Balance

Game is balanced when it's mechanics don't lead to the dominance of a single scenario.

Narrow and wide understanding

In the most narrow sense game balance is tied to competitive games and is examined in the context of winning. Designers have to ask themselves if some player (for example first to make a move in a turn-based game) get higher chances of winning the game, regardless of their skill?

The above equals to balance as fairness, but that's not the only type. Jesse Schell in his The Art of Game Design stretches the notion and points out 11 more aspects. Although this typology could be contested at the theoretical level but author's aim is not to provide rigour but rather to introduce many useful terms and, as he calls them, "lenses" for game design analysis and education.

Let's list all kinds of balance according to Art of Game Design. In parentheses there are added some of the related topics discussed in the book especially important for music games: fairness (diversified players' actions), challenge vs success (too much success is boring… at least in "regular" games), meaningful choices (risk/reward distribution), skill vs chance (choice vs chance), head vs hands (different types of skills), competition vs cooperation (co-optionality), short vs long, rewards (separately with…), punishment (…for unknown reason), freedom vs controlled experience, simple vs complex (emergence), detail vs imagination.

Music games design

For music games many aspects would need to be specified or added. For example there is one more type of balance that would be very important to addto the list: music vs games. There's often some tension between these two aspects, because of downtime or effects of ludomusical dissonance.

Here are some examples of topics that are worth considering when making a music game and are possible to approach in the context of balance:
— Can different types of instrument participate on equal footing? Usual suspects are percussion and vocals. Can you let them play?
— Does the music always feel the same in different playthroughs? Or maybe it is so dissimilar every time that has no identity?
— Can the person that has no experience in music have an attempt at the game? What skills it requires and what it allows to develop?

Other game design terms:

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