What does the MCOC Story Arc difficulty curve look like?

With the recent discussions talking about the "difficulty curve" in MCOC, I thought I would take a closer quantitative look at the numbers lurking within the Story Arc content. Now, the true difficulty curve involves many qualitative and subjective things we can't easily put numbers to. How much does difficulty jump when SP3 is turned on? How hard is No Retreat? But I thought it would be useful to quantify what was actually quantifiable, and see where that takes things. At least we could discuss the subjective things within the context of how difficulty unambiguously rises with higher numbers.

I decided to look at the difficulty of the normal minions in the story arc maps, because bosses are hand crafted and particularly difficult to quantify. Also, sometimes their difficulty isn't part of the normal difficulty curve at all, like the Collector or the Champion. They are special cases. I wanted to see how the "normal" difficulty scaled. I also just noted the very first fight on the map, except where it was obviously not representative (for example, those pesky easy fights on 6.1.2).

I looked at rarity (star rating), rank, and level. I converted rarity and rank into CR, and then I used some linear interpolation to guestimate a "fractional" CR for comparison purposes. In other words, a 4* 3/1 and a 4* 3/30 have the same CR (80) but I projected 3/30 to be 89 (just under CR 90). The math is a little different than that, but you get the idea. This allows me to say that a 3/30 is stronger than a 3/1.

And then I had to deal with the global buffs. What do you do with +100% champion boost (+100% attack, +100% health). Well, as a very rough estimate one increase in rank increases health and attack by about 35%. Not exactly, but this is a reasonably close average. I converted all global attack and health buffs logarithmically into an effective rank increase. So a 5* rank 2 with a +35% champion boost is "effectively" a rank 3. This increases CR by 10. I then charted my calculated "effective CR" vs story arc map. It is a bit crude and there's some guestimates built into the math, but I think it is close enough for discussion purposes. Here it is:



There's a lot to unpack. You can see Acts 1 through 6 labeled. The red line is the approximate effective CR of the minions on the map, factoring in rarity, rank, level, and global buffs. The blue line that diverges from the red graphs the effective CR if you look at attack rating, whereas the red line is effective CR if you look at health. They are identical until you get to Act 5 and especially Act 6 where the global buffs for attack and health wildly diverge.

I've also marked CR120 where a 5* 5/65 would be. The 6* line needs extra explanation. 6* champs do not scale at the same rate as 5* champs past rank 2. They are going up by only half the ratio for rank 3, and presumably higher ranks. Thus, ten points of additional "Real CR" won't equal the same increase in power as it does for 5* champs. I've estimated where a 6* 5/65 is going to be, regardless of its CR, and labeled that (it is lower than what a 6* rank 5's listed CR will be).

Now, normally a good player can defeat opponents significantly stronger than their team. If you bring 10k PI champs into a map you'd expect a good player to defeat an entire map of 10k opponents. In fact, I'm guessing that a good but not spectacular player might be able to clear a map of 30k PI champs, roughly; if the entire map was full of minions with three times higher PI than their team, that would still be doable (I'm not counting other exotic buffs here). So I've labeled where that 3x opponent would be on the chart. Notice that for the average player with good skills who brings an entire team of 5/65 champs into the map, Act 5 would be doable, Act 6 would be problematic.

Amazingly, for this hypothetical player, even if they were to simply wait and let their roster grow before they tackled Act 6, that would still be problematic. The chart suggests that such a player would be able to get throuigh the first two chapters, then get stuck in the last two (when it comes to the opponent's attack rating, which is probably a bigger problem than the opponent's health rating). I'm not even counting the Champion boss here, just the minions on the paths.

None of this counts the difficulty contributions of things like No Retreat or Acid Wash or all of the other tricky nodes. This just looks at the way health and attack scale up in the story arc content. Now, of course I'm not saying Act 6 is impossible. People do it. But the interesting question is who's doing it, and are a lot of players simply never going to be able to do it. The numbers suggest that the average player might never get through Act 6 unless they somehow become far above average players, capable of taking on fights way more than three times higher than their team. They are going to have to increase their skill to the point of taking on minions six times higher, or more.

