Home > City of Heroes, MMO Games > Back to the architect

Back to the architect

May 16, 2010

I believe it was late last summer that Paragon Studios announced that it was possible to buy additional story arc slots, on top of the 3 slots that every player received. I jumped on this opportunity directly and bought additional 5 slots – which I think was the max allowed.

A bit later Champions Online was released and my main focus diverted away from Paragon City and Rogue Isles a bit.  While I went back to play City of Heroes/Villains to play, I still did not start to make any new story arcs – the four arcs I had already published were still there and nothing more was done, except to check on the arcs once in a while to see that they are working.

And I like my arcs, so I did not mind playing them every now and then. But no effort to actually make any additional arcs or change the existing ones.

You are not Cylons by any chance?

And so Issue 17 went live. Already before Issue 17 most of my MMO game time was spent in City of Heroes/Villains and it has not decreased after that. But now I am also getting back into writing story arcs again. There are some important reasons here:

  • Story arc size doubled to 200KB, plus custom critter data made more compact.
    My existing story arcs were all in the 90-100% range of the max size, but now suddenly they shrank to around 30-50% of the new max size.
  • Much better control over XP given by custom critters
    In order to combat exploits in the previous issue the XP for custom critters was essentially reduced in a stopgap measure, or rather the challenge vs XP ratio was set so that pretty much only quite tough custom mob would give the same XP as a much easier standard mob. The new detailed power customisation makes that gap much smaller.

Issue 17 also brought a new type of objective (lead ally to different objective), added new maps and also giant monsters – I have used 2 out of 3 of those now.

For anyone interested in my story arcs I have a separate page here on the blog for those (see also at the top of the blog page): Mission Architect story arcs.

In the past weeks since Issue 17 I have done a bit of work on the arcs:

Created a new arc, Heart of Steel. To be honest this arc is not entirely new – I created the first version almost a year ago. But that arc had villainous morality setting and was geared for level 45+ characters – not exactly the widest target audience. The problem with the level range was that in order to have enough characters for the regular mob groups I had to use high level standard mobs rather than custom mobs – otherwise it would not fit in the allocated size. With the new size I could drop some of those mobs and instead replace them with a few custom mobs.

Heart of Steel - Stopping robot attacks at fashion show

Rewriting the morality to be heroic looked not so difficult initally; the original version was not that villainous anyway and was an experiment in seeing if an ambiguous ethical choice could be given to the player. But the rewrite was time consuming – the flavour of the text and a lot of references was geared toward the villain side. And a story arc contains lots of small pieces of text – all which have to fit together as a whole. Also some maps had to be changed since the story was no longer taking place in Rogue Isles and Arachnos facilities could not be used.

The new level range was set up for levels 20-32, which hopefully should make it interesting for a larger group of players. I customised and cut down a bit on the powers that the custom mobs used – lower levels means that characters might be a bit less developed. Previously some of the bosses could pretty much one-shot squishy characters if they were not prepared, not so anymore. There was also a fair amount of tweaking to have relatively nice mix of powers to hopefully have some fun fights. The initial power setup had almost all minions using powers that could stun, which caused the player character to almost be stun-locked by the mobs – lots of deaths there. Now the mix should be better, but some combinations of mobs can be a bit challenging as it should be.

The whole arc also has a number of bosses, but only one of them (the top dog) is actually required to defeat. This is all about allowing players some choice – they can take the fight with the bosses if they want, but if they can bypass them that is fine as well – only the primary objectives are relevant and not all are combat oriented.

The new type of objective (lead ally to different objective) fits very well with one of the missions in this arc, so I modified an objective to use that one instead.

This arc was a large part of the work. For the other arcs not quite as much. For The Siren Supremes I customised the powers to ensure that people could get full XP from the custom mobs. One of the allies lost her costume due to some bug, so I had to recreate her from memory – the saved data did not help for some reason.

In Elemental Jones I had an old problem that a boss should spawn as a result of a defendable object obnjective was completed. But it was buggy and only sometimes the boss did actually spawn, which was a bit of anti climax. With Issue 17 it was even buggier, so I rewrote the mission slightly to use a collectible object instead – this worked better since there was no bug, even though the activities that happen in the story at that point may be a bit less obvious this way. Also, customisations of custom mob powers to make sure full XP was received.

In The Soul Hunter it was also pretty much only a bit of power customisation so that full XP could be obtained. No-one has yet played and rated this one. Hopefully that will happen though at some point.

The Soul Hunter story arc

The Soul Hunter story arc

Finally The Missing Geneticist got a small makeover also. I am quite happy with the story here, but I have had both positive and negative comments about the custom villain group in this one – the negative ones primarily that it does not fit in so well with the rest of the story. Which is probably true, unless you share a perhaps slightly twisted sense of humor that I have.

So I decided to revamp the custom villain group in terms of looks and name, but essentially keeping the characters and power combintations. Of course this also meant some rewrite of the arc text and change any relevant references. Again, lots of small text pieces to change. This took one long evening to accomplish.

Next steps will be to write some entirely new arcs and also pimp the existing arcs a little bit so they actually get played – last time someone played and rated one of them was a number of months ago.

Categories: City of Heroes, MMO Games
  1. May 17, 2010 at 14:46

    Oo new theme! 😀

    Those Architect changes sound long overdue. It was weirdly disappointing to see how it got abused/farmed almost from day one — I’m one of those naive gamers who doesn’t figure out how to game the system and it felt a little dirty to see this amazing new player-content-generation tool get warped away from its original intent.

  2. May 17, 2010 at 17:43

    I am not sure how much abuse/exploit farming there is nowadays in MA – if there is it has not been visible to me.

    While it is easier to find decent story arcs than in the original version, it is still a huge amount of arcs (more than 66000) so that good ones can still get lost in the noise.

  3. May 19, 2010 at 06:08

    I really enjoyed the lowbie MA missions of yours I was able to do the last time I was in COH. I gave you feedback, but I honestly can’t remember the names of the guys I was playing then. If you are broadening the level range of one of your existing missions, that can only be a good thing. You are better than 98% of the mission architects based on what I saw.

    Not sure about the blog redesign. It’s quite functional, but not as charming as your old one in my mind. Regardless, I’ll follow you till the grave or until you stop posting 🙂

  4. May 19, 2010 at 20:16

    Thank you, while it is fun to make the story arcs, it is even better when people play them also 🙂

    The blog redesign is probably not permanent, it ended up as hmm-lets-play-around-with-some-of-the-new-themes-oh-sh*t-I-have-to-go-to-catch-my-flight situation…

    I will see in the weekend what I think of it then. There were some other themes also that I might try also.

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