For point of reference, today we're talking about the video game City of Heroes, not the comic. Just for the record.
Over the weekend, the development team announced Yet Another Change to the underlying mechanics of the game. This one's far less dramatic in appearance than the Issue Five Radical Restructuring... but in actuality is far more pervasive.
You see, City of Heroes has an "enhancement" system in the game. These are little pie shaped doohickeys you apply to your superpowers to customize them. You put a "damage" enhancement on it to increase the amount of damage you do. You put an "accuracy" enhancement on it to hit more often. And so on and so forth. You have to choose what powers you want to enhances (all powers get one "free" enhancement slot, and with time you can add up to five more enhancements on popular powers).
Well, the development team is now looking to change the underlying core of enhancements, so that after two enhancements of a given type, all others have diminishing returns. So, whereas before the enhancements would each add another X to the effect of a power, up to a maximum of 6X, you can now get 2X, and then 3(X/.9), or 4(X/.7), or....
(Note -- I'm pulling the math out of my ass. The principle is the same.)
They claim they're doing this to encourage "Diversity." Everyone, it seems, slots five damage and one accuracy to their powers.
The practical effect is, someone will figure out the perfect build for every power, post it to the boards, and everyone will use that instead.
And on my side, I find myself... well, exhausted with the whole affair.
I haven't done a mathematical analysis of the change, but I can tell already it's going to be huge. Characters built on defense (and most defensive powers only have one or two enhancement types they can take to begin with) are going to have their defenses lose effectiveness rather significantly. In all cases, powers are going to stop working as they have. Pretty much all characters of any level at all will need to be respecified, which means you run a utility that lets you remake your character from level one up to your current level. (Respecs, as they're called, used to only be available after you do heavy in game trials that involve your character getting hit with heavy radiation or the like -- which was an in-joke nod to Champions, which used to call the wholescale remaking of an existing character a "Radiation Accident." These days, we get a new respec for free every time they update the game, because they keep screwing with the underlying mechanics.)
And maybe the new system is vastly better. I dunno. Maybe it will truly improve gameplay.
But I really, really, really don't want to respec my characters again. It's an exhausting process that isn't even slightly fun.
Truth be told, I don't like the enhancements process to begin with. It's not that it's bad -- it's that I honestly don't play a Superhero game to sit there and tinker with my powers. I like punching things in the head. I like it when they fall down. I like needing to organize tactics with the team I'm playing with. So, I always just slot as basically as I can. I slot for damage with attack powers, because it's simple and I can live with the tradeoff that I might not be fully efficient with damage over time. I hit harder, but I don't hit as often or as fast as some others. Fine, whatever.
Having everything drop that critically actually takes that choice away from me. Now it's not a matter of me being less efficient. Now my characters will be demonstrably inferior to characters who are tuned for maximum enhancement effect. Which means I'll need to follow the online recipes.
The excuse they're using is "diversification." They want people to make more diverse choices. As it is, I'm now going to have to have all my characters be cookiecutters of the optimum builds I find online, because that's now the simple way to deal with things. Sorry, guys. Diverse this ain't.
This next iteration doesn't just make respecs necessary, it makes long, organized thought into your choice of enhancements necessary. It makes it a numbers game. And I don't have any interest in that at all.
And I just don't want to have to remake all my characters again. We just did that after Issue Five's changes.
The most astounding thing to me is this is taking place on the eve of their release of their spinoff game/expansion pack, City of Villains. I mean, they just built up tremendous goodwill among their base by announcing there would be absolutely no additional monthly cost to play both games -- which makes City of Villains a one time cost for existing players. And the game adds a free month to your time, so you mentally have to deduct fifteen bucks from the price. And it adds a ton of new content and four character slots to every server, and... oh, right, lets you play supervillains, too.
People were honestly psyched last week. There was enthusiasm.
This week? Not so much. The hardcore base is incensed, and the number of casual players who are upset is surprising. I mean, most casual players take these changes in stride. They look at all the cool new stuff being added and say "well, I guess I can accept they need to balance the game."
Those people, like me, are all completely sick of play balance. "Just let me play the stupid game," they say. "Walk away from the tweaks. Just put it down and walk away. You've got me already. I like the game. I play the game. Stop screwing with it."
I know of people who canceled their City of Villains preorders based purely on the announcement that they intended to go through with this. Which would seem like an overreaction, but I don't think they're canceling because of "nerfs" or enhancements, or whatever. (Well, one or two are, maybe.)
No, they're canceling because respeccing their characters isn't fun. It breaks the roleplay aspect. It makes the whole thing a grind. And they're just sick of the mechanics being changed. They just don't want to do it any more. They're not having enough fun to want to remake their characters again.
I honestly wonder if they just don't have any PR people at all over at PlayNC or Cryptic, because this was a terrible move. It's completely harshed the City of Villains buzz right when they want that buzz to be frothing. They want the diehards who stuck with the game after the PvP fans went to World of Warcraft to be babbling with excitement to those fans. "We're getting new zones, and we can do villains! And there are henchmen, according to the website!"
Instead, the base is bitching and moaning and complaining about it. People are calling for Jack Emmert's head on a pike. People are talking about how the dev team are a pack of liars and cheats who hate fun and (and they may have a point with this one) care more about their vision of the game than the people who are actually sticking around and playing it.
And the dev team may figure -- and may be right -- that this will burn itself out and calm itself down. Which is fine. But scant weeks before their major sequel is coming out, the base is pissed off instead of psyched. And that's just stupid.
As for me? I'll say it again. I honestly don't know if this is the end of gameplay as we know it or not. I just know I'm sick to God of respecs. I don't want to think about the mechanics of the game any more. I'm done with that for now. Please, Cryptic, just let me play the game.