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Archive for May, 2009

Initial peek at Issue 15 for City of Heroes/Villains

May 28, 2009 Comments off

Tonight the beta version of Issue 15 for City of Heroes was loaded to the test servers, so I took a quick peek on the European test server. Issue 15 is named Anniversary (the 5 year anniversary for the game) and contains a few general areas where updates have been made:

  • A Hero Task Force
  • A Villain Strike Force
  • New costume pieces, faces and costume change emotes
  • Improvements to Mission Architect

Being in the game for just a short period I did not attempt to have a go at any of the Task/Strike Forces – that is somethign I woukld rather save to the release also. There is a developer diary post on the game web site regarding these task/strike forces also, take a look there for a little bit of info.

I did see find a couple of new custome pieces I think and I do think the face list was longer than before, but without a side-by-side comparision I could not tell for sure what was new and old. 

My main interest here though was what kind of updates that had been made to Mission Architect though, since this is one of my favourite parts of the game. First of all, the search/browse tool has changed a bit.  By default there is now four options to filter with, plus the free text search:

  • Rating
  • Length
  • If I have voted or not
  • If the level range fits with my level

There is also a button which allows to expand for more options, which gives the search view in the picture below.

Issue 15 Mission Architect Search

Issue 15 Mission Architect Search

 The level search is new and so is the completed/not completed option and the keyword options. The same keyword options are available to set on the story arc when you create the arc. Another new feature here is the arc status, which can have one of three values:

  • Work in progress
  • Looking for feedback
  • Final

 I15_search2The status is also something that can be set in the parameters for the story arc. Thus it is now possible to publish a story arc which you may still be working on or intend to change based on feedback and have that as a searchable criteria. This is a definite improvement I think to the current situation. The default value is Work in Progress, so one need to actively change the status if the arc shall be published with any other status setting.

Another small by significant change is the page selection in the search results. There are now options to go to the last and first pages of the search results, as well as jumping a number of pages forward. This is a welcome improvement.

I15_Search3

What also was noticeable in the details of a mission was that it automatically warns if an arc contains elite bosses or arch-villains. It also warns if there are custom enemies which may have a custom powerset selection. This leads in to the next piece, the powersets.

Automatic warning for possibly tricky stuff

Automatic warning for possibly tricky stuff

In the current release when a custom enemy is created, the powers that the enemy can use is determined from three predefined settings for each powerset

  • Standard
  • Hard
  • Extreme

With Issue 15 a new option called Custom has now been added also. This means that almost any combination of the powers in a powerset can be chosen. There seem to be a default choice of powers which cannot be deselected though, so it will not be possible to create an enemy without any powers at all. In the example picture below the green power entries are those that are always there, while the yellow ones can be selected or deselected in any combination chosen.

Custom enemy powerset customisation

Custom enemy powerset customisation

When you run a story arc in test mode a few new options are presented now also, if one clicks on the Architect Options button. 

  • Invisibility
    Your character will be invisible to the enemies in the mission. The character itself will still be visible from your point of view. This is a toggle which can be changed at any time inside a mission.
  • Invincibile
    If this is enabled your character’s health is not decreased.  This is a toggle which can be changed at any time inside a mission.
  • Complete Mission
    Complete the mission, of course…
  • Go to next objective
    Your character is immediately transported to the next objective on the map.
  •  Kill Target
    The targeted enemy is instantly killed
  • Go to next enemy
    If standing near enemies, this will just change the target. If further away it will immediately transport your character to appear next to an enemy. 

I15_MA_testToolsAnother thing which I noticed and which I do not think have been there before, is that in test mode the regular mission map has received a number of additional details. It is now possible to see the spawn points of the different types of objectives that can be placed on  a map and thus get an idea of where things might end up. This is a big help I think and will save a lot of testing time – I have been running countless tests with different maps to get some idea of where things might end up. Note that these indications only seem to be in place for indoor maps. For outdoor maps there are no indicators as far as I have seen.

 

Improved map in test mode

Improved map in test mode

 

Test Map legend

Test Map legend

Overall I think the changes made to the Mission Architect part looks pretty nice and is certainly a step in the right direction. I am looking forward to see this go live, hopefully within a few weeks.

Categories: City of Heroes

Quest design – fixing the symptoms?

May 25, 2009 8 comments

Summary: Blogger read interesting article about MMO quest design, but do not agree with that the right conclusions has been drawn from player behaviour analysis. Discuss among yourselves.

