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The City of Heroes Expansion & the Issues of User-Created Content 150

Posted by Soulskill
from the can't-you-just-play-nice dept.
eldavojohn writes "Wired has a piece on the new City of Heroes content that is created by players — or rather the severe abuse of it. Namely, creating missions for the characters. The problem is that gamers game this system, even though Paragon City has tried to maintain a good risk/reward ratio for experience in these missions. Making the situation even worse is that people who architect highly-rated missions get architect awards, which are redeemable for prizes — almost ensuring experience farming missions. Eric Heimburg (lead engineer and producer of Asheron's Call and the upcoming Star Trek MMO) comments on this: 'It may seem sad that giving the players what they want is detrimental to the player's overall length of enjoyment of the game, but that's the truth. Once you reached that top of the hill, if there's nothing left to do or see, players are likely to move on. Length of enjoyment (equals) amount of money earned, so developers have a strong incentive to keep players from gaining power and levels too quickly.' Matt Miller (lead designer of CoH), addressed the community on this very topic. This is resulting in an unexplained ban/loss of experience if you are determined to be abusing the mission architect, causing an uproar in the community. Is user-generated content a dead end for an MMORPG?" Update: 05/20 20:27 GMT by T : Rather than lead engineer of Asheron's Call or the Star Trek MMO, a correction at Wired says rather that "Heimburg worked as Star Trek Online's systems designer at Perpetual Entertainment, prior to the game's transfer to Cryptic Studio."
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The City of Heroes Expansion & the Issues of User-Created Content

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  • Why not wait and release the product without these gaping loopholes for players to abuse?
    • Re: (Score:3, Informative)

      by Brian Gordon (987471)
      The "loophole" is the whole point of the expansion. User generated content is their selling point but it ends up being destructive.
      • Oh, Im not saying to disallow user generated content. I am saying that balance is an important part of any multiplayer game. The devs should have made sure the content that can be created is balanced and fair in comparison with the other aspects of the game.
        • An isThisMissionHardEnough function? Interesting problem. It wouldn't be impossible but it's probably outside the scope of the project :)
          • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Insightful)

            by Hojima (1228978) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:26PM (#28021763)

            I can't believe they screwed this up. This game utterly revolves around heroes and antagonists, yet they don't have the foresight to have each side compete for the available experience points? Then they can set up an equation that makes it very unfavorable to let someone win, as well as an equation to have the most skillful players pair up for a challenging and longer lasting experience. Took me 2 minutes to come up with that.

            • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Insightful)

              by Allen Varney (449382) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:47PM (#28021859) Homepage

              Took me 2 minutes to come up with that.

              Uh-huh. And in the two years the professional CoH designers and coders were thinking daily about this problem, in their two years of doubtless intensive meetings, not one of them ever once considered your idea. Right? The only possible alternative is that perhaps your two-minute inspiration isn't a perfect solution -- that it may even have unsuspected shortcomings. Nah, that couldn't be. Yeah, they're just dumb.

              • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

                by BikeHelmet (1437881)

                Nah, that couldn't be. Yeah, they're just dumb.

                Wouldn't surprise me. I'm amazed how many developers spend months deciding whether to implement something, when it's clear to almost anyone that it's a bad idea.

                Big developers and big teams seem to lose sight of what's easily doable, and easily exploitable. Some features just aren't worth the time or hassle, especially when what you currently have actually works.

                It's depressing watching developers shoot their games in the foot, but many MMOs go that way. I guess the design teams feel the MMO has "stagnated"

                • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

                  by Anonymous Coward

                  Speaking of shooting themselves in the foot, here's another bone-headed idea that Blizzard recently came up with.

                  See, they added a world PVP zone called Wintergrasp that turned out to be wildly popular. Too popular. There are often hundreds of players in the same tiny section of the zone.

                  What is their solution? If you guessed instance the zone, or add incentives to spread out within the zone rather than concentrating on the area, you'd be wrong. Their brilliant solution was to make the zone less desirab

                  • Not exactly less "enjoyable", they simply reduced the frequency with which you could get the quest rewards from daily to weekly, while simultaneously increasing the rewards so that overall rate of reward was largely unaffected. IOW, they make it less attractive from a rewards perspective to try to make people spread out timewise. Likely won't work like they expect though.
              • by Moraelin (679338) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:32AM (#28022355) Journal

                Uh-huh. And in the two years the professional CoH designers and coders were thinking daily about this problem, in their two years of doubtless intensive meetings, not one of them ever once considered your idea. Right? The only possible alternative is that perhaps your two-minute inspiration isn't a perfect solution -- that it may even have unsuspected shortcomings. Nah, that couldn't be. Yeah, they're just dumb.

                I know the above has become a popular argument to make on Slashdot in any topic, but in COH's case, as someone who's played it from launch, I can tell you that your faith is misplaced. Yes, COH actually has a long history at implementing stuff without thinking, and then being suprised when they discover how it can be (ab)used.

