SWTOR Bioware on How Class Balance Happens

Bioware has provided a detailed breakdown on exactly how class balance happens.

How Class Balance Happens | 06.15.2017, 02:33 PM
Hey folks,

Over the next few weeks, as you know, it is our plan to give you specifics on upcoming Class/Discipline changes. One things that we have never done before is really get down in the trenches and explain how we balance Classes. With our continued move towards more transparency, we really wanted to lift the hood and provide as much context as possible for those changes. Below you will find an elaborate breakdown from our combat team on not only how they balance Classes, but why. I highly recommend you read the entire post (I know it’s long!). For the non-reader among you…

TLDR – We do not balance Disciplines against each other directly. Balance is based on target values which are determined by what type of damage dealer you are; ranged, melee, burst, sustained, etc.

Here is the detailed breakdown from the combat team:

Opening note, for anyone who might not be familiar with the abbreviations and terminology used in this post:

  • DPS = Damage per second
  • HPS = Healing per second
  • DTPS = Damage taken per second
  • “Nerf” = Reduction to effectiveness
  • “Buff” = Increase to effectiveness
  • PvP = Player(s) versus player(s) combat
  • PvE = Player(s) versus non-player(s) combat (non-players are controlled by artificial intelligence programming)

Before we dig into the details for any Classes or Disciplines that will be seeing damage or healing “nerfs” in 5.3, we wanted to take a moment to share a bit of our Class design philosophy with you. Whenever we “nerf” the damage or healing a Discipline can produce, it is not because we compared them to other Disciplines and thought that they were too good. Likewise, we don’t “buff” a Discipline because we think they are not as good as the other Disciplines and need a boost. We do not play the Class comparison game for damage, healing, or tanking changes.

The deeper reason for a “buff” or a “nerf” lies in a Discipline’s ability to perform at their target DPS (for damage dealers), HPS (for healers), or DTPS (for tanks). The target DPS, HPS, and DTPS values determine which content (Veteran Operations, Master Uprisings, etc.) players can successfully complete in a given set of gear. And in PvP situations, they determine the speed of player kill times and the ability for healers and tanks to extend the life of an ally under attack. So to clarify, there is a comparison that takes place for damage, tanking, and healing balance, but that comparison is not among Disciplines or Classes – it is between the target DPS, HPS, or DTPS value and the Discipline in question.

Due to the variances with the item rating of the gear your character has equipped and the augments, Class buffs, stims, and adrenals your character may or may not be using, we are not providing you with a set number for any target values. Also, these values are average values. Every damage, tanking, or healing parse tends to be unique, and sometimes those parses can stretch quite high or low for several different reasons.

That said, we do have something a little special which we would like to share with you today: damage grouping categories. With no further ado…

Damage Groupings for Damage Dealing Disciplines
Melee Sustained Damage Dealers (up to +5% of target DPS)

  • Annihilation Marauder / Watchman Sentinel
  • Hatred Assassin / Serenity Shadow
  • Lethality Operative / Ruffian Scoundrel
  • Pyrotech Powertech / Plasmatech Vanguard
  • Vengeance Juggernaut / Vigilance Guardian

Melee Quasi-Burst Damage Dealer (up to +2.5% of target DPS)

  • Fury Marauder / Concentration Sentinel

Melee Burst/Ranged Sustained Damage Dealers (at the target DPS)

  • Advanced Prototype Powertech / Tactics Vanguard
  • Carnage Marauder / Combat Sentinel
  • Concealment Operative / Scrapper Scoundrel
  • Deception Assassin / Infiltration Shadow
  • Engineering Sniper / Saboteur Gunslinger
  • Innovative Ordnance Mercenary / Assault Specialist Commando
  • Madness Sorcerer / Balance Sage
  • Rage Juggernaut / Focus Guardian

Ranged Quasi-Sustained Damage Dealer (down to -2.5% of target DPS)

