Just to complete the picture, here is a set of battleground class performance charts for each of the x9 BG levels plus level 80. The y-axis now shows average deaths per game and not the inverse, so the sweet spot of high-kills-low-deaths is in the bottom right hand corner of the chart.

The sample consists of all players at each level who have played 100 or more BGs. The data is from patch 3.0.9.

There’s a lot of interesting things to note in those charts, especially when you compare the same class at different levels. Some are effective at all levels, others appear to change roles as they level up.

If you want the executive summary, these are the points that strike me:

  • DKs are OP
  • Rogues aren’t, even though people think they are
  • Warriors are fragile, despite all that armour
  • Warlocks are still a force in PvP as long as you don’t mind dying a lot
  • Baby Paladins may be easy meat but the adult of the species sure isn’t
  • Hunters seem to be the consistent high performer, but that is probably because they just play the same role (of ranged attacker) at every level

Do exercise some caution when interpreting these results. In particular remember:

  1. Some classes have fewer attacking players and therefore a lower average kill rate just because they have a healing tree. Other classes may spend a lot of time CC-ing instead of attacking.
  2. Some BGs have objectives that conflict with straight PvP. For example in Warsong Gulch, the classes that spend most time running the flag will have a lower kill rate because of that.
  3. This is data aggregated across every BG accessible at the level. There may be specific features of individual BGs that make certain classes more effective there, despite these charts.



BG Class Effectiveness, Level 19



BG Class Effectiveness, Level 29


BG Class Effectiveness, Level 39

BG Class Effectiveness, Level 39


BG Class Effectiveness, Level 49

BG Class Effectiveness, Level 49


BG Class Effectiveness, Level 59

BG Class Effectiveness, Level 59


BG Class Effectiveness, Level 69

BG Class Effectiveness, Level 69


BG Class Effectiveness, Level 79

BG Class Effectiveness, Level 79


BG Class Effectiveness, Level 80

BG Class Effectiveness, Level 80

If we take some of the battleground stats from the armoury and use them as “performance indicators”, we can get a measure of class performance, as well as individual performance. There are some problems with this, as we’ll see in a minute, but the results are interesting nevertheless.

The performance indicators I like best are killing blows per game and deaths per game, since these give some indication of the performance of the character or class, as opposed to the performance of the team. (Of course they are not completely independent variables. For example an effective team may try to protect the squishies and the healers who should then have a lower death rate.)

Here we take a sample of level 19 WSG players with more than 100 games played.  We can chart these two indicators to give a view of the effectiveness of each class. In this graph I use the inverse of deaths-per-game, so that the sense of each axis is the same. Basically – the further away from the origin the better, along both the x- and y-axes.

This is what we get:


Class performance, 19 WSG.

There are a few interesting things here. The first is that there a clear grouping of classes in the top lefthand corner (around priests) whose role is not primarily individual combat. Priests heal, Druids CC, heal and do the bear flag run thing. What surprises me is to see Paladins so close to this group. Does anybody know why that might be? What do pallies do in WSG at 19?

Out along the bottom right, you see the attack classes – they die a lot more than the druid/priest/pally set, but they do a lot more damage too. The most unexpected thing here is the power of the much-maligned warlock. Although they are the squishiest class (closest to the origin on the y-axis is bad, remember) they can certainly dish it out – more than rogues. The stand-out class is the hunter – significantly more a damage dealer than the rogue, for basically the same death rate. I suspect that a lot of players don’t know that, since the rogue seems to be the most popular choice amongst the serious WSG player at level 19.

The division between attack classes and “support classes” (perhaps an unfair term since running the flag is a bit more than “support”) helps explain the observation I made in the last post – that there is not a high correlation between killing blows and deaths. Several classes are doing something other than killing.

Before we leave this subject, I want to show that these averages are interesting and informative, but they must be taken with the proverbial grain of salt. Averages tend to be influenced by outliers, and to abstract from the fact that the better players (or the richer twinkers perhaps…) can get a good performance from most classes. If we take three classes that are close to each other on the above chart – mages, warlocks and warriors – and plot the individual values used to form the averages, then we get a different picture:


Character performance.

You can see that a lot of players have similar performance and the averages tend to be skewed in one direction or another by smaller groups of outliers. On the other hand, the averages do provide some real insight since you can see that mages have no strong killers at all and that must reflect something about the class as well as something about the player.