One more thing. CR is actually an exponential difficulty rating. Since champions are increasing their health and attack by multiples of a ratio (about 1.35) a difficulty curve like the one above that kind of looks vaguely linear is actually massively exponential. Here's that same curve but with CR projected into linear attack and health growth:



When players notice the sudden jump in difficulty heading into Act 5, that's what they are seeing. Not only are attack and health rising extremely fast, on top of that SP3 gets globally unlocked and you get the Act 5 global nodes and eventually Act 6 nodes. In other words, the real difficulty curve is steeper than this appears. Our rosters are also increasing of course, but not as fast. From Act 1 to Act 4, our rosters are probably outpacing the early part of the exponential curve. I think it barely keeps up with Act 5 if not falls slightly behind. And no one's roster can keep up with Act 6.

Again, people do Act 6. I had no problem doing Act 6.1 pretty much the moment it released. But i have a far larger than average roster and while I'm not a top tier player, my skills are sufficiently above average that I could adjust. But that curve doesn't just make life difficult for average players, it rapidly leaves even significantly above average players behind.

Those marks showing where our rosters are likely to be in the foreseeable future is the important thing, though. Up to Act 5 you could tell a player that if they couldn't do the content they could just wait until their roster caught up. After all, the stronger the roster the less skill you need, and vice versa. I even say that all the time. But when you compare to the difficulty of earlier Acts, even Act 5, Act 6 is already tuned for 8* champs. That's not a typo. Eight star champs are what it would take for the average player to "level into" Act 6. And that's problematic.

And before beta testers started complaining about it, Book 2's attack rating would have been somewhere in the vicinity of 350 on the lower chart. When difficulty is going up exponentially, no human being can keep up forever. It is just a question of how far ahead of the curve they were to start, and how long it takes for the game to overtake them.

Of course, life is more complicated than the simplified calculations I've done. Certainly, the power creep of new champions is a factor, the skill improvements of players is a factor, the knowledge meta of the community is a factor. But none of those things can beat an exponential curve forever, and that's what the numbers suggest to me. Act 6 very likely has exceeded what a very large fraction of players will ever be able to do, even when handed rosters from the future. If Book 2 continues that difficulty curve, regardless of how it does it, even if it does so by means I can't easily quantify any more, it will probably still leave a lot of players behind.
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Comments

  • AlphA101AlphA101 Posts: 285 ★★★
    Does it make a difference to kabam ? Will they adjust or balanced act 6 ?
  • LunaeLunae Posts: 362 ★★
    AlphA101 said:

    Does it make a difference to kabam ? Will they adjust or balanced act 6 ?

    When did this become about act 6? Did I miss a seatin video or something? This is exactly the problem. Maybe seatin wants act 6 reworked, I don’t know, maybe he cares or he’s doesn’t since he’s already done it along with the rest of the youtubers and whales, but the whole thing that started this was his video, a response to book 2 beta. Again if the community and that’s everyone including YouTuber can’t unite or whatever to help ilac stop bots and merc, will they suddenly push to rework something they’ve already moved passed. What did lagacys video about mercs amount to? Sorry that’s just the truth.
  • Denslo500Denslo500 Posts: 396 ★★★
    With the game being THAT hard, why are they still limiting 6* to Rank 3?
  • LunaeLunae Posts: 362 ★★
    DNA3000 said:

    Lunae said:

    Kabam tried gates, gates based on rarity, on class, to not only stop champions from stream rolling, but to stop players from using synergys as well. They tried crazy node combinations, champion specific locked fights. They tried boosting the ais stats.

