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.


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.


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.


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.


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

Or burnout from repetition.

Whichever came first.

21 thoughts on “2.5 Things City of Heroes Did Wrong

  1. It’s interesting that the first of those problems, Repetition, was plainly evident in beta. It was that, specifically, that made me decide not to buy CoH when it launched. I enjoyed the beta but it was apparent even then that there was next to nothing to see (every mission looked pretty much the same) and nothing new to do (every mission played the same).

    As for GW2, I’d say the bait&switch there has been considerably more extreme than CoH’s introduction of raids. The entire ethos of the pre-launch version of the game no longer exists in any form I recognize. That’s not to say GW2 in 2014 isn’t fun or a good MMO – it’s both. It just isn’t the MMO it purported to be and, for a very brief time, actually was.

    Hardly surprising that those who came to it because, like you with WoW and CoH, they were trying to get away from the existing status quo are now complaining with increasing and mounting bitterness that they were sold a pup. Since never believed the hype to begin with I don’t feel personally betrayed but that doesn’t mean I can’t recognize a betrayal of trust when I see one.

    That’s hardly an unusual state of affairs when it comes to MMOs, though. Not really worth getting worked up over.


  2. CoH is still, by far, the best MMO I have ever played.

    You have great points, especially on the advent of shinies and the resulting switch from a socialist to a capitalist mentality in the community which is what also forced me to unsub after 4-5 years.Prior to that it was the best MMO community I have ever encountered and it’s a shame this seems like something that has little chance of ever being replicated, instead to seemingly and forever be placed in the realm of sentimental memory while dealing with the atypical rudeness and snarkiness of the public communities in the next-gen MMO’s coming out.

    Most are more akin to a work simulator than anything I would deem as fun gaming.

    As for GW2 I think they are already, all be it slowly, making similar mistakes.Prime example:Last night I was playing when a guildy asked me what back piece I used.I replied that I had only ever used one from the personal story.He, and several others in my guild, found this highly amusing.”What!!….why don’t you have a decent one?Get ascended!” he asked.Well firstly I hate all the skins, secondly I’m into immersion and personal character development…or role-playing… and jetpacks or huge shiny wings really don’t have a place in any of my characters theme. more so now that the advent of the wardrobe has resulted in every second player looking like a glowstick exploded…with wings on.

    His reply was “You can hide it though.Don’t you like stats?”

    Point being the increase from back-pieces is so minimal as to be easily ignored and yet I was questioned as to why I had absolutely no interest in wasting what little game time I get to grind out a piece of gear that has such a minimal return.

    As such while GW2 is still doing an admirable job in many ways the gear grind mentality is slowly becoming more and more prevalent.It doesn’t matter if you create a new shinie that only has a 0.0001% bonus and takes dozens of hours to grind out.The effect on the community and it’s motivations/mentality is often the same.

    Anet’s mantra of “skill > time” and purely aesthetic differentials and rewards in terms of gear is slowly being pushed aside in favor of the same old gear treadmill and capitalist power tier structure as every other MMO.

    I hope they pull the reigns in before it’s too late.


  3. Nice write-up.

    I miss City of Heroes. It was such a fun game once and so enjoyable to just build a hero and go. It did get old pretty quickly, but it was great while it was good!


  4. Hey Jeromai,

    Thanks so much for the link to my original post. You have some interesting ideas here in your own. Some I agree with, and some I don’t. But it’s always nice to see other fans of the game popping up here and there with their own opinions about it.

    Personally, I think the invention system added some much needed depth to the game, remember, players were so generous with their influence because there was literally nothing else to do with it. It was a worthless currency by virtue of it’s ubiquity. The invention system fixed that for better or for worse.

    As for the Incarnate system, I thought it was a great add-on for the game. While your argument that it segregated the player base into the raiding groups versus non-raiding groups is true, the line between those players and their character abilities was never as hard as it was in WoW, or other games with “raiding” content in them. Also, I’m calling shenanigans on that screen shot, dude. 7 power trays + the enhancement tray open in the middle of an incarnate battle, 3 chat windows, a real numbers window, plus the buttons for the market and veteren awards up on the screen, too? Come on, you could have at least set your buffs to display stacked values. Just saying.