Warsong Gulch chart porn

March 20, 2009

I’ve been having a bit of fun with the battleground stats data from the Armoury. There are plenty of good strategy guides on the net for each battleground, but it’s interesting to see how well the strategy is reflected in the data. A good chart really is worth a thousand words…

Warsong Gulch is our example here. You probably know that there are a number of traps in what seems like a simple game. Trap number one is to be on a team where everyone wants to run to the middle of the field and have a big punch-up while the flag carriers run by unchallenged.

The following charts are for level 19 characters who have played at least 100 games, so we’re not talking about noobs here. But you can still see all the nuances of the game in the data.

For a start, teamwork and focus on the flags rather than on scoring kills is vital to winning. So, if we chart games won to killing blows struck by individuals, we don’t find a strong correlation. You can help to win by doing other things than killing – CC-ing, running interference, guarding the flag rooms.

Killing blows vs games won.

Killing blows vs games won.

Being able to drop the opponent does have one important role:  getting the flag back when the other side is running with it. We can chart flags-returned to killing blows, and we get a stronger correlation:

Flags returned vs killing blows

Flags returned vs killing blows

But again, capturing the flag from the other side is about skills other than fighting and the data proves that. In fact, this is my favourite chart since the whole ding an sich of the game is in there. The best characters at capturing the flag are generally those with lower killing blow scores. They’re too busy running and hiding to be killing. So you get a gentle negative correlation as the chart shows:

Flags captured vs killing blows.

Flags captured vs killing blows.

The purpose of this exercise is to see if these indicators can be used to pick out twinks from the data. I’m confident that they can. So, the next chart shows deaths per game vs games won, and suggests what we all know – that the character with the best gear and enchants stays upright for longer. They spend less time running back from the spawn point and more time on-target.


Deaths per game vs games won.

Dead toons don’t win games – it’s not rocket science.

One interesting point is that there is a poor correlation between deaths per game and killing blows per game, which surprises me. I would have thought that twinked characters both killed more and died less. Perhaps there is a kamikaze style of player that kills a lot and dies a lot, and a more um… tactical… toon that can dish it out without getting too much in return.

Deaths per game vs kills per game.

Deaths per game vs kills per game.

One final point – if you look carefully at the last chart, you will see the bane of the armoury data miner – the annoying little outlier that makes all our averages skew away from the median. That character circled on the bottom right of the chart is one lean mean killin’ machine, a real leader of the pack. Here’s his armoury profile - check him out. He’s a twink, no surprise there, but he doesn’t seem out of the general range of twink stats. To me, he is a reminder that skill does play a part in the game too. Mind you, he played nearly 900 games to get that good.

toon limbo

February 5, 2009

A couple of blog readers have asked questions about how many characters in the armoury are not currently being played.

We all have parked alts that, maybe, get a day out at the AH or the bank every now and then if they’re lucky. And the suggestion was made that there are a lot of abandoned toons at the lower levels because players try new classes then decide they don’t like the playstyles associated with that class.

They’re excellent questions. I had this idea that getting answers was going to be hard, but last night I had a eureka moment (perhaps somebody is spiking the local water supply…) After a brief facepalm, it was off to the SQL editor for a bit of date manipulation. And ta-da, here we have an answer:

Months since last played

The armoury supplies the last-login date for each character. It’s just a matter of working back from the date when I did the current armoury scan. I’ve based the chart on months-since-last-played to keep it small and simple; splitting up the data by weeks or days doesn’t show anything very different.

You can see that nearly all level 80s have been played in the same month as the scan. Since the scan itself takes a couple of weeks, to me that means that the vast majority of level 80s are actively played. At level 70, just over 30% haven’t been played for a month and 11% haven’t been played for two months prior to the scan. So the proportion of inactive or low-active alts in the level 70 population might be around 30 to 40%.

The number of inactive toons in the lower levels (I’ve excluded levels 18 and 19 to eliminate the pool of BG twinks parked there, who no doubt are played often) is clearly higher still (20% haven’t been played for 2 months) which suggests that there is indeed a significant pool of baby toons that are never going to grow up to see Naxx…

kindergarden cop

February 4, 2009

A blog reader (hi Jess…) made a couple of good suggestions for data mining the more youthful part of the Azeroth population:  toons in the 10 to 20 bracket.