                From day zero there had been such "exploits" (read: just doing what the system allowed) as the smoke grenade that could floor the enemy's to-hit, or the Hasten which could end up stacking with itself. Let me explain the latter because it's a case where, yes, 2 minutes and some basic arithmetic could have foretold it.

                "Hasten" was supposed to be a situational power, which for a while made all your attacks recharge much faster. But it wasn't supposed to be permanent. But the darndest thing is: nobody seems to have actually tested what happens when you put six Single-Origin recharge reducers in it, a perfectly valid scenario allowed by the game. In fact, it was possible to make it permanent (recharge time equalled the time its effect stayed up) with only _two_ Single-Origins. Anything more would cause it to recharge faster than it stays up, so you could even have it stack with itself.

                Statesman seemed genuinely surprised that this is possible. Nobody did the maths there, and we're talking simple arithmetic and standard "equipment" available at level 22. We're not talking some arcane combination of bonuses or epic equipment being off the chart, but the bog standard stuff bought from the vendor at level 22.

                Eventually he agreed to let players have it permanently on, but said that then you'd need a full 6 SOs for that. Something he'd later turn around and present as an exploint in the ED.

                The ED itself screwed up power sets like, say, defense because it was an across-the-board change to everyone without any thought about how it affects any particular build, nor any attempt to balance it. It took more than a year to fix the screw-ups introduced by the ED patch.

                But to get to the present, just look at some patch notes about architect missions. E.g., one says that now all the melee sets for custom enemies have at least one ranged attack too. Aha. So they launched it without foreseeing that critters with no ranged attack, can be bombed with impunity by anyone who took Hover or Fly? In a game where half the people can fly, nobody foresaw that?

                So, you tell me. How come in all their thinking and meetings and all, nobody foresaw something as elementary as that exploit?

                Because from where I stand, it looks to me like, yes, sometimes they don't even try.

                • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

                  That's why I stopped playing. Statesman kept shifting his position on the powers and the modifications to the powers. Regen scrappers w/all the toughness and extra resist skills slotted fully were uber ... because no one bothered to run a particular scenario of :

                  "Gee, I wonder if I acted like a min-max character what kind of abuse of the system could I do?"

                  They nerfed Invuln tanks. They nerfed regen scrappers. They nerfed fire tanks. And then they nerfed everyone across the board with diminishing returns fr

                • Enhancements - In City of Heroes, each power can have up to 6 "enhancement slots". Enhancements are items that can be put in those slots to 'tweak' the power. Examples include "more damage", "accuracy", and "recharge time".

                  Single Origin Enhancement - an enhancement whose benefit is (typically) a 20-30% bonus (to damage done, or accuracy, or whatever). Exact values vary depending on what factor is being enhanced. (IE Accuracy has different percentages than damage resistance.)

                  ED - "Enhancement Diversity" -

              • Actually, that is quite often the case. Remember, we're talking about software developers here. Their stock in trade is totally missing UI issues, creating inconvenient workflows (for the user - the software internals are tight), and so on. Case in point: IE6.
              • The COH designers aren't the sharpest knives in the drawer. Prior to this screwup they decided to improve the PVP experience in the game by getting everyone who PVPed to leave. They have a long list of problematic features that they introduced in a flawed state and either left that way or pulled and never actually fixed. In this case the designers were repeatedly informed of the problems with mission architect and launched it any way. The fixes needed were trivial, removal of certain enemy types and making
        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by windwalkr (883202)
          A fair analogy would be our legal system. While it serves us reasonably well for the most part, nobody would claim that is completely fair or that there are no loop-holes. Additionally, we have to keep adjusting in on a regular basis.

          What makes you think that a handful of game devs will "get it right" where thousands of lawyers and politicians over the years have tried and are still trying?

          There is no such thing as absolute balance. There are always loopholes. I have no experience with CoH so I can't
          • Re:Poor Design (Score:4, Insightful)

            by obarthelemy (160321) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:58PM (#28021929)

            The lawyers (and politicians, mainly, are ex- and future- lawyers, in the US) have no incentive whatosever to fix the system. On the contrary: they need it as complicated and open to abuse as possible to maximize the present (and , in the case of politicians, future) livelihoods.

            The same bould be said about devs: buggy systems to fix are one source of work (and I've seen devs VERY aware that bugs = work = $$)... but still, they can also probably find other projects.

      • by Gerzel (240421) *

        Tell that to Second Life.
        Tell that to most tabletop RPGs that depend on such content.

        Yes it is an MMO which changes things some but there are ways to game the system regardless.

        My real problem with the AE system is that it is too timid in not giving the creator any real control over level layout or design. Maps are either pregenerated or randomly generated. Basically all the creator is doing is adding a script and which monsters will spawn.

        While the AE creator can indeed be used for great things I think w

      • XP farming is a design flaw. Simple XP values matched to level means that easily defeated mobs are worth 0 XP. Failure to have such matched values, speaks of the designers flawed abilities, not user created content.
        • Not really - you could just happen to be a fire mage and the level you designed just happens to have all creatures with a terrible weakness to fire but strong otherwise and so its very easy for you but not many others.
          • by bpkiwi (1190575)
            This is true, which leads me to think that how 'strong' an opponent is (hp, ep, etc) is not a very good measure of how much experience you get from fighting them.

