This is probably going to be pretty long, but please bear with me, as I believe in order to improve (or even reasonably discuss) shard balance issues, we need to have a shared understanding of how balance and scaling works.
For the purposes of this post, let’s just talk about hitpoint scaling.
HP Example A: Boss with No Adds (Example: Crab, Dragon, Squiddy, Shroom, Sentry, Lizard)
- If the player group collectively does 100 DPS and the boss has 10k hitpoints, it will take 1 minute and 40 seconds to defeat it. (100 DPS x 100 seconds = 10k)
- If you scale that boss up by 20%. It will then take 2 minutes to defeat it. 10k+20%=12k
- (100 DPS x 120 seconds = 12k).
- This means the overall fight, will take 20% longer, on average to defeat. (Again, only based on hitpoints.)
HP Example B: Boss is Not Available X% Of the Time, No Adds (Example: Golem, Potion, Plant)
- If the player group collectively does 100 DPS and the boss has 5k hitpoints but is not available 50% of the time, it will take 1 minute and 40 seconds to defeat it. (100 DPS x 100/2 seconds = 5k)
- Now if you scale that boss up by 20% to 6k. It will now take 2 minutes to defeat it. (100 DPS x 120/2 = 6k.
- This means the overall fight, will also take 20% longer, on average to defeat it, just like Example A.
HP Example C: Boss Has X Adds (Example: Worm)
- If the player group collectively does 100 DPS and the boss has 5k hitpoints and has 5 1k hp adds. This will take the group 1 minute and 40 seconds to defeat it. (5k+20%=6k. 1k+20%=1.2k*5=6k. 6k+6k=12k, 100 DPS x 120 seconds = 12k)
- Again, we find that scaling the HP by 20% makes it take 20% longer to defeat.
Example D: Boss Has Endless Adds (Example: Dino)
- Now it starts to get a little more complicated.
- With the same 100 DPS group and 7k hp boss, and we’ll say 300 hp adds that show up every 10 seconds, we need to split things up a little bit. One of the DPS is dedicated to adds, so 30 DPS is applied to manage the adds perfectly. (30 DPS x 10 seconds = 300 hp, add dies as next one spawns.)
- The remaining 70 DPS takes about 1 minute and 40 seconds to defeat the boss. (70 DPS x 100 seconds = 7k).
- Now, let’s scale up the boss and the adds by 20%. The boss now has 8.4k, and the adds now have 360. Assuming absolutely perfect reallocation of the DPS, such that 1 of the remaining 2 DPS can split their focus without losing any overall damage, we now need to dedicate 36 DPS to managing the adds. This leaves 64 DPS to deal with the boss. (64 x ~130 = 8.4k).
- So this means it will take not 2 minutes, like in the above scenarios, but 2 minutes and 10 seconds.
- Additionally, as this scaling increases, it has an escalating effect. In the same scenario, lets up the HP on everything by 100% instead of 20%. The 7k hp boss becomes 14k, and the 300 HP adds become 600. This now requires 60 DPS dedicated to managing the adds, with the remaining 40 DPS available for the boss. Now we’re up to 350 seconds, or close to 6 minutes.
- In Examples A, B and C a 100% increase in HP would result in an 100% increase in time required, but here we are at a 350% increase.
Example E: Boss is Not Available X% Of the Time and has Endless Adds (Example: Soul Keeper)
- Just to cover all cases, as we saw above in example B that the boss not being available didn’t affect the overall time increased (at least in the damage rate when available, the inbetween phases can be looked at separately), we can see what happens with endless adds.
- Taking the same data from Example D to keep this simple, but adding in that the boss is not available half the time, let’s see what that does.
- In the base scenario, it’ll take the 70 DPS 3 minutes and 20 (200) seconds, double the original scenario, to defeat the boss as they are not available half the time. When we scale everything up 100%, we’re back down to the 40 DPS on the boss like before.
So instead of taking 200 seconds for the 40 DPS to kill the 14k boss, it takes 700 seconds. This is also a 350% increase in time from a base increase 100% in hp.
Example F: Extreme Case of Endless Adds
- With sufficient scaling, we reach a point where it becomes statistically impossible based on HP alone.
- Let’s say with scenario D, we scale base HP up by 400% (with mutations like last stand, this is potentially possible). In that scenario, the mobs that originally took 30 of the 100 available DPS to manage them now take 120 DPS to break even, which is more than the available DPS in the group, and it becomes mathematically impossible, over any length of time.
Example G: HP and Healing (Example: Elite Healers in Desert Dungeon)
- Mobs with healing have a similar effect. As their healing scales with their HP we will eventually reach a similar problem.
- Let’s take an example of an elite mob with a heal that gives 5% HP back every second. (I believe mob renew actually gives more than this)
- If the mob has 1k hp, against a group that does 100 DPS, with no healing it would take 10 seconds to defeat.
- Give that same mob a 5% a second heal, it will now take twice as long, 20 seconds to defeat it.
- Scale that mob up 20% and now their heal is doing 60 hp a second out of their 1.2k hp, and now it takes 30 seconds to defeat it.
- Scale that mob up 50%, and it takes a full minute.
- At 100% scaling, it becomes mathematically impossible.
While it’s really difficult to assess exactly how much the shard scaling is being applied, we can see that whenever we have situations where there is compounded scaling (Healing effects, endless adds, etc), the amount of real world impact significantly outpaces the actual scaled value. This results in things like elite healers and soul keeper becoming disproportionately difficult to defeat.
It is my opinion that these types of cases should be updated to avoid compounded scaling. (Specifically Examples D/E/F/G)
NOTES: I kept this focused on HP exclusively to simplify the math and the concepts. There are similar issues with certain types of mechanics and damage that will need to be similarly addressed separately, and ultimately some of these will compound further. Various unique mechanics, additional item level impact, etc, will all impact balance and scaling in different ways.
Additionally, I realize that increased damage from upgraded weapons will offset the scaling difference to some degree. The above examples are to show the disparity in scaling, based on the type of fight in question.
Lastly, I don’t have access to any exact scaling numbers, and it’s incredibly difficult to derive them with any amount of accuracy without combat logs, etc. It’s possible that these mechanical differences are already being accounted for somehow on the dev side, but given how much the playerbase is in agreement on how certain aspects of shard dungeons seem disproportionately more difficult than others, it seems that if there are mitigating factors in place, they may not be enough.
(P.S. If anyone spots any math or other types of flaws or mistakes, please let me know.)