2.5 Things City of Heroes Did Wrong

Ok, besides PvP. That's too easy a target. Here's the most amount of players in a CoH PvP zone ever. Attracted only by killing a dev in giant spider form.

As linked by J3w3l, Reports From the Field wrote a post on 7 Things They Felt City of Heroes Did Wrong.

Since I’m an idiot who can’t seem to figure out how their comments system works, and have a ton of CoH screenshots that are looking for an excuse to be shown off, I decided to do a blog post in reply instead.

I’m a little less picky.

I think they only got two or three things wrong.

Sadly, I think the biggest problem was a fundamental baked-in issue that the existing devs didn’t quite know how to solve.

Repetition

I’ll narrow this down further to non-varying spawn sizes in instanced tilesets that were reused over and over.

Because frankly, a lot of what we do in games is repetition, over and over, and we can still find repetition fun.

City of Heroes had no problems with replayability in terms of alts – the insane number of character slots, classes, powersets and customisation was unparalleled.

The main problem was that each alt had to level up by entering an endless set of corridors masquerading as missions, which were optimally filled by a spawn meant for an 8-person team, and every combat encounter pretty much looked like this:

2007-06-16 22:05:10

2 Bosses, a couple of Lts. and a whole bunch of minions.

Repeat encounter 14-40x depending on how many spawn points were set in that mission, and how big that map was.

Very soon, players figured out that the most efficient way to mow these things down was via AoE attacks.

To let AoE attacks hit as many as possible, get someone to group them up for you.

(Enter the ubiquitous AoE target limit – but still, hitting 10-16 is better than hitting one at a time. And cone attacks hit 5 but need them all neatly stacked up anyway.)

There were only two main ways to do this:

Option A) Herd to a Corner

A sturdy character, usually a tanker or a brute, or in a pinch a scrapper, would initiate, aggroing the spawn and dragging them all to a handy dandy nearby corner.

Once in position, everybody else opens up with whatever they’ve got.

Riffs on this include the more skilled defender or controller with debuffing options who could set up some debuff anchors, turning a nasty spawn’s alpha strike (ie. retarded AI’s initial response of firing a salvo of attacks at the first person to aggro them) into some wimps trying to beat you with feather pillows, which by default, makes anyone a sturdy person. Pull to corner as desired.

Option B) Corners, Schmorners, The Spawn is ALREADY Grouped Up

Well, it’s true, ain’t it? They spawn in a clump to begin with.

Tank runs into the center of the group, taunts by skill or combination of aggro generation powers. The group turns inward on the tank, voila, please be to kindly open up with pewpew now.

Riffs on this include those with control options – usually controllers, dominators or the odd defender who would just alpha strike the alpha strike with an “everybody freeze” power, nullifying the usual retaliation, and then the beating things up began.

There was rarely any tactical variety required, beyond the odd variation of dangerous target to be prioritized or controlled due to faction. Yes, Malta sappers suck. Literally. Draining all endurance from players tends to make powers crash and ineffectual. So hold ‘em or kill ‘em fast.

Others just tended to be annoying nuisances that took forever to kill. Carnival Master Illusionists summoned a bunch of annoying decoys, and phased out for 50% of the fight, making them a time-drain to even hit. Rikti Drones projected so much force field defence that you needed pretty high accuracy or to-hit to pierce through their shielding – but if you did have enough, they were pushovers.

But by and large, it was see clump of enemies, group clump of enemies, fireball (or insert choice flavor of attack here) clump of enemies. Debuff or control if you had the options to, and yes, everybody loves buffs, buff all the time plz thx bai!

AoE attacks, the best way to fry things.

AoE attacks, the best way to fry things.

Soloing, it tended to be even worse.

You were guaranteed three minions or one minion and one lieutenant. This was somehow scientifically determined by a lead game designer as the appropriate amount of challenge for any player or powerset.

Before long, you had your skill rotation down pat.

Repeat over and over as you carved your way through numerous spawns to the end of the mission.

Skip the mobs in favor of mission complete?

