City Of Heroes: Issue 14, Live Impressions

Having worked fairly hard on my game Monday and Tuesday, I felt it justified enough to take a day off Wednesday to see Issue 14 as it rolled onto live servers.  After all, it’s not every day you get to witness the spectacle of a major patch, and what are MMORPGs if not spectacles?

2009-04-08 22:59:44

The patch was delayed a bit, about the order of an hour or two, but by shortly before 1pm PST, I was able to log in and grab an immediate look at the mission terminal.

I discovered there that several arcs had been imported from the test server.  However, some arcs had been published and lavished with two 5-star votes shortly after the server came up: it’s not too hard to figure out that people were exploiting multiple accounts to get people to try out their arcs and award them tickets.

After about an hour of tweaking, a revamped version of my “arc” (custom missions created in the mision architect) from back on the beta server (not noticed enough to be imported) “Shadow of the Nanites” was published and ready for viewing on the Virtue server.    However, it was soon lost in the glut of other players pubishing their arcs.  Nearly 24 hours later, my arc has still collected no ratings.

Impact

By the end of the day, some preliminary signs about how Issue 14 would impact the playerbase had made themselves clear.

First, my assumption that common-grade salvage prices would increase was false on the grounds that common salvage did drop in Architect missions.  Higher-grade salvage appears to have slightly decreased in price now that you can trade a rather palty amount of “architect tickets” for whatever salvage you want.

Of course, there’s only been a day for this to be impacting the auction house, perhaps the long-term affects won’t be evident for weeks.

Second, it seems the main players who care about Issue 14 are the long-established players.  Walk into any Architect Entertainment building in the game, and you’ll see they’re primarily inhabited by level 50 characters.  Less-established players were, by and large, quite content to run in the same old ruts of preexisting content.

You’d think perhaps these level 50 players were there for the badges, but just checking out a few revealed to me that many of these characters were not “badge whores” – they had relatively few badges.  They were there for other reasons.  It seems likely that the main appeal to established players is more likely the novelty of not facing the same old villain groups, or perhaps creating their own arcs.

Third, teaming is indeed being sabotaged – at least, I certainly sabotaged a few teams trying to build.   As an established player, I found the main appeal to be the AE missions, and so I ended up turning down a few /tells received from players inviting me to run older content outside of the AE buildings.

Perhaps it’s just the day-one appeal of Issue 14, but it seems that running AE missions is in stark contrast to the rest of the game.  Not too many players are interested in inviting people along on arcs yet – perhaps they’re still building and testing their own arcs.  Further, forming teams to perform Architect missions is awkward because, every time you complete an arc, the team must be disbanded before another can be accepted.

The impressions are still a bit premature.  I imagine it won’t be until a weekend or two has passed that a real good impression of how Issue 14 shakes out will have made itself evident.

Player Made Arc Quality Varies

The content on the Architect Entertainment building mission terminals is predominantly made by players.  For better or for worse, the interface is simple enough that anyone can figure it out and pushing their arcs up for other players to try.

I’ve played one that really tugged at the heart strings while being genuinely exciting, this one involving an old Arachnos simulation program  I don’t want to ruin the surprise there.  This one earned 5-stars, not only for the emotion and excitement, but also because it played very well within the 4th wall – it was practically built for the AE building as being a part of the game, and could easily pass as canon.

I’ve played some that were laugh-out-loud hilarious, such as “The Footsteps Project” which involved helping several NPC newbie heroes from which were taken a number of common stereotypes: the afk gamer, the capslock spaz, the furry shemale cyberer, the drug addict, and the youngling.   Their dialogue was out-of-character in an in-character manner: these were clearly players leveraging their screwed-up values in the game, and the reaction of the completely-in-character villains to these reject heroes was hilarious.  This was a great arc, but I had to ding it a star because it completely broke the 4th wall and making the corresponding villains at the end Elite Bosses hurt the symmetry.

I played a fairly mediocre one which involved mutant chickens.  It was novel in that the enemies were different, and tolerable in that care had been taken to make sure there were no blatant spelling or grammar errors, but there was no significant plot twists.  It was developed with a sort of commonplace silliness in mind, and consequently lacked much in the way of true refinement.  That’s what I call a three-star endeavor.

I played a couple which were short missions fighting Trolls and Hellions.   These are what I call ‘stock contact mission’ type arcs – they’re really no different than ones I could get from older contacts in the game.  There’s no real plot here beyond “go there and do this.”  They’re capably spelled and have decent grammar, and so earn their second star, but that’s about it.  To an extent, they are ideal for starting players because there’s so few powers involved on the foes.

Finally, there’s the absolute worst.  Boring enemies, non-existent or awful plot, poor or vacant quality control — basically, arcs that make you feel stupider for even trying them.  I’ve steered clear of them so far but, rest assured, they’re out there.  They’d get one-star if only because scoring them zero stars would hide the scorn they deserve.

Current Impression

So far, I’d say that uncovering the gems well makes up for slogging through the poor content.   Issue 14 really does breath new life into City of Heroes, especially for the established player, because it’s now technically impossible to have seen everything.

I’m planning on giving this another shot as the weekend draws nearer.  Saturday and Sunday for sure (those are my “days off”) but possibly even as early as Friday because I suspect this is when the spectacle value of Issue 14’s launch will be the richest.

Today, however, I’d like to spend ironing out my BYOND project.  I’ve reached the point where the GUI is mostly done, the methods of interaction decided.  Now that the stage is mostly built, I’m ready to begin casting the actors: the factions, their goals, the way the players interact with them, and how the actors be a unique contribution to the game.  The script they’ll be performing is still rather rough around the edges, and this is deliberate, as it suits the work better to finish it only after I get to know the factions and their unique quirks.

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