    But again, thanks for the link and your own thoughts. I wish the comments system was easier then it is, but I couldn’t take the spam. Good luck with your site here.


    1. Considering I don’t play other games with “raiding” content in them either, it really didn’t matter how hard or soft the line was.

      It was there, and it was exclusive. Till Dark Astoria, anyway.

      If you recall, in the last days of CoH, even Samuel Tow the great stalwart started to ask questions regarding Inventions because even he picked up on the shift in the wind, that he was going to be left behind if he didn’t -try- to understand what Inventions were, let alone Incarnates.

      As for the screenshot, no shenanigans. I have plenty of others like it. I always played with enhancement tray open because it was easier to see what dropped and to delete worthless ones quicker because it would fill too quickly otherwise.

      Real numbers is crucial for info and feedback, like something just dropped your defense and you better move off or get hit. Level shifts were a goddamn must to keep track of in the highly broken Magisterium trial.

      Numerical buffs are on in that screenshot, by the way. Look more closely.

      As for 7 power trays, yeah, well, I was doing fine with 3 power trays until all the veteran and cash shop powers, teleporters, and Incarnate powers. Plus temp powers being used as consumable boosts, and temp powers that needed to be used in Incarnate trials. After which, space had to be found for them all. There’s probably a lesson in there about power creep.

      My left side chat window had to be enlarged because you want to actually read what other people are saying while raiding. Normally, it can be a bit smaller, but still in the same position.

      I was probably not smart or bothered enough in those jaded-by-raids one-month-subscribed-to-sample-what-was-new three-months-off days to do anything about the market and vet award buttons, like comb through a ton of general options to get rid of them. They were pretty out of the way on the minimap as is and I wasn’t very bothered with them.

      The big view blockers are the enlarged team raidframe (pretend it’s just an 8 man team and it fits nicely in the space allotted for it), the enlarged chat window and the extra Incarnate trial info popup, which had nowhere else to go in my previously nicely arranged UI.

      For what it’s worth, CoH did many things right. We would not have played it so long otherwise. But there were a few inherent problems with it that ultimately sent it on its death spiral even while the devs tried their absolute best to combat increasing age of game and attrition from burnout, and wandered up some wrong alleys in the process… some of which may have helped it along further by polarizing the community.


  5. Yeah, repetition was a bit of a problem and while I wasn’t hugely fond of the incarnate system (or all the different ‘currencies’/merits in general), I liked taking my top level characters out for those new challenges.
    As for the death of the community with inventions, I didn’t really see that on the Defiant server. There were regular attempts to speed run ITF, mainly for fun and as they always stipulated ‘no PBS or MMs’, I’d occasionally go along and stage a mock protest with one. I think badge hunting was always more of a thing then gear grinding.


    1. From afar.

      I’d rather not get too close and get heartbroken before it’s good and ready, to be evaluated with fresh eyes as a complete game in itself, inspired by what came before – rather than make unreasonable demands for it to replicate every last detail of its predecessor.

      A big thank you to whoever linked me from Facebook, by the way, where are all of you people coming from. 😛


  6. Funny, cause my issues with CoH were mostly mechanical. I *HATED* the triple-gated power metering system. Endurance + cooldowns + low accuracy was simply a horrible design choice. You only need 1, not three. Accuracy was, from day 1, always a frustration with a base of 75%. Miss miss miss hit miss miss miss hit miss miss miss miss was an all too common occurrence anytime you tried to fight something more than 2 levels above you. And let’s not forget having powers that you can use on others, but not yourself. WTF was up with that? Like playing a Defender or Controller wasn’t difficult enough with your high-endurance, low damage, long recharge attacks, you can’t even buff yourself??? Who thought that was a genius idea???

