An entirely too long post on Superhero MMOs.

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This is one of those mornings where I don't have enough brain to work on webcomics criticism. I know, that may seem like a strange statement, but sometimes these posts actually take a moderate amount of thought. Who knew?

So, that to me says it's time to touch on a few announcements from the wide world of Superhero Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Games! Yee-haw! I know folks were just praying that I'd get back to this subject in short order.

Right now, we have our two entries into the field, and they're at significantly different places in the universe. City of Heroes is a strong, vibrant game. It has a solid subscriber base, it has the force of momentum behind it, and it makes announcements in terms of weeks or months. Champions Online is, for all the excitement, vapor right now -- it's due in the Spring of 2009, and there's very few video games that actually hit their target release date without a few delays. So, no matter, how cool Champions Online sounds, it's still more than a year away at best.

Still, the news coming out of the two Heroic Houses -- our DC and Marvel, and I have no idea which is which -- makes for fun dissection and speculation, and that's how we're going to approach this here post. We're going to dissect and speculate, which is a fancy way of saying 'bitch and make shit up.' But hey, with luck it'll be fun to read.

City of Heroes, having come off of an unusually weak Valentines'/Spring Event, has come back strong. First off, they brought back one of the best "in-zone" events they've done -- the Rikti Invasion. This is a sequence where every so often (on a relatively regular basis) the alarms are sounded in almost any given zone, the forcefields drop (if it's a City of Heroes zone), the skies turn green, the bad guy NPCs flee and the Rikti come sweeping in, with carpet bombing and ground troop assaults. This was a big event last year, and was an occasional event since (whenever some team completes the Lady Grey Task Force in the Rikti War Zone it triggers a Rikti invasion in some random game zone). Well, they've now made invasions a recurring event. It looks like, roughly, they do one week on for the invasion for every six weeks off, with the "weeks" breaking down to encompass a weekend.

I know some of my friends hate the Rikti invasion -- it's an imposition, from their lights. It makes actually playing the game in the affected zones harder, not to mention the massive spamming that goes on during them. But God help me, I love the invasion. For a solo roleplayer (I know, it's a contradiction in terms) they're just about perfect. They're relatively fast, and there's a real sense of everyone dropping everything, defusing bombs and grabbing any pickup group they can to smash the invading armies. Because they've implemented scaling code on Rikti invaders, everyone can grab whatever team they want -- it doesn't matter if I'm Level 37 and my partners are level 9 -- we all get XP for our fighting, and we're all equals in the battle.

This is the first sequence that's really felt like a world shaking event in the game, and as laggy and confusing as it can get, it's amazingly cool to be standing in the heart of forty heroes slamming down Rikti soldiers, drones and Heavy Assault Suits at all sides, noise everywhere and flares and particle effects flying at all sides. On the other hand, I have a really solid computer to play on and this last invasion I was generally playing a Mastermind, which meant I pretty much threw Healing Poison on my allies and henchmen and spun around looking for Heavies to target while my henchmen did all the actual fighting. For a scrapper, these chaosfests might suck.

Anyway, I really like this. I'm glad it's happening in one-week chunks, so I don't have time to get sick of it, and I'm glad it recurs. And I noticed that the incidence of Lady Grey Task Force-triggered Rikti Invasions went up significantly in the days following this Invasion's completion -- clearly, a good number of players were inspired by it. Or wanted the Apocalyptic badge. Either way.

Anyhow -- this turned out to be the minor bit of City of Heroes news, because after the first week of renewed invasion was over, they made their major announcement: Issue 12: Midnight Hour, the 11th major free expansion of City of Heroes. (They call Issue 6: Along Came A Spider a free issue because of a few adds to City of Heroes, but that issue was really the release of City of Villains, which was a paid expansion which actually funded things like Siren's Call and Warburg, even if they credit them as 'free' because City of Heroes players could play them.) We had been told to expect little this issue, with the major stuff coming in Issue 13, but as it works out the paid Wedding Pack costume and emotes pack sold very well indeed, giving them the chance to get ahead of the cost/result curve in research and development, and as a result Midnight Hour looks like a solid expansion.

