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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Malfarian View Post
    I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

    I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.
    Vampire characters also had significant base competencies & survival tools built in.

    If you raise everybody to a high base competency, then the individual differences above & beyond that might not seem like such a big deal.

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Vampire characters also had significant base competencies & survival tools built in.

    If you raise everybody to a high base competency, then the individual differences above & beyond that might not seem like such a big deal.
    This is true. Imbalance is a lot more acceptable if everyone has something to do, even if those things aren't necessarily the best. Having one useful ability while someone else has ten is much less of a problem than having no useful abilities when someone else has one.
    Last edited by Cosi; 2017-11-28 at 02:55 PM.

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    For the current game I'm running, I gave people the ability to make extremely overpowered characters for various types of play. All I told the players was that they should try to stick together as much as possible and have a reasonable excuse to do so (or at least know each other). Some of them made highly optimized death machines, and some of them didn't. They all understood that the world would be very dangerous; some of them just didn't care about raw power.

    I talked to each of them about their characters' places in the world and goals they had. Some of them gave me immediate goals, some of them gave me long-term goals, and some didn't give me any. This had little to no correlation with power levels.

    They each built their character to excel at different things (I guess it's lucky that no one tried to top each other), so I made sure to throw an even mix of whatever they were good at in. One trashed all the combat encounters, one lead the party through a primal jungle full of nasties safely, the third made sure to know the forgotten lore of the world and tried to steer everyone to the best course of action in that light.

    At any one aspect of the game, the party would seem incredibly unbalanced. But as a whole, they mostly succeeded at everything they worked together on. They all had conflicting goals to start with (and end with), which introduced some interesting role play.

    No one complained, and everyone wants to keep going.

    I think I'm trying to say that balance isn't too much of an issue as long as you (as a DM) either have multiples paths that they can take to their goals or play to each character's strengths. Preferably both.

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Malfarian View Post
    I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

    I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.
    Yeah, this is why there was some confusion about whther the discussion was about mechanical balance between classes or balanced parties.
    Wheer or not a fighter is balanced against a wizard is a very different conversation than whether a group of four fighters is a viable option.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yeah, this is why there was some confusion about whther the discussion was about mechanical balance between classes or balanced parties.
    Wheer or not a fighter is balanced against a wizard is a very different conversation than whether a group of four fighters is a viable option.
    I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance
    Modules could be used as an external metric of party balance against the expectations of the module's designer(s).

    IMHO that metric is far less interesting than the metric of internal party balance, because I'm much more interested in making a fun game for the players at my table than I am interested in the expectations of strangers, but technically the expectations of strangers could be used as some kind of benchmark... it's just one I don't care about.

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    I rarely use published modules and when I do I adapt it to what I'm running. So if there are 4 fighters it doesnt matter at all. I think there is no way to use published modules to benchmark game balance
    Yeah, that is certainly a valid way to do it.

    I used to tailor adventures to the party, but a while back we ran into a phenomenon my group dubbed "the cycle of stupidity" where we devolved into an optimization arms race where I would always try and challenge the players so they would in turn power game even harder.

    Now I just make adventures that make sense in the world and let the players play whatever they want (within reason).
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Malfarian View Post
    I think I believed parties MUST be balanced until I played Vampire the Masquerade. Here you didn't have classes, though you had clans and they were similar but the roles were quite versatile. We NEVER thought about balance, it was more about how we all fit together and play the game. Those games were much more stable and ran much longer than ANY D&D game I ever ran, as the players were fully immersed in the world and had a sense of ownership and belonging.

    I'm taking the thread off topic a little bit, but what I'd like to say is that I don't think parties should worry about balance at the outset. People naturally take different roles during play, so I would allow players to "remap" to a different class to match the role they play, as until you know the party dynamics, it's hard to know what you want to do. That is to say I think parties will balance themselves, in so much as they'll hate being weak in one area or another.
    Quote Originally Posted by Cosi View Post
    Not from the class, but it's fairly easy to throw underpowered characters magic item powerups. Give the Barbarian an artifact ax or club or whatever.
    Except the problem in 3.5 isn't that one character is doing more damage than another, it's that one character has so many options than another. So the problem you hit is that the barbarian can do one thing - do lots of damage in melee. The wizard, if played with even half a brain, can do damage, summon other things to do damage, cast spells that essentially render an enemy helpless, ability drain enemies to death, stop time, fly, turn invisible...you get the point. It's not that the barbarian is bad at what he does, it's that if what he does isn't the best way to solve something he's pretty much twiddling his thumbs.

