Rarity Is Not Balance

I’ve seen an unfortunate trend start to pop up in collectible games recently: rarity indicating balance. Many collectible games are trying to establish the trend that more rare options (whether they are cards, heroes, or anything else) can, and sometimes even should, be more powerful than their more common counterparts. This is a damaging idea that I’d like to address. Rarity should be independent of balance.

For the sake of this article, I’m going to refer to the collectible component of the game as cards, as that is the most common media. However, realize that anything with a similar collectible component falls under the arguments I present. I’m also going to assume that there is some kind of competitive multiplayer component to the game, as almost every collectible game has such.

First, let’s break down exactly what rarity does in a game. The point of rarity is to provide that feeling of excitement to players when they acquire it. When you have a variation of rarity, you make it more exciting for rarer cards to be acquired. It also serves to artificially inflate the amount of resources that a player has to spend collecting cards in the game. These are good things, as they keep player interest longer. Even from a player’s perspective they can be good, as they keep the player excited and give them something more to strive for in your game.

However, what is also important is a healthy metagame. At the end of the day, multiplayer is one of (if not the) best option to provide a game with long life. Multiplayer will keep player interest far beyond what single player options will. In order for this multiplayer to retain players, it must be perceived as fair.

And therein lies the rub. If a game employs a collectible component, and the rarer components are simply more powerful, it breaks that core fairness component. Obviously this is a spectrum, rather than a simple yes/no flag. But the more powerful the rarer cards are, the more pay to win the game is going to be. The more dramatic the effect, the more damaging it will be to the game.

If it shouldn’t be related to balance, what should rarity do? Complexity. Cards that introduce new mechanics, or break core mechanics, are perfect candidates for being more rare. The more game-breaking (as in, different from the norm, not power) they are, the more rare they should be. This serves two purposes. One, it gates newer players away from more complicated mechanics. This provides a more natural learning curve for the players. Two, it provides an excitement to gain new mechanics as you collect more cards, giving you more options and breathing fresh life into the game.

Want to read more? See here. Extra Credits has also done a fantastic video on the topic here. What are your thoughts?

Star Wars Galaxy of Heroes Is Not A Strategy Game

I have been enjoying Galaxy of Heroes for over a year, logging in nearly every day of that year. Being a gamer that loves tactical/strategy games, GoH held a lot of promise from the very beginning. It seemed to be a game that focused on awesome tactical combat with characters I actually liked (sorry, Final Fantasy). Unfortunately, Galaxy of Heroes is not a strategy game.

There have been a lot of ups and downs with the game. I’ll give it that. And GoH has gotten me to spend more than any mobile game before. I’ve started taking the genre much more seriously. It’s shown me the potential of mobile games. But now I’m intimately aware of its severe failings. Instead of being a strategy game, it is a Skinner box – essentially just a slot machine in a casino. (If you want to learn more on this aspect, watch the Extra Credits series on ethical game development [h][e][r][e].)

Games are about providing players meaningful choice. Experiences should be enjoyable in and of themselves. You should *want* to play the game. In most games you have resources to manage, whether implicit or explicit. Strategy games are about these choices on a macro level, while tactical games are about making choices on a micro level.

Galaxy of Heroes does not deliver this kind of experience. The only gameplay that most people enjoy are raids or Arena (but often not both), and in some uncommon circumstances, Galactic War. This part is obvious, but it points to an important realization. GoH demands a large share of your time and attention in order to play the vanishingly small parts of the game that you want to. It even charges you to skip the parts of the game that *aren’t* fun.

Further, GoH has made significant strides, intentional and unintentional, to diminish choice. Look at how GoH handles raids. Part of the fun is exploring raids and trying to find atypical strategies to win them. Instead, unusual strategies are patched out – quickly. Critically, this shows that the team has bandwidth to fix what they determine to be bugs. But their highest priority is to slow the player base down. In other words, they view GoH as a treadmill. And they’re trying to keep us all on it.

