Sunday, May 11, 2014

[GW2] I'm an undying star!

Myth of Ragnarok has finished exploring Tyria - including the world versus world maps - without dying!

This journey was an absurd amount of fun. The game felt much more alive with megaservers. I feel genuinely connected to my character. We've been through a struggle together, and endured. It definitely kept me motivated to play GW2 during this lull between Living Story seasons.

Orr, surprisingly, wasn't as big of a challenge as I'd expected.

Straits of Devastation was straightforward. (Can puns kill?) The only hiccup was the Lightfoot Passage vista. I saw player after player fall to their deaths on the vista, and psyched myself out. I had to swap to another warrior to practice the jumps before continuing on my hardcore character.

Malchor's Leap was once my least-favorite zone. Apparently, Orr isn't so bad without risen. We owned the temples, which made completing the skill challenges trivial. Champions were instantly killed by roving hordes of players. Even the chicken events were instantly completed. Megaservers may lead to the extinction of the risen. I'm fine with that.

But what to do next?

I love this character. Playing without the trading post has breathed new life into the game. I'm enjoying the challenge of completing content without dying. I like that my character is deliberately undergeared (self-found equipment only) since it gives me a sense of progression. And I don't want to abandon the character at the end of a jumping puzzle somewhere.

So I've decided to find new challenges to tackle.

Next up:

  • Full exotics without dying or relying on vendors / the trading post. I'll gear up via the new world boss schedule and maybe a champion train or two (ewww). The yellow weapons I loot will get thrown into the mystic forge in the hopes of getting some shiny level 80 exotics.
  • Achievement hunting: I'm going to get some more experience by finishing progessing my slayer and weapon master achievements.

Once I'm fully-geared, I'll go back and finish the personal story - including Arah! - without dying.


EDIT:  Or... I'll die to underwater combat.  Le Sigh.

Friday, May 9, 2014

[GW2] Ironman Challenge: turning it up to 80

Myth of Ragnarok is level 80!

I hit 80 with around 80% of the world complete, but was having too much fun, and so completed a few more zones. This put me at 93% world completion. This just leaves the three zones of Orr: Straights of Devastation, Malchor's Leap, and Cursed Shore.

Her story so far...

Each trip through Plains of Ashford starts an extended conversation of whether the charr or the humans are to blame for the destruction of the zone.  Originally the land belonged to the charr. But when the gods brought humans to Tyria, they drove the charr from the land. Until the charr took it back. Which the charr nuked with the searing. So we have plenty to argue over.

Knock knock, now let me into the Crystal Desert.

I dreaded this vista (by Sorrow's Embrace in Dredgehaunt Cliffs) from the moment this challenge began. On my first character, I died to it oh so many times. There was swearing. Vows to never return. Developer hatred. Shame. This time? Straight to the top without issue. My friends say they made the tower easier... I think I'm just that awesome.

This heart - in Fireheart Rise - is undoubtedly the single worst quest in all of Guild Wars 2. You're supposed to help escort the ghosts of loggers back to their bodies. Or defend charr children from a witch. Nope. The heart and event are both bugged. Except for one solitary logger. Every couple minutes a quest mob spawns, which can be killed for credit. Spent about a half hour sitting there to get the zone done, whispering everyone I saw to camp the spawn with me. Whoo.

Timberline Falls. I enjoyed returning to this tower. Nothing like krait with pull, immobilize, and knockback to send adrenaline through my system.

A foreshadowing of what awaits me in Orr. I also learned a valuable lesson. Don't step on the fish heads by Tequatl. They insta-downed me, leading to terrified screams and the hope I could res before the head respawned.

After hitting 80, I decided to give a couple world bosses a try. Jormag was fun... right up until players started getting downed / dying. I decided to hide in the back.

Along the way, I've also been looking into whether others have explored the whole map without dying. I found someone who hit 100% world completion pre-level 80. I've found someone else who hit 80 without dying. I also saw one claim of a player exploring all of Tyria, excluding the WvW maps.

But, so far, I haven't been able to find someone who completed the map without death. Makes me wonder how horrible Orr will be.

Friday, April 25, 2014

[GW2] Ironman Challenge Update: Halfway There!

I'm halfway there!  My new warrior just hit 50% map completion in GW2.

Her story so far..

I decided to finish the cities first. While exploring Divinity's Reach I ran into a naked dance party at the city entrance. Human cities, huh?

