Almost every game I’ve ever looked at, played, or worked on, has someone or a team behind the wheel that thinks it’s always a good idea to put something incredibly awesome into the hands of one race/faction/class that the others do not. It is. People don’t like being the same as everyone else, and everyone loves customisation, I mean. why play a game if you can’t play it the way you want to do a degree of satisfaction (you’re never going to have it all your way!)? Having said that however, I find myself playing games more frequently which often incorporate something that is awesome and ‘totally cool’, but also very, very annoying to be on the end of.
Now most people usually retort this with “give the others something which is the same”, but then you end up with a game in which everyone is annoying everyone else, and that’s not fun. You don’t play a game to be annoyed, you play it to enjoy yourself (and yes, there are those of you who play to annoy others). But hang on there and stop and think for a second. What happens if the other players get tired of being annoyed, and decide to just not put up with it anymore. You end up damaging your playerbase, which in turn means less players, which in turn means there is a greater chance of those who use the mechanic annoying those who are frustrated by it, which in turn means even less players. The tool or mechanic in which you thought was ‘totally cool’ and awesome, has in turn started destroying your game. Game over man.
I work on a game called DarkSpace (link on the side of the site), and it went through a turbulent patch a few years ago when someone thought many of these ideas should be put into play and would make the game more deep and strategic (counters to counters to counters to counters). In the end, players found the deepest counter to everything and all jumped aboard abusing the tools which had originally been put in place to make the game ‘totally cool’ and awesome. You couldn’t balance it because then everything else was thrown out of wack, and so a year later, our playerbase had shrunk to less than a quarter of what it was prior. Putting tools and mechanics into players hands that annoyed the other side/team destroyed our game. No-one wanted to play it, and we ended up with a playerbase full of people who enjoyed annoying others. Fun times.
Years later we’re still repairing the damage, still tweaking and removing redundant stuff that almost destroyed one of the most fun and promising games I’ve ever played and had the pleasure to work on. So next time you think you have a good idea for something, stop and think. Turn it around and think how fun it would be for others to be on the receiving end. If it’s not, drop it like a plague. Move on, think of something else.
Games are meant to be fun. Not annoying.