Arena is a dismal failure. We’re back to the one-team solution. In a game where you have hundreds of characters, a single team should not be the only dominant, “correct” solution. But thanks to the power disparities between characters, poor AI, and other factors, we’ve got a metagame where there’s a single correct choice.

Yes, you can make other teams work. But you’re intentionally using a weaker team for your own motivations – that’s not the same thing as providing the players with an interesting choice. I argue that if we were given competent AI, or even live PvP, the metagame would settle on one team. The antithesis of choice.

Yes, there was a time recently that there was good diversity. However, I’d argue that this was because of the limited availability of the best characters – now that they’re commonplace, the meta has settled in. There haven’t been significant balance changes or new meta-defining characters since November (except Darth Nihilus, and to a lesser extent, R2D2).

More importantly, you see that GoH isn’t interested in fixing this problem. It’s clear to anyone that competes in arena that the health of the arena metagame isn’t a concern. The metagame is long stale. There isn’t even an acknowledgement that this is an issue. And I suspect that’s not just a failing of communication (which I could write another full post about). I would guess that GoH is okay with a boring arena metagame.

To be clear, I am *not* criticizing players that enjoy the collection aspect of games. Nor am I hating on players that love the gambling aspects of games. I understand that drive and desire. If all you want is a collectible game to unlock the characters you love, good on you. Keep enjoying the game. But that’s not the only game that Galaxy of Heroes pitches itself as. The game that GoH has failed to deliver.

Admittedly with the new update they’ve announced, GoH could right the ship. It could be going in the right direction. I would love nothing more. But I doubt it. It’s more likely that the new game mode is going to have limited play-time. Have little meaningful choice. Not deliver an experience that you enjoy for the experience itself.

And until that day comes, I’m not interested in playing anymore.

Thanks for the good times.

SWGOH R2D2 Guide


R2D2 is one of the four event characters. Out of all of them is the most plug-n-play. It can fit it just about every team thanks to its versatile support kit.

Critically, R2D2 is durable and brings a wide array of tricks. Including multiple of the staple needs, such as cleanse and a psuedo-taunt, as well as some unique ones, like a targeted taunt and burning, make R2D2 a fantastic addition to most teams. R2D2’s passive stat boosts only further its appeal.


R2D2 effectively brings a taunt to the team. More notably, this taunt can affect any character. This is fantastic with characters that want to be hit, like Kylo Ren.

Its passive cleanse is another strong addition, but this is a staple for just about every team to have. It’s important to note that it only works with Light Side characters, but that still provides a lot of options for you.

The Burning debuff is unfortunately overhyped. While it is still a useful tool, it shouldn’t be something relied on. Today’s meta is cleanse-heavy, and while negating dodges is a nice trick, it’s not the silver bullet to Maul teams it was expected to be. Characters under a Maul lead can still end up in Stealth from Maul’s lead (if they’re crit) or Savage can cleanse them of the Burning debuff.


You have a lot of flexibility in how to mod R2D2. Speed is of course great, but let’s move past that. R2D2 is durable enough that most people won’t try to focus the droid down first. That being said, you want enough survivability to ensure that it’s a bad idea to focus R2D2.

From there, you can either focus the aforementioned speed. Or you can do more survivability, and use R2D2’s psuedo-taunt on itself. Or you can do damage – the droid does a surprisingly good amount of damage, especially for a taunter. Potency doesn’t hurt either, as long as it’s not overkill.


R2D2 relies heavily on two mechanics: buffs and debuffs. In the case of the former, a lot of its utility is in the shape of its mass stealth ability. Bring Buff Immunity to shut this down. Failing that, look for mass-dispels. B2 brings both of these abilities, and B2 seems a fitting counter to R2D2.

With regards to its debuffs, you can shut those down through the normal mechanics. Tenacity Up is great if you can get it up first. Cleanse if not. Both is best. Your normal culprits, like Chirrut, GK, and Rex all fit the bill.