May 10th, 2009
I’ve been spending quite a bit of time thinking, and playing, Demigod over the last couple weeks. One of the things I’ve been thinking about and meaning to write on is character design and balance, specifically balancing out all of their spells. I went to David Sirlin’s talk at GDC on balancing competitive multiplayer gameplay and it is very relevant to this game. One thing he specifically warned about was dominant strategies. Dominated strategies are bad, but people just don’t choose those and the game continues. Dominant strategies are bad because people pick them and it ruins everything else.
The general trend right now is that Lord Erebus is overpowered and ought to be nerfed, and I’m inclined to agree with them, but I want to mention a few things about Erebus and dominant strategies. Another way to look at a dominant strategy is a dominant talent. All of the heroes have many different spells and you aren’t required to take any of them. You get to pick and choose and for the most part all of the heroes can be played many different ways. But some heroes have dominant spells. They have spells that you, while maybe aren’t forced to take, should always take. There is little reason to not take them. They are as good or better than all of your other spells, so why not get it?
Take for example Erabus’ Bite spell. This spell is available at level 1 and offers several effects: damage, heals yourself, slows the enemy, reduces the enemy’s armor. That’s a lot of bang for your buck. It has a short cooldown and isn’t too overly priced. Erebus is special in my opinion in that ALL of his talents are very useful. Other characters I’m happy to take some spells, leave others, but with Erebus, I would take all of his spells all the time. They give him so much variety. But Bite is special. I always take Bite. I can’t think of an Erebus build that doesn’t take Bite. I could make a build that doesn’t use minions, or one that doesn’t use Bat Swarm, or Mist, but Bite? Bite is always useful. In the beginning of the game I use it to heal and harass the enemy. Later on I use it to reduce their armor and slow them. In my opinion, Bite is a dominant spell and should be nerfed, not because it is too powerful against other players, but because the decision to take it is trivial.
There are other spells like this and this is really just in my experience: Rook’s shoulder towers, Sedna’s Heal, Unclean Beast’s Spit. I’m sure you all have your own. And having your own “must have” spell is fine, unless it is everyone’s must have. Then it should be nerfed or the other spells buffed so we have to make some real decisions picking a build.