    Basically, the problem is one guy's role is "do lots of melee damage" and the other one's is "rewrite reality." The latter role will naturally obviate the first, without any special effort to break the game.
    Last edited by WarKitty; 2017-11-28 at 07:00 PM.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by WarKitty View Post
    Except the problem in 3.5 isn't that one character is doing more damage than another, it's that one character has so many options than another. So the problem you hit is that the barbarian can do one thing - do lots of damage in melee. The wizard, if played with even half a brain, can do damage, summon other things to do damage, cast spells that essentially render an enemy helpless, ability drain enemies to death, stop time, fly, turn invisible...you get the point. It's not that the barbarian is bad at what he does, it's that if what he does isn't the best way to solve something he's pretty much twiddling his thumbs.

    Basically, the problem is one guy's role is "do lots of melee damage" and the other one's is "rewrite reality." The latter role will naturally obviate the first, without any special effort to break the game.
    Exactly. Damage isn't the problem here at all. Its that any martial build that can do enough damage to keep up is simultaneously incapable of meaningfully contributing outside of that. Doing 1e9 damage to something that has ~200 HP doesn't matter if that's all you can do--someone that can do 250 damage and do everything else. Oh, and the martial needs the caster's help to even get close to enemies, but the reverse isn't true. That's the inter-class issue here.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by PhoenixPhyre View Post
    Exactly. Damage isn't the problem here at all. Its that any martial build that can do enough damage to keep up is simultaneously incapable of meaningfully contributing outside of that. Doing 1e9 damage to something that has ~200 HP doesn't matter if that's all you can do--someone that can do 250 damage and do everything else. Oh, and the martial needs the caster's help to even get close to enemies, but the reverse isn't true. That's the inter-class issue here.
    This is not a problem unique to D&D either. It certainly can happen in a game like VtM. You can easily build a combat monster vampire who is only good at hurting things (and in fact, the classic newbie Brujah build falls into this zone) and someone else can build a vampire who dumps all of their freebie points into backgrounds and has a minion for everything from combat to legal wrangling to hacking and anything else you could possibly need. This is actually a major issue for almost any game set in the modern world where wealth is a massive superpower and being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Nifft View Post
    Modules could be used as an external metric of party balance against the expectations of the module's designer(s).

    IMHO that metric is far less interesting than the metric of internal party balance, because I'm much more interested in making a fun game for the players at my table than I am interested in the expectations of strangers, but technically the expectations of strangers could be used as some kind of benchmark... it's just one I don't care about.
    I don't care about external balance either as it's meaningless, especially in point buy games where it has happened that not one character was combat focused. Internal balance doesn't matter that much if everybody is having fun. It only becomes a problem when someone has a problem with the balance. Most people don't care that much if everybody gets some time in the limelight.

    That being said I still believe that game designers should strive for a semblance of balance.

    Quote Originally Posted by Talakeal View Post
    Yeah, that is certainly a valid way to do it.

    I used to tailor adventures to the party, but a while back we ran into a phenomenon my group dubbed "the cycle of stupidity" where we devolved into an optimization arms race where I would always try and challenge the players so they would in turn power game even harder.

    Now I just make adventures that make sense in the world and let the players play whatever they want (within reason).
    A group I was playing with encountered this problem when we were teenagers playing Cyberpunk 2020. Cyberpunk is the poster child of equipment porn with all the splatbooks giving more options of cyberwear, bioware, guns and armor. In the end you can tweak your guns, custom design your armor, get some of that sweet humanity back through therapy so you can stuff your body with more cyberwear. In the end our characters were Terminators with big effing guns and enough armor to withstand a HEAT round from a tank. It was about escalation, the referee had the bad guys show up with bigger guns to counter us, so we countered with bigger guns

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    This is not a problem unique to D&D either. It certainly can happen in a game like VtM. You can easily build a combat monster vampire who is only good at hurting things (and in fact, the classic newbie Brujah build falls into this zone) and someone else can build a vampire who dumps all of their freebie points into backgrounds and has a minion for everything from combat to legal wrangling to hacking and anything else you could possibly need. This is actually a major issue for almost any game set in the modern world where wealth is a massive superpower and being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.
    Minions are one way that can break something pretty easily. NWoD has the famously broken retainer merit, which can get you someone way too powerful. And there's a reason most D&D DM's ban leadership. Summons can be a problem too, if you can easily summon something that can do a player's job.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    ...being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.
    .
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Mechalich View Post
    This is actually a major issue for almost any game set in the modern world where wealth is a massive superpower and being Bruce Wayne is actually way more powerful than being Batman.
    There are ways around it - such as not allowing wealth to be gained so easily. But - I do agree that many modern and/or sci-fi games fall into that trap.

