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Thread: City of Heroes: Things they got right, things they got wrong.

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    Ascendant the_real_seebs's Avatar
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    Default City of Heroes: Things they got right, things they got wrong.

    If some of you find yourselves thinking Trion isn't the best MMO company in the world, I think you need to consider that ncsoft is considered successful in this industry.

    Let me give you an example or two of ncsoft's fantastic game admin abilities.

    1. The Great Monkey Farm.

    CoH has a very cool feature where players can design custom missions. (Think basically like instanced dungeon quests.) This is a really fun feature, but sometimes players exploit it. The Mission Architect (MA) only gives you money ("inf"), XP, and "tickets" -- special currency you can use to buy crafting materials and the like.

    A bug was found allowing for an exploit. Under some circumstances, "underling" monsters (exceptionally weak mobs spawned along with bosses) would give XP as though they were bosses. So... You could make a custom boss with no attacks, and underlings. Then fill a map with them. The result was INSANE rates of XP, inf, and ticket gain.

    So... Someone found one of these, and it got fixed within a week or so. A day later, someone found another one. Unfortunately, ncsoft had decided that this was the cutoff for ANY PATCHES WHATSOEVER before the next content patch. What ensued was a several-week period during which players were generating ludicrous piles of wealth power-levelling. (Think about roughly the equivalent of levelling to 50 in 3 hours in RIFT, arriving with 1000 plat.) And then there were tickets; basically, people were obtaining extremely rare/valuable crafting mats in bulk, and selling them. Meanwhile, nothing ELSE was dropping; no regular crafting mats, no recipes, no nothing.

    The net effect was that the costs of many items doubled, tripled, or worse, while the rarest crafting mats dropped by a factor of 5-10. It was weeks and weeks after the exploit was finally fixed that the economy had mostly recovered, and there's still some noticeable long-term inflationary effects.

    Also, a lot of people made 50 in 3 hours, and then found that they had no attachment to the character and didn't enjoy playing.

    Why does this happen? It happens because ncsoft insists by policy on maintaining total control over the live servers, which they administer, while the developers only get to work on test stuff and then send code over. No connection, no control.


    2. The Launcher Debacle

    CoH has a perfectly good application launcher. It works, it patches, it's probably actually better at patching than Trion's so far. Well. Had. ncsoft decided that cross-marketing was important. Enter the "ncsoft launcher". This delightful tribute to the incompetence of bad programmers is an exemplar of the field. First, it requires admin priveleges. Always. You can't not give it admin privs and expect to get into any game controlled by it. Second, it's a .NET app that has been carefully constructed not to work under WINE and the like. Thing is... CoH has long been stable and playable under WINE, and has attracted a non-empty set of Linux users, some of whom have been playing for seven years. They are no longer allowed to play. But, where Trion would say "not many users, but we took their money and it's worth improving things" and fix things, ncsoft says "we are a worldwide leading producer of rich virtual worlds, and we don't have to care". Nevermind the official Mac client, which is going to be grandfathered in to running the old launcher for a while because no one at ncsoft even considered the fact that they are selling a Mac client. The old launcher works on Mac. The new one doesn't, and can't, and no one at ncsoft is capable of seeing the downsides of, say, selling a product while declaring intent to make it unworkable.


    But!

    For all that we like to gripe about ncsoft, and boy, do they suck...

    Paragon is a really good game developer. They have a lot of very nice mechanics, and they get things right which, frankly, RIFT would be much improved by.

    1. Scaling content (by party size).

    Most content in CoH scales automatically to team size, from 1 to 8 people. This doesn't necessarily translate well to the more rigidly defined encounters of a typical RIFT-type instance, and some CoH content does set minimum player sets. On the other hand... Most of the time, you can simply get together with whatever friends you have online, and go beat on some villains, without having to worry about whether you have all the roles covered, or whether you have enough people, or any of that. Whatever you have, that's cool.

    2. Scaling content (by level).

    Most of CoH's missions are instanced, and developed for your team when you go there. Which means... They can always scale to the intended level. By default, if you pick up a mission at level 17, and you go do it, you will find mostly level 17 creatures. If another person picks the mission up at 15, they find mostly level 15. This dramatically reduces the degree to which things get "greyed out", forcing you to choose between a story line and any XP.

