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State of Balance: Season 6 Recap

21/09/2018 10:01

Hello, warriors! Welcome to the third entry in our ongoing State of Balance posts, where we will analyze the results from Season 6 and where we are headed in the future.

We started this Blog to share our gathered data with you, and further the balance discussions with the community. Also, a benefit we wanted was for us all to compare the state of balance across seasons, so here are the previous State of Balance recaps for Season 4 and Season 5.

We’ve been late to create this installment – so let’s get right to the info!

Major Changes: Season 6

Season 6’s “Hero’s March” update introduced multiple changes to the game. One issue highly affected the meta-game more than others, but let’s go over the changes.

  • Improvements to Orochi and Peacekeeper: Orochi received several changes to improve viability (through Storm Rush and Chained attacks), while the Peacekeeper was changed to pull back her dominance in most game modes while also attempting to improve the under-used parts of her kit (such as Dagger Cancel). These two characters will be discussed more in the “1v1 Analysis” and “4v4 Analysis” sections below.
  • Side Dodge Normalization: We adjusted the side dodge recovery of all heroes to be 600ms – some heroes now have faster recovery while some have slower recovery. This change did not have a major impact on the meta-game but is a net positive for the game as punish options are now universal and not matchup-based.
  • Switch Stance bug on all the Heroes who do not have Reflex Guard: Patch 1.25 introduced a bug where Non-Assassin Heroes were able to gain an instant guard in different direction instead of having the normal 100ms Switch Stance delay, when doing multiple Stance Changes in a row. This means that all Heroes who are not Assassins were able to use this bug to defend more successfully than usual. This issue had an impact on the meta-game during Season 6 – as we saw that this 100ms difference meant that the fastest attacks, that we want to be unreactable, where now reactable. Although this bug was fixed in Patch 1.27, we will see the “1v1 Analysis” section below that Assassins where the hardest hit by this, and spent the second half of the Season lower than we expected.

1v1 Data

Below is a Matrix of 1v1 Duel matches played by the Top 2.5% of For Honor players on PC and Console combined during Season 6, according to our skill rating.

(Both players in the duel need to the in the same skill bracket to consider the match, no rank matches are included, and the data is taken from the entire season. We pick this percentage in order to have a large enough volume of matches to have useful data).

FH_duel_winloss_matrix_layers-small_final


Pick Rate (using the same criteria)


FH_1x1_pickrate_matrix_layers_small

Let’s take a look at the interesting changes in Win Rate placements from Season 5 to Season 6:

  • During Season 5, the top 5 1v1 heroes for were Conqueror (60%), Peacekeeper (57%), Kensei (56%), Berserker (54%) and Shaman (53%).
  • During Season 6, we see that while Conqueror (60%), Kensei (54%) and Shaman (52%) are generally unchanged.
  • During Season 6, we also see that Berserker (49%) and Peacekeeper (41%) have both dropped significantly. Note that while Peacekeeper had damage nerfs, Berserker had no significant change throughout Season 6 that would explain this change.
  • Centurion, (pre-rework) Warden and Lawbringer have all risen into the top 6, despite no obvious buffs to any of them.
  • Orochi has risen from Season 5 (40%) into Season 6 (50%). This can be attributed to the rework.

1v1 Analysis

Looking at the data, we can see that the Switch Stance bug affected Win Rates across all Assassin characters. Note that all Assassins in Season 6 are in the bottom half of the matrix – only Shaman stayed where she was. Berserker is really the most obvious change – there was no change made directly to Berserker that should affect it so significantly, that should cause it to fall out of the top. Since we know that Berserker likes using 400ms Lights within the Chain, or the Feint Lights that are also 400ms, we can really see the impact of this Switch Stance bug. This is also backed up by the rise of Centurion, Warden, and Lawbringer – these characters’ ability to initiate combat was unchanged in Season 6, but they benefited from the Switch Stance bug to rise up anyway – if you look at these 3 character’s win rate vs Berserker across the 2 seasons, you’ll see that these characters are improved directly against Assassins.

Note that this Switch Stance bug is fixed in Season 7’s Patch 1.27. It’ll be very interesting to see if Berserker, Peacekeeper, and Orochi in particular move up in Season 7 as a direct cause of fixing the bug. This will give us (‘us’ meaning both the devs and the community, together) a direct insight on the changes that a 100ms change will have to viability and reactability. We will be watching this closely, to best understand how we can improve combat at a very high level of play.