The announced new features are:

  • Join the Midnight Squad (Levels 10 - 20): The text indicates this is Hero-only content, but developer followup indicates there's some Villain content here too.
  • New Roman-Style Maps (Levels 35 - 50): Hero and Villain cooperative stuff in the ancient past.
  • Unlock Roman-Style Armor Costumes: Just what it sounds like. Off the shoulder capes and skirts for everyone!
  • Villain Epic Archetypes: Finally, a symmetrical balance for villains who hit level 50, in answer to the Peacebringer and Warshade archetypes available to heroes after a player dings 50.
  • Powerset Proliferation: We're crossing the factional divide with a few powersets.
  • Hollows Zone "Gameplay Makeover:" In the tradition of Faultline and the Rikti War Zone, the Hollows is the latest zone to get a new look, new missions and new balance.
  • Major Gameplay Improvements: Various quality of life and minor new systems and functions bundled together into a "major" one.

Let's cover each of these in turn, shall we?

Join the Midnight Squad: The Midnight Squad is a Pulpesque organization dating back to the 20s, mentioned in various places throughout the game. It's known this semi-public group of occultists was of particular value during the Rikti Invasion, which also took a monumental toll on their ranks, and most of their in-game inclusion to date has involved some researcher or the other getting killed.

This is a cool thing all around. In storyline terms, enough time's passed since the war that this organization is finally getting its feet back under itself, and it promises to add some significant content both in terms of the Rikti War ongoing storyline (including a teased resolution to it, which makes me wonder what will happen to the Rikti War Zone in coming Issues, unless this is a red herring), and in terms of the very creation of superpowers in the World of Paragon City and the Rogue Islands.

On the other hand, the level 10-20 stuff is described as a significant story arc for heroes and "two smaller adventures" for villains, and the story description we have to date is couched in Heroic terms. (Stopping the war, helping end the assault, fighting the Lost, stuff like that.) This is one of those areas where heroes and villains have different content, but the villain content is either less significant (to the point where they're not advertising specifics) or is in fact still "heroic" content. The player base strongly cants Hero, so that's where the development goes, which makes bad guy players (like me, much of the time) sad pandas. But more on that in a few minutes.

In terms of what this is, rather than what this is not, this is exciting stuff. Levels 10 - 20 can be a slog on either side of the factional divide -- play enough alts and you see pretty much all the content over and over and over again. Having something to transition you into the 20s that isn't the Golden Roller or Virginia Hoffman will be a nice change.

New Roman Style Zone Maps: Let me say first and foremost -- anything that expands the City of Heroes map base is an innately good thing. I remember when I was introducing a friend to City of Villains, and talking about the lush levels of detail, the expansion of gameplay, the joys of Brutes and Masterminds and the like, his response was, more or less, "wait -- this is just that same warehouse map I've been on a thousand times. They just redressed it." He went back to World of Warcraft in disappointment, and I spent some time sighing. These things do matter.

And new content from 35-50 is also always good, especially if it's engaging enough to pull my level 50 heroine back out to play. And this sounds like it could be interesting and exciting, adding depth to the City of Heroes backstory and mythology and giving us a preview of the long-promised Shields powerset (the Romans you encounter have Shields, you see). Let me quote from the announcement:

There is a familiar threat in an ancient land and the Midnighters need the help of both Heroes and Villains to stop it. Players step foot upon the ancient land of the Roman Cimeroran Peninsula, where they battle deadly creatures, defend an ancient city and ultimately come face to face with the enemy of time itself. Throughout this journey players uncover the mysteries of power and the origins that guide them today.

On the one hand, I like the sound of this. I'm looking forward to playing in it. And if it's a chance to play my favorite character (a villain) alongside the friends I most like to play this game with (all of whom vastly prefer playing heroes to villains), so much the better.