Well, you could… but the mobs were a big source of xp anyway. Would you prefer to go through 3 maps of unending spawns of enemies repeating the same skills in the same patterns, or would you prefer to race through 10+ maps ignoring all the enemies except that required for completing the mission to get the same amount of xp?

“……..”

Over time, I ended up street sweeping in order not to have to choose between either mindless option, forgoing the tasty mission complete xp in favor of actually feeling immersed into a world that had NPCs interacting with each other, spawns that varied in size and had to be approached differently, more space to move around and fly and tactically pick off enemies, and feeling like my actions actually had some impact on NPCs that needed rescuing or terrorizing depending on if I was playing a hero or a villain.

Not everyone was as motivated by immersion as I.

The achievement and rewards-driven folk eventually took things to their natural optimal efficiency point.

As Task Forces became more streamlined and rewarded better loot over regular missions, they became the go-to set of missions to run. As fast as possible. Gogogogo.

Imperious Task Force. Even the best TF can only be run so many times before getting old. Note endless spawns of Longbow in background.

Imperious Task Force. Even the best TF can only be run so many times before getting old. Note endless unvarying spawns of Longbow in background. (And yes, this is why one barely blinks an eye at particle effects in GW2. It’s a miracle we knew what all these things meant, with the powers customisation that allowed you to change the color of your powers.)

When Mission Architect released, of course the most popular missions would be the powerleveling xp farms with as many xp packages clumped together as possible, with the gimpiest powersets for doing the least damage to players possible.

farmmaps

And what did you do once you hit max level as fast as possible?

Either do it all over again with another alt, or go through the same set of missions at the end for… I dunno, kicks or something, or bitch and complain that there was nothing else to do and that the game was too repetitive and quit the game because you were done.

Each alt you went through, the chances were more likely that you’d eventually hit the more jaded last option at some point when you finally hit your repetition limit.

If only they could have varied the spawn sizes and positioning in each map more dynamically, I think it would have gone a LONG way towards ending the feeling of repetition.

But I suspect the mob distribution was sadly so baked-in that they couldn’t do anything about it without totally wrecking the game’s code.

The Incarnate System

Oh gods.

Words fail to convey my loathing for this system.

The solution the live team of CoH designers hit upon to prevent this burnout from repetition scenario from occuring was the ye olde raids system.

Vertical Progression. Ever Increasing Power at Max Level. Raids Involving Massed Numbers of Players. Forget Your Alts, You’ll Only Have Time to Build Up Phenomenal Levels of Cosmic Power on One or a Few Characters.

You know, City of Heroes launched at around the same time as World of Warcraft.

WHATEVER MADE THE DESIGNERS THINK THAT PLAYERS WHO CHOSE TO PLAY COH OVER WOW -=WANTED=- RAIDS?

Thanks, devs. I really wanted my game to look like WoW, raid frames, more UI than anything.

Thanks, devs. I really wanted my game to look like WoW, raid frames and more UI on my screen than anything else.

Wanted to be FORCED kicking and screaming into adopting and adapting to the system by virtue of exclusive loot/power that could ONLY be gotten by participating in this brand spanking new system that the designers were so proud of spending their time on?

Personally, I was attracted to the game initially because it didn’t have all of the above.

Because it had a nice friendly community that were inclusive and open to anyone teaming up with anyone, who even gave away scads of in-game money to newbies just to help them out and feel like a hero, a holy trinity flexible enough that no one had to wait around LF tank or LF healer unless they were really really picky, because I could make all the alts in my head that I wanted look and feel like how I wanted, because I had options to solo or group as I preferred.

When the game no longer felt like it was supporting this style of play and when all the brand new shiny content went a way I disliked (which has some lessons that GW2 might be well-advised to heed, given the histrionics I’ve been seeing in my comments from certain players who are perceiving the direction of the game changing in a way they dislike – though I still maintain one piece of content offering nonexclusive rewards is -different- from ALL the content in an update offering exclusive rewards that can be only obtained by playing a certain way…)

…I quit.

