CoH: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #6

*plays the Pink Panther theme*

The Rikti were an interesting mob faction in City of Heroes.

The First Rikti Invasion apparently capped off the City of Heroes beta (wouldn’t know, wasn’t there, just read the previews mostly).

The backstory was that this group of science and tech-using aliens invaded the Earth of City of Heroes (aka Primal Earth,) ensnaring the globe in a massive Rikti War. Eventually, most of the superheroes of the world mobilized to conduct one gloriously bold strike at the invasion’s source, the portal to the Rikti Homeworld.

Alpha Team, led by Statesman, was the frontal distraction, with a corresponding death toll of 4 out of 5 heroes.

Omega Team, led by Hero 1, dived through the portal during the distraction. Soon after, the portal exploded and closed, the fate of Omega Team unknown. Heroes doffed their capes in remembrance (which was, in reality, a sneaky excuse for “we haven’t figured out the tech to let you have capes yet.”)

What heroes saw of the Rikti from then on appeared to be the straggling pink/beige remnants of this alien invasion, though certain storylines let on to a more sinister and intriguing undertone, where one witnessed the human Lost faction gradually mutating into Rikti, and this mutation being induced by other full Rikti.

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Rikti Crash Site was a max level 50 zone with not much in it besides a lot of apocalyptic urban skyscraper wrecks, the world’s largest collection of tightly packed Rikti spawns for tanks to farm to their heart’s content, and the mysteriously shielded crashed Rikti Ship, looking for all intents and purposes like a giant alien flying saucer.

Some time in 2007, the Second Rikti Invasion struck Primal Earth. This was a threat that united heroes and villains alike, allowing crossovers and teaming up in a special zone for the first time.

The invasion arrived in phases, first with sinister bombs sprouting all over a zone.

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Rikti drop ships would glide impassively across the now green skies, striking anyone who got too close with bright green energy blasts.

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Then finally, the Rikti themselves would beam in.

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Not even the villains were safe.

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Mechanically, this was, I suspect, one of the earlier examples in MMO history where an MMO introduced an automated ‘public event’ that scaled to player densities, and linked it to an ongoing storyline.

(Sure, MMOs before this had events, seasonal or otherwise, but most were either triggered by a GM manually spawning something or set out in the usual quest-giver format for individual players to run through. Feel free to correct me if I’m wrong, I did miss a lot of the earlier MMO days.)

I think one of the biggest innovations of this ‘invasion tech’ was the idea of adjusting mob spawns and dynamically scaling encounters based on how many players were locally available in the area. We see other games now applying similar concepts.

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Back in the day, it sure made for great action screenshots.

(Not to mention, encouraged players to actually clump and gather up as a large social group, in order to spawn the elites everyone desired for an achievement – amazing, I know, that this was such a new idea then and not looked down upon and disparagingly called “zerging” in our current day and age.)

Ultimately, the heroes and villains would venture into the newly rechristened Rikti War Zone…

(The problem with a dark/dark powerset)

(My defender main, showing off the problem with a dark/dark powerset. Not only are most of your powers various tinted shades of inky black darkness – kinda like GW2’s shadow dyes, come to think of it – you had to keep making excuses for the inky black blob with eyes that was your pet spilling oil slick all over the landscape. “Don’t mind Fuzzy, he’s toilet trained. The black stuff evaporates shortly, I promise.”)

…to launch an attack on the Rikti Mothership itself.

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The big bad Rikti at the very center had an unfortunately cheesy name, victim of a designer in-joke. U’kon Gr’ai, or “You con grey.”

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The Rikti armor designs of this period were significantly improved, as can be seen in this Paragon Wiki article about the Rikti. No longer were they the naked beige/pink slightly awkward aliens of the past, but a more tech-like robotic enemy, with color-coded armor (warning: TV Tropes link) indicating different powersets.

Ah, dark/dark defender woes.

Ah, those dark/dark defender woes. “No, really, the shadowfall protects you and gives you stealth! How no one can see us in the middle of all this incongruous black splotches, I don’t know, but there’s superhero powers for you…”

The Vanguard were also more fleshed out, along with two Rikti factions, one attempting to sue for peace with humans – hence the conference table setting, and one continuing on their militaristic warlike ways so that our heroes and villains had someone to keep beating on.

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Eventually, we would discover the fate of Hero 1, changed into a Rikti-fied Honoree, who could be fought in the co-op Lady Grey Taskforce, as well as the initial Incarnate introduction mission as seen above.