On the other hand... I'm waiting for the day we get an announcement like this: "from the ancient depths of antiquity comes an order heroic and true, who have access to a source of power so monumental, so epic, and so valuable that villains and heroes alike will band together to smash these paladins and seize this power for themselves -- to change the world, destroy it, or sell to the highest bidder!"

I'm waiting, but it won't ever come. In fact, it shouldn't come. Everything in the genre demands that heroes remain, in the end, heroic, There won't ever be a situation where they join with villains for villainous reasons.

But we've now had several instances where villains join with heroes for heroic reasons. The threats are too large -- and as distasteful as the heroes might find it, it's the villains' world too, and sometimes they need to set their differences aside for the Greater Good. This drives the entire Rikti War Zone. This drives the co-op elements in the Valentine's Day and New Year's events. Heck, while Ouroboros isn't a cooperative zone, in order to become a real member of Ouroboros you need to save a future Atlas Park, fight the scourge of the Rikti, invade old Fifth Column bases (and help bring it down) -- pretty solid good-guy stuff. And while there are some villain missions in Ouroboros (the 1960's battle to establish Lord Recluse in the Rogue Islands is a heap of fun, if you can get past the ridiculous "proving yourself" mission in the middle of it, and damn it, I want one of those cheesy 60's Arachnos suits -- they have non-functional 'spider arms' coming out of their sides! It would be like being the Monarch's Henchmen!) there's a lot of places where you can be a good guy, and not many places where a good guy can be (forced into being) a bad guy.

This is a tangential complaint, however. The content should be good and I'm looking forward to running through it. See more of this later.

Unlock Roman Style Armor Costumes: This, on the other hand, I'm a little dubious about.

Don't get me wrong -- the Roman Armor looks cool. I could easily build a good character concept for it.

However, that may be a fool's errand. The armor is unlockable, which is to say we have to do something in-game to get it.

There's a lot of ways that could happen. There may be a badge or mission in the 10 - 20 range Midnight Squad missions that unlocks it. There may be a "Merit" system similar to the Vanguard Merits unlocking the Vanguard costume pieces. There may be a reward of the whole thing for completing the Level 35-50 mission sequence. There may be a Task Force or the like in the game. We just don't know.

The problem with most of those is they make the new armor essentially useless for the best possible use of it: character concepts.

Seriously. If I can "unlock" my armor at Level 10, it's probably fine (from L1-10 I can come up with some kind of placeholder) but if the earliest level I can unlock Roman Centurion armor is 35 then forget tailoring a design around it. That's a mug's game. And L35 is a terrible earliest level to get a new suit of clothes unlocked anyhow -- sure, some folks will jump into it, but a good number of people get their costume slots set and at most do variations after that. If you get the armor unlocked from L35-39, then maybe you'll use it in your last slot at L40, but if you're already over 40 when you do this set, is Roman really a look that'll displace one of your current costumes?

And if they use the horrific "Vanguard Merit" style system to unlock the armor, I'll just give up on it and be done with it.

Vanguard Merits are the game's means of creating an 'alternate currency' for players to earn costume pieces, temporary powers and even temporary pets while fighting the Rikti. When I first sent my L50 character into the Rikti War Zone, I was into the concept -- the character had gone to war, and as the character earned Merits, one of the character's costumes would slowly morph into a Vanguard uniform. That made happy sense to me.

But it took so freaking long to get enough Merits to get any of the costume pieces, I abandoned it. The only way the Merit system really works is if you do a lot of the Raids on the downed Rikti ship in the middle of the zone. I don't do Raids. I hate Raids. I hate Raids. I may be the only person who preordered City of Heroes and started playing on the first day who's never once done a Hamidon Raid. So I just gave up on costume pieces for that character.

If we have to earn Midnight Merits to unlock the Roman armor, then each piece better be five freaking Merits, or else I have no interest and by the by, stop clogging my salvage display with them.