            It would seeme that a system measuring the length of the fight, how much damage each participant took, if the fight was balanced, and how close you came to losing would e a much better way to calculate experience gained.

            So, you start a level, battle your way through it for hours, nearly die several times, and of course you get a ton of experien
            • If you'd like a first-hand illustration of the problems in game design, you've done a good job of asking for it.

              The amount of damage YOU take can have no bearing on the difficulty of the encounter. Just as a for-instance in CoH...

              You take more damage while "resting" than you would normally. But you also regenerate health extremely fast. As long as the damage rate is less than the regeneration rate, you can sit there forever taking damage. (Showing also that time is not a telling factor either.)

              World of

      • by hvm2hvm (1208954)
        They honestly didn't expect that to happen? They should have put limits on how many quests you can do according to a rank or something. They should have also limited the reward of a quest according to the difficulty (of the mobs you need to kill, the length of travel, etc). I know the real test of a feature is on the live servers but still, think ahead a little.
    • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Insightful)

      by spacefiddle (620205) <spacefiddle.gmail@com> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:47PM (#28021545) Homepage Journal

      The loopholes here is "players can create content, and rate others' content, and gain rewards from the content itself and getting good ratings." The inevitable result is:

      • People make stupid powerlevelling farm stuff
      • The farmers and powerlevellers love it, and rate it highly
      • Actual stories with actual plots are, with rare exception, rated poorly or ignored - "this is too hard, i'm not getting XP fast enuff"
      • If you know 50 people in your guild, you're getting 50 top ratings, no matter what kinda crap you churn out
      • Rating trading for the rewards
      • Revenge-rating players you don't like
      • Extreme polarization of those opposed to powerlevelling and farming, in response
      • Much QQ
      • Boo Hoo.

      Honestly, it's not the system, and it's not even a lot of players. It's the tools who come in, pay real cash for IG money and levels, and will soon get bored and move on anyway. Screw them. You can't base your business model on that.

      • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Informative)

        by Moryath (553296) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:11PM (#28021673)

        Lawl.

        We're talking about an MMORPG that has never taken its own EULA seriously, never done serious work to curtail the influence sellers (read: gold farmers), and never done anything to fix the various missions they themselves created that were being used as farms.

        In other words, they already had a broken system. The fact that Mission Architect broke it even further should surprise no one.

        New players rarely, if ever, come to CoH/CoV any more. If they do arrive, the chance of their being treated well and learning the game and having fun is virtually nil. Getting into anything on the high-level scale is either a function of grinding all day and all night (not fun) or worming your way into one of the insular and unhelpful "Supergroups" (guilds) in the game, also not fun since you're just signing up for all the usual drama-queen stuff that goes on with any organizational setup like that.

        If they really wanted to improve the game, focusing on making it fun at all levels would be the way to go. Unfortunately, the game's not set up like that, and so the race to 50 (or 46 and then locking, if you're making a "bridging" character for the powerleveling crap) will continue unabated.

        • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

          by spacefiddle (620205)

          geez, you don't sound bitter at all...

          You do realize you are quite obviously describing your own bad experience and deciding that it must be "the whole game" for everyone?

          More seriously, name a game that does "serious work to curtail the gold farmers." I've played bunches of MMOs and they're pretty rampant in all of them.

          • Warhammer Online loves to ban them some gold spammers. Just shy of 19,000 have been hit with the banhammer so far, according to the counter.
            • Re: (Score:3, Insightful)

              by spacefiddle (620205)
              Ah, so you rate flag-waving over effect? My WHO toons got a billion goldspam mails every day. Each toon, every day. Banning 20k gold selling accounts and bragging about it is like bragging about killing 20k cockroaches in New York City.
          • You do realize you are quite obviously describing your own bad experience and deciding that it must be "the whole game" for everyone?

            Unfortunately, for most people it _is_ the kind of crap he described.

            E.g., I have a _lot_ of low level alts and routinely group with newbies. And with other players who made alts. I've yet to see one who's happy with the grind to level 20-22. If the topic comes up, virtually _everyone_ just gnashes their teeth and grinds through the non-fun teen levels, to the point where they

            • by Duradin (1261418)

              "So, yes, I still wonder why the COH team doesn't fucking fix their game to be fun at all levels already. There was no level range on WoW where I had the impression that I just need to grind 9 more levels and _then_ it'll be fun. Whatever class I was playing, and I've played all 10, had a good enough mix of spells to be fun playing at any level from 1 to 80. Why can't COH be the same?"

              Is there some other game that is called WoW? I ask because World of Warcraft doesn't really start being a game until max lev

              • Maybe if you have a certain mindset, I dunno. Personally I feel if you stripped out heroic instances and raid instances, had the entire game take place on Kalimdor, and had regular instances be all herds of solo mobs standing around with a no-strategy tank-and-spank elite sitting at the end you'd have a fair approximation of the content in the entire CoH game. What makes even Scarlet Monastery, Strat, Mauridon, etc worse than Abandoned Warehouse with Generic Hero at the end?

