Over the weekend, I had the opportunity to play some extended sessions of Star Wars Battlefront II (SWBFII). My game mode of choice was Galactic Assault. Usually, my favorite maps are close quarters maps like where one can get close and personal with their opponents. For example, fighting in the streets of Mos Eisley or attempting to defend the Clone archive in Kamino.
My first sessions in the morning were quite enjoyable. In one of my matches, I played a 30-minute long session in a single-round because the teams were so evenly matched. The map was Crait and I was playing with the Resistance team. As the First Order started making their way towards the mine hanger, we found ourselves in a deadlock. We played for about 20 minutes before that point was finally converted. It was intense, hard but extremely enjoyable to defend this point. In the process, it yielded some amazing scores for everyone in both teams.
In the afternoon, I returned to play Galactic Assault, only to find myself in a completely different situation. This time around the whole experience had changed. The primary culprit was the lack of team balance. One team would dominate the other round after round. It wasn’t uncommon for players of the losing team to drop mid-round because of the experience was so poor.
A single round in Crait turned out to be a half hour long session.
Team Balance basics
“Team balance” normally refers to certain mechanics implemented by the game in order to keep teams as even as possible. This doesn’t only involve ensuring that both teams have the same number of players. It also has to do with making sure that both teams have members of equal character level and equipment to the greatest extent possible.
Another aspect of team balance has to do with player skill. For example, just because a character is of a higher level and with better equipment doesn’t necessarily mean that they will perform well. A player of lower-level equipment might perform better than someone else because the former has a better understanding of the game mechanics. A proper team balance system would take into account each players performance based on the previous round and shuffle the teams accordingly.
Lastly, team balance would also take into account edge cases. For example, when players leave a game mid-round or when having inactive players in one team. The system could shuffle teams mid-round in order to ensure that both teams have a fair chance of winning the game.
At the end of the day, everything in the system should strive to keep teams as even as possible, therefore, ensuring the best gaming experience for all.
Team balance and SWBF games
Battlefront games developed by DICE have an interesting experience with team balance. The 2015 version of SWBF also suffered from team balance issues. In that game, team balance would only occur at the very beginning of a round. If someone left the game during the countdown timer the game wouldn’t reshuffle the teams. Because of this, many matches would start with uneven teams. This very basic system wasn’t there when the game launched in 2015. It was implemented a couple of months after the game was already live. Even with this addition, team balance challenges remained.
SWBFII promised to take a closer look at team balance. In past statements, DICE’s Design Director Dennis Brannvall promised that online matchmaking would take into account player skill and equipment. When the game was finally released team balance had certainly improved as compared to the 2015 iteration. Matches seemed to be more evenly matched and, since everyone was still learning the game, matches were generally close.
As players started learning the game mechanics things changed.
The current state of team balance in SWBFII
Inevitably, one will frequently run into situations where a small group of players has better equipment and more experience playing the game. In SWBFII terms that usually translates to having one team completely dominating the other round after round. This tends to repeat until frustrated players leave the game or a group of people from the winning team leaves the game. Needless to say, it’s not the most enjoyable experience when playing Galactic Assault.
If you find yourself on the winning team, then it’s probably a very fun but not very challenging experience. You win round after round but don’t gain many battle points because each round being shorter in duration. In some cases, it might get boring since the challenge is simply not there.
In the unfortunate occasion that you’re part of the losing team, then things are certainly different. It’s probably a test of patience since you’re stuck in a losing situation that you have very little control of. Since game mechanics don’t help with this situation players are stuck in a no-win situation. Your choices at this point are to either quit the game and attempt to find a new match or stay and grind until enough people quit.
I certainly don’t think that when DICE started developing the game wanted to create a frustrating experience for their players. In many ways, the current team balance experience in Galactic Assault leaves a lot of room for improvement. The studio doesn’t have to look far. Battlefield games have been doing a pretty great job addressing team balance issues.
SWBFII has certainly seen its fair share of criticisms over the past 6 months. There is certainly a prime opportunity for DICE to take a closer look at team balance and how it currently functions in the game. The main incentive for doing this is simple. Having a better system allows for better in-game experiences for the player base. In extension, players having fun leads to a stronger player base with an incentive to spend in the game.
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