On the other hand, the announcement actually says that a player's achievements will unlock the Roman Armor costumes. If this is the case, then it's possible they'll be hard to unlock and a part of the higher level range, but unlocking the costumes once unlocks them for all that player's characters, past and future. If so, that's okay -- a hard task that gives a solid reward is cool instead of frustrating.

Villain Epic Archetypes: As I said above, Villains have been waiting since the introduction of Grandville and L40-50 content for an Epic Archetype to counterbalance the heroes' Kheldans (the aforementioned Peacebringers and Warshades). Now, "Epic" in the City of Heroes sense means "tied to a specific epic story," not "all powerful and grand." On the other hand, the Kheldans are pretty damn spiff. You can become an all powerful energy squid that can blast as well as any given blaster, or you can become a gigantic lobster person -- in effect a somewhat gimped pocket tanker -- and you can also develop a wide variety of personal powers. And you get your travel powers for free, and the content -- the epic story -- was all new to the game, and added whole new dimensions.

The Villain Epic Archetypes are... Blood Widows and Wolf Spiders.

Which, for those who don't play the game (and if you don't play the game, why are you still reading this far down?) are two of the minions that serve Arachnos.

Yeah. On the hero side, we have energy squid lobsterpeople with a rich, new dimension of storytelling to the game. On the villain side.... I have the mooks I've been mowing down by the truckload since the day I first started playing City of Villains. In fact, one of the sidequests in the Outbreak tutorial involves your Level 1 villain saving a hapless and clueless Wolf Spider from capture and completing the mission he bungled. And hey, now you too can be that wolf spider! Yay!

Yay.

On the one hand, the execution of these new Villain Epic Archetypes looks really cool. It's a branching system, so you can climb the ladder of Arachnos types -- you start as a Blood Widow, say, but work your way up to Fortunata Mistress or Night Widow. And Wolf Spiders can become the nasty and powerful Bane Spiders, or they can become Crab Spiders, which means will have giant eight armed crab spider backpacks. And God damn it, I want a giant eight armed crab spider backpack. And they describe it as "infiltrating" the ranks of Arachnos, which could be cool and the story could be good.

But... dude, the Villain epics are mooks. And honestly, I'm sick of Arachnos anyway. Instead of Epics that added a new dimension and story to City of Villains, we're getting additional depth and explication on the overused part of City of Villains.

But dude. Eight Armed Crab Spider Backpack. Not to mention Night Widow. And they've finally put gender equality into the ranks of Arachnos, including male Blood Widow(er)s, and female Wolf Spiders, which they highlight in the archetype specific costume choices. I'm weird -- It's not the metrosexual guys or the Goth Chick Bane Spider that looks cool to me -- it's the badass reddish female wolf spider on the end. Yeah, she's a mook in the most mooklike armor, but that armor is slick.

So, on the one hand I'm disappointed. On the other hand I'm desperately levelling my top villain to be able to play one of these upon release. So, I'm going to call this a win for CrypticNCSoft, but I hope we get some different kinds of Epic which add new story elements soon.

Powerset Proliferation: What this means, in effect, is a bunch of the powersets currently reserved for specific archetypes (especially on one faction's side or the other) are going to be added to other archetypes. We already know that Plant Control has been imported from the Dominators to the Controllers, which is cool. And we know a Psi set is going to the blasters, and Brutes are getting both Mace and Axe. Everyone is getting a new primary and secondary except for Brutes, who get two primaries and a secondary, and Masterminds, who only get a secondary since there are no Mastermind primaries that Masterminds don't innately get.

This is all good stuff. More variety is more variety, and it makes me more likely to indulge my Altaholism, testing out new combinations and having fun. I'm looking forward to learning more -- especially what the Defenders are getting, because there's lots of cool stuff on the Villain side and any of it would be fun. That said, I hope it's Thermal -- because Thermal means setting your allies on fire, and who doesn't like to do that?