I canceled the sub I had been faithfully maintaining for six years, through a few minor burnout episodes that I knew would recover from taking a month or three’s break time, and quit supporting the game with cash.

I sat around watching the game lead their remaining players on from 2010 to 2012 from one piece of group content to another, grinding the same set of missions repetitively for incremental currency to build the next piece of ‘gear’ that would make their characters more powerful, and played another game instead.

Because my preferred playstyle had no viable options for obtaining the same reward.

Because the designers were so insecure in the fun level of their content that they felt they had to sneakily ‘encourage’ participation in their massed group content by making it the only non-absurd way to earn that level of power.

I only came back to check things out when the Dark Astoria zone released, making it -finally- viable for solo and small group players to start earning Incarnate levels of power.

And yeah, I chose to jump into a few raids then, because it was a -choice- on my part to see whether I found it fun (not really, beyond seeing what the fuss was about) and not because I had no other alternative.

Still, there’s a fundamental problem about vertical progression systems that only drag out the death knell.

You separate the playerbase.

You really do.

Those attracted by phenomenal levels of cosmic power and don’t mind clumping together into a group become one subset. Playing at a much higher level of power.

Why yes, I am an Incarnate. And I will take all of you Rikti on.

Why yes, I am an Inventions-kitted Incarnate. And I will take all of you Rikti on.

Those who ignore the content because they don’t like it and continue doing their own thing end up on an uneven playing field of merely ‘blue and green’ level of power compared to ‘purple and orange.’

How do you balance future content for these two different groups of players?

You don’t.

It becomes skewed to one group only.

Applying more and more pressure to the other group to conform and learn the stuff they’ve been ignoring, or they quit.

You better gamble that the group of players you’ve designed that content for is big enough to support your game via cold hard cash.

(Which is another interesting parallel to GW2 – though its fundamentals are different – exotics baseline, Ascended better, no more power increase or they’ll regret it – and the payment models are different. Who’s paying the most in either game? Casuals or hardcore, y’think?

Also, Wildstar is gambling that their hardcore base is big enough, and that their casuals will be content to be strung along with housing and some solo options.

WoW, you’d think, has managed to get by with producing endless series of tiered raids, though I do note that every expansion they keep changing things up, making things easier and easier to access and ‘catch up’, with different levels of difficulty to appeal to different groups, and generally playing a very good balancing act of continually laying treadmill track in front of their carrot-seeking audience.)

Loot / Inventions

The last factor is one I feel mixed about.

It could very well be that City of Heroes could have collapsed sooner without it.

Without loot, without Inventions, without something shiny to chase and look forward to building up and improving and giving room for theorycrafting of various intricate builds, we probably would have lost a great number of Achievement-oriented players who needed the shininess of a gear upgrade to wrap their minds around.

But catering for this group of players had some fundamental repercussions on how the community ‘feel’ changed over time.

In my opinion, a great deal of the friendly community aspect of City of Heroes was lost in the later years due to this focus on loot.

It used to be about fun. About kicking ass, taking names and looking good.

It used to be about fun. About kicking ass, taking names and looking good. Together.

Originally, City of Heroes was about getting together with a bunch of friends.

And everyone was a friend  and welcome on teams because everything scales up with more people, giving more xp rewards to everybody.

No one needed influence (in-game money) beyond those necessary for Single Origins, bought from vendors at a very cheap price compared to how much influence was being given out from missions. So level 50s had so much influence they didn’t know what to do with it, and ended up going back to Atlas Park and sugar-daddying newbies with it, running costume contests and lotteries and fun social stuff.

Once loot came in and an auction house, well, influence had value.

Better hoard it now. Some heroes we were, accumulating large wallet amounts that would then be spent on more upgrades for more power. We turned commercially-minded and mercantile.

Rikti Boss farm - earn large amount of tickets, buy loot.

Plus Mission Architect absurdity: Rikti Boss farm – earn large amount of tickets, buy loot. Yes, handy dandy NPC buffers standing by.