Through Wandering Goblin I found an interesting article @ MMORPG.com by Sanya Weathers about quest design in MMOs. 

In that article she mentions that it used to be that MMO designers thought that players really wanted story content, as they did in single-player RPGs, but once they started measuring player behaviour, they noticed that people skipped long texts and just went on with the the task, so that they could progress to the “real” content (“end game”, “elder game” or something similar presumably). Hence game designers now tend to put in short and basic missions/quests, i.e. the all too familiar “kill ten rats” and its relatives.

Read more…

Categories: MMO Games

A lesson in design for the wrong reasons?

May 23, 2009 2 comments

Recently Paragon Studios announced that they are going to remove most of the badges that were created for Mission Architect. There is also some good comments on this @ Kill Ten Rats by Zubon. Only a few will be left and the conditions for obtaining some will be changed.  The reason stated for this is that they want to encourage people to create story content with Mission Architect and not create content that makes it easy to farm these badges.

I think this is probably a good example where I think the design process at Paragon Studios failed. For a number of these badges I think the reasoning was along the lines of

When players are creating their own story content, how can we encourage them to do X? X probably being things like team up and test, use a number of different types of objectives in their missions, spice up the story with both non-required objectives which players will have a look at etc.

With these premises they probably came up with a number of the badges that are in Mission Architect now. Although I do not really know how the set of badges that would be given if players exceeded the ticket reward cap could be fit into such reasoning.

The flaw is that the prerequisite for the design, players are creating their own story content, then probably has been taken as a given, an axiom. But there is no such axiom. Failure to realise that means that they might not have looked at the design the other way: given these badges, what will people do in the game? I think if that question really had been asked an analysed, the result would likely have been that they would start all over with the badge design for Mission Architect – which they are doing now.

If nothing else, this is hopefully a lesson learned for the future. Ideally this should have been caught before the release of Mission Architect, but no-one is perfect and not everyone working at Paragon Studios will have 10+ years of experience developing MMOs, virtual worlds or other multi-player titles. Although a senior developer should perhaps caught this in a design review.

Hindsight is always easy. I do hope though that they do not only look at changing the design, but also why the design process itself let this go to release and make improvements there.

Categories: City of Heroes

More story arc updates

May 22, 2009 2 comments

Did a few updates for my story arcs in City of Heroes/Villains today. I have not been playing much lately and most of the time has been spent in City of Heroes/Villains. But most of that time in the game has also been testing and working on story arcs. A problem here has been the three story arc limit, once you have done three arcs there are no more room for others unless any of them gets voted into Hall of Fame or gets picked as a developer’s choice.

Neither I think is likely to happen. While I do like to think that at least some of my story arcs do have some good qualities, I really doubt that they will get noticed enough for any of these rewards among the many thousands of other arcs. But I love the arc design and writing process, so I intend to continue to make arcs either way. 

To overcome the three arc limit I have temporarily published one arc through a different account and now have four published story arcs. Unfortunately any ratings or played coutns will reset if I would move an arc again, so I hope Paragon Studios will consider some options to extend that count through other means.

If they would sell extra arc slots similar to how they sell extra character slots today I would definitely buy a couple of extra slots. 

I think my first two arcs are at a stage now that they are not likely to be tuned so much more, unless there will be any game updates that would wreck havock with existing missions in some way (that has happened before). The other two might see a bit more tuning, but really depends on player feedback.

Categories: City of Heroes

City of Rogues

May 12, 2009 1 comment

Paragon Studios has now just announced a new major expansion to City of Heroes/Villains, called City of Heroes: Going Rogue

Information is a bit limited yet, but it seems that this new expansion will open up gameplay on Praetorian Earth – an Earth in an alternate dimension quite similar to our Earth, but where the superbeings are not quite the same as in Paragon City and Rogue Isles on this Earth. It will likely be a paid expansion and one has to already own City of Heroes/Villains and not work as a standalone game.

In the higher levels on City of Heroes side there are some story arcs which exposes the player briefly to some of the signature superbeings on Praetorian Earth. One of the prominemt examples is the hero Statesman on this side has an evil counterpart in the form of Tyrant, a fierce ruler controlling matters with an iron hand.

Instead of having a clear and static separation between heroes and villains as in the current City of Heroes/Villains, characters in this new expansion will be able to through their actions, rather than making a distinct choice at character creation.

