lot of knowledge of its history and development, ingame experience, time you spent with the game and the community, which type of playing style you prefer - so I think everybody has a more or less different understanding of Tibia experience. My game experience is for sure not "veteran" but I spend my entire working days on game-relevant topics, and I can also access required information very quickly (thx to all my colleagues who help me out when I need them...), which helps a lot. Projects, especially game relevant ones, are always done in a team so please don't over-estimate my personal role.
Can you tell us a little more about your Tibia experience? What is the highest level character which you have? What vocation is it?
To me personally it's important to have a feeling of all vocations that's why I started playing each vocation. My chars are all around level 50, my highest is a Sorc.
When you first started, did part of your work day include playing Tibia?
Yes. In the beginning I had a certain time to play Tibia and I still have a little amount of time to play today. It's important to be in touch with the game especially as we have such a big level range... It is a very important point to acquire a feeling for what you develop. Do the adjustments work in general? Are they fun and improvements to the game? And so on... In Tibia this is extraordinarily difficult due to the big differences between level ranges, and vocations, for example.
Do you have a favorite vocation to play? Why?
Yes I have but I avoid an answer to this question here. Professionally, I'm neutral to this and do see pros and cons in each voaction.
Do you ever take your work home with you? (Play Tibia at home)
Yes, I play Tibia at home, but I don't actively do any balancing work from home. First of all, a kind of distance between private life and business is necessary and secondly I can't access databases and tools I would need to do so. I often get ideas when playing, though, and I take these back to work then the next day.
How does one get a job as a game balancer? What previous experience in the industry is needed?
Can't really give you an answer here as I didn't recruit myself ^^
It depends on the profile and the expectations of the company and how well one fits. What I can say is, I have a fable for numbers, I had a lot to do with empirical stuff and statistics during my studies and former job and I like it. I worked at an online marketing company and dealt with big amounts of numbers. Furthermore, I really wanted this job. I think the chemistry was good and I fit with the requirements.
So lets start the more specialized questions!
When you analyzed the situation of tibia vocations what was your first thought about it?
First of all I want to emphasize something here. Your question sounds like I was the only responsible person for such a hot topic as vocation balancing. It's right, I work on this hot topic but, we work in a team. Balancing happens in a big context and in many dimensions and it's tricky analysing things isolated and only by one person. To answer your question: My first thought was "okay here we got some work to do" and hopefully to a positive extent.
What is the ultimate aim for balancing the vocations and how long do you think it might take to get there?
Here's my personal thought about this: I hope we will find a solution with which the majority of the players will have the feeling that each vocation has a unique playing style and is fun to play! How long it will take clearly depends on the result of the vocation definitions, a process that we have started just recently. I can imagine bigger and smaller solutions and there will be lots of testing, of course. I'm not able to make any predictions here, many things can happen. We are working on it and take this topic very seriously.
When balancing you need to consider all different level ranges, which levels do you consider as low, mid and high level?
Low <=80, Mid <= 180, High 180+
Balancing is a very complicated process requiring analyzing dozens of variables and relations between them. Could you explain to our visitors what exactly you are doing?
It depends on the current task, as it's not my only task to analyze numbers. Very often it's like analysing situations. What's the status quo - and what's the aim? I evaluate data, discuss with colleagues, try to find solutions, do statistics... Tibia grew over the years and also some problems grew and we have to be creative to find good solutions. And as we strive for the best possible solutions, it often takes more time then we thought...
Do you think that it's possible to really balance Tibia vocations? Since players demand similar exp/h rate, income, playing difficulty (how easy is it to die) is it really possible to make the vocations giving different experiences while playing and at the same time to make them very similar in the above-mentioned zones?
You can get an impression on how difficult this is, just have a look at several threads about this topic. There are so many controverse opinions ... I mean emotion is a part of Tibia and it's good to see that there are so many emotions and opinions here. But on the other hand, it's impossible to find solutions that will be accepted by everybody. There are so many types of players, so even if vocations were perfectly balanced for one group, others would disagree. So we will have to set our goals here, including the vocation definitions, considering the controverse opinions in the community, and then work on reaching our goals.