    The question is: to do what? To slow down the highest tier and strongest players? That makes perfect sense in the Abyss. But normally the core story arc content in a game like this is supposed to be for everyone: it is called progressional content because it is tied to the general progress of the average player. The average player, progressing in an average fashion, should eventually be able to do Act 3, then Act 4, then Act 5, then Act 6. There's no rule that they should be able to do it immediately, but eventually. We presume that if the average player can't do Act 4, they simply need to slow down and build up their roster until it is strong enough for their skill to be enough. Same for Act 5, same for Act 6. But it is unclear if that is true.

    Of course, given enough time everyone's roster will continue to get stronger, and presumably eventually make the content an even fight. That happened with Realm of Legends, for example. But it is unclear if any reasonable amount of time is enough for Act 5, and it is unclear if any practical amount of time compared to the lifetime of the entire game is enough for Act 6. It doesn't seem obvious because we're often directly comparing the experiences of the top tier players actually doing the content and very low players struggling with things much lower. There's no "normal" comparison. This tries to make that kind of normalized comparison.

    If it is *never* going to be appropriate for average players, it is questionable if it should really be part of the core progressional story arc content. And that was at the core of a lot of beta tester complaints. Some people thought it was too difficult, some people thought it wasn't too difficult, but I think most agreed that even if *they* could do it, it was hard to see if any normal player would ever be able to do it. But as I said in the beta, and as I repeated in the general feedback thread, I think the problem with Book 2 really traces back to Act 6. Book 2 was conceived to be harder than Act 6, because of course it was. Shouldn't it be, because Act 6 is way harder than Act 5, which is way harder than Act 4. Shouldn't Book 2 continue the trend?

    Well what if the trend is wrong, and that trend started with Act 5 and went completely off the rails with Act 6. How do you fix Book 2 if everyone gets stuck behind Act 6? Make Book 2 not require Act 6? Jump straight from the Collector to Book 2? People say Kabam wouldn't revise Act 6, and it is true there's a lot of hurdles to doing that. They will be extremely reluctant to do that. But what developers hate even more than going back and revising older content is straight up orphaning content. Creating a shortcut from 5.2 to Book 2 basically orphans all of Act 6. Not creating a shortcut around Act 6 means almost no one will ever get to Book 2. Content intended to be *core content* is never going to get done by the vast majority of players. Game developers generally hate to see that happen. It might be one of the few reasons that justifies going back and revisiting released content difficulty.

    And they don't even need to touch Act 6 at all. I presented a solution to rebalance Act 6 for normal players in the general feedback thread that doesn't involve changing any of the actual Act 6 content directly.
    Yea can’t really agrue with all that. I mean I know it’s hard, but I guess I was still largely underestimating how hard for the average player.

    Kabam needs to allocate difficulty to different areas in the game in a way that satisfies all types of players. I was looking at eq being for everyone as easy content, along with aq and aw to be reworked to be the bridge between endgame and mid tier players. It hard to say okay then abyss and labyrinth type of content should be all end game players have, but it doesn’t seem enough. Aw already seems designed for endgame players which the community as a whole hasn’t responded positively to ie hating flow wars. Aq isn’t really hard outside the logistics of managing time and energy at all levels creating a different level of stress and frustration. Even endgame players and whales are divided. The games entirely out of balance.

    If theyre going to tone down book 2, or have act 6 be skipped over, which isn’t a bad idea, since the alternative would be to nerf champs or flood accounts with units for revives and pots then the slack for end game players has to be picked up elsewhere with eq, aw, aq or new game modes.

    Certainly excited to see what happens.
  • LunaeLunae Posts: 362 ★★
    Buttehrs said:

    To be fair, they did change act 4 venom big time from when it first came out. Is it still a challenge for new act 4 players? Yes but nowhere near as bad as it was. Slashed tires anyone? The precedent is there. No reason they cant do the same thing again with other story content.