Let’s have a quick look at some of our characters’ state in Duel:

Conqueror

Conqueror still extremely strong in 1v1. The ability to do a forward dodge and Shield Bash or Guard Break can impose good pressure across the cast. However – what’s interesting here is that while the Conqueror is strong for that reason – when you look at the rest of the top list, they mostly want to counter-attack. The suspicion is that the other top characters (especially Centurion, Lawbringer, Shugoki) would beat Conquerors by countering, and not by initiating combat. This is a large reason for the hesitancy to nerf Conqueror’s Shield Bash – while it’s a difficult pressure tool to deal with, we do need pressuring attacks that force reactions, and control the pace of combat. Instead of nerfing the strong tools, we prefer to continue to improve the weak tools.

Lawbringer

In this duel Win Rate dataset, Lawbringer is placed at 6th position. In Season 5, we saw Lawbringer at 10th position. Lawbringer appears to be performing above expectations, and at 51% Win Rate is above the curve. Since it’s duel, we know this performance is not due to his bombs or ganking potential – so presumably the high performance is in large part due to high counter-attacking potential. We recognize that Lawbringer’s ability to “shove on block” makes Lawbringer a bigger beneficiary of the Switch Stance bug than most heroes. We will keep an eye on Lawbringer and see if his position changes after Patch 1.27 fixes the Switch Stance bug. We will keep an eye on Lawbringer and see if his position changes after Patch 1.27 fixes the Switch Stance bug, but based on his current performance in 1v1 and 4v4, he’s not at the top of our priority list.

Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper received a double whammy in Season 6 with both the Switch Stance issue as well as damage nerfs to her Heavy attacks. While her performance is lower than expected, we are waiting to see how the fix to the Switch Stance bug will affect her before we act on her. As her performance was too high previously, and we are convinced that the Switch Stance bug directly hurt all the Assassins, we first want to see the effects of fixing the Switch Stance bug (in Patch 1.27), and only afterwards decide what we need to do, to ensure that she doesn’t end up being overtuned again.

Orochi

Orochi’s rework seems to have helped the Win Rate significantly. Pick Rate is also very high and Win Rate went from 40% to 50%, despite the Switch Stance bug. We expect Orochi to rise further up in the Win Rate ranks once the Switch Stance bug is fixed, so Orochi will be an interesting case to watch.

Valkyrie

Valkyrie has been bottom of the pack for a while (45% Win Rate in Season 5 and Season 6). She just received a rework in Season 7 and while it’s too early to make a strong note about where she stands, the earliest indicators were that it had a positive effect on her viability. The early data had her at 54% Win Rate, below Conqueror but above the rest of the pack. We’ll see where she will be as more data comes in - we are still keeping a close eye on the character.

Gladiator

Gladiator was 45% Win Rate in Season 5, and is 46% in Season 6. This is a very interesting case, as we’re aware that the Zone Attack is really good, and we believe the key to Gladiator’s power. While the stamina cost is really high (as compared to Conqueror’s Shield Bash), the Win Rate doesn’t seem to reflect the power of this move. It’s surprising to see this character consistently perform under expectations.

Light Spam Meta? Assassin Meta?

An issue we read about from non-top tier players is that they talk about a “light spam”, or an “assassin meta”. This has been a difficulty to approach balancing-wise for us, since these complaints often drown out the evidence of how weak “light spam” is at the top level of play. When we look at the dataset above, we see Shaman is the only Assassin in the top half of the Win Rate, and Shaman isn’t famous for her “light spam” at any level of play.

In presenting our data here, we want players to understand that “light spam”, while annoying, doesn’t actually yield overpowered characters. Learning to combat such offense is an important step for a player to improve their For Honor skillset. As our intention is to keep pushing 1v1 combat into a meta in which offense is more viable, it’s important that the community understand where we stand on this topic.

4v4 Data

Here is the Top 4% of the 4v4 Dominion For Honor players on PC and Console combined during Season 6, according to our skill rating.

(All players in the duel need to be above the skill threshold to consider the match, no rank matches are included, and the data is taken from the entire season.)



