The Obligatory Champions Online Post

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Champions Online
In my last post about video games, I talked about the way that Champions Online's announcement contributed to a bad month for City of Heroes. I didn't really go a lot into the potential (and potential pitfalls) of Champions Online itself -- that wasn't the essay for it.

Well, in and around spending time with Weds (she's in the shower as I speak), I guess I'd like to start actually discussing Champions Online itself. I'm really looking forward to what they do with the game, and at the same time I have a certain amount of dread for it. And how they pan out depends a lot on what happens between now and release.

So, here's a fast little wishlist for Champions Online, and hand in hand with it I'll touch on potential pitfalls and out and out dealkillers. As always, your milage may vary.

Here we go!

Make both 'factions' potentially sympathetic

The setup and execution of PvP in City of Heroes blew, badly. It wasn't in the game at all at first, and then when it was added in "arenas" it soured the experience for a lot of folks. And then City of Villains came out, and was a really great addon to the game (I'm running a villain right now and loving it). But, the Villain side is way less represented than the hero side. I have friends who never play City of Villains sheerly because they don't want to be a bad guy (and, given that a number of missions make it clear you're killing everyone in a mission, for example, I can understand that.) It doesn't have the rich potential of, say, Alliance vs. Horde in World of Warcraft, and part of the reason for that is that neither the Alliance nor the Horde have to be the bad guys.

Stop and consider what that means, for a moment. Yes, one side has Paladins and the other side has Undead, but if you play as Horde there's absolutely nothing requiring you to be a slavering monster. There's plenty of built in examples of nobility on the Horde side, and plenty of examples of questionable or downright evil behavior on the Alliance side. And as a result, each individual player can decide for himself what his character's ethos is. (And yes, I'm presupposing some roleplaying here. It's an RPG.)

The problem with Superhero Role Play, on the other hand, is that it seems to have a built in dichotomy. The heroes and the villains. The good guys and the bad guys. While there are significant nuances in the comics, they're hard to encode into a role playing game. And that means that the Villain side pretty much has to be... well, villainous. They can't all be antiheroes who reject society's rules -- some of them are going to want stuff, or be nasty, or murderous. The Joker kills people, folks.

Well, Champions Online isn't going to have factions to begin with. They're going to have PvP, but not full 'dual sided' PvP a la World of Warcraft. I honestly think that's a mistake, but we let it go for these purposes. (Why a mistake? One of the primary review points I heard when City of Heroes was initially reviewed was how unspeakably lame it was to have a superhero game without the option to be a villain or PvP against the heroes. One learns from the past or one has a bad future, but I digress.) They said that one of the first expansions will be Dark Champions.

And that gives me some modicum of hope -- because the original Dark Champions RPG supplement wasn't a villain supplement. It was Grim and Gritty, Modern Dark hero supplement, and that could be perfect for a MMORPG.


Consider, if you will, the traditional four color hero/modern "compromised" hero dichotomy. The idealist versus the realist. How many modern comics (including such phenomenal ones as Kingdom Come and such poor executions as Civil War) have rested upon this. I'm reminded of a seminal moment in Kingdom Come, where a hologram of Superman is trying to instruct the Gulag prisoners in right and wrong, and one shouts up at him. "Where does depriving us of our civil rights fall? Who bagged Eclipso? People like us! We saved lives, man!" Now, Kingdom Come was a polemic, and the 'modern' side was largely strawmanish, but the potential there is amazing. The paragons of virtue, whose hands are clean. The urban warriors who can't afford to stay clean. On the one side, Superman and Captain America. On the other, the Punisher and Wolverine.

Now that could be awesome, because it lets everyone involved be a hero, while fueling the debate of just what a hero is.

Not that having a villain PC option is a bad idea. It's a very very good idea, but it will be hard to make it a full balanced "side" a la the Horde and the Alliance, and having those strong factions is a worthy goal.