Major Gameplay Improvements: In brief (yeah, fat chance) summary: significant improvements to the UI, including new configurable power trays, being able to organize your contacts, continued real numbers in place of the vagueness instituted at the beginning, and improvements to chatting. You can also take three Inspirations of a similar type you don't need and convert them to another type you do need, which is exciting. And the explosion of light and sound you get when you Level Up now also gives you one of every inspiration autocast on your character. So when you're in a pitched battle and you level up, not only do you get better combat statistics, you also suddenly get a pile of 30 second buffs on your character. I am entirely in favor of all of the above, though it's not the sort of thing that inspires dancing in the streets.

On the whole, Issue 12 looks like a really solid issue, and I'm glad people bought the Wedding Pack so we could get the cool stuff. My lingering regret is generally villain-related, though it's not like Villains were ignored this time out.

(That said, I really, really want Redemption in Issue 13 -- or at least Probation. Either let my villains, having fought alongside the heroes so often, finally join up and become heroes or give a system that lets a villain cross the divide and work with the heroes a la Catwoman with Batman or the Rogues with the Flash in all those issues of the comic book. Or, you know, go the other way if they'd rather. But honestly. My friends play heroes. I love Masterminds. Please let me play with my friends in something other than Pocket D or the Rikti War Zone. I'll give you a doughnut.)

Champions Logo

Well, the stuff coming out of Champions Online central isn't as deep or rich as what's coming out of City of Heroes, but that makes sense. Champions Online is still a year away, and so we're at the point of getting dribbles of information, not details. Still, we did learn a few things that continue to have me excited for the game, and so I'm going to goob about them. Because Christ knows a 4000 word post on City of Heroes needs padding.

We got some new screenshots that demonstrate our heroes have actual facial expressions -- something the City of Heroes characters lack. Your character can smirk, or look defiant, or stuff. Wink, I presume. Which, by the way, is likely how these announcements are going to go for a while. We're going to see new and exciting stuff that you can't do in City of Heroes highlighted. Cryptic knows who their competition are, and they're not going to highlight the stuff that's essentially the same between the two games.

That said, facial expressions, while neat, aren't at the top of my wishlist.

One thing that was on the top of my wishlist was autotargeting, as you'll recall. And an "Ask Cryptic" dev post where players got to ask questions helped to allay some of my fears for the game. It's that post I'm going to focus on.

First off, we learned about some of the HEROalike elements of the Champions Online system, including a good breakdown of a Champions (pen and paper) energy blast. Now, it's worth noting -- I was not hoping for nor even wanting this game to use the HERO system. I adore HERO. I used to sit for hours and generate characters with it, refining and developing them and fitting them into the point constraints. But if there's one good way to turn a lot of casual gamers off, it's monumentally complicated math based character generation. Sitting there and optimizing your CON to punch up your END and REC stats is a lot of fun... for some people.

So, instead of the incredibly broad HERO system, which separates mechanics from special effects, we have a system that has predefined special effects (they mention Dark Blast and Ice Blast as examples, instead of a HEROesque 'energy blast' you could then define as ice or dark if you wanted) that you can then add advantages and limitations to as needed. Amusingly, this sounds more like GURPS Supers than Champions, but that's okay with me!

And, while the customizing system is exciting and cool, I know a lot of City of Heroes fans who are mostly just excited at the chance to change the colors of their powers. That's one of the most requested features in City of Heroes, but the graphics engine wasn't designed with that in mind, and it's nigh-impossible to retrofit it. You can bet the Champions Online people will be trumpeting this for some time to come.

They also say that there will be a rich and robust non-combat skill system, where you can take things like Stealth or Science and use them in missions to affect things, or compete with your enemies or the like. This could be amazingly cool, but it could also be pretty lame. Further, this was the sort of thing that Cryptic tried several times and methods to add to City of Heroes without success. It's possible that those skills just couldn't be added to the engine, but they might work really well if the engine is designed with it in mind in the first place. I'm hopeful, but I'll actually believe in the robust skills system when I see it.