    And then there were the critters powers that were 10x stronger than the player versions, and their ability to completely floor your stats via stackable debuffs. That’s not “challenge”, that’s aggravation. There was always a general pervasive sense that critters were always more powerful than you, even minions, because trying to take on more than two or three on an “average” character meant near or certain death. I’m supposed to be a superhero, not a Wonder Twin. Even Robin the Snot-Nosed Wonder can take out a whole room full of common minions. But nope, not me. 3 of them can wipe the floor with me as I struggle to not to miss and/or run out of endurance before they’re dead. Despite playing for a good 7 years or so, and having 40+ characters over 2 accounts I had very few level 50s. Why? Because the post level-40 game SUCKED. Every critter had some kind of power or debuff you couldn’t defend or counter, and they used these powers A LOT. Constant knockbacks, end drain, psionic damage, accuracy and defense debuffs — it was just too much. So I’d pretty much get a character to the early 40s and stop. It just wasn’t worth the aggravation to continue, especially since there wasn’t much worth working towards at that point anyway.

    And yeah, I’ll say it, ED destroyed the game. Along with all the other little pissy limiters put in place to keep us in line, like losing our travel speed when attacking. Jack was so dead set on forcing us to play his game the way he envisioned it being played that he completely lost sight of the big picture — that they created an amazing sandbox for people to play in, and that giving us the freedom to play however we wanted was the key to success. So yeah, AFAIC the game was awesome till about I3, then it just went downhill from there. Was it fun? Sure, in short bursts until all the annoying mechanics wore you down and made it a chore instead of a joy. The crafting system was atrocious, the Mission Architect was a nightmare, and the game slowly over time just got more and more stale. New powersets played just like the same old powersets. There was never anything new or innovative about them. Every new “fix” to address an AT’s or the game’s mechanical shortcomings always felt like a band-aid rather than a true solution and only served to make things more convoluted instead of streamlined. Even the much-requested power customization was a disaster. You couldn’t match custom color palettes with default palettes and the system allowed people to create some truly retina-scorching effects that actually hindered gameplay.

    In the end the game was barely recognizable from what it once was. All of the people I used to play with were gone. All of the supergroups too. While I’m sad to see it go, because I would enjoy hopping in once in awhile to play for a few hours every now and again (like visiting a dear old friend who was now a crack whore you simply couldn’t tolerate for more than a brief visit), the spirit of the game I knew and loved was dead, transformed into some kind of monstrosity that was way too big and heavy for its foundation to support.

    Just my 2 inf.


    1. Funnily enough, after playing GW2, I returned back to CoH to give it one last try and found myself breaking down and unable to stand the “miss miss miss hit miss miss hit” strings any longer. Nor how animations rooted you every single swing. That was how I knew that I could no longer play it, and had to come to terms with letting it go.

      Haveta disagree with you on ED though. They chucked it in place, imo, to allow Inventions to come in. Before ED, everyone was already in a place of maxxed out power. There was nowhere to increase the power level further. So… nerf first, then here’s your loot grind to get to where you can feel powerful again.

      Not a nice feeling for players to be nerfed, but necessary game design-wise.


      1. That’s how it worked out, but that wasn’t the intent. ED came about because Jack was pissed that people were essentially 6 slotting damage and going around blowing thru his 1 hero = 3 minions doctrine. Jack’s perception of “fun” didn’t jive with the vast majority of players’ version of “fun”. It wasn’t until later when they decided to add inventions and loot into the game that they were able to shoehorn it in as a way to circumvent some of the limits of ED. But ED was conceived long before they had even considered adding inventions.

        If anything, inventions only increased the power divide between those that used IOs and those that didn’t (and Incarnates did it again). ED nerfed the hell out of everyone. Inventions then allowed only those that partook of the god-awful invention system to gain back some of what they lost while others simply were left nerfed. Again, another really poor design decision on their part.

        And I hear you about GW2. The other refreshing part? Never running out of endurance or mana because GW2 doesn’t have either. Pure joy.

        I’m ok in a fantasy game not being able to take out hordes of minions by myself. It’s sort of expected (tho it would be cool). But that kind of power is a hallmark of superheroes. It’s what they do. It’s what makes being a superhero so awesome. And the lack of that “super” feeling is what I think really doomed CoH from the get-go. ED just solidified it. Yeah, you could, in theory, gain a lot of that ability back but it required a TON of work, farming, and inf to put together IO sets and/or Incarnate stuff. And honestly, who wants to work that hard in a game? And once you get there what’s the point? There wasn’t anything to do but more farming.


