Another of the goals in designing PMDiscord – and one of the biggest differences between it and main-series games – was to make every monster in the game be a viable choice to play as. In the main series, this had been less of a concern; The PvE focus meant that each monster encountered was as strong as it should be depending on how far along in the game you are. The Mystery Dungeon series didn’t really address this either, though it did have a workaround, in that every monster had the potential to reach the same maximum stats. In PMDiscord, the online nature of the game means that things have to be a little different. When each monster is controlled by a player, none of them should ever feel too undervalued compared to everyone else, and I think the same applies for any well-made MMORPG.
Of course, with over 700 monsters to even out, there’s no perfect way to go about sorting this, even in theory. But thankfully, perfect balance isn’t needed in my opinion – the real goal is to make every monster useful. I wanted to make sure every player could pick their ‘favorite’ without worrying if their stats couldn’t play a good role in their party. And so, I’ve been looking into a number of ways to make this happen, while still keeping most of the series’ rules vaguely intact.
The first drastic change I decided on, was to make every monster’s Base Stats have the same total across the board. In the main series, it’s pretty easy to identify a strong monster just by looking at its Base Stat Total (for the most part!), and most monsters with low base stats are considered completely unusable. So, rather than having different totals, each monster in PMDiscord is given a few simplified ‘+’ and ‘-‘ stats which always add up to zero. The below image gives a little peek at how the ‘new’ stats in PMDiscord were worked out.
Joey’s finally ready to take on the world.
With this change, every monster’s potential is made roughly equal, while still reflecting their strengths. It sounds strange at first, having unevolved monsters technically being just as strong as psuedo-legendaries. but for this game, I think that the freedom of choice is a lot more important in the long run.
The second hurdle I’m facing is to balance each monster’s Special Ability. Abilities in the series vary wildly; some of them have minor effects, like making them immune to Burning or Sleeping. But others have much more severe effects, like doubling the monster’s Attack stat. In design, the sometimes-useful abilities (like Insomnia) were given small stat boosts to compensate, while the always-useful abilities (like Pure Power) were mostly kept as they were. Like with most things in the game, any multiplicative effects were changed to additive ones, which both made them simpler, and made them fairer compared to monsters with less drastic abilities.
The third and final thing to even out, is each monster’s unique “movepool”. For those not in the know, a movepool is the pool of attacks and effects which a monster is able to obtain. This varies drastically for each type of monster in the game, some even having unique attacks which no other monster has. Understandably, this has been the most difficult point to balance, while trying to keep as faithful to the main games as possible. Some monsters are limited in their attack types, like how Lilligant only learns Normal- and Grass-Type attacks. Some are limited even more than that – for example, Wobbuffet is unable to learn any direct attacking Moves at all.
There are two different approaches I can take to this. The first is to go and amend each monster’s Base Stats, depending on how much potential their Movepool has. I’m not fond of this idea for the most part, since many of these changes would not be objective — they would be based on my own opinions on how strong those monsters are, and that is something I’ve been trying to avoid. There are a few cases where it would be justified – for example, Smeargle, who is able to learn almost any attack in the game, would be absolutely unbalanced if it had the same stat total as everyone else. But for monsters like Lilligant, I don’t think ‘fixing’ them with buffed stats would be a justified choice.
The other solution is the one I’ve favored a little more. The monsters’ movepools can’t be adjusted easily, however, monsters can only have up to 6 moves in their movepool at once. With that in mind, it’s possible to moderate the ‘movesets’ that a player chooses, to limit how powerful the monsters with flexible movepools can be. If a player chooses a moveset with 4 or more attack types, their stats will be reduced to compensate. However, these flexible monsters can also choose a more streamlined moveset, and therefore avoid the stat reduction. Monsters who already have limited movesets will have no problem, since they’ll never be affected by this penalty. It is the most open-ended solution I have found so far, which doesn’t penalize any monsters just because Game Freak happened to like them a lot. With a little tweaking, this rule could find its way into the game fairly soon.
This hopefully gives some insight on how player balance is being handled, and maybe even settles a few concerns some people might have had. Yes, don’t worry – you can totally choose a Bidoof and make them awesome at endgame, I promise. There are also a lot of design choices that have gone into balancing the moves themselves, but that will be best saved for another post. Stay tuned as always.