                The actual gameplay is pretty di
          • The description isn't too far off.

            The game has an off the scale range of character effectiveness. Depending on your equipment the challenge of the game goes from difficult to trivial. Currently the major late game activity is trying to get short supply enhancements. The problem is that in order to get them you have to have them (Doesn't sound too familiar that) or yave had to been in the game at times when they were cheaper and more available.

            The new player faces the steep curve to get enhances, and
        • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Informative)

          by Chas (5144) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:45PM (#28021843) Homepage Journal
          The thing is, the devs problem isn't with farming per se. If someone wants to farm nothing but bosses on the same map all day, every day, the devs don't particularly LIKE that sort of play style, but you're not going to get nerfed/delete/banned for it. Their problem is with abuse of exploits within the system. Prior to public release, there were certain "enemy" types that simply did no damage on their own. They were "healer" types or "enemy generator" types. But, because of how they appear and are used in some of the dev arc missions, they give XP. Most of these were stripped out prior to release. So the exploiters moved on to the next level up. "Skewed XP awards and mechanics exploits". This was the so-called "Rikti Doll" farm. A certain type of Rikti, the Communications Officer is a minion-class (lowest) foe. However, it gives liutenant (next class up) XP. Why? Because it's an "enemy generator" type that summons additional foes. Bit of historical info. Initially the Commos gave minion-class XP, but players were essentially farming them because all the summoned foes gave XP too. Like a fountain of endless XP. So the devs changed it so the summoned foes gave no XP, but bumped the XP on the Commos themselves to compensate. Bit of mechanics info. HOWEVER, in a group, only ONE Commo will pop a portal to summon more foes. This stops you from running into random groups that might occasionally have a high number of them and spawning an unmanageable horde of XP-less foes. The exploiters were utilizing this mechanic to built farms of low-risk enemies that gave out inordinately large quantities of XP. There were instances of people levelling from 1 to 50 in 6-8 hours. Which is just NUTS. (Note: There is one piece of "performance art" that purports to have gotten an L50 character in 1 hour. In actuality, what this person did was level-pact with someone who was farming these exploit maps. They then logged off and only logged back on after the pact had hit L50, resulting in an L50 character with a total played-time of 1 hour.) As soon as the devs were able (they were in a code freeze for a major event in the game), they removed the exploitable enemies.
          • Re: (Score:3, Interesting)

            by tonywong (96839)

            6-8 hours on Rikti Doll/Meows are actually not as big an exploit as the guy who leveled to 50 in 90 minutes using a bigger exploit. Those are the guys who really got the devs PO'd.

            • by Chas (5144)

              Again, nobody levelled to 50 in 90 minutes.

              If you're re-read my post, it was someone who'd created a character, level pacted, then signed off that character.

              Their level pact buddy levelled and they logged back on once they reached 50.

              That's not how level pacting is REALLY supposed to work (both partners should be working at advancement), but it's not an exploit.

      • by Banarak (1095591)
        Seriously...

        1). People make stupid powerlevelling farm stuff 2). The farmers and powerlevellers love it, and rate it highly

        Why is this a problem? I've been a player from I13 to now, and I made my own powerleveling mission (rated horribly, mind you) and use others. Some people like it to advance their characters. If it's in the game, why not? It's not a crime for people to want to level fast, and it's better then the old-school farming before I14.

        3). Actual stories with actual plots are, with rare exce

      • Honestly, it's not the system, and it's not even a lot of players. It's the tools who come in, pay real cash for IG money and levels, and will soon get bored and move on anyway. Screw them. You can't base your business model on that.

        Unfortunately, it ruins the experience for everyone else too.

        E.g., a lot of grouping before in COH had been for xp. Let's not pretend we're just a more social bunch and need to go even to the toilet in groups. The game just gave a bigger group xp bonus than, say, WoW does, so pe

    • by basotl (808388)
      There have been multiple patches to address these perceived holes. Even the normal content can be abused by those who know how. Many of those who farm experience and influence take offense at being told how to enjoy the game.

      The players that create these missions are very creative at finding ways to easily exploit any number of details that are meant to be normal parts of content. Pretty much you would need to remove the whole system to remove potential for exploit completely.
    • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Insightful)

      by Gerzel (240421) * <brollyferret&gmail,com> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:55PM (#28021915) Journal

      The "loophole" was allowed to get people to use the system.

      As a player of CoH/CoV over the past couple months I can say that while the Wired article is correct that the AE system was abused and broken at first the rewards have been pushed in the opposite direction once everyone was using AE.

      I think the overly heavy reward ration was merely a ploy to get people talking about the system, and one that may have backfired.

    • Would it be a better idea to just reward players experience points for time spent in-game doing active quest-like stuff; rather than the number of quests done or mobs killed.

