Playstyles & Design pt.4
Sunday, January 17, 2010 at 10:22PM
Richard Terrell (KirbyKid) in Competition, Interplay

It's important to understand that playstyles are not off/on, all or nothing. You don't either have a completely defensive style or no defense at all. Like the one "true" style, all players tend to use a mix of different playstyles at some point even if they mostly use a particular style.

Playstyles are like emergent mechanics. And like mechanics, playstyles can be designed to create a balance against each other. The potential of interactions between all playstyles is what I consider to be the "game" of a video game. 

For the purposes of gameplay balance, the following are questions that I ask myself when designing a game or balancing an existing game. 






Unbalanced and unfair playstyles are just like unfair tactics for competitive multiplayer games. They're like deadly viruses. Here's what David Sirlin has to say about the balance of unfair tactics and playstyles:

An oversight in a single player game that makes the game too easy to win might only affect 1% of players. A balance oversight in a competitive multiplayer game can ruin the entire development effort. An unfair tactic will travel quickly throughout the playerbase like a virus and ruin the experience for everyone. Game balance is a potential “single point of failure” for the entire project, so get it right.


In the end, I'm the kind of gamer, competitor, and designer that loves the challenge that players face while expressing themselves through their playstyles in a back and forth battle-debate of sorts. There's nothing like a deep, balanced game and head to head competition. I respect the player who will sit down and fight against me any way they see fit (without cheating). But I respect the designer who creates a balanced system even more. 

Article originally appeared on Critical-Gaming Network (
See website for complete article licensing information.