Mission Architecture, first baby steps
This evening I ptached up my City of Heroes test server installation to Issue 14 Mission Architect and jumped right in with some of my old characters that I had copied there a long time ago.
While there are other changes besides the Architect system in Issue 14 (e.g. some PvP changes) I must admit that I ignored those and jumped straight into checking out the Architect Entertainment complexes. As I logged in with an old copy of my Fortunata I got a new contact in Mercy Island, where a new Architect Entertainment facility had been built.
Obviously the Mercy city planners had decided that something had to be done to modernize the the area a bit, since the building is definitely contrasting against the more run-down areas of Mercy. Inside the building there is a fancy reception area with greeters and the initial contact, which provides some very basic information about Architect Entertainment.
This then leads up to the vendor where people can exchange Architect tickets for various types of rewards, quite similar to Merit Vendors. But rewards also include additional content for mission creation, such as more enemy groups, more map sets and maps or new costume pieces.
Below the vendor area is then what would be considered the centre of attention for Architect Entertainment, the actual mission area. In this area people can both play user-created missions as well as create their own missions.
In the centre are the contact holograms and the mission entrance area, which is surrounded by a number of mission selection/creation terminals. This is where missions are selected for playing (your own or others) and when a mission is selected, the generic hologram characters will change to the actual contact that has been set up for the mission. One can then talk to those contacts as with any normal contact and then jump into the missions.
In the mission area there are some Architect Entertainment instructors which provides some good information on how to build missions and the features available. Well worth reading through.
The mission creation functionality is similar to the character creator in that is has a few pages that one will go through different steps to create a mission and on each page there are a number of panels which can expand/shrink to get a list of choices to make for that particular piece of information, or add some mission text or dialog.
All the fields have an associated tooltip which describes what the field is used for also, which makes it quite straightforward understand the pieces on how to build a story arc. The story arc data can be saved to disk locally. This is just a regular text file, so it could be edited outside the game also, as long as one knows what to put in there. There is a max file size limit for the story arc, which is 100KB.
A large part but not all content in the game seem to be available to use; for example I counted to 76 enemy groups being available right away. But custom NPCs of various types can be created also and added, using the regular character creation editor. The amount of custom character created is probably going to be the main factor with regard to the size limit on the story arc file.
Creating a story arc goes through three basic steps:
- Define the story arc
This includes setting a name for the arc, defining a souvenir to receive at the completion of the arc, a description of the arc for the mission browser so others can get some idea of what the arc is about.
- Mission settings
This includes defining enemy groups and levels, map to use, mission completion clues, contact dialog etc
- Mission details
This includes setting up the mission objective, selecting or adding any specific NPCs, defining dialog and and behaviour for various types of encounters and actions etc
Steps 2 and 3 will then be repeated for each mission in the arc. Most things seems to work fine, although there were certainly a few bugs encountered. Dialog text seems to use HTML or at least a subset of HTML for some formatting. I will have to do some more investigation later what actually might be supported here.
There is also a built-in error checker which reports errors encountered. Clicking on an error message will take you to the field where the error is. The error messages I have seen so far were quite clear and helpful.
I think NCSoft has done a great job here with the mission creator. Whilwe not entirely bug free it is still a nice piece of work for mission creation and a workable mission can be created quite quickly. It might not be the most exciting and original then, but it would be possible. If there is one thing missing though then that is music/sound. I did not see any options for managing background music etc.
Browsing the storyarc catalogue at the beginning of my evening session there were roubly 800 mission arcs available. Some of those arcs had been created before, in the closed beta and which had been transferred to here. Just before I logged out I did a check again and I now found almost 900 story arcs.
A lot of them will be crap and there is probably a lot of testing going on in many places to improve and/or change some published missions. Still, with 900 entries already there is going to be plenty of story arcs to play. And I would expect more and more entries being added in the next few days. ANd who knows what there will be a few months down the road.
I have yet to complete my first story arc; the evening went by very quickly and I will continue to play around and build the missions later this week.