  • Virulence Sniper / Dirty Fighting Gunslinger

Ranged Burst Damage Dealers (down to -5% of target DPS)

  • Arsenal Mercenary / Gunnery Command
  • Lightning Sorcerer / Telekinetics Sage
  • Marksmanship Sniper / Sharpshooter Gunslinger

PLEASE NOTE: The Disciplines are in alphabetical order within each grouping, not by damage dealt (for example, Deception Assassins are not intended to deal higher DPS than Saboteur Gunslingers). There are also groupings for healers and tanks, but we are not listing them since all healers are in the same groupings and all tanks are in the same groupings.

Now let us explain the theory behind the planned differences for the damage groupings above. There are really only four sub-categories we use in order to classify a damage dealer: Melee (meaning short-range), Ranged (meaning long-range), Burst (meaning immediate or quick damage), and Sustained (meaning damage over time or slow damage). We feel both Melee and Sustained damage types are inherently disadvantaged, and that is why Melee Sustained damage dealers (with their two inherent disadvantages) make up the top grouping. Melee damage is disadvantaged because it must stay close to its target (often within four meters) in order to maximize damage output, and Sustained damage is disadvantaged because it takes several seconds to ramp up to its full damage potential each time it acquires a new target (and in situations where rapid target switching is required, it will often never reach its full damage potential).

Due to these inherent disadvantages, those classified as Sustained damage dealers are given a damage output advantage over those classified as Burst damage dealers. Similarly, those classified as Melee damage dealers are given a damage output advantage over those classified as Ranged damage dealers. Melee Burst and Ranged Sustained damage dealers fall into the same grouping because they each have one inherent disadvantage, even though those disadvantages are different (one being Melee and the other being Sustained). And in the last grouping, we have Ranged Burst damage dealers, which have no inherent disadvantages. They can quickly change targets without needing to close a gap, and they have little to no ramp up time before they start dealing high DPS on a newly acquired target.

It can be noticed that two of the groupings are missing in the above explanation. Those groupings belong to the Advanced Classes that have three damage dealing Disciplines instead of two damage dealing Disciplines and one tanking or healing Discipline. We could have technically tried to squeeze these Disciplines into one of the other three damage groupings, but we separated them out to differentiate them within their Class while still keeping them in line with what other Classes have to offer.

Another thing about the damage groupings above that might be a little confusing is the reference to “target DPS,” so let us give you a fictitious example to help clarify our meaning. Remember, target DPS varies based on your equipped item rating and any augments, Class buffs, stims, or adrenals that you may or may not be using. For ease of calculation’s sake, we will say the fake target DPS for our example is 10,000. With 10,000 DPS being the target value, that would mean a Rage Juggernaut / Focus Guardian should average 10,000 DPS in a fight against a single target that lasts about five minutes (because they fall in the “at target” damage grouping). In the same fight, a Pyrotech Powertech / Plasmatech Vanguard should average above that target DPS, up to 10,500 DPS (because they fall in the “up to +5% of target” damage grouping). A Virulence Sniper / Dirty Fighting Gunslinger performing in this same scenario should average below that target DPS, down to 9750 DPS (because they fall in the “down to -2.5% of target” damage grouping).

Before we move on from this topic, we want to note the point about the fight lasting around five minutes is rather important. In a much shorter fight, the bursty Rage Juggernaut / Focus Guardian might have higher DPS than the Pyrotech Powertech / Plasmatech Vanguard, because it takes a while for the latter’s sustained damage to ramp up to its full potential.

Okay, so now you might be looking at the groupings above and scratching your head thinking, “That’s not AT ALL where my Discipline is!” If so, you might be correct (depending on which Discipline you play). In fact, that is precisely why we do Class balance changes: to fix things that often fall out of balance when we do something like a level increase or push out new abilities and skills. Achieving the damage groupings above is the goal of our Class balance changes beginning with 5.3 and continuing in the patches beyond it as necessary, until the damage grouping balance above is a reality in game and not just on paper.