      Scaled properly, it'd make for an interesting reward trade-off, perhaps an incentive for higher-level players to help out random lowbies; and also potentially one less abuse/spam avenue for 'power leveling' services...

  • by Kotoku (1531373) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:34PM (#28021441) Journal
    Create a mission they said!

    Everyone Wants User-Created Content They Said!

    Then you get banned. Bah!
  • by cjfs (1253208) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:36PM (#28021473) Homepage Journal

    Is user-generated content a dead end for an MMORPG?

    Not quite. It's probably a dead end for missions than grant experience but can still be a great part of the content. Provide some sort of ranking/point system and even add in cosmetic or other minor rewards and it will still have value.

    MMOs are mostly about the sense of achievement but there's still room for a little fun in them :)

    • Not quite. It's probably a dead end for missions than grant experience but can still be a great part of the content. Provide some sort of ranking/point system and even add in cosmetic or other minor rewards and it will still have value.

      MMOs are mostly about the sense of achievement but there's still room for a little fun in them :)

      I think that it is still possible to have user created missions that offer experience. The game devs just need to make sure that only missions which are balanced with the other gameplay can be created.

      In my opinion, the game devs dropped the ball and released a buggy product here. This isn't proof that user created content is bad, it is proof that lazy game devs are bad.

      • by basotl (808388)
        The players are very good at finding multiple ways to exploit the user created content. Shoot the dev created content has been exploited all over. Just not in such a concentrated area to make it so apparent.

        After every patch the devs give to gimp the exploitation of user generated content some intelligent user finds a way around it.
    • by ShakaUVM (157947)

      >>Not quite. It's probably a dead end for missions than grant experience but can still be a great part of the content

      MMORPGs have been doing user-generated content for decades. MUDs are often expanded / given new content by the players, not the admins. They are usually vetted first, though.

      As a modder myself (for Quake, and many other games) I've been waiting for a modern MMORPG to let its content be mod-able or extensible, but the CoH way doesn't seem to be it.

  • They should have seen this coming.

    The casual players want well crafted stories and fresh content, they usually don't play through it at a rate much faster than the developers can give them something.

    The hardcore players are all about min-max'ing for the most beneficial use of their time. They also have the most time to create things like this.

    You have the abusers making the content, of course it will be ripe for abusing.

    This is like putting a drug dealer in charge of the war on drugs.
  • by WarJolt (990309) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:38PM (#28021487)

    Length of enjoyment (equals) amount of money earned, so developers have a strong incentive to keep players from gaining power and levels too quickly.

    I get board if I can't level fast enough. I guess that why I don't play mmorpgs anymore. I think gaining levels should be matched on the content of the game of course, but most grinds are just too boring. If you have to raid the same place too often it hurts rather than helps.

    • by hitmark (640295)

      especially fun when you can stack 2-3 "quests" on top of each other as their target is the same...

  • Gaming the system (Score:4, Insightful)

    by pandaman9000 (520981) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:45PM (#28021529) Homepage

    The issue is not loopholes that are able to be removed. The issue is that the only way to ensure that abuse cannot happen is to have nearly zero ability to create anything original. The tradeoff is an inability to have variety. This makes user created content even less desirable than the worst pre-made stuff.

    The Mission Architect is the best addition ever made to City of Heroes. The fact that farming is a widely used form for created missions actually stems from CoH/V deciding to include high levels of loot and crafting. Add in an intention extreme scarcity of the most desirable stat modifying drops, and people that are stat-obsessed react by finding ways to acquire those drops with the least time input. People that obsess over stats are drawn to loot, and it's bonuses. Those same people are the ones that will end up farming, or paying a farmer, instead of waiting a full year to acquire or save enough to purchase their "optimal loadout".

    Loot begets farming. The farmers have found a way to optimize every aspect of the game for power or profit. Mission Architect is just another area they are leveraging.

    At the end of the day, user created content opens a whole new area for player development and expression. The benefit outweighs the risk.

    • Re:Gaming the system (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Brian Gordon (987471) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:10PM (#28021665)
      The key is to sandbox it heavily. For example don't let the players design their own attacks, but limit them to 8 skills at a time and if the skills are balanced well there's a mind boggling variety [wikia.com] of possibilities.

      Or get rid of the global ranking altogether. There are tens of thousands of custom counter-strike maps but who cares if people make abusive maps? Your ranking is determined by your skill; if you're good then you'll almost always be at the top of the scoreboard getting whatever pleasure pulls in MMO addicts. And if you play achievement servers all day then you simply won't be good enough to top a scoreboard; abuse does nothing. This kind of skill-based stratification is possible in MMOs too.. again Guild Wars proved it's possible, so where's the followup? 90% of active Guild Wars characters are at the level cap and probably a good 50% have beaten enough to have competitive options for PvP combat or finishing the rest of the games. Almost everyone is on an even level technically so the "ranking" is just how good you are. And for those who haven't beaten it, many missions are completely impossible without a full team of skilled players and you usually have to play through it a few times to get a tactical idea of where you fit in.