    3. Difficulty settings.

    You can adjust the relative difficulty you want, and set a minimum group size for the game to scale to. Really tough characters can, maybe, solo at +4/x8. If they can't, at least it's fun trying.

    4. Exemplar/sidekick.

    When you are in a group, you are never higher level than the group leader, and you are at most one level lower. This is handled by simply adjusting all of your stats to match. Note that a level 1 character sidekicked to level 49 is still much, much, less powerful than a level 49 character. Similarly, a level 30 exemplared down to level 20 is noticably tougher than a typical level 20. However, it moves everyone into basically the right range for the content.

    It is hard to overstate the impact of this on game play. Let me try: This affects gameplay more than developing an army of robots which take care of absolutely all productive activity so we can spend every waking moment playing video games. ... Okay, yeah, I did it. That is a (slight) overstatement.

    Think about it. Got friends? Want to play with them? You're set. You can do it. You will not be too weak to contribute, you will not be so powerful that you trivialize the content or leech XP horribly. You really liked that one level 13 mission chain, even though you're now level 50? Okay, join a group and have fun. You are now effectively level 13 again.

    This feature is AMAZING. It really is totally transformative of gameplay.

    5. Global chat.

    City of Heroes got global chat right. How right? I have not seen anyone complain about this system. Think about that. MMO players are happy with it.

    How it works:
    1. You get a global handle. By default, this is set to the name of your first character the first time you log in. You can change it, once, to any handle not currently in use. They have given out global renames once that I know of, but in general once it's set, it's set forever.

    2. Ignore automatically uses globals.

    3. You can see the global handle of any character you see.

    4. You can request a global-friend relationship with someone. This requires them to accept it.

    5. If you are global-friends, you see each other logged in across all characters on all servers. You don't need N*M friends list entries for your N alts and their M alts; you just friend them globally. You get login notifications. (But see below.)

    6. You can mark yourself "hidden". Then people don't get login notifications for you or see that you're logged in.

    7. You can send tells to anyone by global handle. If they are logged in, they get the message. If they aren't, it is saved for when they are. If they are hidden, you get the same visible behavior (a message saying they are hidden or not offline), but they do get the message right away.

    8. Player-created channels use global handles, not character names, and can be used across servers.

    9. There is no connection at all between global handles and any sort of personal information about users.
    The net effect of this is that you can make friends, and you can keep in touch with them across alts without having to trust them with anything personal. You can use the system with anyone you enjoy playing with, no one will say it's "only for your real life friends".

    The global chat system is absolutely brilliant, and is a big part of why CoH is a good social experience. Also, account-wide ignore does have a very noticeable effect on trolls and just general jerks.
    You can play WoW in any MMO. You don't have to play WoW in RIFT. Oh, and no, RIFT is not a WoW clone. Not having fun any more? Learn to play, noob! I don't speak for Riftui, but I moderate stuff there. Just came back? Welcome back! Here's what's changed. (Updated for 2.5!)

  2. #2
    Sez
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    Can I say "cool story brah" before someone else does?

    Also, Inb4CoHfanboys (oh wait, there are none.)


    Yay Rift, that's why I am still playing. Nothing has made me say "What the @#$%?" *yet*
    Sez is now Zes on Dayblind

    - Rogue Lead - <Gestalt> - Defiant - Dayblind Server -

  3. #3
    Ascendant the_real_seebs's Avatar
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    I know a number of other CoH fans in RIFT. CoH is a really good game, hampered mostly by the crappy company doing the administrative stuff. I get the feeling that if Paragon were given more direct control, they'd be, well... frankly, a lot more like Trion is. You can sort of read between the lines and hear the devs being frustrated that they aren't being allowed to fix stuff.
    You can play WoW in any MMO. You don't have to play WoW in RIFT. Oh, and no, RIFT is not a WoW clone. Not having fun any more? Learn to play, noob! I don't speak for Riftui, but I moderate stuff there. Just came back? Welcome back! Here's what's changed. (Updated for 2.5!)

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