The story, unfortunately, never really continued from this point, after the game decided to dive headlong into Praetoria instead, getting more and more incoherent as the designers/writers tried to shoehorn in time-traveling and strange in-game lore excuses for however the Incarnate system had to work.

Was a good arc while it lasted.

NBI Writing Prompt: What mob factions in your game are an integral part of its storyline(s) or lore?

CoH/NBI: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #5 – Scary Places

This one might also double up as a “The Scariest Place” themed post for Murf’s NBI Screenshot Challenge, except I have trouble deciding which one might be the scariest in terms of looks, nor were they exactly scary to the player most of the time either.

So I will leave it to Murf to decide which, if any, counts as part of his challenge, and continue on to the nostalgia. :)

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In a world primarily composed of office and warehouse tilesets, Dr. Vahzilok’s set piece lair in the sewers was rather memorable. Dr. Vahz is also pretty spooky in his own right, teeny featureless face in a massively brutish body cobbled together from various bodies.

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The Circle of Thorns are kinda magically demonically spooky… and then there were the endless Oranbega maps which nearly everyone dreaded, with its neverending corridors, connected by portals that would never let you through (your whole team would get through on the first or second try, but you’d just keep bumping and bumping into them and getting teleported back a dozen times), plus more portals that you had to close at the end (all twelve or thirteen of them, behind the narrowest tunnels and corner curves one can never spot) with the constantly respawning demons… which then got nerfed into not giving ANY xp after some patch or another…

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Then there’s falling….

seemingly forever…

…down something that looked like the petrified gullet of a ginormous beast.

(This might have been the Eden trial, but I’m not 100% sure anymore.)

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A set piece mission map villain-side, but I can’t remember what it was about either. I just remember the very ominous looking cavern at the end, shaped like a big ol’ toothy maw.

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Arachnos-controlled areas were ominous, in a shadowy kind of way.

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A hero-side map (Croatoa, I think) that happened to have a nice set piece of it being aflame, with the conceit of this screenshot implying that my fire/fire dominator and his imps were the scary badasses to blame.

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I believe this was one of the “more recent” set piece maps that entered the game nearer the end of its lifespan. I was pretty impressed by the update in graphical style, this spooky crypt entrance to a cave system looking like something that might belong more in Skyrim (or Legend of Grimrock, at least) than City of Heroes.

I dunno, I find it hard to judge what’s scary or not, because the honest truth is that I don’t really find even games specifically in the horror genre “scary” these days.

FEAR was effective on me because it was one of my first introductions to the concept of horror movie jump-scares being used in a first-person shooter game.

(Also, they twisted the then-common expectations of the time – ie. you’re always safe on ladders cos you were locked in a ladder climber animation and it would be unfair to present a player with a situation if you give them no animations to react with – almost reach the top and AHH, freaky little girl face staring right at you and then ghosting away. These days, stuff is sophisticated enough to let you dangle from ladders and shoot now, I think.)

But then I started watching a couple of horror movies and being mostly squicked out rather than scared per se at the repeated tropes that lent themselves more to gore and gross-out factor, and recognizing jump-scares for being what they were, and then I played Doom 3 and most of the horror kind of drained out of the genre from the endless repetition, and by the time everyone was singing the praises of Amnesia, I got about fifteen minutes into the game before getting bored out of my skull from the darkness and sneaking and “you don’t actually see anything but there’s spooky horror sounds and shit, and if you don’t act like how we want, it’s an instant game over, try again” mechanics…

…and stuff just stopped being scary for me because I ended up viewing them from a more meta design or film-critical lens.

“Ah, note the shaky camera angle meant to imply uncertainty in the protagonist, or induce a sense of motion-sickness in the viewer/player.”

“Here comes the mysterious magical little girl/doll meant to prey on our mental imagery of small female children being vulnerable and helpless and needing to be protected, turning instead into a monstrous crone figure or a giant threatening vulva or yeah, something of that nature.”

Also, there’s that whole ‘game’ aspect: it -is- a game, the real self is one step removed, the character you’re playing is in a scary, threatening situation, but you’re not. (At least, I hope you aren’t. Don’t look out the window at night while you’re mucking about with fictional horror, yeah?)

NBI Writing Prompt: I could cop out and ask you to tell me about (or show me screenshots of) things you find scary (or not) in your games.

Or I could ask you to write about stuff that scares you, and whether or not you have the same response in games.