Let’s see, help a newbie or buy a Luck of the Gambler for more defence? We’ll take being godlike, thanks, the newbie can fend for itself. (Of course, not everyone did this, but by design, loot encourages selfishness and self-interest over selflessness.)

Suddenly it didn’t matter so much if the team was just having a good ol’ social time hobnobbing it up while fighting bad guys, but more about xp and loot earned/hour. Fast runs plz. We r wastin time. More missions complete, more chance for shiny loot drops.

And what was the loot for?

For making yourself powerful enough that you didn’t need a team to take on a spawn size set for 8 players.

Who needs a team when I have bots?

Who needs a team when I have obedient bots with better names?

Your ubercharged Inventions-kitted out player would feel free to run off and separate from the team and take on spawns by themselves. Why not? They weren’t punished by faceplanting. In fact, they were helping you clear the mission twice as fast!

They were soloing while ostensibly on a team.

(Which, eventually made teaming pointless to me, and drove me into soloing because I couldn’t stand associating with those players any longer.)

Eventually, an update sealed the deal by allowing any player to control the spawn sizes they wanted to fight by themselves.

Yes, this made farming easier.

Yes, this made farming easier.

And now, there was no more need for teams. Or for much of a community. Or getting to know your fellow player or bother to be nice to them.

Just set your spawn size to 8, and run your endless series of unvarying missions as quickly as possible to keep earning more influence and more loot drops and getting more powerful.

godlike

Farm it, in other words. Farm it to death and world’s end.

Or burnout from repetition.

Whichever came first.

GW2: Gemstore Rising

Yep, still ugly...

It was bound to happen.

An update where I get to take a turn at being fairly uninterested in what has dropped this patch.

tequatlturret

Oh, I went to Tequatl.

I even went in my knight/cleric support gear on my sturdier asura guardian.

I managed to get my hands on a turret, which was amusingly like a super-charged version of what I like to do in teams (support first, damage later.)

Since I read map chat, even though it was my first time, it was quite easy to see the buff stacks on Tequatl when targeted and link them with turret skill 2 and promptly proceed to spam it as demanded by ever more strident yelling over the channel.

To be honest, I don’t think anyone was purposefully NOT spamming skill 2.

I think, for one, between the krait attacking and whatever it is that causes the poison attack to land on the turret, a number of people were no doubt getting overwhelmed off the turrets. I was lucky to have a bodyguard or two and was pretty darned sturdy to boot (the only gear that is sturdier still is if I switched into PVT with cleric jewelry), but still occasionally had to break off for a second to spam heal with shelter before getting back on. Usually skill 2 would still be recharging, so there wasn’t too much interruption.

For another, it occurred to me that we might have been better served -coordinating- the turret launches so that 4-6 stacks are knocked off at once, rather than steadily one at a time while he regens.

Still, no one was on voice, and I didn’t feel up to screaming on map chat, so I just shut up and kept spamming 2.

In between, I experimented with hitting 1 to tickle Tequatl for 2k damage or so, and going crazy with 3-5, which apparently did some happy buff providing and poison removal.

As you might expect, we didn’t even get him down by 5%.

To this, my biggest reaction is mostly to shrug. I’m not a fan of raids in general, and while world bosses are acceptable to me because they’re inclusive not exclusive, I don’t see what else can be done besides wait for everyone to learn the fight and for those who like to organize these things to lead and teach until everyone knows the fight.

I did my job to the best of my ability, as far as I could figure out on my own. If I can’t get on a turret, I’d probably choose to stand as melee guard for someone else operating one. I’m only one person, so that’s that, job done.

There’s nothing more I can do to change the fight even if I am a good player.

(Besides buy six accounts and six computers and wire six keyboards/mice together to operate all turrets in sync, but that is absurd, is it not?)

I also presume that his hp was scaled to make him a worthy challenge for a full zone, which is about 80 players, if I am not mistaken. I was on an overflow, so we may have been short on numbers to begin with.