I posted a chart a little while ago on the number of characters at each level from 10 to 80. There is a spike in numbers at the low end and I guessed that that represented a bit of a surge in players rolling new characters. But there is an alternative explanation – that there are just a lot of abandoned toons here. Players pick a class, level the character for a while then decide they don’t like playing that class. But they don’t delete the character and the little rug rat just lingers on in toon limbo.

Unfortunately its hard to tell from a single scan of the armoury which is the correct explanation. I’ve set up a couple of queries that may help produce an answer but it’ll take a while to collect the data.

The other suggestion was to see if the class composition of the ankle-biter toons is being influenced by the nerf wars. At the top end, paladins are flavour of the month; that’s clear enough. But does that mean a lot of players are running out and rolling new pallys to get in on the act?

The answer from the data is “no”. Surprisingly, the numbers in each class in the 10-20 bracket are just about evenly balanced – around 10-12% for each of the nine classes allowed at these levels.

There’s no sign of any hard swings between classes, or between tank/healer/dps playstyles for that matter. The healer classes are a bit under-represented at these levels but then isn’t that true at all levels?

get your kicks on Route 66

January 31, 2009

So what does the average toon do for fun on a Saturday night? After a hard week’s questing or rep grinding, do they all really just hang around outside the Ironforge or Org bank?

The game provides a lot of options beyond the basics – instances and battleground PvPing for the leveling toon, raiding and arena PvPing at the endgame. And the character achievements and statistics data from the armoury provides new ways to explore what the player base gets up to in these areas of the game.

The simplest question to ask is this: what proportion of players do more than the basics? And which of the available activities do they indulge in? You’ll find some answers in the tables here.

Not surprisingly, those answers depends a lot on whether the character has reached the endgame. I’ve split the data into three tables for that reason – one table for leveling toons, one for level 80s and a final one for the 70-79 group where the playstyle mindset seems still to be more endgame than leveling.

Leveling toons (levels 10-69)

Activity Popularity
Battlegrounds 13%
Instances 31%
World PvP 3%
None of the above 65%

Early endgame (levels 70-79)

Activity Popularity
Battlegrounds 43%
Instances 42%
World PvP 22%
Raiding 29%
Arenas 8%
None of the above 22%

Endgame (level 80)

Activity Popularity
Battlegrounds 81%
Instances 13%
World PvP 79%
Raiding 87%
Arenas 33%
Raids, BGs and Arenas 31%
None of the above 0%

(Sample size: 631,213 characters. Data is WotLK, pre-patch-3.0.8.)

To me, the only really unexpected thing in the data is the low participation of leveling toons in some of the more fun activities along the way. Only about 30% of the 10-69 group have ever run even a single 5-toon instance – which just amazes me. PUGs can be a pain, sure, but they add a bit of real sociability and teamwork to the game experience. 13% do battlegrounds, which is less surprising since BGs do suck unless you’ve tuned your character for them. But a few BGs now and then liven up the game, as long as you don’t take them too seriously.

The tables show a “world PvP” category. I’ve used the honourable kill data for that – a toon that has at least one world honourable kill goes in that category. I’ve done this to try and separate out the players who have gone out looking for PvP from their innocent victims. The gankers rather than the gankees… The percentages shown probably do underestimate the real numbers a bit for that reason.

My objective is to use the character stats data to partition the player base into the various playstyles – raider, BG PvPer, Arena PvPer and also to locate x9 BG twinks. Unfortunately, these tables tell me that maybe it isn’t going to be so simple to do either. At the endgame, most of the population is doing both PvE raiding and at least one form of PvPing. But there is no way to tell which they were doing when the armoury snapshot was taken. I’m starting to think that the more traditional approach of picking playstyle by the character’s current gear might still be the right way to go about it after all.

And the low level of battleground participation by leveling toons tells me I’m going to need a much bigger sample size at the x9 levels to get the information I need. If only 13% do any BGs at all, and a smaller proportion are twinked, and I need data for ten classes, then that adds up to… well, more that I’ve got at the moment…

Azeroth’s baby booms?

January 27, 2009

Here’s a chart I’ve had on my hard disk for a while. It’s apropos of nothing in particular – sometimes a picture is worth a thousand words, so I thought I’d just put it up.

(Caution – only the relative heights of the bars are meaningful; this comes from my sample of about 630K toons and isn’t a count of the total population of Azeroth.)

