Rock Paper Scissors in Games

This will be a resource article for the podcast with Addison396, discussing BF4 balance!

Example 1: The win/loss/skill win distribution of the standard rock papers scissors game.
As you can see, it is balanced well and the draw component makes winloss 50/50 mostly.
There is no clear choice which has a higher win rate, and one element will not be in play.

Later we apply this to Battlefield’s core vehicle balance consisting of Air, Inf/AA and Land.
What happens is that Land usually wins over Infantry/AA, using terrain elevation & cover.
Air units can see Land vehicles regardless of most terrain, balancing out Land advantage.
Infantry and MAA can carry anti-air missiles and will thereby keep air surveillance at bay.

If we move on to Battlefield 3 Balance, we see more air and anti-air components in it.
The new added air units take advantage of 3D spotting and there is usually only 1 MAA.
This leads to a situation where jet management alternates between saving your Atk Heli
from enemy jets and then double up & focus fire on an enemy MAA to keep air superiority.

In Battlefield 4 however… There are some huge nerfs to air control and splits to anti-land.
What this means is that stealth jets no longer have the ability to double up on enemy MAA.
The Attack Jet takes the role jets had in BF3, usually dominating BF3 skill win matchups.

The Attack Boat works as a water tank with a repair seat, having less cover to play with.
On the other hand it can avoid RPGs easier due to the constant variations in wave height.
The recently added Active Radar Missiles allow the MAA to disable enemy air controls,
this also lets it abuse crash triggers and disturb incoming return fire from the Helis & Jets.
Only having 1 flare or ECM to spend severely limits a Heli’s ability to survive a strafe run.

This leads to a situation where people will focus on countering the most common threats
with certain vehicle unlocks and tactics such as having dedicated repairmen in vehicles.
This shifts the Metagame towards a balance where a vehicle’s individual risk is minimized rather than having a Metagame where offence and team coordination are the core values.

Conclusion: The emphasis of having too many vehicle types on the field at one time will exclude many of the assets created to enrich the game. It would be better to split up the whole roster of vehicles and their balance triads on different maps and game modes. This would create subsystems where different Metagames can thrive, utilizing all of the assets.
You mostly see this on Rush maps, even though Rush vehicle balance has been skewed to allow progression through the map itself at various stages. Conquest plays differently where you’ll have more focus on overall vehicle respawn balance across the entire map.

We saw some of these vehicle splitups in the BF3 DLC Aftermath, where some maps and modes had Attack Helis and Tanks, while others mainly had IFV & Scout/Transport Helis.
Splitting the heavier vehicles and their balance system from the Lighter vehicles creates a situation where the ligher vehicles can play more freely without the opression from Heavy.
The heavy can also utilize different role setups once their cannon fodder is no longer there

Sometimes you could pick some of the Heavy to go against some of the Light vehicles and create unique systems where jets don’t have helis to shoot, or where MBTs are gone.
This allows jets to equip stuff like guided missiles, or IFVs to go on the anti-MAA offensive.
These subsystems step away from the mega Battlefield experience & towards diversity!
On Naval Strike we saw the Attack Heli shine once the MAA was gone, and Attack Boats had to make a choice between having AA missiles & being able to do more DPS to boats.

Taking the basic rock paper scissors mechanics into account, one would assume that choosing a vehicle ingame would net you equal chance of tac win, tac loss and skill win.
As we can see from these pictures, universally effective vehicle unlocks & strategies will make the Metagame more rigid & defensive, which hampers overall replayability / variety.

Hope you enjoyed this article despite the difficulties in mapping all of the balance triads
and numbers! If you want to ask something or add corrections, tweet to @absol_89