We hope sharing these damage groupings with you is informative. When you see all the changes coming with the 5.3 update, we believe you will be able to decipher whether your Discipline is going to be seeing a “buff” or a “nerf” in the future. If you see another Discipline in your grouping got “nerfed” and your Discipline’s damage output is now quite a bit higher than theirs, then it is a good bet when we get around to balancing your Discipline it will also be seeing a reduction in damage output.

At this point, you might be wondering how we decided which Disciplines to balance first. We used several factors including player feedback, player parsing data, and our own internal PvE and PvP statistical data. For 5.3, we focused on the Disciplines we felt were most out of line with the rest of their damage groupings. That gave us the Virulence Sniper / Dirty Fighting Gunslinger, Engineering Sniper / Saboteur Gunslinger, and Innovative Ordnance Mercenary / Assault Specialist Commando on the overperforming end and the Pyrotech Powertech / Plasmatech Vanguard, Hatred Assassin / Serenity Shadow, and Madness Sorcerer / Balance Sage on the underperforming end. If you are wondering whether Arsenal Mercenary / Gunnery Commando and Corruption Sorcerer / Seer Sage got “nerfs” or “buffs,” well… just have another look at those damage groupings and take this hint to heart: it is the same story for Corruption / Seer healing as it is for Arsenal / Gunnery damage.

Lastly, you might also wonder why there are not more changes to utilities and survivability for damage dealers in 5.3, and that is a fair question. We are first focusing on the damage and healing output for all Classes before getting too carried away with utility changes. This is because opinions about where a given Discipline stands among the pack can be clouded by high or low damage or healing output without anyone even realizing it. That is not to say we won’t tweak a utility here or there, but before we go making massive changes to a class’s utility toolkit, we want to make sure the damage or healing they can put out is on target and relatively similar to other Disciplines in their grouping. Once we are happy with the damage output, we can start adjusting utilities to give those that need it a boost and others that are too powerful a reduction.

We hope this glimpse into our Class design philosophy helps you understand the changes we are making and the rationale behind each decision.

-Your friendly neighborhood Combat Team

  • dyNASTY

    swtor has a combat team?

    • Godlikesaliartoo

      I know…. I’m in shock too…

    • They have 1 team that does everything, but to hate their lives less, their wear different hats when they do different things.

      Keith: “Okay guys, grab your tactical flashpoint yamacha’s!”

      • AshlaBoga

        “They have 1 team that does everything, but to hate their lives less, their wear different hats when they do different things.

        Keith: “Okay guys, grab your tactical flashpoint yamacha’s!””

        …. Did you mean a yarmulke? If so I feel like that comment is a bit anti-Semitic.

        • perspectives

          I read ‘yum cha’ and my mind went to a fabulous brunch of steamed lobster…

  • Adam Haynes

    I appreciate the fact that the new team is making changes and doing something to address the game’s issues. Only time will tell if the changes are enough… my sub runs out in September and at this point it’s going to take a lot to get me to re-enter that credit card info.

  • E

    End game content. Dont care about changes unless there is a game to play and teams to play on. Fuck.

  • Лев Сафаров

    My sub runs out in 14 days, and i have no possibility to increase it, because Visa dont work anymore with swtor site for some reason, since im from Russian Federation…

    • Elrandil

      Russia sucks. It needs to be a part of Poland for the sake of its people and liberties;)

      • Лев Сафаров

        I agree completely.

    • Sergey Limov

      change your country in profile to Belarus, will work like a charm

      • Лев Сафаров

        Thanks, seems work for now.

    • Alivan

      or buy a game-time card.

