CoH: Temporarily Bad Design

Like a bad traffic wreck, I am drawn to lurking on the City of Heroes boards reading the usual I HATE ITRIALS/I ❤ ITRIALS LRN 2 PLAY NOOB thread that pops up per Incarnate trial launched.

By now, the only people still with the willpower to protest are the biggest alarmists, which unfortunately, do not help the case of the sad minority that isn’t terribly fond of the trials. Especially with the forum stalwarts shouting them down. I lost the determination to protest there long ago, it’s fairly pointless, only the wallet vote seems to work.

I did find this exchange amusing, and telling…

Alarmist Protesting the Mag Trial Stridently: “The problem is its the ONLY trial that unlocks hybrid, so your forced to do it. So no matter how muich you dislike it, you have to do it. That is BAD game design.” (sic)

Rational Guy Replying: “This one, however, I’ll give you. Encouraging us to run the new content is one thing, but to a point, it just being new content is enough to encourage us to run it. I’m sure this approach makes sense when viewed from the other end of some grand two-year plan with five separate AIXP-granting trials in the rotation, and maybe a few solo arcs that let players earn it too (HINT HINT, devs), but right now, with just the one? It’s temporary bad design, but still bad design.”

I concur.

I quit City of Heroes when the devs decided to release just the BAF and LAM trials with no solo or small group option for Incarnate progress. Mostly because I didn’t want to feel obligated to -have- to repeatedly grind the BAF and LAM in order to unlock Incarnate power.

When I came back with Dark Astoria, there was a variety of trials – about 6-7 of them – AND a solo/small group option. Presumably, somewhere in the grand plan, this was the foreseen result. It was fairly painless to finally get one character Incarnated because of:

a) variety – there wasn’t a need to repeatedly grind the same damn trial over and over

b) ease – practically everyone else was level shifted to a power level that could breeze past the trials

c) the alternate option – any time I got pissed off about the trials, I could retreat into soloing Dark Astoria, and still feel like I was getting somewhere

With the Magisterium trial, I’m missing a, b and c. No other trial unlocks the hybrid slot. Fail on variety. There surely isn’t a solo/small team option yet (it is terribly flawed design to have to *cough* “encourage” your players to raid because there’s no other alternative.) And as for ease, definitely not there yet either.

I got on two attempts of the trial today. Most of it was breezed past. Phase 1: kill 250 IDF went fine. Phase 2: Kill 3 AVs in some order went by more or less fine. I was somewhat concerned that no one bothered to explain the mechanics of the AVs. There seemed to have been some kind of “Marked for Death” targeting that no one bothered to dodge, and either healed or rezzed through it. It seemed sad that someone just memorized “Okay, kill S, P and C in this order.” Phase 3 went fine, Black Swan’s portals were easy to target and taken down quite quickly with not too much need for coordination.

And then phase 4 went to hell as Tyrant stubbornly refused to die. The real reason remains unknown. All manner of theories from “the light wells need to go down faster” “people need to stop dying, it’s healing him the most” “we don’t have enough DPS” “not enough debuffs” were tossed about the league. Probably all of them.

In fact, I felt really sorry for anything squishy. My IO’ed willpower stalker had a very fast recharging heal, and I was popping it every “air crackles” because I still got hit for 1/3 of my hp even as I jumped out the instant I saw the red letters. I found it quite survivable as I didn’t stay in the ground targeted effect after that, but I’m going to guess someone with less hp and less resistance and no self-heal might not find it so easy.

What I didn’t find so easy was staying out of the way of Tyrant slamming his fist on the ground for an AoE. He kept wiggling about, not respecting any taunting tank positioning, so I was constantly trying to reposition to his back or his flank. My stalker has pretty high AoE defense, so I doubt I got hit that often on the whole. When I did get hit, about half the time I ate ~1000 damage and survived and backed away to self-heal, and half the time I fell over as 2000 damage just wiped my health bar with no chance to react. Some blasters were complaining about the fist AoE, I have no idea how horrible it must have been on a blaster.

I was on a dual blades stalker though, so for all I know I was gimping the league by toting around a highly resistable damage type, on an AV that is effectively +6 to everyone. My assassin’s strike was hitting for about 143 damage. No idea how that compares to the damage others put out.

And really, I don’t see how a league who started off with a not-so-ideal team composition have any chance of rectifying this with good strategy. There are no inspiration vendors within the trial. The thing is timed. I don’t think any temp powers work besides the Quills power. It just strikes me as rather unfair and badly designed, to the point that you’ll be encouraging the players to do one of two things.

1) Sit around for a long time cherry picking the league’s composition (including lots of debuffs) or… and people are already doing this…

2) Farm the MAG trial by just doing the easy parts and then quitting rather than waste time attempting to defeat Tyrant.

I suppose that is -the- alternate option?

To let players pick the difficulty of the “ultimate” trial by giving them a way out to farm hybrid xp, and then keeping Tyrant difficult for those who want a difficult challenge? (Plus extra badges for even more insane difficulty challenges.)

I don’t know whether to laugh or cry. I might just settle for rolling my eyes.

Presumably in another six months, all this will be a moot point as players move past the current level of power, develop an effective strategy that is slowly taught to pretty much everyone doing the trials on a server, a variety of trials and possibly even a solo/small group option will arise for this Hybrid slot. Same as before.

But come on, is that really a valid defense for temporarily bad game design? Just keep waiting?

3 thoughts on “CoH: Temporarily Bad Design

  1. They need to make the incarnate stuff soloable. I mean there are so many better mmos, coh shouldn’t have an ego about it.. i should say the devs. Just let people have fun. I’d come back if they did that. I was VIP and played for years and paid for it and never got onto the vip server either, Grouping with people these days may be good for big men like matt and castle that dont move around alot but i have a life and i can’t be sitting at my pc all day waiting on people.


  2. Yeah, if there’s one thing that really bugs me about the trials (besides bad gimmick UI / prompting), it is the archaic sit-around-and-wait formation of them. It takes longer to form than to do.

    Can you blame players? (“Oh, why aren’t you using the team up teleporter?”) The root cause of their behavior stems from two developer-created problems.

    One, the team-up teleporter doesn’t work frequently enough. It’s buggy enough to screw up already formed leagues on a regular basis – we had some accidental queues into BAF, though MAG was selected, we had an entire team map-server and fall off the league back into Dark Astoria just in the last two days of me attempting the MAG trial.

    Two, the players feel obliged to form a full league beforehand BECAUSE of the complicated trial mechanics. They crave the control over being able to explain/lead properly to a team that is prepared beforehand (not just random PUG people jumping in) and arranged for a balance of ATs. This causes the random team-up teleporter to fail regularly also because the leagues queuing are already full up.

    This is a conflict of developer priorities. If your objective is to make a raid where any number of random PUG people can group up in a team-up teleporter, then you have to be less stuck up and get less uptight about the trials being easy. If your objective is to make a tiered raid progression trial for uber-leet people craving a challenge (never mind that this philosophy is antithetical to what CoH used to stand for), then forget the team up teleporter, crank up the difficulty to max and just put your foot down and say “here’s the line between the haves and the have nots. Suck it up.” And suck up the consequences (casuals quitting) that follow.


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