I'm really enjoying the journey so far. Because of megaservers, there are players everywhere I go, which really makes the world feel alive. I was surprised to see that even Lion's Arch had players hanging out / exploring.

Leveling (yet another) warrior, I'm surprised at the number of things I discover about the class. Just after hitting level 30, I noticed strange brown bubbles around my character. Apparently they're an effect from equipping Signet of Rage. The effect is so small on my asura that I never noticed it, and I never cared about the charr enough to look closely. Another reminder of why I'm rerolling.

Gendarran Fields was the most boring map I completed. Since so many players are hanging out in Vigil Keep, most of the zone feels completely deserted. Felt like pre-megaserver leveling.

Fort Vandal in Kessex Hills was a close call.  Since the end of Living Story Season 1 suggested this area is about to become important, I wanted to explore the fort and hop over the walls. I reconsidered when I noticed the large numbers of level 80 champion poisoners on the walls. Apparently they're pretty tough.

I went rooftop hopping in Ebonhawke instead.  Just beneath this screenshot are two players engaging in either sappy-romance RP about returning from war... or some about-to-get-steamy ERP. Either way, it was awkward when they looked up to see my character perched like this.

Finishing Lornar's Pass gave me 52% map completion at level 47. I'm being much more adventurous than my last character, who hit level 80 with only 61% of the map explored (no deaths). I think this new challenge is really encouraging me to take more risks exploring the world.

Definitely looking forward to what the other half of the world has to explore!

And yes, I'm still alive.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

[GW2] Ironman Challenge, Again

Just about two years ago, I started leveling Clawswitz to 80 without dying or crafting. You can read his origins tale, or the update.

I didn't blog about it, but shortly after coming back to GW2 I finished leveling Clawswitz. I didn't write anything because immediately after Clawswitz hit 80, I felt unsatisfied with the character. Normally, I'd start setting him up with a fashionable outfit. But Clawswitz felt clunky. Charr look hideous in virtually every piece of armor; except the cultural gear, which is a bit too spiked for me. Unable to find the right look, I just abandoned him at the end of a jumping puzzle.

With the roll-out of megaservers, I decided to level another warrior to 80 without dying.

Meet Myth of Ragnarok.

Updated challenge ground rules:
  • Death is permanent (on death, reroll).
  • No getting carried by friends
  • No crafting
  • No crafting gear with other characters
  • No use of the TP
  • No food
  • No champion train farming to 80
  • No experience bonus buffs (Birthday, Killstreak,...)
  • No Tomes of Knowledge
  • No dungeons
  • Any tough fight I run from must be admitted to
  • Challenge ends when I'm at 100% world completion, including WvW
While the new challenge greatly restricts access to gear, I decided to allow purchases from karma vendors. This pushes me into a risk-reward situation for getting new pieces of gear, which I enjoy. It also pushes me to unlock more skins for the wardrobe.

Progress so far:
  1. My first character died while doing Eternal Battlegrounds at 23. I was trying to meet up with a group taking the enemy keep, and ran into two thieves instead. Never had a chance.
  2. The second character died at level 2, this time in borderlands. I was outfought by a 80 warrior.
Attempt #3 is still alive, now at level 32. 

I've already had two terrifying near-death experiences on the character, of course.

The first was at the spider-themed skill challenge in WvW.  I decided to keep fighting with 1/20th of my hp left, and got downed. I couldn't rally off the spider-adds, since they were behind the challenge. Fortunately, I pulled off a vengeance-rally.

The second was at the Darkhoof Heights skill point. I was under-leveled, and decided to attack the boss that guards the point. I wasn't paying attention, and barely made it out.

For the moment, at least, I'm still alive.

Monday, April 21, 2014

[POE] Building Better Builds: Forum Posts, Part i

I've become interested in making my Path of Exile builds better.

One way to do this is to see how other players are creating their builds. Since this is a pretty big topic, I'll first focus on passive skill tree choices by players.  I'm particularly interested in these because many players post guides to their builds - including passive skill trees - on the forums. (Data time!)

I grabbed the 600 most recently updated threads in each class forum and extracted build links on the first page of each of these threads. Because PoE's passive skill tree is constantly changing, I removed builds that are no longer valid with the current skilltree or were less than 80 points. Because sometimes authors post multiple versions of a build, I selected only one build from each thread (the build closest to 100 points). This left me with 914 valid builds.