Wouldn't it be simpler to make just one vocation? (yea its unrealistic scenario)
Or wouldn't it be easier to introduce a level cap? I see your point and when I think about rewards or monster strength it would make some things easier but a lot of diversity would be lost, and Tibia wouldn't be Tibia anymore...
Since we started to talk about vocations we would like to find out about several things:
Knights and Paladins seem to have been problematic to balance because of the ways monsters are designed. When paladins use distance attacks, their hits always bypass the shielding of the creature or player. On the other hand, when knights use their melee attacks, they are buffered by both the armor and the shielding of the creature or player. It follows, that as long as this is kept this way, in a one vs one fight, whatever knights can do, paladins will be able to do better. Is there any plans in changing this? Perhaps allowing knights to bypass the armor of creatures and players for their melee attacks? Are there other possibilities you have thought of?
This is a valid point. Although I would say it differently. I wouldn't say the Paladin does everything better, but rather: there are many things he doesn't do worse (which one maybe would expect). Please understand that I can't hand out detailed information about this yet but your points are definetly part of our thoughts on the vocation definitions as well, just like the role of the shielding skill, the use of equipment etc. We will keep you up to date when we have news to share or we would like to discuss things with the community.
In the last couple of updates, many players have been concerned over the decrease in power of sorcerers versus druids. Druids have increased their ability to do damage while Sorcerers have not had anything to help them heal more. Would you consider adding a function for a uh rune to be automatically cast on a player without having to aim it on the screen or battle list? Are there other things you have considered?
This is a point one can often read in forums and I don't intent to add any fuel to the flames. Potential changes will be part of the vocation definitions, but I absolutely can't make any statment to which extents, as this topic is way too hot to make a few quick remarks about it when nothing is decided yet.
Have you considered making distinctions within a vocation? For example a paladin that favors crossbows over bows, a knight that can wield two weapons vs adept at blocking?
This sounds interesting...
What about spells? There are still many spells that seem outdated, even though in previous updates some of these have disappeared. Long ago the ability to make power bolts was useful for paladins when you could not buy them from stores, which is now no longer the case. The enchant staff feature is also rarely if ever used. Are there plans to update these special vocation specific spells in the near future?
Without going too far, I would say yes here. We'd like to sharpen the profile of the vocations, and we will most likely need some adjustements there.
Often hunting in a party does not seem very attractive to people because of the decreased experience per hour, and at times decreased profit per hour when you have to share the loot. Currently, the only spell that seems economical to use is the druids heal party spell, although only if you are below a certain magic level and it depends how many members of the party even take damage. Have you considered increasing the effects of the party spells? What about having passive buffs that as soon as certain vocations join a party, are applicable to the team members as long as shared experience is active?
Absolutely. This was one of the biggest wishes from the community concerning e.g. the Grizzly Adams revamp - making it possible to teamhunt or to encourage people to interact. We couldn't fulfill this wish then, however, making teamhunts attractive is part of our plan. We want to try to give each vocation a specific role in a team. As mentioned before, we have a situation here which has affects on many parts of the game, though, like Single-/Multiplayer and PvP. There are many sideeffects one always has to stay aware of, so this has to be thought through thoroughly first.
Creatures differences and pvp
PvP and PvM topics are very interesting.
Various players engage in pvp in differing amounts. For some, it occupies 100% of their time while for others 0% of their time. In general, when considering balancing, how much does PVP vs PVM factor into your decisions? For example the druids paralyze rune is almost only used for PVP and rarely for PVM.