They mentioned also that Archvillain fights will involve more than just beating your archvillain into pus, again highlighting the upcoming Nemesis system as a part of that. As part of my ongoing hope that heroes will be able to do good as opposed to just fight evil, I'm hopeful this is a sign of flexibility in mission design.

They've revealed that the penalty for defeats will echo the World of Warcraft system -- your equipment is damaged if you lose, and will lose effectiveness until repaired -- eventually becoming useless. This includes all "upgrades," which may be how they do the Level system in this game (they may eschew the Level distinction altogether, which I'm in favor of since it's more Championsesque, but they'll still need some means of easy comparion). Nothing dramatically new, but I'm just as happy to see "debt" not a part of this.

Finally, the one I cared most about. They reinforced again the very active combat system, but also reinforced it would have things like autotarget. However, they've reduced recharge times (in hopes of preventing the 'energy blast that goes around corners) issue, and added stuff like persistent powers that will hurt you until you break line of sight with your opponent. These are good ideas, especially because they sound intuitive. I should be able to run around a corner to break Firewing's line of sight and stop the horrible pain.

So, the short term prognosis for City of Heroes is excellent, and the long term prognosis for Champions Online is exciting. With City of Heroes learning that sales of an optional costume pack can equal significant increases in resources (and the continuing growth of their development team, thanks to their new corporate overlords), there's every chance we'll see more optional paid content which in turn will fuel more free expansion content going forward. And as Champions Online gets closer to release, we can start to see how the promises being made in 2008 turn into gameplay in 2009.

All in all, it's a good time to be a Hero.

And an okay time to be a Villain. Stupid heroes with their new zones and their universal threats and "oh, if the Earth is destroyed where will you spend your ill gotten gains and rabble dragah mutter....

17 Comments

I can say you're not the only player from day one who's skipped out on the Hamidon raids.

It is a shame that the villain content always seems less than the heroes- on the whole, I think the villain ATs are just better.

Villain Epic Archetypes: This is where this patch went from "Nifty, new issue," to "OH YES!!!" Arachnos has never lost that shine for me. Ok, the Wolf Spiders are mooks, but they're mooks with powermaces. My teammates have had to listen to me whine about wanting a powermace set, not just a couple epic powers. And the costumes? I think Arachnos have the best outfits this side of the Fifth Column. One of my current characters is sporting the preorder Blood Widow helm, and just days before the announcement, I was trying to figure out a concept to go with my Wolf Spider helm.

But, like you, the biggest draw is the crabsuits. I love the look of those things, love seeing them in action. If I can actually play one, CoH has ensured my subscription is getting extended. My level 30 villain has been called up from vacation to start grinding missions so that I'll be ready.

"This is one of those mornings where I don't have enough brain to work on webcomics criticism. I know, that may seem like a strange statement, but sometimes these posts actually take a moderate amount of thought. Who knew?"

If I were you, I would take a cue from webcomics and get a buffer of write-ups out of the way when you DO have enough brain, and get the most out of those periods.

You seem to come from a land where generating 6-10 page essays is something one can do with such volume that 'buffering' becomes practical. Sadly, I do not. :)

That said, when I have the brain to buffer, I do. There have been times when I've been several days ahead. However, one thing I learned in the first heavy posting times of Websnark is this: if I write criticism when I don't have criticism to write, the criticism sucks donkey. I do not like my criticism to suck donkey, so I'm not going to force it.

Besides, any day you get 6000 words on a subject? You can accuse me of anything but not working hard enough to entertain you. :)

Just for the record, your commentary on superhero MMOs is some of my favorite websnark content, so while I wasn't praying for another one, I am quite glad for it being up.

I pretty much agree with the post. CoH/CoV looks pretty good for now and it looks like its upcoming content will be great as well. Champions has promise, but we are way too far off from release and know way too little about how the game will play to really judge it with any honesty or accuracy.