Duelist Marauder Ranger Scion Shadow Templar Witch
valid builds 101.0 106.0 144.0 123.0 166.0 112.0 162.0
all builds 707.0 540.0 657.0 732.0 633.0 591.0 615.0
average posts 68.8 79.3 47.7 68.2 49.1 58.8 80.6
average views 25071.7 33006.9 17866.2 18892.1 14617.9 15087.8 32962.1

Curiously, Templar has the least build options to chose from, combined with relatively few posts / views for each thread. I'm curious whether this will lead the developers to consider rebuilding the templar starting area.

Defensive specialization: 
Whether in a hardcore or softcore league, one of the biggest challenges in Path of Exile is simply staying alive. For this section, I'll focus on player choices to get life, energy shield, armor, and evasion. When evaluating life- or energy- based builds, I omitted any build with less than 50 of that stat (because, well, death).
A few observations:
  • Life-based builds tend to get around 200 life, with marauder builds getting slightly more life than the other classes. I'm actually surprised at how many builds get less than 200 life, which I considered an absolute necessity. 
  • Rangers and shadows tend to focus on evasion, while duelists and marauders focus on armor. 
  • Of all the classes, only witch has multiple builds getting a 'reasonable' amount of energy shield for CI / low-life. 
There is, of course, a potential problem with this data. The wide range of life / energy shield values suggests some of these builds simply aren't viable. For example, a large number of builds from new or inexperienced players might tend to undervalue defensive stats. To correct for this, I weighted the data by the number of posts in the thread (on the assumption that high-quality builds are more likely to get attention).

While weighting the data did remove a large number of the low-defense builds, the basic story is unchanged: players tend to get at least 200 life, energy-shield based builds are uncommon, and strength-focused classes get armor while dex-focused classes get evasion. It is notable that a few high-attention builds (like cyclone marauder) tend to dominate the data.

Weapon specialization:
Turning to offense, here I looked at whether a build grabbed a damage specialization node (+damage with a weapon type / spell).
A few features that stand out (to me):
  • Wow, caster options are popular (even omitting elemental damage builds).
  • Ranger is overwhelmingly the most popular choice for bow builds. The lack of a bow-templar makes me consider running one.
  • One-handed builds are more popular than two-handed builds for all classes.
  • Swords are slightly more popular than axes, despite the focus on soultaker in the current meta, though this is potentially due to buzzsaw builds. 
  • Specializing into wands / staves are remarkably uncommon options (2.6% and 1.4% of builds, respectively). Staves make sense - other than Pillar builds, not many characters go for a staff (they're also devilishly hard to roll). But wands? I seem to remember everyone trying wander early in the league.
I'm frankly a bit surprised at how few defenses many builds grab, particularly given the common refrain that 200% life is a bare minimum for PoE. I'm equally surprised at how many builds choose to specialize in a weapon, given how that limits purchasing options at endgame.

There are plenty of places I'm considering taking the analysis. I'm definitely going to look at keystones. I'm also interested in some general descriptive-stats for the passive tree (shortest paths, nearest clusters) and how this influences the build meta.

So many fun data adventures to be had.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

[POE] Maps, Levels, and Quantity

I love maps in Path of Exile. But I've always been curious about the details of the map drop system. Does it get harder to get higher level maps? Exactly what does quantity do?  What about the desirable mods (pack size, more magic monsters, more rare monsters) - how much quantity are they worth?

As usual, the forums have an abundance of speculation about these answers. But I wanted math.

So I started to collect data on the maps that I've been running in PoE. Unfortunately, this kind of data gathering takes time, so I was only able to gather data on around 500 maps. Which just isn't enough data to study processes that are based on rare events.

To take this further, I combined my data with a few other projects that had collected data from maps into one, larger, spreadsheet of doom. (Note: all of these sources were gathered since 1.0, which substantially changed the mapping system.)
  • My data - link
  • /u/dansenMONSEN - link
  • /u/jddogg - link
  • /u/IcyRespawn - link
  • /u/Shadowclaimer- link
  • /u/pyrodan2 - link
  • /u/Skyl3lazer - link
This gave a total 4076 map runs, covering a wide range of map levels and map quantity.

From this data, I can take a look at the basics of map drops.

