Thursday, February 27, 2014

[GW2] Server Populations and Achievement Scores

After observing large differences in Marionette success rates across servers, I've become interested in understanding a bit more about server populations.

So the achievement point leaderboards were of particular interest to me.

Players earn achievements by completing milestones, participating in living story events, and completing dailies. They're a great measure of player activity, since you get achievement points for just about everything. Even better, ArenaNet publicly tracks achievement points for the top 1000 players on each server.
Here, I've plotted the achievement points of the top 1000 players on each server.  The servers are organized by the average achievement point score of these players (highest top left to lowest bottom right), and colored by their WvW season 1 tier (gold / silver / bronze).

There are vast differences between servers.

As a snapshot, the leaderboards are interesting.  But tracked over time, they contain much more information. For this, I collected data from the leaderboards during the Edge of the Mists update. This gives three measures of server activity:  (1) transfers, (2) inactive players, and (3) points gained among the active players.

Server Transfers: Jumping Ship
Server transfers show up on the leaderboards in two ways. A player could appear on one server, and later on another. So I can track accounts that move between servers.

Other players disappeared from the leaderboards. So, for example, if a player on Eredon Terrace had over 4217 points at the start of the Edge of the Mists update, they should appear on that server's top 1000 list unless they transferred off the server.
Overall, 1.6% of players listed on the leaderboards transferred servers. Given the small number of transfers from each server (and the reasonable expectation that some of the 'large' moves are due to guilds) it is hard to make a general pattern from the server transfer data, but I'll look at it again in future updates.

However, of the transfers I observed, 84% are to servers with higher average achievement point scores than the starting server.

Inactive Players
Overall, 17% of players on the server top 1000 didn't earn any achievement points during the Edge of the Mists update, and therefore likely didn't play GW2 during the update. Here are the percent of inactive players by server:
Inactive players are more common in lower-tiered servers, with the Bronze tier averaging over 23% of players inactive, compared to an average 12% for the gold servers.

Points Gained by Server
During the two-week update, active players on the leaderboards gained an average of 170 points, around 12 points per day. Pretty impressive, considering that the daily requires only 5 points. (The average top 1000 player earned about one-third of the total possible points to be earned from living story / daily content.)
Across all servers, players with more achievement points earned more points than those with fewer points (rich get richer faster).

Several Thoughts
By now, it is clear that there are large differences in server populations and activity. It is simply a myth that there are 'pve servers' that just happen to do poorly in WvW. Players tend to transfer to higher-tiered servers. Those servers have fewer inactive players. And the players on higher tiered servers tend to be more active.

Time to think about a server transfer myself...

Sidenote: the results presented here don't change under more complicated statistical models (which I ran, but excluded from the presentation because this is a long post already). Though, I did have to run a nonparametric model due to the interesting structure underlying the data.

Tuesday, February 25, 2014

[GW2] Professional Voting

Today, Guild Wars 2 extended their Collaborative Development Initiative (CDI) to ask players to post their feedback on the ranger profession.  (Note: 'professions' are what most MMOs would classes).

Ranger was chosen in this thread, where the developers asked players to list 3 professions (in order of priority) they would like to see discussed first.  But isn't choosing a profession based on posting in a thread open for 24 hours on the forum problematic? Particularly active forum users would be likely to overwhelm the thread. And its reasonable to expect that posters would be biased toward their own class, instead of looking out for game balance as a whole.

So how reasonable was the thread as a method of getting feedback?

The results:

Ranger was the most mentioned profession, followed by elementalist and then necromancer to round out the top three. Rangers are particularly weak in GW2's pve, and one playstyle (bearbow) is consistently viewed with scorn.

Breaking down the votes by order of priority indicates that not only was ranger the overall top choice, it was most frequently listed as priority #1 by voters. Most of the ordering between professions remains the same.

But are these votes contaminated by bias?

Prior Posting Activity
One objection to this poll might be that not only are forums generally unrepresentative of player opinions, but frequent forum posters might be likely to overwhelm any thread. Hardcore and casual players might be expected to disagree on which professions need the most attention.

While generally valid objections, they don't apply particularly well to this poll.
For nearly 20% of voters, voting in this thread was their first post on the forums. For others, posting is a pretty frequent activity. Voters had an average 205 posts before the thread (with a maximum of over 4600 posts!). 

Curiously, however, prior posting activity doesn't change the results. Both first-time and prior posters overwhelmingly agree on their preference order, favoring rangers, elementalists and necromancers. (Though mesmers do a little less well among first-time posters).

Profession(al) Bias
Another way to look at the votes is to examine what other forums voters are active on. Players might be expected to be biased toward voting for their own profession, which could be reflected by their posting in profession-specific subforums.