    That’s a bigger overhaul then just venom tho. It’s all of act 6 that players are struggling with. At its core simplest would be just cut the ais stats. Between having to rework aq, aw, eq, act 6 and book 2 while reworking champions and designing new ones Kabams has to figure out a way to work efficiently. They already seem pretty small and over taxed.
  • LunaeLunae Posts: 362 ★★
    naikavon said:

    DNA sums up my own thoughts regarding this matter perfectly so I'm not going to rehash any of that. The only thing I'd add is the cheesing content discussion that was also brought up in beta. ( by DNA)

    If players, even end game players cheese content, isn't it fair to ask if the players actually tackled the content? So often, the response to countering node combinations is Ghost it or Quake it. Both of these champs have mechanics that allow them to circumvent many node combinations and thereby drastically reduce the difficulty. That doesn't make those players wrong for doing it... but it does tie into this dramatic spike in difficulty. Did the player tackle the content in the intended way it was designed? Only the devs can really answer that

    I should point out, I love both Quake and Ghost. They just make everything far easier than the intended difficulty and are in some form cheese to content.

    I think that’s fun tho. I remember using havok in 6.4.4 and thought that was fun. There are some paths you can cheese with specific champs and I like to think that was on purpose like a reward for figuring out a puzzle or a riddle. Another example is using quake/electro with heimdall on a aggression fury node like in 6.4.6 or modok/cap iw on an aggression regen node. Don’t have any of those except quake and she isn’t awakened, but would love to try it.

    I also obviously don’t have a problem with quake. You can only cheese if you’ve mastered her and you can only beat end game content by mastering your skills as a fighter. Both take a level of mastery whether it’s using quake and shake or regular fighting and even then you cant always use quake for everything.

    I have ghost, but I don’t have wasp so even than I couldn’t use her as much as I wanted to, but I’ll admit having hood helped a lot. Being able to tank sp3 and having immunity’s is great, but iceman and thing, even colossus are capable of that. I also sort of cheesed the nick fury boss in act 6 with sunspot. It was a long fight, but a relatively easy one shot.

    Kabam just needs to release more champions that can substitute for others and tone down the difficulty I guess. Granting buffs as suggested by DNA is good idea.
  • LunaeLunae Posts: 362 ★★
    Another example was that hydra adaptoid boss. I don’t have a single slow champion and was really really worried about that fight because all the YouTube videos I could find only said capt iw, stealth spidey and shehulk and I didn’t have any of those at the time so my only choice was to go in with thing and it was way easier then I thought. I didn’t even need his champion synergy even tho I brough it.
  • Panchulon21Panchulon21 Posts: 1,833 ★★★★
    Dude this is outstanding. And your feedback backing is also outstanding.

    Totally agree with you, I think act 5 was much harder then act 4 which shouldn’t of had that increase. It should be kind of like how heroic to master goes in the EQ. And then act 6 from master to UC, not the major jump we had from act 5 to 6. As you said you’re not a top tier player, neither am I but I see myself 100% act 6 in 5-6 months probably. When act 4 and 5 released I 100% them within 1-2 Months of full final chapter launch. Act 6 will take me far longer than that and that’s annoys me as a gamer.

    I don’t know what solution they will take in fixing this, fixing act 6 will cause a huge uproar in the community, changing acts 1-4 with rewards causing people to want compensation for stuff they cleared years ago. I can’t imagine act 6 which cost people thousands of units would cause.

    Once again great analysis man.
  • naikavonnaikavon Posts: 144 ★★
    Lunae said:

    naikavon said:

    DNA sums up my own thoughts regarding this matter perfectly so I'm not going to rehash any of that. The only thing I'd add is the cheesing content discussion that was also brought up in beta. ( by DNA)

    If players, even end game players cheese content, isn't it fair to ask if the players actually tackled the content? So often, the response to countering node combinations is Ghost it or Quake it. Both of these champs have mechanics that allow them to circumvent many node combinations and thereby drastically reduce the difficulty. That doesn't make those players wrong for doing it... but it does tie into this dramatic spike in difficulty. Did the player tackle the content in the intended way it was designed? Only the devs can really answer that

    I should point out, I love both Quake and Ghost. They just make everything far easier than the intended difficulty and are in some form cheese to content.