    It could happen in a fantasy game since you could do the same thing with magic gear & minions - but I haven't seen it.

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    There are ways around it - such as not allowing wealth to be gained so easily. But - I do agree that many modern and/or sci-fi games fall into that trap.

    It could happen in a fantasy game since you could do the same thing with magic gear & minions - but I haven't seen it.
    As a WoD ST, what I'd do is just limit what you can do with wealth. Remember, WoD characters don't generally want to be paid attention to. If you're buying things through normal channels, there's all sorts of government watchlists you could end up on if you buy the wrong things. If you're buying things that aren't legal, well, when lots of money ends up in the black market people go nosing around for the source. And hired minions are only as loyal as their paychecks - no paycheck will keep them quiet if there's a gun to their heads, or even if they're looking at a long jail sentence. And if you're not careful, you might find yourself in trouble. Say with your bank accounts frozen by the FBI. Or with someone blackmailing you.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by WarKitty View Post
    As a WoD ST, what I'd do is just limit what you can do with wealth. Remember, WoD characters don't generally want to be paid attention to. If you're buying things through normal channels, there's all sorts of government watchlists you could end up on if you buy the wrong things. If you're buying things that aren't legal, well, when lots of money ends up in the black market people go nosing around for the source. And hired minions are only as loyal as their paychecks - no paycheck will keep them quiet if there's a gun to their heads, or even if they're looking at a long jail sentence. And if you're not careful, you might find yourself in trouble. Say with your bank accounts frozen by the FBI. Or with someone blackmailing you.
    When playing VtM money was usually not an issue nor illegal weapons. If your assets were frozen then it was because something (mage, hunter, vampire etc) was after you, mortals were usually just puppets in the grander scheme of things.

    When you can dominate, entrance or bloodbind mortals, they usually don't pose much problems.

    The real problems were that all our assets could be taken and it wasn't mortals that worried us but other kindred might have used their powers to seize our assets to use against us. That's why we operated in the shadows, had multiple safe houses and contingency plans for our contingency plans.

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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by RazorChain View Post
    When playing VtM money was usually not an issue nor illegal weapons. If your assets were frozen then it was because something (mage, hunter, vampire etc) was after you, mortals were usually just puppets in the grander scheme of things.

    When you can dominate, entrance or bloodbind mortals, they usually don't pose much problems.

    The real problems were that all our assets could be taken and it wasn't mortals that worried us but other kindred might have used their powers to seize our assets to use against us. That's why we operated in the shadows, had multiple safe houses and contingency plans for our contingency plans.
    I suppose it depends on the setup. Computers are a great weapon for the humans. In a modern government bureaucracy, what do you imagine the odds are that you ever have personal contact with the people who are doing the freezing? It's all done by computers run by many different people and you probably can't find and control all of them without tipping someone else off...

    Then again, I'm more used to nWoD, which is a little less overpowered.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by CharonsHelper View Post
    This.

    You don't need combat balance so long as the other pillars are large parts of the game and the roles don't step on each-others' toes.

    VtM is so easy to break though - I can only think that you and your friends weren't really trying to optimize much. (Which is great and the only good way to play such a poorly balanced system.)
    Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.

    And the whole "how we all fit together" bit...that's party balance.
    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2017-11-29 at 02:08 AM.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.

    And the whole "how we all fit together" bit...that's party balance.
    I think this might also be worse in 3.5 because, mechanically, 3.5 is mostly combat. The skill system reads as something of an afterthought. There's just not a lot of room for a character that's good at something other than combat when 90% of the game is combat.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by WarKitty View Post
    I think this might also be worse in 3.5 because, mechanically, 3.5 is mostly combat. The skill system reads as something of an afterthought. There's just not a lot of room for a character that's good at something other than combat when 90% of the game is combat.
    I've said it before, and I'll say it again, 3.X was just a horrible mash up of 2e's imbalance issues, which were copy-pasta'd on top of WotC's failed D20 RPGs imbalance issues.

    If WotC had just replaced the old THAC0 system and saves with the D20 method, worked in the skills and feats (with out adding special feats for casters), and left everything else as is, I think we would have had a much more stable system, mechanically, that could handle higher power levels better than what we have now.

