Home > City of Heroes > A lesson in design for the wrong reasons?

A lesson in design for the wrong reasons?

May 23, 2009

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.

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Categories: City of Heroes
  1. May 23, 2009 at 14:42

    I think you are right on the money. I think the MA is a grand experiment, CoH is the first mainstream MMO that I know of to try something like this (unless you count Saga of Ryzom apparently). And I’ve had more fun in architect missions than I have had in the game in ages. Hats off to the CoH devs overall.

    That said, they should have seen this coming a mile away. What could they possibly have expected to happen when they put in badges for things like killing 50,000 enemies?

  2. May 24, 2009 at 03:26

    I hope other designers take notice too. It seems these groovy achievement systems that we’ve been experimenting with over the last few years actually over-ride all other forms of gameplay in motivating players.

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