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In the City of Champions

September 15, 2009

I have not posted much lately – main reason is that I have been playing Champions Online.  The game is a lot of fun and I have ended up in my old pattern of serious altoholicism – 11 characters so far after a bit more than 2 weeks with the game, in level range 7  to 18.  About half of them has been given some backstory description (that field is too short in the game!), the rest I will figure out as I go.

I am just going to put some quick notes here from playing the game; there is too much I would like to write about, but will try to keep things somewhat short and maybe make a few more posts.

Rescuing Bigfoot from the clutches of VIPER

Rescuing Bigfoot from the clutches of VIPER

If I counted correctly I believe there were 13 different travel powers available – five of which are basically some form of flight. Most of them are great for manuvering around in 3 dimensions and get around. For some characters I tend to use them pretty much all the time, also in combat – even though there is an energy cost penalty. But I have found it quite useful and relatively easy to be mobile in fights with them, so it is definitely worth it.

In City of Heroes/Villains one of the more popular travel powers are superjump – soaring around the areas up and down can be great fun. While the two jump travel powers are fairly neat, they do feel a bit more rough so to speak – not quite the same fun soaring through the areas. Instead I think that swinging is the new superjump in that respect – a lot of fun going up and down and trying to master to land where you want. I use that one on one of my melee based characters and it fits quite well witht he character concept I think.

A nuke in the Desert?

A nuke in the Desert?

In Champions Online I think they have done a better effort of using the mechanics available in a game to tell a story. It is more visual elements, sometimes speech and sound that helps to convey a message. While a single mission may not be that exciting in itself, many of them are connected in story arcs. For me it certainly is a much better experience than most Fantasy-themed “kill ten boars” areas. There may be a story keeping those missions together, but I often find them utterly uninteresting. The themes that Champions has in its stories has been more interesting for me; despite having done some of them a number of times now it still do not feel grindy.

Grond likes to jump around in the Desert area and cause some havoc

Grond likes to jump around in the Desert area and cause some havoc

An additional nice touch is that there are other things ongoing that add a bit to set the mood for the area. One example is Grond, the big green creature who is not-the-Hulk-I-promise-even-though-he-jumps-around-like-him. He tends to pop up here and there causing a bit of havoic everywhere he lands, at least for many NPCs. He is also a very smart creature, almost as smart as that-other-green-H-thing…

The Desert and Canadian Wilderness zones have a somewhat traditional mission-hub model for missions to do. In Millenium City that is not quite the case it seems. There are Socrates computers everywhere which all provide access and turn-in point for a few missions. There are also a lot of NPCs all over the city (mostly on the west side in the teen levels though) which one may find if you are nearby. Anyone relying on being directed to mission NPCs by other NPCs will likely miss some.

Sometimes there are also NPCs approaching you saying something along the lines of “Hey, I saw some strange activity with <insert-some-villain-group-here>, maybe you should check it out?“.  These are typically timedmissions.  Sometimes NPCs just run to you to say how much they like me, because I stopped the Qularr invasion or some other thing. It is a nice variation of what they had in City of Heroes/Villains, where NPCs could say these types of things, but they never actually approached you to say it.

There are also a number of Open Missions, which are inspired by the public quest feature of Warhammer Online. I cannot comment on similarities here, since I have never played Warhammer Online. But I think they are pretty neat. It took me a while to figure out that there were actually rewards to pick up after they were done though. Perhaps not the most awesome rewards, but sometimes a bit funny. One reward from a prison break Open Mission was a confiscated weapon which can be used to stun friendly targets…

A problem the game has is that there is not too many options when it comes to find mission content to do. It seems one has to do most of the missions available on every character, or risk running out mission content. DoPvP or run various Open Missions a few times may alleviate that to some extent, but it is an area where the game needs more. Of course this is often a problem with any new MMO and an area where they cannot compete with the old-timers. Only time will tell how this will change with Champions Online.

Swinging is the new Superjump - a fun travel power to use

Swinging is the new Superjump - a fun travel power to use

Setting up a team has a feature which is a bit similar to Guild Wars (perhaps Warhammer Online also?) that a player can both invite others to a team (if you are team leader) as well as request to join a team. Team settings can be set so that these requests are either always accepted, always rejected or the team leader gets a dialog to accept or reject for each request.

In City of Heroes/Villains the game scaled up the mob groups with larger teams – this is relatively easy due to the heavy instancing. In a more open world game like Champions Online it is not that straightforward. But for open world encounters the mob behaviour changes a bit if you are on a team – they are more likely to call on their friends to ask for assistance, so you will likely end up fighting more mobs. In some cases I do think the spawn rates increase also, but that is not confirmed – just a feeling I have had sometimes.

The team part do have a significant drawback compared to City of Heroes/Villains though. In CoH/CoV it was easy to see the objectives for other team members missions and you also got some of the rewards for it (xp bonuses at least). In Champions the mission system is much more similar to the somewhat crappy model other MMOs use – basically no visibility on the objectives of other team members’ missions, no other rewards than mob kills and limited mission sharing. It is not worse than before if you are used to WoW, LOTRO and other with similar mission handling. But if you are used to CoH/CoV team mission handling, it is a significant drawback.

Harald Elfslayer from Marketing (yes, that is his name) searches the Desert for more evil-doers

Harald Elfslayer from Marketing (yes, that is his name) searches the Desert for more evil-doers

A small detail, but which I think is significant, is the fact that you can choose whatever the name you want for your character, always. Possibly not the same name for several of your own characters (note to self, must test that…). No more trying to find a name that someone else has not already taken. And names can also have multiple words in them and be somewhat long (up to 32 characters), which gives a fairly good playing ground to set the name you want. This also means that you cannot blame that all the good names were already taken if you come up with a bad or cheesy name – which of course sounded awesome in a moment of euphoria during character creation…

I am a member of The Older Gamers, which have set up a supergroup (actually 2, one for mains and one for alts) in the game. There is an upper limit of 250 characters in each supergroup, so it was decided that each person can have only one character in the main supergroup. Last time I checked we were around 200 different persons in the supergroup and growing. If this continues even one supergroup might not be enough, but remains to bee seen what it will be after the initial month. All text chat is through a global chat channel that has been set up though, so one does not have to be in the supergroup to chat with each other.

Overall I am having quite a good time in Champions Online. It will probably settle down a bit soon and I will again spread out the time more evenly among the MMOs I play. But for now it has been great.

Categories: Champions Online
  1. September 15, 2009 at 14:41

    Looks like you’re having fun. 😀 I know for a fact I’d have 18 alts in the first 30 minutes — well ok, first 18 hours, since it’d take me *at least* an hour for costume each. If we also have to pick powers, we’d have to up that to 36. But quickly, anyway.

  2. September 15, 2009 at 20:13

    I’m not familiar with Champions — looks like superheroes meets S.F.? I’d love to know more about the story, the lore, if you care to blog about it. Btw, I have a video up on a new e-book I’m working on about mapping out your own Sci-Fi or Fantasy Trilogy. It began with screenplays and movies but I can see it being applied to games, no problem…

    I’d love to get your comments, thanks.

  3. September 16, 2009 at 20:10

    @Ysh: They do have too few character slots for a character creator of this caliber, even more so by the power selection options. But the amount of mission content is not quite in the same league though.

    @Dan: The lore is something I am learning more about as I go along, since it was completely unfamiliar to me before playing this game. It is based on the Champions role-playing game though, which has 28 years under the belt. So there should be plenty of material, but perhaps not everything seen through the game itself.

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