A good example and what a pity... I would personally very much support offering tactical options in PvM situations, as it offers variation and fun. Many players wish to get more variation and diversification, especially in comparison to other vocations... PvP vs PvM - this depends on the topic I work on. In the current update situation, I mainly focussed on monsters and items. The item part was more affected by PvP thoughts, though. Thinking about vocation balancing, PvP is very important, however, each decision has to fit to PvM and PvP situation. A big challenge.
There are many creatures which are really unbalanced (example: juggernauts, hellhounds etc.), what about them? When creating/modifying creatures on what variables do you pay main attention? Do you analyze how hard/costly the hunt will be for different vocations?
There are definetly monsters that could need some improvement if you, for example, take a look at their cost-benefit ratio. Tibia characters have reached level ranges nobody could have anticipated in the beginning. Also, each vocation works differently. So it's very difficult to compare and set rewards for monsters, as the costs for killing a certain monster differ so much per vocation and of course also per level range.
Categories we use for creatures, for example, are: "exp/loot", "loot/hp" and also their context, for example quest situations, or boss monster.
While balancing creatures for sure you have some "models" to which creatures on specific "dificulty" level should be compared. Would you mind telling us such ideal models for various difficulties?
This varies strongly and has to be adapted to the situation. If Chayenne, Lionet or Knightmare design new areas and hunting grounds, we discuss with each other, who this hunting ground should be designed for. Then I analyse popular monsters in that level range and try to approximate an "ideal". Then I test it and try to add fair loot, so each vocation can find suitable items. Afterwards, collegues check it out as well and we adjust it then again.
One of our visitors (Rhyr Sic) thinks that such a rebalancing of these creatures would at least partially solve the problem of a lack of hunting spots for higher level characters.
And I think that's right. At the moment I'd say a revamp of such "old high level" monsters depends in the way on the upcoming vocation definitions. It is definetly an option to be worked on. It's a question where the focus will be set on.
Our vistors would also ask you some questions:
Mcclane would like to know:
What is the hardest vocation to balance and why?
I can't answer that one as it strongly depends on what the goal will be. We need to ask: How important are certain aspects of each vocation? What is the most important feature for each vocation? Each vocation has pros and cons and they are meaningful due to their role or for fairness matters. So I'd say the trickiest or hardest point is: considering all contexts of all four vocations and finding the right relation of all those single aspects of each vocation.
Is balancing a never ending task?
I think so yes. The game is alive and dynamic. Situations and players change. Also players are creative and they always come up with new ways or tactics, so adaptions, changes and new things are needed permanently.
Rhyr Sic's questions:
Do you think high level paladins with no AoE dmg abilities and highly unreliable single attacks can compete with other vocations? Why?
This question is formulated tricky and I have to raise an objection. We would need to talk more explicitly here in order to be able to answer such a question correctly... You'd need to explain why it is highly unreliable, which attacks of other vocations are so much more reliable, etc... Each vocation has its pros and cons and at the moment some roles aren't clear. We need to shape that out exactly and then adjust it in an appropriate manner.
How can you explain the high cost of UH rune? 175 gold rune price sounds like a lot when compared to 80~ gold for UH instant/heal friend spells. Do you see room for improvement?
I'm the wrong person to ask that question. These costs were decided some years ago, but yes, personally I see room for improvement - not only there.
Do you think the rainbow shield is a powerful rare item or rather a shiny, but useless gadget? Why?
On a personal level I like the idea of making enchantable items (or whatever you want to call them), where you got the possibilty to boost or individualise it. Such ideas should be relevant and meaningful to the game - not imba, of course and it needs to last for the right duration of time. The idea of the rainbow shield is cool, but imo the duration of the boost is not persistant enough.
Whats the idea behind all those junk creatures that are strong, give little experience points and very little or no loot, such as defilers, juggernauts, lost souls, phantasms, sons of verminor, hellhounds, undead dragons, behemoths, betrayed wraiths, blightwalkers (and probably more)? Don't you think that improving these creatures would greatly help with the problem of too few high level hunting grounds?
To make it short. I see lots of potential in these monsters and hopefully there will be time soon for improvements.