Another SWG board post explaining why nerfs are inevitable.

I understand why people hate “nerfing.” There’s even a very eloquent article out there arguing against the very idea.

However, “nerfing” is completely inevitable and will always be with us in online gaming. Your AC example is an example of a nerf. It’s a fictionally nicely handled nerf, yes, and they did a great job with it, but it was still a nerf. And you can’t always create fiction to explain every little change.

Why do nerfs happen? A brief list:

  • Because something small changes that has big results that could not be tested in a closed environment, but which needed thousands of players to find.
  • Because players change their behavior over time, and that results in completely new behaviors being discovered
  • Because players give the game more “testing” on the first HOUR of launch (in terms of plain old manhours) than ANY testing we could do over the course of months
  • Because (sad to say) many players don’t tell us when things are exploitable. This is especially noticeable during beta testing, when people will actually hide bugs “so we can cash in when the game goes live.”
  • Because, frankly, these games are chaotic systems, and it’s not mathematically possible to predict exact outcomes of things.

There are tactics to avoid nerfs. One is, of course, try to get everything as balanced as possible. Another is to test like crazy. And you can always try to minimize the impact… you can fictionalize the change, or you can try to avoid toning down a feature or object and instead turn everything else up. The latter causes problems, because it means that you have to rebalance everything, and on top of that, it renders your other forms of content obsolete. (Let’s say you have an overpowered blaster. To fix things this way, you have to update every other weapon in the game–but now your creatures and other players are all too weak…)

Lastly–I strongly disagree with your position that “if the game allows it, it’s legal.” The game of chess allows you to pick up the rook and brain your opponent with it (nothing in the chess rules about not doing so!) but that doesn’t mean it’s OK. I’d much much rather have a playerbase that plays by the spirit of the rules and not just by the letter of the law. The spirit of the rules is going to be “don’t cheat, and don’t ruin the game for others.” And I’m sorry if you feel otherwise, but an exploiter does both.

Other games have tried rapprochement with the exploiter community, and it has ALWAYS turned around and bitten them in the [self-edit].

For the record, the term “nerfing” entered online gaming vocabulary because of UO. At some point, we reduced the power of swords in melee combat, and players started complaining that they were hitting each other woth nerf swords. The rest is history…

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  1. […] entered online gaming vocabulary because of UO,” lead developer Raph Koster wrote in his personal blog. “Players started complaining that they were hitting each other with Nerf […]