Don't Make "Active" combat == Twitch Combat

One of the selling points of Champions Online is that the combat system will be fast and frenetic. No more 'boring' auto-attacks. No more long recharge times. As they say on their feature list:

Hi-Octane Excitement: Champions Online delivers furious, fast-paced encounters previously reserved for action and fighting games. No more boring auto attacks and lengthy recharge times. Champions Online combat is instantaneous ? and electrifying!

...um... yeah.

Look, I'm all for excitement. But if this means that things like auto-targeting are out, and the result is a twitch style (or even FPS style) game that's as much Counterstrike or even Ratchet and Clank as City of Heroes, it's most likely I won't make it a month in that game, and there won't be any chance whatsoever I will ever venture into PvP. There is a good reason for this. I am terrible at those games.

I'll say that again. I am terrible at those games.

I love Soulcalibur, and I love playing it with friends, but that is because I have deep connections to that game, love the single player mode, and don't mind losing over and over again to my friends. Playing Soulcalibur online would swiftly grow unsatisfying to me, as someone half my age (or younger) proceeded to absolutely hand my head to me every time I so much as stuck it out to look around. I despise 'ganking,' and I don't have the skills or reflexes for twitch.

I liked Kingdom of Hearts all right, for point of reference, but I never finished it. In large part, that was because the combat system wasn't fun for me. It turned into just another platformer, and I never really saw how anything I spent points on in improving my abilities turned into actual gameplay, because I wasn't any damn good at the button combinations for the controller so I just swung at everything, desperately. I hope all that mana I collected went into something nice.

In playing City of Heroes, I can use all of my abilities and use them well, because I can think about them, set up appropriate attack chains, not worry about aiming or twitch style mechanics, and just in general feel like a superhero. That's why I play a role playing game instead of an action game. If the gameplay engine in Champions Online streamlines that, so I can set up my abilities and macros for fast paced action, all the better. But if they mean that I'm going to be desperately hitting buttons -- any buttons -- in hopes of launching attacks before I die, then I'll hang out in City of Heroes until they turn the servers off, which (as many people pointed out in my last post) won't be for a long, long time.

Alas, this might be a battle already lost. They're targeting the XBox 360 as well as the PC, almost certainly with an eye to having both groups play on the same server. It may be that the best way to play will involve a controller, and that keyboard jockeys like me will just have to make do.

Don't Make 'Voice Chat' into All Chat

As stated, I play RPGs because I like to immerse myself into an experience. I am a roleplayer, even if I'm playing a role of one while soloing in PvE.

Put simply, voice chat is antithetical to this style of play.

If I'm playing a tabletop RPG with a group of friends, I can, after a fashion, let my brain ignore the fact that the ethereal elfin maid is being played by six foot two bearded guy. Assuming he's actively working at it, of course. However, if I'm across the room from a beautiful red haired heroine, energies playing around her as an aura as she channels the incarnate forces of the universe, and in my ear I hear her say 'alright, we're gonna have to herd the Viper to the left side of the room -- Bob, buff Tony and Jesus, people. No jumping the gun" in a baritone voice, I'm afraid the delicate environmental illusion will suffer for it. Also, the fewer people who call me a crude euphemism for homosexual in my ear while I play, the happier I will be.

Note that I have no problems with people who do play these games with tactical intentions in mind. How they want to play is entirely up to them, and crack teams of players who see this game as a tactical exercise are still paying their money each month and having a good time, and good on them. But that doesn't mean that I want to have to be using voice chat to play the game on my own.

(Again, this may be a lost cause. If they're targeting the 360, they're targeting XBox Live, and that means presuming everyone in the room has a headset hooked up. And if that's the case -- hey, have fun with it, guys.)

Make Secret Identities Meaningful

I'm really, really psyched that this game has announced that Secret Identities are a part of the game, and the choice between a secret and public identity will have different impacts on the game experience. That's the sort of thing I've wanted for a long time in City of Heroes.

However, there's lots of ways of making that a meaningful part of gameplay. Let me throw out a few thoughts -- not as requirements, but as suggestions or things I would find really cool.