Here, I took a look at the past 50 forum posts of each voter (excluding first-time posters), and recorded whether they'd posted in one of the profession-specific subforums.  I compared this against their listed vote preferences.
In general, the votes are only slightly biased toward forums voters are active in.  For example, 30% of those who ranked elementalist as priority #2 had posted in the elementalist subforums, compared to only 15% of all voters. But this pattern doesn't hold generally. Those who picked engineer, mesmer, thief or warrior were no more likely to be active in those professions' subforums. So, in general, forum posting activity is at best weakly related to vote choice.

The exception - as ever - is rangers.  While only 5% of voters had posted in the ranger forums previously, 45% of those who listed ranger as their top pick had posted in those forums. Among top choices, ranger is the only profession that shows such a strong pattern. However, even excluding these voters, ranger would still be the top pick.

Clearly, a 24-hour poll isn't the best way to generate clear feedback on which profession requires the most attention.  In this case, however, the ranger profession is so overwhelmingly in need of attention that the effect of these (otherwise valid) concerns is overwhelmed.

Fingers crossed for some pretty excellent fixes.

Disclaimer: I have a ranger at 80, but I only use it to loot jumping puzzle chests since returning to GW2.

Tuesday, February 11, 2014

[GW2] Back! And Marionette Success Rates

Hello Tyria!

We're back with a blast. After over a year without MMOs, I decided to take a quick check at what was new in GW2.

... and quickly wandered into another data-driven gaming argument.

In the Origins of Madness update, ArenaNet introduced two world raid bosses: The Twisted Marionette and a three headed Great Jungle Wurm. While the encounters have difficult mechanics, they're part of the open world - you simply cannot choose the other players you'll fight alongside. Since each boss has mechanics that make it possible for a single player to cause the whole server to fail the encounter, players have taken to complaining about the mechanics of both fights on the forums (shocker!).

I'm particularly interested in the Marionette because of this comment, made by Josh Foreman (Environment Design for ANet), in responding to complaints about the fight's difficulty:
if after a week the Marionette is still only being beaten 1 out of 10 times, then I would say we may have tuned it a bit too difficult.
That was 14 days ago. A week after he made that comment, I started tracking the success of the Marionette event via the GW2 API. The Events section of the api tracks the status of each event on every server, noting its outcome (success/fail). This gives me six days of data on Marionette kill attempts. Since the Marionette fight occurs once every two hours, that is data on just over 70 Marionette attempts.

The overall Marionette success rate for the past week is 6.6%.
  • on North American servers the success rate is 6.1%.
  • on European servers the success rate is 7.0%.

Server Population
One issue with the Marionette is that the fight takes a large number of players to be successful. The fight is divided into five lanes, which are periodically divided further, into five platforms. Most guides for the fight mention 20-25 players per lane (100-125 players for a successful attempt), though a coordinated group could get by with less. So active, well-populated, coordinated servers should do better on this boss.
There are vast differences between servers.  The top EU server (Desolation) succeeds on 63% of its attempts, and the top NA server isn't far behind (Blackgate - 59%). On the other hand, I have never observed a successful Marionette attempt on half of all servers (25 of 51 servers).
As might be expected, servers with a higher WvW rank are much more successful at the Marionette. While top 5 WvW servers average a greater than 20% success rate, all other servers have a less than 5% sucess rate at the event.

Prime Time
In addition to vast differences between servers, it matters what time the event is being attempted. NA primetime (starting at 7 EST) has a much higher success rate than afternoons (students getting off school?).
With this in mind, I have two caveats:
  1. GuildWars 2 has an overflow system, where if too many players are in a zone, an overflow server is created for any additional players that arrive (or several overflows, if need be). I don't have any information about what happens on these servers (or how many there are).
  2. It could be that the GW2:Events API is not accurate. Completely unsuccessful servers are pretty shocking, so much so that I doubt the source. Then again, I do the Marionette at least once per day, and the outcome of each of those attempts is accurate, when I check against the data. 
Further Questions
So what does this mean for events like the Marionette?

Feedback based on a particular server (or time) isn't really representative of the experience of the event as a whole.  Someone trying the event at 7 or 9 pm EST on Blackgate is virtually guaranteed a successful run. But there are 25 servers that I've never seen succeed at the event.

On the other hand, vast differences between servers (and times) suggests that the fight isn't balanced across the wide range of situations GW2 players are likely to encounter. Hopefully, future events will be open to a wider range of the community, instead of being limited / exclusive content.

Time willing, I'll take another look at the Marionette sometime this week, and see if I can break this apart even more.