Man, you don't need to feel guilty about not providing a specific kind of content. That you have provided content at all is enough. That is the way of the 'Snark.

I guess I need to start making enough money to justify paying for a subscription again. I cancelled all my subscription games when I moved south. I do miss CoH/CoV though.

Yes, love love love the invasion.

"The problem with most of those is they make the new armor essentially useless for the best possible use of it: character concepts."

Yeah. :/ On the one hand, unlockables are good because getting a reward for completing a task is good, but they're bad because of what you said. "unlocking the costumes once unlocks them for all that player's characters, past and future" would be good on that front, but then what are you going to do for all your other characters doing that content?

You know, I agree on the Villain Archetypes as mooks not being interesting, but everyone else I know is really into it, so maybe I'm the weird one. @@ (I really wish you could have a villain that wasn't so tied into Arachnos. Now that'd be my pick for an epic archetype.)

"They've revealed that the penalty for defeats will echo the World of Warcraft system -- your equipment is damaged if you lose, and will lose effectiveness until repaired -- eventually becoming useless." Ugh. This is one of the reasons I prefer CoX to WoW. I prefer being slowed down to powered down.

And finally, yes, don't feel afraid to post about whatever content you like. You're a good writer, and good writers get read.

Thank *you*. I'm glad I'm not the only person who gets annoyed at the "Lets have villains be heroes" thing. My Villain's been going (slowly) through the Welcome to the Vanguard scenario and, other than a couple mentions of, "We don't care what side of the fence you're on", you can tell they pretend everyones a hero. Including "Yeah the Rogue Isles are horrible, I know, but we should save it."

Uh...that's my characters home, what makes them think we wouldn't want to save it?

As to the Epics. .... It's sort of neat. Sort of. I personally wish they did one Arachnos, one Non-Arachnos. Arachnos was a pretty good idea for I play on Virtue so I see a few RPVG's that are Arachnos based, and giving them a treat is rather nice. But damn, so many villains on Virtue are against Arachnos. Hell, half of my VG is.

And as to paid content making it so they can get resources faster? ... This worries me. If it's just random costume stuff I may or may not be interested in? Okay. Wish it was free but alright. But if it's stuff that actually becomes important? If they learn "People will pay" and take the /wrong/ lesson from it? ... I really don't want.

As a long-time CoH player, I've gotten a tad jaded about every Issue that comes out anymore (oh, look! new bells and whistles!). I like it when they tweak things to fix elements such as XP Smoothing (improving the leveling up that had gotten hard at the high 30s, for example), and it's nice when they upgrade and improve the zones (the work on Faultline was a well-done effort, all hail the HOLY DONUT!). But NEW ROMAN UNIFORMS! NEW SPECIAL ZONES WITH THE MIDNIGHT SQUAD! Yawn.

My biggest concern is that they keep adding these new zones, but they're all Hero-oriented (all recent shared zones between Heroes and Villains are cooperative, and they all follow the Heroside storyline, not the Arachnos Villain one). Villains haven't had new maps of their own since Grandville was added, yet they keep upgrading and improving the Heroside zones, now with Hollows. The biggest gripes I hear from my fellow gamers is how there's little fun to be had villainside, too few maps, too few trials and strike forces that would encourage team-ups. I kinda figured Villains was planned as a PvP-friendly side of the game, where the PvP'ers would play up to level and then move on to places like Warburg and Recluse's Victory. You know, more soloing stuff than teaming stuff. But people who got accustomed to play in Heroes still prefer teaming up and working out trials and fighting AVs (or Heroes) and working their way through hazard zones, and with that stuff lacking villainside they're not thrilled.

Of the things that need the most fixing in City Of... it's that they need to add more maps to Villains, maps like Striga and Croatoa with special contact missions leading up to trials and strike forces. They need to add a shared coop zone that for once speaks to the VILLAINS side of things. They need to add a PvP zone similar to Recluse's Victory in terms of targets and objectives (takeover of pillboxes to summon AVs and "win" the zone), but with something a little more energized and with clearly defined prizes that would encourage PvP play (such as game-wide Buffs or DeBuffs of powers granted to whichever side wins/loses).