First off, have ways of using one's superpowers in 'hidden' mode, a la Clark adjusting his glasses to surreptitiously use his heat vision when no one's looking. Having missions where you have to use your powers in 'low' mode to avoid revealing your secret would go a long way to making it feel comic bookish. (And if you define your powers through objects -- or foci, in Champions speak -- then your secret identity couldn't use those powers at all.)

First off, have meaningful skills systems. They can follow the skills systems of, say, WoW and I'd be perfectly happy, but make sure those skills have applications to the superheroic genre instead. Instead of, say, Leathercrafting or Tailoring skills, a superhero could have 'Detective,' 'Reporter,' 'Occultist,' or 'Scientist' skills (as a bare beginning of a list). As low level criminals are beaten, they might drop clues as part of their drops (or be searchable for them). Those clues could be crafted by a Detective or Reporter into a Lead, and Leads could be developed into (for a Detective) a Case or (for a reporter) a Story. Those could then be 'sold' to their workplace for a mission that might have some special content or drops, or for significant in-game currency and reputation. Occultists, engineers or scientists could gather up clues or elements or find places of significance they can 'observe' (think Mining in WoW) for elements that could be combined into buffs, abilities, even new powers. Finding new recipes, new ways of using abilities, and engineering new things could become as addictive as crafting in World of Warcraft currently is. And giving people stuff to do that doesn't require combat is not a bad thing at all, in a game you're trying to keep them addicted to.

Which is not to say that Secret Identities should only define professional abilities, in that same way. Superman is not simply a mild-mannered reporter so he can collect a paycheck and find out where the Toyman is going to strike. There is also Perry White, Jimmy Olson, and Lois Lane. Which raising the very Champions concept of the Dependent Non Player Character.

In the tabletop Champions RPG, the Dependent Non Player Character (or DNPC) is a weakness your character can take. This is a person in the hero's life that the hero cares about for some reason, who has a knack for getting into scrapes. They also add depth to a character's backstory. They are Lois Lane, Aunt May, Linda Park, Alfred the Butler, Pepper Hogan and lots of other folks who populate the comics but (as an example) never appear in City of Heroes.

Well, I think they should appear in Champions Online. Make the workplace a given hero goes to an instance instead of a common area, and you can create his very own editor, best friend and/or love interest that he can get to know. Add a few elements of The Sims or other such games, where you can click on a DNPC and interact with them, minigame style. Let those interactions, when they reach certain thresholds, spawn new 'mission' content. Maybe you can take Mary-Lois out on a date, which you run Sims style -- at least until CLOWN bursts into the restaurant and it becomes a 'low power/stealth' mission. Give XP or other perks for strong interactions and you have a real potential for cool 'side' elements.

And go all the way with this. If there's going to be a Secret Identity and DNPCs, then give relationship ratings that the player can check on a regular basis. If in three weeks of playing four hours a night you haven't given Aunt June a call, it makes sense she'd have a very low opinion of you. Let it get bad enough and she might come looking for you to find out why you never call, and there's your Archnemesis ready to kidnap her and strap her to the giant table of rotating sawblades.

These things don't have to be obtrusive, mind. It can be a system that adds value (and gives solo players a lot to do) in the background while letting you concentrate on punching out Shamrock and the Lady Blue in the foreground.

Let My Powers Be More Than Combat Effects

This is a superhero game. One of the most important aspects of being a superhero is fighting evil. There's no doubt about that. But it's nowhere near the only aspect.

Give me a chance to stop an onrushing train from derailing! Give me a chance to put out a fire with my powers (City of Heroes had a fire event... that involved picking up fire extinguishers and spraying the flames. Ice powers didn't affect the fire. It was one of those moments that made me wonder why we didn't call licensed professionals in, since we were using their equipment and all.) Give a flying hero a chance to catch a falling citizen. Let me use my stretching powers to get a cat out of a tree.

In short, let me do good, not just fight evil.

Above All, Be Flexible

They're invoking heavy customization as a major feature of Champions Online. I heartily approve of this, because that's what Champions was all about. But more than anything else, Champions Online should be flexible to different styles of play experience.

