Home > City of Heroes > Designer seeking kindred player; likes to travel, go for long walks and slay demons

Designer seeking kindred player; likes to travel, go for long walks and slay demons

March 23, 2009

In MMOs today one generally has two types of approaches to things to do in the game. One is the slightly game/theme park oriented approach where NPCs stand ready to give you assignments throughout the world. If you have helped them enough, they may kindly point you to another NPC in need of help.

The other approach is the more sandbox-oriented, make your own stories and events, the game or world just provide the setting.

With the introduction of Mission Architect in City of Heroes/Villains those approaches are in a way brought a bit closer to each other, although still with a game/theme part perspective. Every player is now also a potential mission/event designer.

The Mission Architect systems allows literally 1000s of missions to be available at any time to any player; no more pacing through a long series of missions to get to the one that is interesting. No more getting stuck on some missions and no other missions to progress through. The power of choice is given to the player.

However, with this approach comes new challenges. With 1000s of missions available at any time, which one will the player pick? And a designer creating his/her new masterpiece, how can they make sure that players find their missions?

Shhh...mission design in progress

Shhh...mission design in progress

There is a rating system in place which allows a player to rate the story arc at any time giving 1-5 stars, but only once as far as I can tell. It does not enforce people to rate the story arc though. I am not sure if this is reset if the mission is updated, it would make sense though.

There is a number of search criteria that is possible to select from through checkboxes and multi-select dropdown boxes:

  • Story arcs you have not completed
  • Story arcs you have not rated
  • Rating – selecting all or any combination of rating values, plus Hall of Fame and Developer’s Choice
  • Length – selecting all or any combination of 5 length indicators (very short, short, medium, long and very long)
  • Morality – selecting all or any combination of heroic, villainous and neutral 
  • Locate – selecting all or any combination of English, French and German

On top of this there is also a text seach function which will match if it matches any of the words typed in, looking at

  • Title
  • Description
  • Author (character name, not global name)
  • Arc ID (unique number)
  • Main enemy group(s)

On top of the free text description there is also information about the type of objectives in each mission and the level ranges if one looks into the details for an arc. An objective can be to fight a boss, do an escort, find an ally, destroy or find objects, have ambushes etc.

Resulting searches can be sorted on either rating, length or date of publishing.

 There is certainly a lot of information to check on and filter. Is it the right information for designers and players to find each other? I am not quite certain yet. I think over time we may see some conventions and practices developed on at least what to put in the description field for an arc, perhaps even for the arc names.

I would not be surprised if there will also be community sites that develop recommendation lists of their own and/or perhaps promoting arcs of members. 

During my latest check of the mission list there were more than 3700 missions published.  If those were about 1600 missions unrated. It does not mean that they have not been played, but at least no-one has bothered to vote on them – bad or good. Is it good that over 2000 story arcs have been played and voted for at least once? Or bad that 1600 have not likely had much play time by other players? This is probably too early to tell, numbers are most likely not quite representative of what may be seen at release.

Based on a few searches with the tool I generated some rough statistics – not exact numbers, but based on number of pages (25 on each page) that was returned.

First is the locale – not particularly surprising that English is the dominating language. I assume some sanity check is done on the dialog and descriptions are to determine the language – it is not a choice when designing the arcs.

The language used in the story arcs

The language used in the story arcs

Next is the Morality choice – is the story arc aimedtowards villains, heroes or for both? Neutral is the biggest one here, which I believe partly is because it is the default choice, but I also think that many people prefer the co-op play when possible.

Which side is the story arc aimed at?

Which side is the story arc aimed at?

Next is the length of the story arcs, which have 5 different settings. This maps roughly to the number of missions, but the size of each map also comes into effect.  For example, a 3-mission arc with relatively small maps may be classified as medium while a 3-mission arc with larger maps may be classified as long. 

Story arc length

Story arc length

Last but not least is the story arc rating. The by far largest part is the arcs with no rating at all and the smallest one is the Hall of Fame (only 2 arcs). Neither of the arcs show the number of votes to be the required 1000 that was mentioned earlier – I guess the values may have been lowered for the beta to actually get something in there. The Developer’s Choice category indicates that the dev team may put some effort into promoting good story arcs – I was surprised that there were so many arcs in there.

Story arc rating

Story arc rating

Of course numbers may be completely different when Issue 14 is actually released.  But it seems to be that people are fairly positive about many of the story arcs they play, but actual exposure to a lot of players may be an issue.

The architect ticket system that is used for rewards does not particularly encourage specific story arc categories to be played, at least not along these categories above. The objectives and/or size of a map that are part of a mission do seem to affect the number of tickets though. I received almost 10 times as many tickets for a defeat all mission with an elite boss on a fairly large map than for a smaller map with a defeat boss objective. Other factors such as level ranges may possibly come into play here also.

The system does discourage playing your own published missions though it seems – the ticket rewards do generally seem to be lower. That is probably a wise choice, to encourage playing other people’s missions.

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Categories: City of Heroes
  1. March 25, 2009 at 10:28

    The interesting thing will be to see whether NCSoft make use of the statistics gathered through the Architect system – which you’ve splendidly outlined in your post – to design their mission content for future updates. It would seem madness not to make use of such a valuable data resource. Obviously they can already gather such statistics from their existing game content, but what the player-made system gives them is the chance to find the popular outliers, those mission designs and settings that they wouldn’t have necessarily thought to implement, but which actually prove to be exceedingly popular.

    Blizzard have done a similar thing with their AddOn community.

  2. March 25, 2009 at 21:22

    It would be insane to not take advantage of it. In its very simplest form they have this in place already with the Hall of Fame, but there is so much more data mining that could be done here. Some google type analytics on searches could probably give some interesting info also, as well as doing some processing on comments and associated ratings.

    While I did not go into detail to count various data sets here it was quite obvious to see for example that not only is the “short” length category the most popular length among designers – it was also the length with the least amount of unrated missions.

    This could mean that people find short arcs might be long enough for people to find them to have meaningful content and short enough that they do not risk wasting too much time if it turns out to be crap.
    Still, for the other lengths it seems that the unrated vs rated proportions are fairly similar.

    For the German and French arcs pretty much every arc has been rated.

    I thimk that numbers may change significantly once it goes live though; I suspect that a bulk of those spending time in open beta are there for doing mission design and not just playing. The designer vs player ratio might be quite different some time after the release.

  1. March 24, 2009 at 06:03
  2. April 13, 2009 at 00:29
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