Tuesday, March 12, 2013

[POE] Hardcore

Time for some ARPG shenanigans.

I've been playing Path of Exile.

Its probably the best game I've picked up in a years. I could write pages and pages on why I love this game. The races. The skill trees. The complexity. But this blog is about being a video game data nerd, not persuading others to play awesome games. So instead: a video.

Great, now that everyone is playing, here comes the data.

Like most ARPGs, Path of Exile has a hardcore league. A single death kicks you out of the league, and into default. Since staying alive gets comically difficult, the hardcore league is super competitive. Players speculate on the best builds, watch the top characters, and get global announcements when a top 25 player dies. They debate whether duelists are viable, marauders overpowered, witches death-prone...

Of course, the best way to answer these arguments would be to track the progress of characters through hardcore, recording when they die, how quickly they gain experience, and whether class choice matters.

Fortunately, the PoE website lists the top 15000 characters in the hardcore league. By periodically recording this information, I can get a timeline of characters, as the league progresses.

Classy Breakdowns
Here is the breakdown of default and hardcore characters, by class:
While witches are the most second-most popular option on default, they're the second-least-popular class in the hardcore league. Hardcore is dominated by Templars, Marauders, and Rangers. Duelists, who have the weakest starting position, are the least popular class in both leagues. (They've recently been buffed, though.)

But why are there differences between the two leagues?  Is hardcore just harder for some classes? Are witches just too squishy? Or do players just prefer some classes over others?

Changing Classes
Minimally, if hardcore was harder for some classes, you'd expect to see dramatic changes in the proportions of each class over time.  So, if witches were really weak, at the start of the league there would be a ton of witches, they'd die, and the result would be fewer witches over time.

Here is the distribution of classes over the past month.
Over the past month, there have been small changes in the class distribution of players. Witches have increased their share, while duelists have steadily declined. Marauders have fallen in popularity, only to rise again. Rangers and templars have remained remarkably stable at the top.

Overall, though, class proportions have remained fairly stable. This suggests that whatever imbalances exist, they are small, and being amplified via player choices.

The Final Death
Another way to look at difficulty across classes is via deaths.  If POE is harder on some classes, then those classes should die more. In particular, if a class is harder in the mid or late-game, then there should be relatively more deaths for those classes at the higher levels.
Here, I'm looking at the average chance a character dies for every 15 minutes that they're online, by level and class.

Overall, gameplay becomes less lethal as characters level up. Characters in the 60s are less likely to die (per minutes played) than characters in the 40s.

While *slight* differences exist between the classes (witches die more frequently than rangers, for example), they're relatively small, and not large enough to explain overall class divisions on their own.

There are, of course, other ways to look at differences between classes: experience gains, survival analysis, etc... but for the moment, I need to keep leveling in merciless difficulty. =D


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