This is one of those areas, by the by, where it makes long-time City of Heroes players nervous to have Jack Emmert at the helm. A lot of the time, Emmert would justify changes that weren't necessarily popular as conforming more to the game vision -- the idea and ideal that the developers had in how people were going to play the game and have a good time. For example -- the game was strongly oriented at first towards group play, because the game was more fun played in groups.

Only... not everyone liked to play in groups. Some people preferred to play solo. And some people liked to play in casual, role play defined groups whereas others liked to play very fine tuned groups with roles defined tactically. There were a lot of ways to play City of Heroes, and attempts to 'nudge' (or 'shove') us into the vision's way -- because it would be more fun -- didn't turn out to be more fun. It turned out to be annoying.

And City of Heroes has gotten much better at such things, as a result.

Well, I'm here to say that if they really, really want to make the most people happy? They should make it easy for people to pick and choose the kind of play experience they want. If someone really enjoys PvE soloing, he should have a rich experience (the Secret Identity and Professions stuff I mentioned above would go hand in hand with that.) If someone prefers PvP group play, the game should give him some solid avenues for it.

Almost everything I mentioned in the beginning parts of this essay highlights things around what I would enjoy. However, to force someone who's not into the things I'm into to do NPC interactions or crafting wouldn't be fun for that person. Heck, I won't even mind a twitch combat system if it's something I can opt out of. (Have a buff to going in manually, with aiming and the like, versus a slightly less effective but more traditional RPG experience, and you'll have a lot of happy players. And if you need proof of that, look at Knights of the Old Republic, which was amazingly good at giving the player options on how he wanted to run his characters through combat).

If you go into the game maximizing the potential for different kinds of players to have different kinds of experiences in the game, you'll end up having a really kickass game. If you focus on one style of play (and player) as "the right way to play," then you'll appeal to that player only.

I want this game to be downright awesome. I want this game to be better in every way than City of Heroes. Not because I don't like City of Heroes. I love City of Heroes. But I want the gaming experience of this next generation MMORPG to be amazing. I want to be able to do all the things I've yearned to do in City of Heroes and more.

In short, I want the moon. Now, I won't get it, but that doesn't mean I can't hope. Hope is what we have, a year plus away from release.

Now. On the other side of things? I'm hoping a lot of the stuff I want from Champions Online... will actually be stuff I get in City of Heroes. They have a year. If they keep up the way they have been going, that's 3-4 "issues" of new content and gameplay. Any number of the things I mentioned above could be things they could do ahead of time, and that would be way more than fine with me. Or they might do stuff I don't mention above that will still be amazing, and that will make me mondo happy too.

(They can start with villain redemption/hero falling. Damn it, I want to send armies of thugs or zombies running across Atlas Park for justice! Is that so wrong? Don't answer that.)

There's one thing for sure right now. This is going to be a fun year, of speculating and arguing and anticipating and all the rest.

16 Comments

Some of this is exactly what I've been saying, but as usual, you said it better and more in depth. And the Secret ID ideas are pure gold. Now I'll be disappointed if none of that shows up. I think you're absolutely right about CoX needing to take advantage of this year+ they have to answer the challenge (there's no doubt it's a challenge) posed by Champions Online. Hopefully we'll see some really good things from CoX in the next 12 months or so.

The Champions paper-and-pen RPG was awesome. However, we can't expect game systems like foci and DNPCs to make it into Champions Online. This is because Cryptic bought the Champions universe (the heroes, cities, and backstory), but they did *not* also buy any part of the Hero System. It's the Hero System that includes all the game mechanics I enjoyed for years. Because my friends and I used our own universe for our games, I can anticipate that the Champions Online setting will be new to me *and* it will use game mechanics that do not directly reflect the game I once played.

By the way, I really like your Secret Identity ideas. Hopefully some kind of secret ID gameplay finds its way into Champions Online.

Boring nitpick: it's called Kingdom Hearts, without the 'of' in the middle. It's probably not a good example, anyway, because it's got some issues from a mechanics standpoint, and it wouldn't be surprising to be having troubles with the platforming and wondering what the point of the combat was.