    Personally, I won't run a campaign past level 18 in any edition...things already start braking down around level 10 as it is.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    ....I won't run a campaign past level 18 in any edition...things already start braking down around level 10 as it is.
    The game wasn't originally supposed to have PC's be played at such high levels, see

    here,

    and

    here.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    Optimization wasn't a thing when VtM arrived on the RPG scene. Optimization is a fairly recent development, with the birth of the internet and forums such as this one.
    Lolwut.

    1st ed AD&D Dungeon Master's guide, with the voice of Gary Gygax, all but calls out all players as inherently powerhungry min-maxers who GM must take effort to keep in control. I have RPG magazines from mid 80s and early 90s where people curse the tendencies of AD&D players to game the system.

    You seem to forget that RPGs themselves are pretty recent, got popular with math and history nerds, and were computerized practically instantly. (First computer version of D&D, imaginatively named dnd, was made at 1975, a year after D&D was published.) I could go so far as claim that internet forums were invented by obsessive D&D min-maxers, and wouldn't even be horribly wrong, because of the overlap between early D&D players and early computer software and hardware developers.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Lolwut.

    1st ed AD&D Dungeon Master's guide, with the voice of Gary Gygax, all but calls out all players as inherently powerhungry min-maxers who GM must take effort to keep in control. I have RPG magazines from mid 80s and early 90s where people curse the tendencies of AD&D players to game the system.

    You seem to forget that RPGs themselves are pretty recent, got popular with math and history nerds, and were computerized practically instantly. (First computer version of D&D, imaginatively named dnd, was made at 1975, a year after D&D was published.) I could go so far as claim that internet forums were invented by obsessive D&D min-maxers, and wouldn't even be horribly wrong, because of the overlap between early D&D players and early computer software and hardware developers.
    So you are saying that everybody who optimizes their characters are nothing but a bunch of min-maxers with a new name? I tend to agree.
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Well duh. Min-maxing is a specific optimization strategy. Hence all people who min-max are optimizers. Has there ever been significant confusion about this?
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.

    If nothing else, with 3.5 it's possible to optimize character concepts that aren't a great mechanical concept. I have a few - my latest is a sling-based rogue, and I have a fun one with a "werebeast" (no actual were levels involved because they're essentially unplayable, mind).
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Well duh. Min-maxing is a specific optimization strategy. Hence all people who min-max are optimizers. Has there ever been significant confusion about this?
    It's been my experience that heavy optimizers get really insulted of you refer to them as Min-maxers
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

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    I think, therefore I get really, really annoyed at people who won't.

  27. - Top - End - #147
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by WarKitty View Post
    I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.
    Insofar as there are optimization strategies that don't reduce to min-maxing on some level, not all optimizers are min-maxers.

    Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?

    Quote Originally Posted by Mutazoia View Post
    It's been my experience that heavy optimizers get really insulted of you refer to them as Min-maxers
    Yes, and escorts get really insulted if you call them whores. News at eleven.
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    to grow old and wither and die."


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  28. - Top - End - #148
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?
    Point efficiency in starting characters in systems with mixed resource expenditures - for all that I like Ubiquity it's really guilty of this, as you can make a statistically identical character for varying starting costs depending on which order you build them in. There's no min-maxing involved when you're just maxing. GURPS has a similar scenario involving getting desired skills to desired levels where fiddling with baseline attributes can get the same thing cheaper.

    Then there's FATE optimization, which can involve some min-maxing but also emphasizes making interesting and memorable Aspects so they get used heavily.

  29. - Top - End - #149
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by WarKitty View Post
    I think the question is whether the reverse is true. All A are B does not imply all B are A, after all.
    All penguins are black and white.
    All old movies are black and white.
    Therefore, all old movies are penguins.

    Or if you prefer:

    All of John Lennon is dead, but only some of the class of dead people are John Lennon.
    Last edited by Mutazoia; 2017-11-29 at 06:29 AM.
    "Sleeping late might not be a virtue, but it sure aint no vice. The old saw about the early bird and the worm just goes to show that the worm should have stayed in bed."

    - L. Long

    I think, therefore I get really, really annoyed at people who won't.

  30. - Top - End - #150
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    Default Re: What's happened to gaming - balance point

    Quote Originally Posted by Frozen_Feet View Post
    Can you think of a single optimization strategy which doesn't involve min-maxing?
    Lots, yes, starting with spotlight, teamwork, storytelling and development, the list goes on.

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