I think this is quite exciting, as it opens up for more complex stories with more depth. I do hope that this will also be reflected in the Mission Architect capabilities – I would love to be able to set different consequences and outcomes based on player choices in the missions.

There is no release date set yet, only saying Coming soon and pre-orders will announced this year. My guess is this autumn or winter. Ideally they would probably like to have it rolled out perhaps 1-3 months after the release of Champions Online, but it remains to be seen if they could make such a target.

Reactions seems generally to be positive and a lot of players are excited. I think it definitely looks interesting and will be another item to check out this year, most likely.

Paragon Studios parenting

May 11, 2009 2 comments

I have been and still am a big fan of Mission Architect in City of Heroes/Villains. Looking at the past month with the release of Mission Architect, the exessive farming and the somewhat heavyhanded response from Paragon Studios I cannot really see that it could have happened much differently.

Like some proud parents, Paragon Studios were excited about giving access to various real tools to their “kids” (i.e. the players), allowing them to possibly realise their full potential in creativity. Instead of just playing with a toy hammer and screwdriver, they were given a full-fledged real toolbox to use.

Some of the “kids” started to create beautiful furniture, pieces of art. Others made perhaps the equivalent of butter knives and chop sticks, but still had fun with it. And then there were “kids” who used the tools to gain easy advantages with various means of using the tools.

Perhaps Paragon Studios were a bit naive in thinking that “their kids” would behave so much better than “other kids” and it would be obvious for most of the “kids” except the occasional obnoxious one what would be proper and beneficial for all in the long run.

Perhaps a tad late Paragon Studios learned that for most of their “kids” to learn and/or understand what would be the best for everyone they must set boundaries. Not just take away whatever piece the “kids” were playing at the moment, which could be dangerous in the long run but looked fun for the moment.   

I do hope that your “kids” will make you proud, Paragon Studios. But you still need to be the supervising parent and you have taken a step in the right direction now, even though some “kids” may be complaining a bit. But when you meet the other parents you will be able to say ‘Look what my “kids” have created’! And it will be something many other parents will be envious about, but still not sure if they can allow their “kids” to try it.

Categories: City of Heroes

The third story arc

May 4, 2009 3 comments

I have now published my third story arc in City of Heries/Villains, The Soul Harvest (see story arc page). Aimed at higher level characters (level 40+) with a story that I hope will be reasonably enjoyable to play though. For me the process of creating story arcs in the game is the most fun solo activity in the game. It can be very addictive when one gets into a “creative mindset” and I have easily been sitting some fairly long sessions losing track of time and had a difficult time to take a break in the middle.

Taking a break from a regular play session is much easier. I have spent a fair amount of time playing Mission Architect story arcs in City of Heroes/Villains – not more play time than usual, but it has been very focused on almost only this MMO in the past month. 

The game mechanics are still the same in the Mission Architect missions, which provides a significant risk that it will all be consider more of the same. For me some of the good story focused missions are the ones that help here – with good enough story telling the details of the mechanics tend to go a bit into obscurity, because they are just things that bring the pirces of the story together.

Unfortunately many of the missions does not do a good job to direct the mind to other things than the mechanics. Playing a few so-and-so or bad story arcs usually end up with logging out.

 

The Soul Harvest story arc

The Soul Harvest story arc

With the third story arc in place there are no more spots left for new story arcs on my account. So what will happen next from a story arc writing perspective is something I have to think about. While my first two story arcs have had positive ratings from most that rated them (4-5 stars) but there has also been some that did not like them and gave them low ratings. But the amount of votes have been small. Given the amount and rating of votes I have recieved so far I think one of the arcs could end up in Hall of Fame sometime in 2012 and the other some sometime in 2015. That is a little bit long to wait for another slot to write a new story arc.

We will see what happens – I am curious to see what changes Paragon Studios might be doing for the next content update of the game.

Categories: City of Heroes

The good game – Sister Flame

May 1, 2009 Comments off

Reading MMO game forums can have both ots good and bad parts – for the most part the City of Heroes/Villains forums have been pretty good I think. But sometimes discussions can get a bit heated.

It is time like that I love that someone reminds people what gaming is all about. A poster pointed to the thread on the US forums about Sister Flame. That brought a big smile to my face, it is wonderful story. The thread has been going on for more than a year now and it is great to see. Read it!

There are a number of nice updates there, I really liked the meeting with War Witch also. And now Sister Flame has her own mission arc as well, Sibling Rivalry (arc id: 118690). Go play it!

Categories: City of Heroes