Time will change this fight. It’s just a matter of waiting. I have no interest in achieving server firsts. It’s just a matter of popping by every now and then to try my luck, that sort of thing.

Other world bosses were also updated. I don’t regularly chase dragons, so I haven’t visited any yet.

Guild feedback seems to be positive on them, some parts appear to be better scaled and more lethal, prompting caution, range and actual use of tactics other than stand in the electrical fire, heal through it and laugh.

My guess is that it’ll actually feel more like the tactics I used to -solo- Golem Mark II on a non-level 80 thief before he was put on all the dragon timers and got popular.

I can’t see this as a bad thing either. There’s usually enough people around to rez others through the learning process.

The downside would be that I don’t know if it’ll ever be possible to solo one of these upgraded bosses again -  whether they have the capacity to scale back down – but with dragon timers being as entrenched as they are, there’s probably never a time where soloing is necessary.

I briefly checked out the Borderlands changes.

newborderlands

It was only my second time back into WvW after a self-imposed two month break, so I don’t have any strong opinions about it.

It’s just there.

More land to fight on, more control points to fight over, more opportunities for fights and with some significant effect to them, so that’s good, I guess.

That’s pretty much the level of care I wish to give an eff about regarding WvW, as I was getting too obsessed half a year back for my own good. (Reading every forum I could get my hands on, feeling obliged to stay logged in for 10+ hours, waking up bright an early to catch server reset and then playing on through the afternoon without lunch, that sorta thing.)

More relaxing to pop in, follow a blue dorito, zerg around and karma train for a bit, engage in some zerg fights, respond to a defence call here and there, emergency build siege, rain arrows down on a teeming red name mass, engage in more zerg fights, pop out when sated.

Really, the biggest thing that caught my eye and attention were the gem store announcement.

MORE MINIS, WTF.

I’ve already spent $20 this month on GW2, which is supposed to be my limit.

I was working myself up toward the notion that I might put down another 10 bucks more near the end of the month and get two sets of the super adventure box minis that way.

Now there are TWO more sets of Risen minis that I dearly want. Especially the Abomination.

Even more galling is that I’ve been slowly working towards the Mini Collector title and was at 49/54 minis to go, where the announcement drops that Series 1 is evaporating soon.

As you might expect, my overnight bid for the Mini Snow Leopard at 5g 77s became swiftly run over by sudden increase in demand and I ended up staring at the damn mini in the TP this morning and buying one out for 9 gold because I’m not sure if the price will drop again before the end, and my OCD would die if I was one mini shy of 10 achievement points for a long time (until their next celebratory limited-time return sale anyhow.)

A certain amount of economic logic dictates that the price of blues and greens -might- drop slightly before October 15, because people might be frantically buying up a bunch in the hope of getting yellows and oranges.

Then again, they are forgeable and people might be throwing more into the mystic toilet too.  Plus speculators might be buying up some of the supply to hoard for later. So I dunno how the price would swing.

Anyway, I am now in the same boat as a number of other people, left staring at the five exotic minis and needing/wanting 4 out of those 5.

I can’t even afford half of one, so… yeah. Unless I get lucky with a precursor drop or sale, I don’t think there’s any way out of this one.

I very very briefly entertained the idea of dropping cash to convert into gold, but $35 won’t even buy one of those suckers, and I would be extremely out of my mind to spend $150 a month on a game for cosmetic miniatures.

I next briefly entertained the thought of putting down $35 and gambling for it  by buying some series 1 sets. Of which I would probably pop 18 blues and 9 greens, rather than see a yellow or orange light of day. So that’s probably a fool’s hope too.

The orange minis are likely way out of my league. I should probably just focus on trying to get my hands on 2000 gems for the non-RNG minis.

Since I really don’t want to be spending more cash this month, the alternative is gold conversion to gems.

Except none of the activities I enjoy are real moneymakers, especially since I’ve been salvaging everything for lucks to up magicfind, and hoarding T6 materials for a precursor. *groan*

I have no real idea what I’m going to do. I might run a few more dungeons for a guaranteed 2 gold a day. I might sink precursor hopes further and start selling any T6 stuff I see.

