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Forum Home > General Discussion > Chess and Class Balance in TF
Chess and Class Balance in TF
Sep 03, 2013 2:56 PM
aeon6911 Founder - Joined: Sep 26, 2010
Posts: 9
Chess ... -Teatime

Or: A lecture in the principles of class balance ...

Disclaimer: This is a revised version of an editorial I wrote back in 2000 for a different website.

Chess is a game where both opponents control a set of 16 pieces, composed of a number of different pieces, with the goal to beat the other player by setting the king checkmate (or to immobilize him).

In chess there are 6 different kinds of pieces: Pawn, Knight, Bishop, Castle, Queen and King. The different kinds of pieces are mainly distinguished by their ability in movement, means the different ways they can move and the number of squares they can move in one move. Also the numbers of pieces in the set are varying.

Now let's call the set of pieces a 'team' and the different kinds of pieces 'classes'. Consequently you can say that chess is a class-based teamgame (though each team is controlled by a single player).

Looking at the different classes (I will stay at this terminology for the moment) you see that each class features its own unique strength and weakness, defined by its freedom and range of movement.
The Pawn is definitely the weakest class, with a very limited ability to move and a limited range of movement.
Bishop and Castle both feature a limited ability to move, but an unlimited range, therefore are a stronger class than the Pawn.
The Knight is a very unique class with both limited ability and range in movement, but it's the only class which is able to jump over other pieces. This might be called a specialization. So while the Knight could be considered weaker than Bishop or Castle this specialization gives the Knight a different quality.
The Queen and the King share the same ability in movement, but with different range. Despite this similarity these two classes represent both ends of the power scale, with the Queen being the strongest and most ultimate of classes while the King, depending on his role, is the most vulnerable.

Looking at a chess-set it becomes clear that weakness, to a certain degree, is compensated by numbers. The weakest class, the Pawn, is represented 8 times while the team features only one Queen, as the strongest class. The medium classes are represented twice each.
Interestingly enough the Pawn is given the ability to be transformed into a Queen once he moved all the way to the other side of the board. This gives the Pawn a potential quality beyond his original weakness (and - often - character of 'cannonfodder').

Looking at all this it's easy to see that chess features a well-devised balance between the classes. The central point of the class balance is the careful distribution of strengths and weaknesses to each class as well as between classes. For example the Knight is the only class which is able to threat the Queen without being in the Queen's line of fire (so to speak). An additional element to the class balance are the quantities of each class.

So, at his point let us shift the focus to TFC. The classes in TFC are also composed to feature a mix of strength and weakness, as well to each class as between classes. The classes feature different speed, different armor and different health. Weapons and special abilities differ.
You will find a very careful composed balance to each class in TFC: The engineer has a strong special ability, medium weapons and the health/armor of a light class. The sniper is also a light class but has a strong weapon. The strong classes, soldier and HWG, are both restricted by their slow speed. The demo has strong, but specialized weapons not suitable to each situation. The spy is a rather weak class with medium weapons which is compensated by his special ability.
There is also the balance between classes: The engineer with his deadly sentry can be effectively attacked by the spy. The sniper is the counterpart to the heavy classes with his ability to kill (or at least seriously hurt) even a heavy armored HWG. The scout's speed is his major advantage over medium and heavy classes.

The class balance in TFC is not perfect. The soldier is probably the less-balanced of all classes. Returning to the example of chess the soldier has much of the qualities of the Queen, but unlike chess TFC has no class-limits by principle. The changes in TFC during the last two years has also shifted the balance. The new netcode has increased the power of the HWG. C-jumping (which of course existed before) has replaced the scout in many cases by the medic, because the main advantage of the scout, his higher speed, has become secondary with c-jumping.
And of course TF(C) is looking back on a long history of tweaking the classes and class balance. There were a lot of try & error going on back in TF before the setup TFC features today was established.

So why am I telling you all this? Mainly because many people don't understand the principles of class balance. More exactly they have no clue that - as the word 'balance suggests - there must be weaknesses and restrictions to counter the strengths. Too many people consider those weaknesses and restrictions as obstacles and annoyances which should by all means be overcome somehow. Bunnyhopping is probably the best example for such a mindset. Bunnyhopping undermines one of the major balancing determinants, but most pro-BH'ers don't care because all they see is the advantage it gives to them, without considering the effect it has on the game (in the long run).

Allow me to return to chess. Let's tweak the 'class balance' of chess a bit. For example let us give the Castle the Knight's ability to jump over other pieces. That way the Castle would be able to threat the enemy King even from far away. We would have removed the balancing factor of limited range of the Knight and created a super-strong 'class'. This would shift the balance remarkably.
Or - as analogy to BH - imagine that each chess piece would no longer be limited in its range. Would be interesting to see how easy you can check a King which can evade over the whole board.

I don't want to say that such changes would make the game become unplayable, but it would definitely screw up a very carefully composed balance between the different classes. It would become a different game. And I doubt it would be a better game.

Now I realize that TFC is still evolving, though very, very slowly. I would promote and welcome some tweaking here and there because I acknowledge that the balance in TFC is by no means perfect yet. However, I'd prefer that people would take the effort to understand the basics of class balance before making unqualified suggestions or promoting questionable or even dangerous points of view.
And those people who dislike the idea that each advantage should be balanced by a certain kind of disadvantage should consider to move to a non-class-based CTF game, where balance is much less of an issue.

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