Win Rate


FH_4x4_winloss_matrix_layers_small


Pick Rate


FH_4x4_pickrate_matrix_layers_small

There were a few changes in the Win Rate in Dominion:

  • Peacekeeper went down 11 ranks, which shows a clear result from her changes. We will keep an eye on her after the Switch Stance bug results are in to see how she was affected and if she needs further changes.
  • Orochi went up 4 ranks and climbed up 3%. We expect Orochi to climb a bit more once the Switch Stance bug is fixed.
  • Generally, the overall order of heroes ended up more or less the same as in Season 5. Interestingly, we can see that the Switch Stance bug did not affect Dominion as much as it did Duels – generally Assassins are still doing about the same Win Rates in Dominion as they were before.

Let’s have a quick look at some of our characters’ state in Dominion:

Peacekeeper

Peacekeeper dropped in Win Rate and Pick Rate significantly. We will keep an eye out for her as things evolve – but we don’t want to buff her before seeing the impacts of the fix to the Switch Stance bug (which is fixed in Patch 1.27), so that we can all best understand that fix’s impact in isolation. So it’s important to see the result of the fix first, then determine what buff if any she needs.

Orochi

Orochi has always enjoyed a high Pick Rate, and that seems to have spiked with the rework at the start of Season 6. Win Rate seems to have improved as well, although not as much as in Duel, since opponents will want to make Orochi their external attacker, which makes it much easier to block Orochi and minimizes the effectiveness of Orochi in group fights.

Aramusha

Aramusha dropped in the Pick Rate, while his Win Rate remained almost the same. We attribute this to the negative perception that Dodge Normalization had on the Aramusha – it effectively was a loss of power as he had 500ms Side Dodge Recovery, which was nerfed in his case to 600ms.

While all heroes were set to 600ms, the ones that had better timings before saw this as a nerf. Since his Win Rate was barely touched, this seems to be a perception issue more than a balancing issue, and as such we will not update this in the near future.

Valkyrie

A big topic during Season 6 was the state of Valkyrie. As we released her rework in Season 7, we expect her to track a lot better. Early numbers place her in the middle of the pack in 4v4 Dominion, but we will make sure we keep an eye on her as players better understand her reworked abilities.

Shugoki

Shugoki has been consistently underperforming for a while now, and we are currently looking into how to improve him.

What does the Data mean?

Let’s take a quick moment to think about what this data can describe, and how it’s used.

First, the data does an interesting job of describing how the characters stack up in relation to each other, for this set of players, over this period of time – but it doesn’t let us know much about if the top, middle, or bottom character is a “standard of balance”. For example, in 1v1 we see that Aramusha is at 50% Win Rate – which is interesting, as tournament players see him as too weak, while new players have an incredibly difficult time fighting him. It might be unexpected to imagine the community holding up Aramusha as being in the perfect middle, and desiring the game to be balanced around him.

Secondly, we want to reiterate that the data presented in the State of Balance blog is one of many views we look to when deciding on balance changes. We also watch tournament streams, debate with tournament players on discord and community workshops, do user testing, watch reddit and youtube and community outlets, examine Open Test results, listen to our internal designer feedback, team feedback, our gut feelings from playing the game ourselves at home, etc. It’s interesting information, and often a good indicator for the impact of changes (positive balance changes, and the negative impacts of bugs), but it’s not the only source.

Next Steps

Season 6 had some significant effects on the meta-game: Peacekeeper may have flipped from too-strong to too-weak, Orochi’s rework seems to have brought Orochi some improvements, and the Dodge Normalization helped make heroes more consistent. The Switch Stance bug seems to have inadvertently buffed all non-Assassins, and hurt the heroes that rely on fast attacks or mix-ups like Berserker and Peacekeeper. It’ll be interesting to see how impactful the fix will be to improve offense in high-level duels, and see where we go from there.

Season 7 should be really interesting – as the Switch Stance bug was fixed, which we expect will help the fast attackers in duel. Warden and Valkyrie reworks were also released as well, which should help them climb the ranks.

Peacekeeper will be the closest-watched hero – as we want to see where she ends in the first half of Season 7 before taking action. It seems likely a buff will be necessary.

Keep sending us your feedback!

See you at the start of the next Season for the next installment of the State of Balance!

- The Fight Team

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