  • Taylor Coe

    Shocker, Gunnery Commando gets nerfed, some devs have clearly never played PvP. Probably the first time I’ve truly felt “grieved” by this game. My favorite PvE class that I’ve been playing since launch has next to no ability to switch to PvP. They buffed it’s survivability but it’s DPS has historically been low (and it’s a DPS class) so at this point it’s more tanky in PvP then DPS.
    What’s more is melee toons have a natural advantage over ranged already as far as sustained DPS goes and I have never witnessed an issue with melee players having difficulty “closing the gap”.
    So really appreciate the hate towards ranged DPS. After 5 years playing since launch, Think it’s time to let the sub expire.

  • Am I reading this correctly when im seeing a nerf to lightning sorc??

    • AbnerDoon

      Yup I think they made the right call too. I mean every time I go in a wz I see those pesky dual pistol wielding lightning sorcerers or their assault cannon counterparts. Damn those gunning and running lightning sorcerers!

    • me

      No, you see the target. Lightning is more like -10% atm. so the goal is to buff them to -5%, Arsenal on the other hand will be nerfed from like +5% to -5%

      • ah thanks. but isnt lightning more like -20, feel like slinging wet noodles on ppl wehn im in lightning specc in 242 gear atm.

  • Havik79

    LOL, we all know they nerf based on pvp cry babies.

  • calamiti

    nerf markman ship sniper and lighting sorcerer lol… i think they didn’t play them…
    so useless on PVE and not the best on PVP.
    are they idiot ?

    • Emon McCullen

      Lightning Sorc is useless in PVE? Seems like you never played one to its potential lol. One of my mains is a TK Sage and she pulls dps like crazy

      • Invalid

        With the lighting bug yes. Wirhout your dps is not that good

      • Meelis S

        Yeah with bug abuse. Seems you have not played sorc dps

      • Yallida

        U clearly have no idea what are u talking about… My main is Lightning Sorc since very beginning and right now it’s pretty useless in terms of dps… In 4.0 I was able to clear whole nim content with it and now dps gap it’s too big to even try clear even TFB nim with Lightning spec…

  • Bogdan Paunescu

    meh, arsenal nerf. but still a good pick for any fight.

  • frickenWaaaltah

    If they really believe they don’t play favorites, they’re fooling themselves.

    Here’s how they do it. To take something away from a class they have to give something to a class. If they don’t like the class lately, they take away good damage and give it bad damage or other (useless) stuff. This allows them to always say they’re being ‘fair’ in math terms. They can balance the math while knowing from experience what is really working and what isn’t. So they just make some classes work and leave some classes not working on purpose and say it’s all fine in the math.

    By ‘good damage’ I mean something that works all the time or even better than it’s supposed to for practical reasons; by bad damage I mean stuff like useless procs and anything that will not work as well in practice as it would against target dummies or in calculations in general.

    Lightning sorcs have had goos damage taken away multiple times and each time they got more self heals and survivability, which is ok for solo pve only. It makes them pracitcally ignorable Lightning Turtles in PVP, which is what class balance is really about.

    The reason is that Lightning Sorcs were so good for so long that they got tired of playing them and now they want to play their other classes. They just prefer to leave a few class-specs out when it comes to PVP balance.

  • Alivan

    I hope that’s a fancy way of saying they will nerf Merc dps and Sorc heals for pvp’s sake.

    • ConcernedGuest

      For pvp’s sake? The whole nerf this buff that discussion is about balancing, isnt’ it?

      But there will never be any balance in the pvp if gear is taking into account. Having an 4vs4 arena fight, one group geared up 230, the other group geard 248 … well the outcome is clear.
      The 230er geared group will be annihilated in 9 of 10 matches.

      REMOVE all gear stats in pvp.
      Give all players the same stats on their skills,
      like an endgamer visiting an old planet.

      There everyone, ppl with old 216 gear, ppl with 230 gear, ppl with 248 gear, will be downgraded on an equal (even shitty) level.

      And then you will have ‘true’ pvp,
      a true test of meddle, of skill vs skill
      and not 248 ppl rolling over 230 ppl. in a blink of a moment.