I wonder if trying to farm Black Lion Chest keys are worth it.

GW2: If You Can’t Beat Them…

Because everyone is going to read this anyway...

Today, I’m grumpy.

I checked Guild Wars 2 Reddit only to find that a ton of sites had -major spoilers- for the Sky Pirates of Tyria patch, which hasn’t even landed yet.

We already had an egregious example of this turn up on the front page of the Guild Wars 2 website for the noir mystery – which spelled out in crystal clear detail exactly where to go, on which day and so on.

I kinda skim read it very quickly, shying away the moment I realized it was a spoiler in order not to ruin my sense of discovery and fun later playing through the story instance, but forgave it as I figured a lot more achievement and progress oriented players would appreciate that sort of crystal clear direction and guidance.

It took 15 seconds of moral dilemma debating, but I eventually decided to read the fucking guide on Dulfy’s website regarding the Aetherblade Retreat dungeon.

Mostly because I was majorly alarmed by her description that said it was like Molten Facility, IF NOT HARDER. (Emphasis mine.)

Because you know folks who want to complete this sort of thing in an efficient and optimal manner have a higher chance of actually making it than your random casual putz that wanders in without a clue.

Because if you’re going to do a fucking raid complete with shitty complex mechanics, you’d better have read the fucking manual and watched the freakin’ video guide beforehand.

(Or at least, that’s what the elitist folks -who will have completed this sort of thing a lot more times than the casuals – will tell you.)

I immediately got a headache on reading the guide, with all the multiple phase mechanics that were going to be in play. This is going to be some learning curve when actually doing it.

And I’m a little freaked out at the thought that they:

a) decided to spell everything out and release it to the online media hounds early, suggesting that trial-and-error discovery is not the way they’d want you to attempt this dungeon (possibly because it may involve a great deal of rage and frustration)

b) are rewarding a rare and a gold piece on completing the dungeon, which hints at the difficulty level that they tuned it at

To be honest, I’m beginning to heavily reconsider trying to PUG this. It sounds like it may be a massive crapshoot of whether you’re going to get good party members or not. It makes me want to run back screaming to guildies only, who will at least be patient as everyone learns the dungeon and works through it together.

The one good thing that might come out of this is that this may be a dungeon that rewards control and support group-oriented builds. I’m not 100% sure of that. If the leet berserkers can find a way to bypass all the trash, I’m sure they will. And some of it may be a dps race.

But I’m seriously wondering how I may be able to fit Stand Your Ground and Hallowed Ground in my utility bar, along with Wall of Reflection and Hold the Line (something’s gotta give) and if I should be wearing my PVT gear with soldier runes to cleanse more conditions on shouts instead of the crit-focused knight’s. And hoping any warriors that come along have soldier runes and shake it off.

Maybe this may actually be a chance for necros and engineers and classes that can deal well with conditions to shine.

I’m going to apologize now to the one PUG that I will be squeezing my spirit weapon guardian in at an early stage to attempt. YOU NEVER KNOW, maybe the bow will come in handy removing your conditions, and the hammer interrupting, and maybe you’ll like the projectile absorption of the shield. And there will be blinds to interrupt things. I will just NOT BE TANKING on him, deal without your anchor guardian crutch.

Then as usual, once I’ve gotten that worked out of my system, and seen if 50% extra damage helps the poor glowing minions any, it’ll be back to the asura rocking cookie cutter.

If it really turns out too horrible, I may simply just give up and decide this kind of content is not for me.

Fortunately, I’m not at all attracted to the monocle – though I suspect a lot of engineers might be. (Please bring your utilities and support and show the leet jerks what you guys can really do besides chuck grenades around.)

I admit to being a lot more greedy for the guaranteed rare and 1 gold on dungeon completion. Between Dragon Bash and trying to get my new warrior in basic exotic gear, I’m somehow down to 15 gold in the bank, near broke.

If all else fails, I guess I can go hog the dragon timers like lots of other people are doing for rares instead.