A few things strike me:

  • the bulge of bouncing baby death knights after level 55
  • the number of toons still hangin’ around at level 70. Of course, most are just parked alts. But, since the armoury filters out all characters who haven’t been played since the WotLK expansion, these characters can’t be completely abandoned.
  • the relatively large number of toons in the 10-20 range. You can’t tell from the chart alone, but I’ve got some other data which suggests that the proportion of new leveling toons is increasing since WotLK.  They’ll be a mixture of established players trying new classes and new players coming on board. But either way, it suggests that the WoW bubble is not in any danger of bursting any time soon.
The relative distribution of characters by level

Relative distribution of characters by level

Tobold has a post up about a shortage of enchanters on his server. By coincidence, I’m data crunching professions at the moment, as I mentioned in my last post. It’s a simple matter to write a query that shows the overall popularity of each profession.

And voilà

Mining 20%
Skinning 13%
Herbalism 13%
Enchanting 10%
Tailoring 9%
Alchemy 8%
Leatherworking 7%
Blacksmithing 7%
Engineering 6%
Jewelcrafting 5%
Inscription 3%

It will be interesting to observe the changes in this distribution over time. There is no doubt that professions are enlisted in the nerf wars, just like classes are. And they’re vulnerable to other economic forces too since decisions about what professions to adopt are not cost free even in a virtual economy.

Update: If you look carefully at this table and the one in the post below, you will see that the percentages don’t seem to match. This table has enchanting at 10% whereas the other table has the percentage popularity for the Tailoring/Enchanting combo alone at 9%. The answer is that a small but significant number of toons only have one profession (!!) and aren’t picked up by the combo query. Sigh. Some MMOs do have ‘em…

invisible hand

January 8, 2009

I’m working on a new set of reports to cover some of the more general decisions that players need to make. Picking professions is a classic example. Professions can be played for fun and profit so it would be useful to know the most popular professions for each class; more useful still to know which combinations of professions are the most popular, since picking two that go together is half the battle, especially at lower levels when cash generation is usually the name of the game.

As people who work with database queries know, there are a couple of tricks to generating combinations from a relational database – we need a query which knows that “skinning/mining” and “mining/skinning” are not two different combinations. But once that problem is solved, it’s all downhill from there.

We end up with tables that look like this. This is the distribution of profession combinations across the total character base:

11% Skinning/Leatherworking
11% Herbalism/Alchemy
10% Mining/Blacksmithing
9% Tailoring/Enchanting
8% Mining/Engineering
6% Mining/Jewelcrafting
4% Skinning/Mining
3% Inscription/Herbalism
2% Skinning/Herbalism
2% Mining/Herbalism
2% Mining/Enchanting
1% Tailoring/Skinning
1% Tailoring/Herbalism
1% Skinning/Enchanting
1% Herbalism/Enchanting
1% Tailoring/Mining
1% Engineering/Enchanting
1% Jewelcrafting/Enchanting
1% Tailoring/Alchemy
1% Inscription/Enchanting

Combinations that have a popularity below 1% are not shown.

Useful information, but there is nothing too surprising in the table. Hopefully when the data is broken down across classes, some more interesting patterns will emerge.

(BTW I haven’t forgotten that the death knight stats pages aren’t up yet. There have been a couple of technical problems with my new stats queries… Should be fixed in the next day or so.)

wow and body image

October 29, 2008

I was reading a blog the other day where the writer joked about being one of the half dozen people who play a female dwarf. Frankly, I was shocked!  No way players would choose their avatars on such trivial considerations. Like I was just saying to Chuck Norris, I’m always impressed by the maturity of the WoW community…

Anyway it certainly suggests a good subject for some data mining. Without further ado, here are the numbers:

male female overall
Dwarf 88% 12% 5%
Orc 87% 13% 6%
Tauren 87% 13% 8%
Undead 73% 27% 11%
Troll 71% 29% 5%
Gnome 61% 39% 7%
Human 57% 43% 17%
Night Elf 53% 47% 16%
Blood Elf 49% 51% 15%
Draenei 46% 54% 9%

That is, 88% of Dwarfs are male and 12% are female. Overall, Dwarfs are 5% of the total population (NB not 5% of the Alliance).

There’s a well known experiment where people from different cultures are shown a set of photos of faces, and are asked to rank them in order of perceived beauty. The chosen ranking is always the same, whether the people in the experiment are from the Amazon or from Zimbabwe. Maybe the most charitable thing we can say is that those experimental results have been confirmed here.


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