      • Alivan

        230 people can now craft or buy themselves 246, or try and find the time to level and gear up. Even though I mained sniper for a long time, I forgot to mention the plasma probe OP skill, i hope they nerf that and make it more reasonable too.

      • FlyXan

        If they do as you suggest, what will be the point of having good gear? It’s simply a bad idea.

        • Emprah

          Pve would be its point?

      • Travelering_swordsman

        honestly i would love to PVP even more and wouldnt mind losing it was based on that instead of relying on higher endgame gear. isnt that what ranked PVP supposed to be for?

      • Merykh

        Personally, I kind of agree with you. PvP should be a level playing field stats-wise with player skill being the mitigating factor and have rewards like CCs, Packs, and/or cool one-of-a-kind items you can’t get anywhere else in-game (and by “one-of-a-kind” I mean 1 variant, no reskins of existing items, etc). It would certainly fall inline with the CT’s class balancing goal, I think. PvE on the other hand is driven by gear stats and should yield Gear upgrades, mats, random rare and ultra-rare items, mounts, etc.

  • Benson Varik

    sage and marksmanship nerf? really?

    • Meelis S

      They got no clue. They should just remove sage/sorc dps specs. Its getting really embarrasing

    • Try again dopey

      They did not say that. See the issue in sharing information is that idiots read it.

    • Isabela Castro

      you’re failing at understanding what’s written.

  • Vincent van der Laan

    just wauw they gonna nerf lighthing sorc again with – 5 % for real death class now they already have lowest dps output retards

    • TheCulprit

      They don’t mention Lightning, if it was hi or low. They are saying the Lightning sorc is supposed to be -5% of base. If it is at -7% from base, they’ll be buffed. If they are +2% of target, they’ll be nerfed.

      I’d guess they’ll get a buff cuz I think they are more than -5% of whatever the target dps is. I play Madness and that is definitely low. I’m glad they’re gong to fix that finally.

  • Фролов Денис

    Bioware, on how class balance happens:

    It doesn’t.

    • dfacts

      wah wah you miserable asshole

    • Fred Garvin

      You must not have been around for 3.0 when DoT/Melee classes like Watchman were punished by nearly every Ops boss and were treated like lepers when trying to get into an Ops group.

  • Tony

    Lovely. Lightning sorcs continue to be totally neglected. If they are looking at parsing data, the lightning bug and its aggressive users distort the numbers.
    Either make it a proper change or fix the bug!

  • Mostly this topic covers PVE. No one talking about cd’s and utilities which brings huge imbalance in PVP.

    And Combat team is rofl…I’m sure there’s 2-3 persons, Sin/Sorc mains which is stupidly OP each season and wont ever change.
    I lead to: all these “balance” talks are bs. There will always be OP classes or just extremly good and non usable in pvp or pve classes like Shadow from SnV NiM times…

  • Fortissimus

    If your favorite class is too good to wipe on trash, then it needs a class rebalancing (aka better known as a nerf)…

  • Meelis S

    This basic idea will fail yet again. Sorc dps not getting even decent buffs is clear indication – give up Bioware you will make it even more horrifiyng soon.

  • Not John Wick

    The do have a good history of fucking up.
    Not going to be any different

  • guest

    Refreshing to get a post like this laying things out so openly and bluntly, pulling back the curtain a bit. This is how communication should have always been.

    Never would have seen anything like this from the previous regimes the last 2-3 years.

    That said, if those are their targets, they have failed pretty horribly to meet them over the 4.0-5.0 cycle. Certain classes have been at or well above target for quite a long time (marauder, merc, sorc heal), Others have been horribly undertuned (both sorc dps specs, pyro pt, and to a lesser extent marksman sniper). Annih marauder and vengeance jugg supposed to be at same level but mara does 7-10% more. I’m ok with it doing a little more (1-3%) because the rotation is harder, but not that much.