    I think that’s fun tho. I remember using havok in 6.4.4 and thought that was fun. There are some paths you can cheese with specific champs and I like to think that was on purpose like a reward for figuring out a puzzle or a riddle. Another example is using quake/electro with heimdall on a aggression fury node like in 6.4.6 or modok/cap iw on an aggression regen node. Don’t have any of those except quake and she isn’t awakened, but would love to try it.

    I also obviously don’t have a problem with quake. You can only cheese if you’ve mastered her and you can only beat end game content by mastering your skills as a fighter. Both take a level of mastery whether it’s using quake and shake or regular fighting and even then you cant always use quake for everything.

    I have ghost, but I don’t have wasp so even than I couldn’t use her as much as I wanted to, but I’ll admit having hood helped a lot. Being able to tank sp3 and having immunity’s is great, but iceman and thing, even colossus are capable of that. I also sort of cheesed the nick fury boss in act 6 with sunspot. It was a long fight, but a relatively easy one shot.

    Kabam just needs to release more champions that can substitute for others and tone down the difficulty I guess. Granting buffs as suggested by DNA is good idea.
    Oh absolutely agree. I'm not saying figuring out a puzzle holds no merit. And some cheese is ok. Entire acts though? A little too much. Just my thoughts. I'm more speaking to the overwhelming prevalence of the pair and growth as a player. It's nice to overcome the intent of the node rather than simply bypassing it all the time.

    And there is an argument to be made about mastery of the pair's kit. I do agree with Quake but absolutely disagree with Ghost. She's just not hard to master imo. A different playstyle to be sure but it's not hard. Just different. Quake oth is on another level. Again, just my opinion.
  • LunaeLunae Posts: 362 ★★
    naikavon said:

    Lunae said:

    naikavon said:

    DNA sums up my own thoughts regarding this matter perfectly so I'm not going to rehash any of that. The only thing I'd add is the cheesing content discussion that was also brought up in beta. ( by DNA)

    If players, even end game players cheese content, isn't it fair to ask if the players actually tackled the content? So often, the response to countering node combinations is Ghost it or Quake it. Both of these champs have mechanics that allow them to circumvent many node combinations and thereby drastically reduce the difficulty. That doesn't make those players wrong for doing it... but it does tie into this dramatic spike in difficulty. Did the player tackle the content in the intended way it was designed? Only the devs can really answer that

    I should point out, I love both Quake and Ghost. They just make everything far easier than the intended difficulty and are in some form cheese to content.

    I think that’s fun tho. I remember using havok in 6.4.4 and thought that was fun. There are some paths you can cheese with specific champs and I like to think that was on purpose like a reward for figuring out a puzzle or a riddle. Another example is using quake/electro with heimdall on a aggression fury node like in 6.4.6 or modok/cap iw on an aggression regen node. Don’t have any of those except quake and she isn’t awakened, but would love to try it.

    I also obviously don’t have a problem with quake. You can only cheese if you’ve mastered her and you can only beat end game content by mastering your skills as a fighter. Both take a level of mastery whether it’s using quake and shake or regular fighting and even then you cant always use quake for everything.

    I have ghost, but I don’t have wasp so even than I couldn’t use her as much as I wanted to, but I’ll admit having hood helped a lot. Being able to tank sp3 and having immunity’s is great, but iceman and thing, even colossus are capable of that. I also sort of cheesed the nick fury boss in act 6 with sunspot. It was a long fight, but a relatively easy one shot.

    Kabam just needs to release more champions that can substitute for others and tone down the difficulty I guess. Granting buffs as suggested by DNA is good idea.
    Oh absolutely agree. I'm not saying figuring out a puzzle holds no merit. And some cheese is ok. Entire acts though? A little too much. Just my thoughts. I'm more speaking to the overwhelming prevalence of the pair and growth as a player. It's nice to overcome the intent of the node rather than simply bypassing it all the time.