Oh, and they gotta shorten the Positron and Quarterfield TFs. Aw man those things take forever to finish!

My immediate nitpick is that the villain EATs cannot strictly be "a win for Cryptic," since Cryptic hasn't been involved with the game for some time. Unless you mean that the Arachnos characters are going to drive people to Champions.

That said, I agree with the bulk of your observations. A little distance from Arachnos would be a nice thing, but I'm okay with making a character who's a flunky from day one. It's making a character who's supposed to be self-employed and being forced into the role of Arachnos lickspittle that grinds my gears.

Villains need more villain-specific content. We really, really do. I think I read somewhere on the forums (second- or third-hand, probably, so grain of salt) that the developers didn't really want to add villain-only material. I consider that a shame, since I'm primarily redside and I don't feel like we've hit the point of being level with the heroes yet.

Issue 8 was supposed to bring heroes up to speed with villains -- really, it gave them some of the gameplay improvements and stuck them even further ahead in terms of number of missions. Everything since then has been shared in theory, but skewed to the heroes in fact, as you note in your RWZ observations.

I think the villain ATs are just more fun. The arcs are better. The zones are more lively. But the support for that side of the game has been lacking at best, and I don't know that the developers will ever address the issue. From a purely financial standpoint, why SHOULD they, when the heroes represent the overwhelming bulk of the subscriber base?

Sometimes I think villains need a developer liason. You know how the PvP crowd has organizations that interact with the developers and discuss how to maintain the viability of the PvP community and how to draw new people and the like? I think villains need something like that. The League of Diplomatic Malevolence or something. What's wrong with villains?; how can we fix it?; how can we stop picking up the heroes' leftovers and become HALF of the game?

My immediate nitpick is that the villain EATs cannot strictly be "a win for Cryptic," since Cryptic hasn't been involved with the game for some time.

Gah. Corrected above. I told you I had little brain. :)

Alaemon doesn't know this (or does he?), but every now and then, I still like to curry a little favor with Beth, Demon Princess of Nitpicking (or do I?).

"That said, when I have the brain to buffer, I do. There have been times when I've been several days ahead."

Which, I guess, explains the early days when you went about two weeks without missing a day.

My post was probably more negative than intended - I don't care what you write about but I do know what I come here for - but I think I was just spoiled by those early days into thinking you'd be done by early May. Now it looks like you'll be doing one or two a week... this could extend for most of the summer or longer.

(Boy, you probably went "eep!" just now, didn't you?)

I've given all of this some thought and I think I have a VG that concentrates on the awesome inherent in this.

An all-female Wolf Spider SG! The elite of the Wolf Spider force turns out to be female but - because it's the elite - never seen!

A little off topic but i thought you might want to know:
uling Gives Heirs a Share of Superman Copyright": The New York Times today contains an article that begins, "Time Warner is no longer the sole proprietor of Superman. A federal judge here on Wednesday ruled that the heirs of Jerome Siegel -- who 70 years ago sold the rights to the action hero he created with Joseph Shuster to Detective Comics for $130 -- were entitled to claim a share of the United States copyright to the character."

I have posted online at this link Wednesday's ruling of the U.S. District Court for the Central District of California.
Posted at 10:32 AM by Howard Bashman

Hmm. Other thing about Powerset Proliferation that I just thought of: It's an excuse to go though and rev every powerset visual in the game with a deliverable at the end of it (Some are being recoloured for the opposing side). I'm wondering if they're taking this opportunity to move all the powers with "baked in" colours to the RGB tinted particles of newer powers. This non-trivial job being one of the three given "major barriers" to Power Customisation.

And if I were them, I'd be trying to get Power Customisation in before Champions comes out too...

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