      So give me an MMO with a low level cap. Everyone has exactly the same number by their name and the same possibilities for stat building, so there's no epeen waving and no reason to abuse the system. If players want to sit around all day playing farming missions then I guess they're having fun and it's fine because their little number isn't moving. Of course it always comes down to EPIC GEAR that (even in guild wars) takes at least like a thousand hours of farming, but you can just make user generated content not eligible for those items.
      • So give me an MMO with a low level cap.

        I have played on various Neverwinter Nights servers that do exactly this. Check for the "Zombie Survival" type servers.

        Basically everyone is low level, no magic users, no magical equipment, usually permanent death. You need to work with others to accomplish goals instead of grinding on a treadmill.

    • by Zerth (26112)

      I worked on a MUD that had user created content(usual wizard hierarchy). The trick was to not let people place specific eq or adjust xp. Let them do layout, pick monsters, add talkers, and set a general difficulty level. Then have some code run over the area to decide the loot and adjust powers/xp of the mobs.

      The hardest bit was making sure they didn't set up too many choke points to prevent the monsters from fighting effectively.

  • They can create missions they have exclusive knowledge of how to solve, and share secrets with their friends, I suppose, or play their own characters through it -- granting themself an advantage.

    And using sockpuppets to vote/rate on their own mission.

    Well in a commercial MMORPG they should be able to positively identify people and prevent most of these forseeable abuses...

    Playing your own mission should not come with any rewards.

    The rewards (and dangers) of other people's missions should not be

    • Yes if we're informed gentlepersons just arrived in town on the new steam train -excuse me maam, yes sorry- for the state caucus and all vote earnestly and honestly and we candidly consider good opposing points and all come to a strong, warm understanding of respecting our differences while laying a unified foundation for our future.

      This is the internet!
      First of all everyone knows each other; communities usually grow around user generated content. The formal process would just be rushed through ("<ma
      • by mysidia (191772)

        You don't let reviewers self-select. You pick them randomly from a large pool of players.

        The identity of the reviewers and of the mission being reviewed get obscured from one another.

        And just signing off on a mission automatically without reporting some issues (because no mission is perfect) makes the reviewer ineligable for that and future reviews, so the system can pick a new one.

  • by blahplusplus (757119) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:49PM (#28021557)

    ... It's not that user created content is bad, it's that user created content for an MMO has to be vetted by the developers themselves. Letting users create content with no filter for an MMO is stupid.

    For single player games it's fine since each person chooses what the download and what they want to play.

    Also making user created content that does not let users change rules of the game or build their own missions would have done a lot to preven this.

    User created content is FINE as long as you limit it to things like character customization, aesthetics, art, etc. Things that really don't effect the core game.

    • by Itninja (937614)
      Exactly. Let users rate the levels, fine. But only reward the maker if the developers (or trusted users designated by them) also rate it high. This will end the 'my levels are teh aw3some. just ask my friendzors!' problem.
    • by Rhys (96510)

      In the three weeks after the release of the MA and before my account lapsed, there were something on the order of 50,000 story arcs created by players.

      They can't afford to go through that size of user generated content. Sure, some was just people playing with test arcs. A lot isn't though; friends who are still in the game go through rating unrated missions and most they find are real (stupid, but real).

    • Well there are many other things wrong with it as well. Basically all the content is in one building in the game (cloned through different zones). So at level 10 you only need enter this building and never leave except having to sell stuff on auction house or level up.

      so you never actually have to explore the game. As the missions are more or less the same formula (with different stories, rather then different maps) you start to wonder why your paying for an MMO that feels more like a lan game.

  • by panthroman (1415081) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @10:51PM (#28021565) Homepage

    From TFA:
    "Give participants the tools to mold a game into an ideal form, and they'll quickly use them to generate so-called min-max exploits that produce the fastest possible experience or in-game wealth for the least effort possible."

    Once you give participants the tools to mold a game, then "molding the game" becomes a meta-game. And the goal is obviously to exploit loopholes in the original game as much as possible. It's just too bad the meta-game-playing folk conflict with the original-game-playing folk.

  • by Anonymous Coward

    Back in the early 90s you could use the add-on Mission Builder for Red Baron [wikipedia.org] to create your own missions and share them via CompuServe, BBSes and the like. Players made sure-thing puff missions, nearly impossible ones, really weird ones, and everything in-between. Other players downloaded and played whichever of these they wanted. Players could also download various unofficial patches (to, among other things, tweak difficulty up or down) if desired. This didn't matter a bit since Red Baron was one-player

  • Dead End, mostly. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by fuzzyfuzzyfungus (1223518) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:11PM (#28021669) Journal
    The apparent game vs. the actual game:

    In most multiplayer gaming contexts, players are competing against one another either singly, or in teams. This goes way back into our heritage as damn dirty apes, and is unlikely to change, barring some sort of radical transhumanist break with human nature.