  7. Let me start by saying I loved CoH, I miss it terribly. That said there was an aspect that I totally disliked: Tanking.

    Odd, because I mostly played tanks, but not because I wanted to be a meatshield. CoH was a super hero game centered on a HUGE history of comics that did super heroes right. MMO style tanks are seldem if ever found in the pages of a comic book. CoH being the first MMO I played (outside of a month of SWG) tanking as a concept was foreign to me. When I heard “Tank” I thought M1 Abrams. Heavily armored and with a powerful punch. Sounds like a lot of comic book heroes too. I found out later on that this concept didn’t jive with that of the traditional MMO role.

    So initially when CoH launched, and for many years after, the only AT that had super strength (a HUGELY iconic comic book power) was a tank. For the most part not a damage dealer at all. And the only way they were threatening was by insulting the enemy with “taunting”. Yet another concept I hated. In my world heroes don’t taunt, I know, I’m weird.

    I fought long and hard on the forums to change tanks to something more like a comic book like concept. Never really happened, instead we eventually got Brutes hero-side.

    I could go into much greater detail, but in a nutshell that was my biggest gripe about CoH.


  8. I miss CoH. Sure there were some issues like repetitiveness, yet the game was not restrictive so that you HAD to do missions. As you point out there was street sweeping, sewer runs, etc. The first year of gameplay those of us who spent considerable time in game would often team up and head to zones to group hunt and skip so many missions because of the limited maps and said issue.

    The thing is, unlike games like WOW and GW2, we were Heroes. I couldn’t give a flip for being some other stupid race in those games, they were all throwbacks to D&D and fantasy roles required one to totally suspend belief to be a character.

    Being a Hero in a disguise brought a level of enjoyment to the game from the standpoint of Role Play that is non-existent in those other games. With myriad of costume slots you could be your alter-ego or your civilian role and mingle. I think other games miss this point COH made. You don’t have to be in character all the time to enjoy a game. But in such games as GW2 and WOW or Everquest imagine being a civilian NPC? What a shitty life without hope. At least in Paragon City you could expect some hero to show up and safeguard the city streets.

    For a game that had it’s drawbacks, it still sits high on the list of people who would reprise their characters in a heart beat now wouldn’t it!


    1. I really miss that first year when folks were out running in the zones. There’s just this great feeling of liveliness when one sees crowds interacting in the open world, and a ton of people LFG or open to grouping, as compared to cramming into instances alone and only like three people flagged LFG in the later years.

      Great memories of running into Perez Park and getting completely turned around with everybody else, Hydra hunting, and trying to pull every last street gang along one side of the street behind a corner… 🙂

      I suppose the player-made sewer runs were ok, though I didn’t partake, but imo, the DFB sewer trial could die in a fire – it just turned into a repetitive farm for xp, promoting that speed to max level mindset that CoH really didn’t need and probably hastened burnout . A daily limit on that might have helped.


  9. I honestly didn’t see a big issue with any of these. I don’t like this article because I don’t feel it really understands how these things actually functioned in the game.

    1. Repetition: Yes, City of Hero’s was very repetitive. So is every other MMORPG, RPG, Action game, etc. The difference is primarily how you view it. The point about COH was the combat was fun, just plain fun, so you didn’t mind the repetition. In WOW you would do the repetition just for shinies, rewards.

    This article fails to mention that towards the end of the games life cycle they actually improved this alot by adding new zones, new missions, new enemies, etc.

    2. Incarnate System: I think they actually did this well. They let people who wanted to raid all the time raid. People like me earned their stuff primarily via normal play.

    It was only a problem if you saw it as a problem. I still teamed up with people in end game content (non-raid) just fine and they still teamed up with me just fine. I don’t know how they got this “segment the playerbase” stuff.

    People got the end game they kept saying they wanted without making it required and actually without segmenting the populace. Truth be told people didn’t want an incarnate for every character because most characters never even hit 50. That’s not what the game was about.

