3 months of user created content – a view of Mission Architect
Three months ago Paragon Studios released Issue 14 for City of Heroes/Villains, Mission Architect. The major feature in this update were the Mission Architect system which allowed players to created their own story arcs. A story arc consisted of a number of instanced missions, with a large part of the maps in the game available, most of the enemy groups and enemies were available and players could also create their own enemy groups.
And Mission Architect provided regular XP also for the missions and had its own reward system (architect tickets), similar to the merit rewards in the regular game. There has been a fair share of controversy and issues around the system, in particular due to the rampant powerlevel/farming that some players were able to create and (ab)use.
So now 3 months after the release I decided to do a follow-up on the statistics I collected a few days after the release of Issue 14. What is the state of the Mission Architect system now? The numbers will not tell the whole truth, but there may be some interesting observations.
First of all, there are over 50000 published story arcs in the system today. At the low end it would mean 16000-17000 players that have created story arcs and the high end around 50000 players. The actual number of players will likely be somewhere in between.
First piece here is to look at ratings for the story arcs.
This picture above divides the arcs into average ratings of 1 to 5 stars (5 stars being the best) and also include the arcs with no ratings. What also is included here is the number of ratings each arc has received. What can be seen here is that a majority of all story arcs have received very few or no ratings. It is only for the arcs with an average 4-star rating that there is a somewhat large piece of arcs with a larger number of ratings. Around 40% of all atory arcs have received a 4-star average rating. So for the arcs that have been played and rated, the quality seems to be pretty good. It is certainly far from “90% of everything is junk”. But even if a story arc is good, the numbers also indicate that it is not likely that many players will experience it.
If we ignore the arcs which do not have a large number of ratings (all below 100 ratings) we see this picture instead:
In this case the total number of arcs can be counted in the 100s and the vast majority have 4-star average rating. It seems that the 4-star range is where good arcs which also are popular end up. Is it a snowball effect that causes these arcs to get high number of ratings, or have various ways to promote and market the arcs worked? This the numbers cannot say anything about, unfortunately.
When Mission Architect was released a few special categories were created also
- Developer’s Choice
Paragon Studios choices for good examples of using Mission Architect
- Hall of Fame
Story arcs that have received a large number of votes (999+) with a high average rating (4.5+ I think, but may be different).
- Guest Author
Perhaps intended for other game designers, comic book authors and other celebrities is my guess
There are currently 17 in Developer’s Choice and 5 in Hall of Fame. No Guest Author arc has appeared yet. Worth noting here is that around release of Issue 14 there were 12 Developer’s Choice. There has not been a huge amount of additions in that category in the past 3 months – 5 more. And with the latest Issue 15 it was also changed so that an arc could be both a Developer’s Choice and in Hall of Fame. I did not check if all of the Hall of Fame ones were also Developer’s Choice now, but in either case I expected a bit more from Paragon Studios here. I guess it has not worked out so well in practice to do this.
Based on these number there has been a whopping 0.03% chance so far to get an arc in either category and be able to get another story arc slot. Still a bit better than a lottery though.
Moving to some other categories…
There is no surprise that English is the dominating language used here. If oen wants to reach a large audience there is not much choice really.
The morality is what role the player of an arc will have, villain or hero or either. The Neutral choice is the default and most arc creators seem to stick with that. Whether that is because they do not care of have made a conscious choice for neutral is unknown of course.
The length of the story arc is the next category and the proportions are quite similar to what it was near the Issue 14 release. Most likely half of the story arcs are just one mission – very short typically means a 1 mission with a small map and short typically means either 1 mission with medium-to-large map or 2 missions with small maps.
A new feature which was included with Issue 15 (release a bit over a week ago) was the ability to set a status on the published story arc. The arc can now have one of three status values:
- Work In Progress
- Looking For Feedback
By default all published story arcs received Work in Progress as their status. So the story arc author has to make an explicit update to change the status. So how many have changed the status after a bit over a week then?
Around 95% of the arcs have not changed status. Either the authors do not care or are bothered to change, or they are actually works in progress. Worth noting is that all Developer’s Choice arcs seem to be in Work In Progress status when this was checked. Some Hall of Fame choices have changed status though.
But Work In Progress may mean precisely that here also; it is a work in progress. So another check was made to see when story arcs with Work In Progress status was updated last time.
Roughly 80% of the story arcs which are Work In Progress have not been updated in the past month. My guess is that for most of those are arcs that the author is not really bothered with or interested in anymore. The other 20% may potentially still be stuff that people are working on. Once the novelty of the new shiny toy has worn out I think what we may start to see here is more accurate numbers of people interested in this.
And even if 80-90% would be discarded here we are still talking about 1000s or story arcs. That is nothing to sneeze at.
So if we go back to the 5% of the arcs that have changed status since Issue 15, how are they holding up from a rating perspective?
They seem to be pretty good in terms of ratings they have received. And the total number of arcs are certainly more manageable, with less than 3000 in total here – which is still quite a large number.
Again, the numbers does not say whether you would actually like those missions with high ratings. But combined with some of the new search/browse features and mission creation features introduced with Issue 15 I do think that people will be able to find decent story arcs easier. And there are other things they could change which would make Mission Architect more attractive to play in (for non-farming), if they need/want that. But that is a topic for another post.