(eg. Snakes and scorpions freak me out in real life, and I generally have a big healthy fearful respect of any critter that’s venomous or fatally dangerous to a human and am perfectly ok with this response and not interested in dulling this instinct.

A picture of a snake or scorpion in a game or a video is okay, no problems with that.

In real life though, I’ll just be way over there if something that could kill me is over here though.)

CoH: Screenshot Nostalgia Trip #4

Only City of Heroes could get away with plonking down several different colored blobs of light and calling it a raid boss.

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But boy, was the Hamidon pretty.

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Especially once you threw in all the effects from all the heroes gathered.

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Or the villains.

The CoH version of a raid boss was also an open world one, in that a set number of characters could fit on that one map to kill it. (I think it was capped at 50, but I can’t recall now.)

I don’t really recall the entire old Hamidon raid strategy, though I do remember showing up bright-eyed and newbie for a couple.

I think I was probably shunted off to one of the secondary tank teams as those were my earliest max levels. I do recall seeing the primary tank (plus I think they usually had a backup standing by) and their attendant bevy of empathy healers.

The secondary tanks would get a healer or two, and were pointed at a mitochrondria to taunt. And I believe we basically just stood there with taunt on autocast, taunting our lil hearts out, until the mito-killing team got around to our mito.

Then we stood around until all the players with a hold did their thing, and went in to punch him to death when told that we could.

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I do remember standing by for the revamped Hamidon, while various server groups tried to figure out how to deal with him.

They eventually figured that using scrapper teams to bash the outer yellow mitochrondria to death was the answer, and I recall seeing flights of scrappers fly in to take all six yellow mitos down in sync.

Then the ranged attackers went in to deal with the blue ones – by this time, I was maining a dark/dark defender so was on this team fairly often – which were susceptible to ranged attacks.

And finally the controllers got their day in the sun by holding down the green mitos, so that they’d stop their insane regeneration, while the other teams came in to help do damage.

Once the mitos were dealt with, the nucleus of Hami was basically a big ol’ punching bag.

I recall being rather happy bringing the dark/ def, because Howling Twilight was such a great group rez. Especially when you had a trick arrow defender around to lay down an oil slick, which you could then target and trigger the power that way, mass-rezzing the whole pile of corpses that emergency teams had teleported out and stacked up.

Villain Hamidon, when it came in, was pretty interesting because though everyone had the hero strategy down pat, folks had to adjust it a little for the slight differences in villain archetypes.

The major issue was the lack of a focused tank taunter and strong emp defender heals. Some people tried to use Brutes in lieu of the hero Tankers, but it was harder since corruptors only had a secondary support powerset, rather than primary, and villains didn’t have the empathy powerset either, I don’t think.

I seem to recall someone setting up Mastermind stream teams, they’d trickle in minions one by one in a continuous stream to take and distract the main attention/aggro of Hami instead.

Then Brutes went in and did their thing against the yellow mitos as slightly nastier scrappers, blue teams were no problem (there were always tons of villainous ranged attackers) and green teams were covered by dominators (which I did a lot of, since I main’ed two doms on the villain side.)

Hamidon was an interesting social event. For whatever reason, I never felt forced into doing Hamidon – they yielded some special Hamidon enhancements, but I always found that my character could get by perfectly well without them. They were a nice lateral bonus, but never required per se.

With that bogey off my back, I could turn up sporadically during the times I could make a weekend NA raid and just turn up for the organisation and the performing in sync.

Again, no sign-ups, no gotta-put-together-a-special-raid-team-amongst-a-guild, miss-it-and-your-reputation-is-trash sort of obligation, just show as a member of the server and be lucky/early enough to be one of the 50 in the map, and voila, follow the instructions spammed in map chat, join your respective team and get yer Hami kill.

I guess the Triple Trouble Wurm in GW2 is sort of a descendant of this style of open “raiding.”

They’re probably not the only games to use this method of open raiding, though I don’t have sufficient experience to pull up many more examples.

Puzzle Pirate’s sea monster hunt might be another example – I seem to recall just jumping onto a big warship that had 30-40+ players on it, and we sailed into some scary looking waters to hunt leviathans and stuff.

(I actually had very little clue what was going on.  Just sat around earnestly doing my part on the sailing puzzle, wondering if we would ever dock again so that I could grab my share of the loot and go. Probably not that different from any other raid attendee, come to think of it.)

NBI Writing Prompt: How about you? Did you have any “different” raid experiences in any other games, or are you a veteran of the WoW-style instanced raid?