    In some games, with FPSes and RTSes being the clearest example, this social competitive game is more or less identical with the apparent game(that is, the computer game actually being played). You achieve dominance by killing the other guy in the game, you bond with your teammates by working to do so, and so forth. In this context, "user-created content" has a strong track record. Just look at the mod scene for FPSes, or the endless subtle tweaking and rebalancing that goes on in TA:Spring. This works because people are quite good at building satisfactory rules and mechanisms for competition with one another(such as every sport ever invented). Since the computer game is a direct proxy for the social game, this works pretty well.

    In many MMORPGs, the situation is different. The computer game is, in many respects, closer to parallel single player than to competitive multiplayer(some degree of cooperation is generally required at high levels, and there may be some more or less cosmetic PvP; but the game mechanics mostly involve grinding NPCs). However, the social competitive game is still there, it just doesn't align with the computer game all that well. The social competitive game is the acquisition contest between players, for XP, levels, loot, prime raids, and all that. For that reason, the drive to win the real game is a drive to subvert the computer game, rather than to refine it, since the obstacles of the computer game is an impediment to success in the real game.

    Another matter to consider is barriers to entry/costs of switching tactics in a given game. Most FPSes and RTSes, for instance, have relatively low investments in a character, class, faction, or strategy. If the zerg get nerfed, I can play the terrans without too much trouble. If snipers get overpowered, I can switch from medic to sniper. MMORPGs, on the other hand, often have fairly high investments. If I have a level 60, and my class gets nerfed, I have just lost a lot. For that reason, it is reasonable to expect that RTS/FPS players would prefer "fair" rule formulations(since, with low character investment, everyone will just move from the unfair side to the fair side, causing the game to contract a bit; and conveying no lasting advantage to anyone) while MMORPG players would be more likely to be strongly invested in a superior outcome for themselves(since, with high character investment, not only do they win, the losers are somewhat constrained and so may stick around to continue to be losers).
    • by hitmark (640295)

      Sadly, even in a FPS there is constant arguing about the definition of "fair".

      Tho i guess that echos real life politics, if one look at it just right...

      Maybe thats why i gave up on lan games fully...

  • by Marful (861873) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:26PM (#28021765)
    I stopped playing CoH / CoV because it got boring / repetitive. Wasn't CoH/CoV losing playerbase before the expac release? If so, the current actions seem... counter productive...
  • by Captain Spam (66120) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:37PM (#28021809) Homepage

    There is a joke/story that Jick, one of the creators of The Kingdom of Loathing, likes to tell and refer to in his biweekly podcast. To roughly paraphrase:

    Someday, I'd like to make a game called "The Future". And all what this game would be is an empty space to start with. The users would then, for a fee, be able to upload the game's content. Everything, down to dungeon designs, graphics for monsters, items, weapons, game mechanics, everything would be user-created, because as we all know from all these game developer conferences I go to, "user-created content is The Future "!

    So we'd create this game and release it. All user-created content. And then in a matter of a couple weeks, we would have a few thousand drawings of cocks and balls making up the vast majority of the game's world. Cocks and balls as monsters, cocks and balls as items, cocks and balls as weapons, dungeons shaped like cocks and balls populated with cocks and balls that drop cocks and balls that you fight with cocks and balls. And that's all anyone would ever bother creating, because that's the only sort of person with time to do this, and anyone who's been on the internet knows this is what would happen, because user-created content, on the whole, sucks. And that's The Future!!

    That's the sort of thing I think back on and chuckle about to myself whenever I hear of a game world made of user-created content and how it's the future of gaming and how awesome it's going to be. Looks like Jick's not too far off the mark.

  • by jandrese (485) <kensama@vt.edu> on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:40PM (#28021823) Homepage Journal
    As someone with an active CoH account, I've seen several articles like the above and it strikes me that the only people who are angry enough about this to write online articles (and get them linked) are the gold farmers who were abusing the heck out of the system even after the devs told them to stop and warned them about not abusing it. For regular players this has not been a problem at all.

    Ultimately, the biggest problem with the whole situation was that farmers were clogging up the rating system and making it difficult to find good arcs on the admittedly inadequate search system CoH has for the Mission Architect. The price collapse on the player run markets was also a concern, but that was only partially the result of the farmers and more the result of players being able to craft particular (and expensive) items that were typically only available on drop tables that were full of crap. In other words, since the players can react to price spikes of small numbers of items directly and greatly smooth out the market, which is apparently what is happening. What's more, even after the devs implemented the anti-farming provisions the market did not return to its previous state.

    In the long run, the Mission Architect has given the players an enormous amount of new content. It really is an amazing system, and it has plenty of headroom to grow even more amazing.
    • by Bonker (243350)

      Wired's article reads just like the slew of 'Wah! I can't do what I want to so I'm taking my ball and going home,' posts on the COH message boards when Matt 'Positron' Miller's anti-farming announcement came out.

      The Mission Architect system is an amazing add-on to the game. Players are creating literally thousands of missions and arcs that are NOT farms. The real difficulty at that point is not avoiding the farms, but finding the gems among the brass.