    3. Inventions/Loot: The writer is crazy, the invention system is the best thing to happen to the game. You didn’t have to worry about upgrading your SO’s constantly anymore, you could personalize your character even further, it was easily achievable, and it flattened out the power curve allowing builds to start functioning sooner with less fuss and less worries about money, you could just play the game.

    None of it was even needed, once you got basic common IO’s you could handle all game content, period. I much prefer this sideways progression loot system to the loot treadmill this article wrongly labels it as.


  10. It’s fun to read how others perceived and experienced City of Heroes. One thing that bothered you (repetitive missions) I found comfortable, like wearing old fuzzy slippers.

    I agree with you about the shift from the SO to IO game mechanic that went from encouraging generosity to encouraging hoarding. With the introduction of IOs, although I enjoyed them, I found myself looking for ways to game the system to earn more influence and spending hours managing salvage and inventions. Ultimately I enjoyed designing builds for my favorite characters, but not the way that I thought and planned for doing it. I enjoyed making a character that could +4/x8 and then doing it, just because I could. And I enjoyed putting knockback protection in my squishies which made them far more enjoyable to play, but agree that introducing IOs did have its downsides.

    When it comes to the incarnate system I hated the forced raiding. I didn’t do it in WOW and only did it in COH because I knew the community on my server well enough that it wasn’t overly onerous, but I hated being forced to do it to get the rewards.

    There were so many things that I loved about COH that these few things still are only a blip on the radar for me. It’s been a year and a half and I miss it still, a constant ache like an infected tooth.


  11. I couldn’t even read entirely through all of this article…because I got WAY WAY too nostalgic…and started missing CoX something fierce!!! So many good memories 😦 even the bad, I’d take back in an instant if it were possible. Loved that game. Still do.


    1. I feel your pain and felt the same when stumbling across this article.For everything CoH did wrong it did so much more right.

      Most of all I miss the community and player base.Such a great group of mature and helpful gamers.

      First few days in CoH:

      Got given millions of influence from vets:

      I don’t think MMO designers realize how freeing this is (let alone how it encourages someone like me to happily pay subs for many a year…heck I would have happily paid more). I’ve been playing the game 2-3 days and don’t have to worry about in-game currency for months…if ever….

      OMFG!!!….I have never had that feeling in any MMO. What a weight off ones shoulder…in the first few days, if not hours, of play.It’s normally 1-2 hours of introductory play before the mechanics force you to start thinking about upgrading and attaining in-game currency to attain any form of relevancy or merit in order to continue whilst everyone else is holding on to their copper tighter than Scrooge McDuck. Grind. Just awesome to have that mechanic/mentality totally crapped on….and it worked.

      No rudeness:

      I saw new players attempting to troll or bicker for immature or invalid reasons, usually intertwined with foul language, in public chat or teams….only to have 99% of the community stomp them out.”Wrong game…we don’t act like that here…if you do either go away or pick your act up.” It was just zero tolerance for that kind of childishness…..and again what a breath of fresh air.Hell yes I’ll keep subbing.


      Customization through the roof…when CREATING a character.This is a major turn off in GW2 for me.Grind for aesthetic differentiation….that everyone else has anyway.If you don’t have enough customization in you character creation from the get go it’s a bad move imho. I know GW2 is attempting to replace gear grind with aesthetic rewards but it’s failed hard.Every second player is running around with legendary weapons and wings and everyone looks the same.A glow stick gone bad.On a handful of occasions I may have stopped to think “That player has a cool design”….in CoH it was a daily, if not hourly, occurrence and it was a huge enjoyment to see players given the freedom to express themselves through their toon.

      The fourth aspect for me though had too be travel powers but that’s self-explanatory.Freedom in a nutshell.

      As stated earlier I’m not sure if it’s something that will ever be replicated and I’m sad as an avid gamer that I doubt a company, especially given the current trend of MMO’s, will EVER have the balls to do it as they are still under the belief that grind and placing a player under restrictions that they have to fight against works in terms of player attainment and frequency of play.

      CoH was a mold breaker and I to miss that mold.


  12. Great pictures! I miss Coh. I never made it to max level but as a huge comic book nerd it was an MMO I really enjoyed. Flaws debated to death here by people better and more involved in the game than I was, but a great article and nice read =)


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