Honestly I'd like to see an MMO where you can opt out of combat entirely. Develop the crafting to the point where players can play as non-combat traders, who get around the roving bandits by hiring other 'adventurer' type players. I can also think of a couple of things they could do with classes, so some classes would be twitch-based, others would be slower and more strategic, and some classes would excel at staying out of combat for as long as possible.

The idea of being able to play totally non-combat has some appeal, even if it's unlikely I'd ever do it, I'd love to see a game where it's possible. I don't think super-heroes is the genre for it though.

My own nitpick:

Ice powers do impact the Hellion Arson event in Steel Canyon. They can be used to snuff the flames.

My biggest fear about Champions Online is the Jack Emmert factor, pretty much for the reasons you described. "It's not FUN!" was the single most infuriating thing that guy ever said.

Still I have to admit if they're implementing the Champions hero system I'll definitely be there, at least at first. The thing about CoH/CoV that really bugged me was the inability to create certain hero concepts -- for example, the "luck-powered" hero -- and Champions seems ideal for that kind of thing.

Of course, there's always the danger that they'll strip down the Champions powerset and effects/disadvantages/limitations because it's too complicated. And, you know, not FUN!

I like your point about various factions and Good and Bad. In the Brave New World system, you could be part of the government or part of the resistance, but NEITHER one was necessarily right. You could do plenty of damage as a resistance member or save plenty of lives. You could stomp all over people's rights as a government registered delta, but at the same time get cats out of trees. Right and wrong are complicated in real life, why can't they be complicated and entangled in a game. So it will be interesting to see how it all works out in the end.

Hmm... some ideas are interesting, and could be workable. Others, well... I don't think all you're hoping for is even feasible, let alone to be expected.

For making factions sympathetic... I think the huge problem is the idea of "factions" in this. I mean, you've got your standard white hats and black hats. But you also have your Robin Hood types, who defy the law but are fundamentally good, and the Inquisition types, who are the law but fundamentally evil. And then there are shades of grey, all varieties of mercenaries, and that's not even getting into cosmic-scale issues. On top of that, that's not getting into how two people roughly similar in their doings can't stand each other (think about how many villains can't stand Red Skull because he's a Nazi). Factions works well in something like an ongoing medieval war. But in a superhero game, I think that even if you did factions, there would have to be several to reflect a whole range of different ways a super can act.

For the twitch combat thing... well, obviously, this is quite possible. The question, as you put it, is whether or not they'll follow through. I mean, they put Final Fantasy XI on the 360 and it managed to be not twitchy. I personally suspect that they'll just give you more things you can do rather than just wait for powers to recharge.

Slightly related is the fear of voice chat, which I'll follow to a larger point. Text chatting is too important to many people. Plus, it's absurdly easy to include and there are good reasons beyond not wanting to deal with foul-mouthed kids to include it. I'm going to go out on a very short limb and say that you'll still be able to communicate via typing.

Now, both of these seem related to the fear that Champions Online is going to be ruined by console folk playing on the same server. I don't think this is a large issue for a few reasons. For one, as already mentioned, they managed to integrate console players into FF11 and they didn't abandon discussion via text, the standard combat procedure (in fact, one common complaint made against Square Enix is that they fell in love too much with MMO-style combat and its inclusion really hurt Final Fantasy XII, but that's really neither here nor there).

The reason I'm confident in this is because, quite simply, MMO play is not a draw for console gaming. There just aren't that many people who even bother with it on their consoles. This is why WoW is not on any console despite the fact that if anyone could pull a profit on console MMO gaming, it'd be them. It's a part of why Nintendo is sitting on their hands when it comes to an Animal Crossing MMO (well, that and that Nintendo still isn't sure what they're doing online). To be honest, if Champions Online is the kind of game that would be influenced by the console market, then it's going to be a lousy game and you shouldn't bother with it in the first place.

I don't have anything to add to the Secret Identities thing (except that there should be some sort of bonus for those that forego it in certain situations, or certain content only those without Secret Identities can access). However, you're asking way too much in terms of using powers outside of combat.