    And there is an argument to be made about mastery of the pair's kit. I do agree with Quake but absolutely disagree with Ghost. She's just not hard to master imo. A different playstyle to be sure but it's not hard. Just different. Quake oth is on another level. Again, just my opinion.
    I agree I don’t think ghost is very hard to master at all, she’s a lot simpler then people make her out to be, but not having wasp does make a difference, atleast that’s what I’ve heard from people who say they don’t like using ghost without wasp, or even saying they won’t do act 6 without wasp. I’ve tried to master her without wasp since I’ve started working with quake, but I agree she isn’t the easiest or funnest champ to use in act 6 all the time without wasp due to the complexity of the nodes, the pressure and required set up to make her work.

    They’re really only 3 ways to play without wasp.

    1 way is to parry, heavy then phase when they dash at you or I guess you can bait out a heavy by blocking then heavy, phase into special 2, but the block damage sucks.

    2 you dash back and stall until your critical rating buff refreshes so you can phase again, then wait until the opponet dashes into you without trigger phase too soon and losing it, launch sp2.

    And then finally you do your combo, stand still or immediately block and phase immediately as the ai moves to attack, but in my opinion this is the hardest and most inconsistent because the ai has to attack and not dash back or throw their specials. It also relies on instinct or extremely fast reflexes. If you relying on instinct you’ll dash back because you’ll know the ais timing, but that timing works in 2 ways, the ai will either go forward or backwards. They dash back, you launch your special and miss, the ai will punish you by ko. You can also do combo, block then dash back and phase into special 2, but again block damage.

    Another element to her gameplay is managing her power if she’s awakened. With the set up required it’s easy to mismanage and get pushed into a sp3 which is incredibly annoying. A lot of players also use suicides with her, which sucks because I often used Hyperion and he lost a lot of utility in act 6 being forced to only use heavys and sp3s to the point that I actually saved more items and units finally taking suicides off.

    It’s also a pain bringing in wasp and hood into quest, taking 3 spots and that’s if you leave antman behind only leaving 1 spot open for the entire lane and boss which entails its own set of problems.
  • ESFESF Posts: 1,352 ★★★★
    My man. I just saw this. What a post.

    I KNEW, I could just feel that it was something like this. I know that you can't always trust feel and the eye-test, so your quantitative analysis, even with limiting factors, is obviously what people should point to.

    But I have played video games on almost every single platform invented. There's only a few platforms I have missed since the 1970s. I have cleared content in all kinds of games, difficult content. Fast twitch, RPG, strategy. All kinds.

    And I KNEW that Act 6 was a different beast from pretty much anything I had seen. Just getting Cavalier -- which, like you, wasn't that bad -- but a few fights made me raise my eyebrows. Then watching the Brit, I remember thinking that a lot of people aren't clearing this, ever.

    You said it very well: It's not that it's impossible. It isn't. It can be done. Others have. I know I can do it.

    It's just, like I said to you before, I knew that me being able to clear it isn't the answer, because I knew just by watching the Brit that a ton of people wouldn't ever get through it
  • DNA3000DNA3000 Posts: 11,254 Guardian
    Kapitz said:

    This analysis you've done is about as far as an external party can realistically do -- we don't have access to the data Kabam likely does. It would be great for Kabam to share some internal quantitative data regarding player progress, similar to how they shared information to support the champion rebalances earlier this year.

    Yes, it would be interesting. But then again, I had some very important questions about the data they shared regarding balancing, questions related to the fact that several of their graphs could not possibly be correct (because if nothing else they were contradicting each other) and they never responded to any of them. So even if they did share data, if they don't respond to clarifying questions it would be questionable data at best. Still, I would kill for direct access to their back end data.

    Or even their front end data. My original plan was to gather data on *all* the paths in the story arcs, but just gathering it for one fight per path per map per chapter per act took a significant amount of time and also half my energy refills. You can't collect that data without moving to the fight (you can see global buffs, but not defender rank and level data). This would be trivial to do with direct access to their map spreadsheets, but very tedious doing by hand.
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