Who buff and nerf competitive online game characters and how do they balance it?



Yesterday team Sentinels won the Valorant Champions Tour. Now, Valorant is making an update on buffing or nerfing some agents. Who does buff or nerf characters in a game and how do they do it? (This is a general question on all competitive online games)

In: Technology

The developers behind the games make decisions on buffing or nerfing items and characters in a game. They balance it mostly through trial and error. First designing an aspect or the game, then testing it, then fine tuning it to try and achieve a balance within the game. Once the game is released they inevitably die more fine tuning and tweaking as they see how the characters or items are applied in the wild. The goal generally being to buff underused things to make them good enough to be relevant and nerfing overused things to make them more fair to play against.

I don’t know the specifics of valorant but a buff/nerf wave coming in the wake of a major tournament sounds like the result of one of two things. Either the tournament highlighted areas of imbalance in the game and these buffs/nerfs aim to address them. Or, they have wanted to implement these changes for a while but held off on implementing them until after the tournament so as not to throw off the players who have been practicing within the given meta. Tournament is now over so it’s a good time to shake up the meta and let players adjust to the changes outside of a tournament setting.

The developers are the ones who nerf of buff different characters by updating the game. It is technically possible to refuse the upgrade but then you are not allowed to connect to the servers so you can not play the game online. In the case of Valorant the developers are Riot Games. They have a team who among other is constantly monitoring how people play and tries to see if there are any characters who are overpowered or underpowered which would make the game very monotone and not that fun to play. They then decide how to change the characters to make them more balanced and both fun to play and fun to play against.

The developers who make the game do it. In the programming of the game they’ll tweak values for damage, cooldown timing, animation length, etc. They usually do so when one character or another is performing significantly better or worse than average, or when something in their ability kit isn’t working like the developers want it to.

For example, if Character A through G win between 49% to 51% of the games they participate in, that’s close enough to average. But if Character H is winning 53% of all the games played with that character, and Character J is only winning 46%, they are straying a bit too far from average. H will likely get a slight nerf and J will get a slight buff.

Thank you guys. I thought there is an occupation called game analyst or statisticians who work in a gaming company so they would exactly know scientifically how to balance the game but most of you said its a smart guess but it still depends on what game we are talking about.

Buffing and nerfing is done by the game’s developers.

They look at why characters are popular. Their goal is usually to try to make all the options — characters / factions / etc. — good enough to play. They want to avoid one particular option becoming so good that everybody plays it, or getting so bad that nobody plays it.

The decision making isn’t magic. The developers play their own game, look at gameplay footage, and listen to community feedback.

The developers do have some tools that might not be available to the general public — for example they probably have very detailed statistics on what characters everybody picks. So they can easily figure out which characters are too popular or unpopular, and then investigate. Likewise they probably have statistics on matches — like if teams that have character X win a lot, or if teams that have character Y lose a lot. If the game has a replay feature, the developers might have the game send them a copy of the replay of every game that’s played, so they can analyze it.