The thing is, how a power should interact with the environment is difficult to say unless you really restrict what the powers can do. I mean, if you're going to let Flamethrower Ralph set everything he can reach on fire, you have to be prepared to deal with how that fire is going to interact with everything in the game. And that's presuming he only has one setting on his fire. What if he can make a match's worth of fire in some instances, or an inferno in others? It can take quite a bit of time to figure out how Ralph is going to affect things in every scenario.

And then, what happens if Ice Queen Gina comes along and, in a fit of pique, decides to use her ice beam powers on everything? And then Electric Joe decides that there should be lots of water from where the fire melted the ice, and then tries to electrocute everyone?

Now, it's easy at the role-playing table to adjucate such things, as a person can think on the fly on how to handle this (in this instance, the correct answer might be "Rocks fall, everyone dies"). But with the video game, you have to hardcode in every single circumstance in which you could use the powers and how they interact.

While players might complain, restricting powers to mostly combat-oriented situations (with maybe one or two non-combat uses) might be the only way to get it done in any realistic time frame.

Finally, for flexibility... I think it's going to be a bit much to ask for that amount of flexibility right out of the gate. I mean, it's quite realistic to expect that after about a year or so of play. But people are going to inevitably find where the basic game of the build encourages or discourages quite a few types of play. And while some of that can be anticipated by the developers, I promise you that quite a bit will fall through the cracks at first. It takes quite a bit of trial and error to get everything working out to that level of flexibility. Don't be hard on the game because it fails in that at first, because I can promise you it will.

The thing about Jack/Statesman is that he always struck me as one of those "Rocks fall, everyone dies!" GMs. Like, he'd put a lot of work into developing his campaign, but the minute the players deviate from the script ("nah, I don't want to rescue the lady in the tower, how about we go to the Underdark and beat up some drow?") he lost his cool and forced the players back onto the rails ("no Underdark; so you're standing outside the tower...").

"Kingdom Hearts," two "first offs" in a row - there's lots of dumb formatting and typo style mistakes in the above. Which makes sense given that I wrote it in five minute chunks. :)

Well, I haven't played CoX (I'm primarily a console gamer), so I can't say for sure whether or not the game had serious issues with railroading.

But keep in mind, when you're literally trying to make a game for millions of players, and you're going to actively have a plot in it, you're going to be lucky to really please a plurality of the folks playing. And again, based on how much work it would be to make scenarios for that many people, some amount of railroading pretty much has to happen with an MMO.

Again, I don't have the experience to say for certain whether Jack's style would be uber-railroading. But to some extent, that's merely a concession to the limits of the medium.

I'll be up front and honest that I never played City of Heroes or City of Villains, and that I probably won't play the Champions Online game. I'm somewhat old-fashioned in my feeling that you only ought to have to pay for a game once rather than maintain a subscription, and I like the idea of being able to play when I want to without feeling penalized because I'm not spending hours each day building up my character. However, I thought I'd make some input on your points.

I'll also quickly state straight off that I never played Champions. I've been a Mutants and Masterminds player for a while and I own both Freedom Force games. In terms of allowing use of powers for other than combat, I'd say that's more or less a matter of writing up canned scenarios and applying them. You don't need to worry about complex interactions of electricity and water, or of Flamethrower Joe blasting everything, because you set up the rescue missions so that they more or less correspond to some method of using your powers in the right place at the right time whether it's an arcade-like interaction involving you directing your water stream towards spots of fire or your elastic arms towards the kitten, or more of a puzzle situation such as using your luck powers to set up a Rube Goldberg series of interactions that result in the villain's plans getting foiled due to that ball bearing falling off of the shelf and hitting the switch just so. As for avoiding twitch gaming, Freedom Force did a decent job of that usually. All of the powers had a noticeable wind-up time and recharging time (usually a half second to 2-3 seconds of windup, recharging based on how high your energy was and how much energy a power took [although, in my opinion, that was somewhat nerfed by the sequel where they over-simplified energy down to None, Low, Middle, and Full corresponding to bars, proof of how you can't please everyone]). It was kind of a squad-level game where you assigned orders and then added new orders as they came along. Add in a queue for orders and some decent backup AI when idle (especially if you can customize this AI) and I think it could work for an online game.