    I hope they take into consideration when buffing/nerfing specs that it is really, really aggravating when you mess with the rotation/resource management.

    The WORST way to nerf is to force more uses of basic attack and other extremely weak filler, which to a large extent is how they wrecked pyro PT.

    Pyro PT and Lightning Sorc have the worst filler. Lightning Bolt is so bad it’s almost not worth using. Not only are these specs subpar, they are also overly spiky. Pyro needs another decent hitting ability and Lightning Bolt needs a nice buff. Madness abilities/rotation/resource management are great, leave them alone, please just buff damage so it’s in line with its target dps.

    Dps Mercs with way too much survivability and Sorc Heals with too much survivability and healing potential have put TTK (time to kill) way out of whack and made PVP much less enjoyable than it should be. You get two sorcs crosshealing or one decent healer with a guard and it’s way to difficult for any non-premade coordinating average group to take them out. Fixing those 2 things should be the first order of business. Bring up lagging specs 2nd. Nerfing overperforming dps specs last.

    • fred

      Sorc heals are not that awesome and haven’t been since 3.0. I can match and out do them on a merc anytime and decent operatives can also hold their own. Anyone who actually heals a lot and who watches the parses will know this. The increased survivability for mercs was well overdue and is a valuable attribute in NiM raiding where mixed heal pairings are also ideal.

  • Read past the +/- spread

    A lot of people need to re-read the aticle because they have completely misunderstood and are embarrassing themselves here

  • hshshs

    We already know how class balancing process at BioWare works:

  • AdjeYo

    Say what you will, I’m glad they’re willing to show some more to us, the consumers. I don’t recall them doing anything like this before

  • Zasz

    Lets wait and see what they do instead of judging this wall of text. Empty promises were spoken before.

  • Don Loco

    Funny how not one word about this game in the entire EA E3 presentation. For the screaming about life support I fear validation and all the BW Austin has “big things in store” is sounding a bit more like whistling in the dark walking past a graveyard. The silence is not a good thing I fear.

  • David W

    How class balance works according to gaming forums everywhere…
    1) They didn’t do enough to fix your class
    2) They did too much for the other classes 😉

  • Nuked

    In terms of OP dps: this “damage groupings proposal” is way off talking game balance imo and a very bad direction for player fun and diversity. By this proposal you r practically saying “we prefer you play Melee Sustained Damage Dealers and if you don’t like it we are going to make you”, i.e. nerf you. Imo any such number-crunch idea on how to make balance in a game is a bad idea. A balanced game to most of us is all dps classes having EQUAL chance at “target dps”, not a ruling to give some pclass +5% or -5% cuz you “felt (it) were most out of line with the rest”.
    Next step – jst simplify to 3 roles and stay with one dps class? Much easier on the developer team.

    • Emprah

      That is really what they should have done if they wanted to focus heavily on PVP and Raids. The more diverse classes are for story time fun games, but they apparently don’t like that any more, for some odd reason. I guess the lure of pvp is just too strong.

  • Leont Stepanov

    Hmm, why is Fury marauder quasi-burst but Rage jugg isn’t? Jugg has actually more sustain because of chilling scream’s utility being a DoT. While mara is pure burst… They should be be swapped around.

    • Drago SWTOR

      Maybe because of the Juggs having 5% more crit bonus dmg and lacking the rage refund on specific abilities – so they sorta run out of rage in long fights where you don’t get rage from taking dmg. i think at least

      • Leont Stepanov

        Juggs never run out of Rage… If you use correct rotation of course.

  • A Guy

    “Whenever we “nerf” the damage or healing a Discipline can produce, it is not because we compared them to other Disciplines and thought that they were too good. Likewise, we don’t “buff” a Discipline because we think they are not as good as the other Disciplines and need a boost. We do not play the Class comparison game for damage, healing, or tanking changes.”

    Biggest lie ever in gaming history.



Back to Top