Map Level
One finding is painfully apparent for anyone that runs maps in PoE: it gets harder to progress your map pool on higher level maps.  For every increase in map level, the average level of maps dropped increases by 0.71. For 66 maps, the average drop is an increase in map levels (66.5).  By level 70, the average drop is only 69.1, and by 78 maps the average drop is down to 74.6. Maintaining a high level map pool gets harder with each level.

Map Quantity
Declining average drop level makes getting high quantity critically important for maps (since higher quantity means more maps, which increases the odds of getting equal-or-higher level maps).
On average, I estimate that every 100% quantity increases the number of maps dropped by 0.85 maps. (Results from a negative binomial regression - full table after the break.) This, in turn, improves the chance of getting a higher level map.  The same 100% quantity increases the chance of getting a higher level map by around 20%.

Pack Size / Magic Monsters / Rare Monsters
But what about the desirable mods (pack size, magic monsters, rare monsters) - what effect do they have on map drops?
  • Pack Size: aids in getting both more and higher level maps. However, the data suggests that pack size isn't as game-breaking as others suggest. From the models, every 2% pack size is worth about 1% quantity. So a 20% pack size roll is worth only about 10% quantity - less than the other available suffixes that could roll on a map.
  • Magic / Rare monsters: have no effect on the number of maps (or, whatever effect is there is lost to noise / too small to estimate). Rare monsters increases the likelihood of getting a higher level map (it is likely that magic monsters does too, just that the effect is fairly small).  Again, the mod is about half as valuable as quantity.  So a low rare monsters roll is equivalent to about 13% quantity.

These results are... surprising.

While I've always been told to roll for the desirable affixes, these results suggest that they may be overrated. Of course, there is one caveat: some maps - like tunnel - don't have much room for large packs to spawn, diminishing the effect of the mod. I'll try and gather more data to evaluate this claim.

I'm really surprised that the magic monsters mod didn't show any statistical significance, no matter how I looked at the data. I'm thinking this might have to do with selection effects. The problem is how highly the mod is rated: if players immediately run a map with +magic monsters regardless of the other mods, this would result in +magic monsters being associated with worse maps and fewer drops. I'll try some quasi-experimental methods out to get around this problem.

I'm also surprised that 1% quantity doesn't equate to another 1% chance to get a map... this makes me think something else may be going on with the models, so I'll take another pass at the topic soon.

So very excited to have data to play with!

For the stats nerds:  full table after the break.

Monday, April 7, 2014

[GW2] Server Transfers

I've been tracking players on the GW2 achievement leaderboards.

The boards enable me to track when a player transfers off of a server: players that disappear from the boards - but have enough points to appear on them - have likely jumped ship.  (Or, alternatively, been banned: I'm not sure what happens with the boards then.)

I was able to track players on 23 EU servers for one month [February 20th to March 23rd]. In that month, I observed 1456 players that likely transferred servers. That makes a 0.2% chance that a top 1000 player server transfers on any given day - or - a 6.6% chance that a top 1000 player changes servers over the course of a month.
Caveat: some of my data collection was corrupted - from both my ISP (TimeWarner <glare>) and the ArenaNet website (the website got angst-y partway through my data collection). So I'm missing some servers. Take the resulting numbers with salt.
Transfers are highly clustered: on most days on most servers, at most one player out of the top 1000 transfers (65% of all server-days look like this). However, on some servers, on some days, large clusters of players leave the server (record observed: 57 of the top 1000 players left Underworld on March 20th).

Transfers also differ by day: on March 7th, ArenaNet announced a reduction in the cost of server transfers starting on March 18th.  This resulted in a considerable rise in the number of transfers. Before March 18th, an average of 1.9 top 1000 players transferred per server each day. After March 19, that number jumped to 4.7.

Pre March 18 Post March 18
Gold 1.1 1.4
Silver 2.0 9.2
Bronze 2.4 4.8

But while these transfers were designed to encourage players to move to lower-tiered servers, they had something of a bandwagon effect.  After the update, very few top 1000 players left gold-tier servers. Most of the movement came from the Silver / Bronze tiers.

I'm actually surprised at just how common server transfers are. Post-March 18, nearly 10 of the top 1000 players in Silver tier on every server changed servers each day. That is a remarkable change in the population of each server.

I'm also not surprised that most transfers originate on Silver / Bronze servers.  WvW match-ups on these servers can be frustrating, and it makes sense that players would seek a stronger world environment.