As for setting up factions, you mentioned the Civil War as a bad implementation, but I think that LEO vs vigilantte could work, registered vs unregistered. Although I like the idea of an earlier poster, of further spreading out the factions. Of course, the catch is the increasing complexity and the difficulties of setting them apart while not restricting choices (even if there aren't separate art assets like the differences of Horder and Alliance races, restricting skill sets and/or types of accessories to this faction or another is bound to run into trouble when the guy who wants to play a zombie cowboy who wields the powers of the Ghost Riders of the Sky finds out that the cowboy gear is restricted to the registered factions and the southern region origins while the Mastermind powerset and the zombie features can only be employed by unregistered factions). You can probably bring it down to a minimum by only having a few exclusive features for each faction, but then you run into the risk of the factions appearing much the same (although that has its own draws involving the inability to tell at a glance who is on which side, a frequent source of fun in the comics c.f. the rule that every crossover begins with the two teams getting into a fight).

Darn it... now I'm depressed that the third Freedom Force game never came out.

On a related RPG note, Gary Gygax apparently passed away today.

For the record, the combat system in Kingdom Hearts II is massively improved over the first game. It took a little while to get used to, but I didn't really notice the difference until I went back and played the first game again. Plus, the story's really engaging.

Sean beat me to pointing out that limiting the use of powers to missions doesn't necessarily limit them to combat. I only played CoH briefly when Issue 5 came out (I'm a sucker for archery powers, I had to try it out), but I play a lot of WoW. One of my favorite quests is from the troll/orc starting area, where you run around waking up sleeping peons and telling them to get back to work. It's absurdly fun, and doesn't involve combat at all. There's no reason you can't have the little girl standing at the foot of the tree starting a mission to get her kitty down. That's one of the things that's so enjoyable about WoW: the quests are more than just "kill x mooks and fetch the MacGuffin".

Mm. I guess the biggest problem with designing non-combat use of powers is complexity. Drawing from my Mutants and Masterminds examples, in combat, a Blast is a Blast whether it's fire, ice, invisible force (well, that one usually requires a Subtle feat, but beside the point), thrown ball bearings, or solidified sayings of Salière. The damage is the same and for 90% of the time, there's no advantage of one over the other. You can start mixing in special cases, usually some kind of paper-scissors-rock balance where different manifestations trump each other. But when you get to non-combat use of power, it starts getting important as to what you're using. And suddenly, you potentially have a quest where you need to create art assets for every powerset in the game so that everyone can rescue that kitten whether they're Fliers, Elastics, Blasters, or Masterminds. Then, you've got the "game" aspect in there. If it's just a matter of walking up to the tree and hitting the Superhero button, it's not going to be satisfying. But, again, we have complexity issues... how do we make it a satisfying experience for all of those powersets?

^_^ There are, of course, solutions, but it does raise some issues.

Well, you just create different missions for different powersets. So if your particular powerset wouldn't really help you get a kitty down, there could be other missions of a similar level and XP/reputation value that you could do instead. Again, this goes back to WoW: pretty much every class in WoW has unique quests, whether it's something like the quests required to be able to tame pets as a Hunter or a chain of quests to prove the righteousness of your Paladin. My Druid can't do my Warlock's demonology quests, just like my Warlock can't do my Druid's shapeshifting quests. There are also quests linked to each profession, so you can't do the Fishing quest if you never bothered to train in Fishing. It's just something that encourages you to try out several different characters, so you can play with all of the available content.

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It's been a while, yet again, and this time I have no good reason for it. It's not illness…
I suppose this means the U.S.S. Fort Kent needs to have natural lighting in the light panels
(All pictures are screenshots taken by me while in Star Trek Online. Click on the thumbnails to get full…