      I have in the last few days

      - Stopped the filming of the l

  • MMOs rely on the carrot and stick thing. Do things, level up so you can do "harder" things, do those harder things, level up so you can do even harder things, etc. That's the reward, that's the payoff for the VAST majority of the players.

    Yes i know that players exist that play for the story or other aspects of MMOs, but they're the least inclined to stay around and the hardest to hold on to. I don't feel like going into the specifics of why.

    The playerbase is there to chase the carrot at the end of the stick

    • I dunno about that, the vast majority of people I've met in WoW have been more interested in tooling around on new characters, running their buddies through low level instances, etc. In EQ2 pretty much the same. You might surround yourself with the hardcore as I did but that does not mean that their dollar is the only one that counts or even the major source of income.

      CoH is actually a game designed around that entire philosophy. You can do most of the "end game" content by level 35, the "gear" you can ear
  • This is why I like tabletop gaming. Because you aren't interacting with a machine. Machines are, while amazing things that can bring us wonders beyond our own imaginations, in the end as inbias as the people using them. They are fair. This means they are as fair to the gamers who want to level as fast as possible and get the best stats as they are to those who want to become heroes through complicated stories and plots and other things that make the fantasy genre of books entertaining.
    City of Heroes i
  • by Chas (5144) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:50PM (#28021871) Homepage Journal

    With the advent of the merit system in Issue 13, the devs made it ABUNDANTLY clear that it's a trinary equation of risk and time vs reward.

    As such, you could be fighting NOTHING but AVs, but if you're levelling "too fast" you're abusing the game.

    This point was reiterated with the nerfing/capping of the ticket awards for AE missions as well.

    • by illumin8 (148082)

      As such, you could be fighting NOTHING but AVs, but if you're levelling "too fast" you're abusing the game.

      This happened to me when I was playing Warhammer: Age of Reckoning. This game was rushed to market too early, and consequently was a buggy mess upon release. The developers, in their infinite wisdom, decided in order to keep players from getting to maximum level 40 they would introduce an extremely steep leveling curve. This was intended because at the time of release and for a few months afterward,

  • User-generated content is great, but it must exist within pre-defined limits or constructs such that abuse is largely mitigated. As the freedom of the user to generate content is increased, the complexity of the construct required to maintain reasonable parameters of play increases exponentially. The trick is in balancing the complexity of the construct you have to maintain behind the scenes with the level of freedom your players wish to enjoy. It also helps if you're able to entice your most gifted users i

  • (new character, a cyborg hero) Day 1. I have no idea what's going on... Discovering the hero system. Start doing random beginner mission. Having fun. Jump up to Level 3. Day 2. Join a party and do more beginner mission. Having fun. Level 8! EAT MY LIGHTING PUNCH! Day 3. Join a Architect mission party. Farming begins... Everyone in the party are Level 40 and above. @ the end of day... gain... 10 levels. Level 18. Day 4. More Farming... Gain 1 level every 30 minutes. Let the shopping begin! Level 26. Day
  • It may seem sad that giving the players what they want is detrimental to the player's overall length of enjoyment of the game, but that's the truth.

    True in games. True in Politics.

  • by EricHeimburg (1558365) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:46AM (#28022135)

    Hi, Eric Heimburg here (quoted in article).

    I just wanted to clarify that although I was the producer for Asheron's Call 2, and have been lead engineer/lead designer for other MMO titles, I'm not affiliated with the upcoming Star Trek MMO. I worked on an earlier incarnation of the Star Trek MMO, when it was being made by Perpetual. (They went bankrupt and lost the license.) Somehow wires got crossed in the Wired article, and then they got crossed here, too.

    This detail would be irrelevant and not worth mentioning, except that the company making the new Star Trek MMO is also making the superhero MMO "Champions Online" -- a direct competitor to CoH.

    So there's been a meme of "he's a shill for the competition!" going on at Wired.com, which makes me sad. I am not a shill for any major MMO company... at the moment.

    However, I am hyping my amazing blog at http://www.eldergame.com/ [eldergame.com] but a link to it always seems to get omitted in the article coverage...

  • Most of the responses here seemed to be tainted by folks who either don't play MMOs on a regular basis, or WoW throw-backs who don't know how to play an MMO that isn't a WoW clone in form or function. It would be nice if those who don't play MMOs in the first place not comment on this MMO in particular. As for the Architect being counter productive to City of Heroes, we have a saying on the boards over there, "More content is always better!" I couldn't give two squirts about farmers complaining about AE,
  • Every single MUD headwiz knows the problem. Every single one of them.

    No matter how well you try to "balance" the system, if your creator wants to abuse game mechanics, they can. Mobs don't just have X HP and you do Y damage, so it takes Z time. Even in a game like MUD where positioning abuse and kiting isn't really possible. Resistance vs. damage type it the most obvious abuse point. When you have to give your mobs a certain total level of resistance, make them resistent to the damage you don't do and susce

    • Pretty much hit the nail right on the head. That's exactly what happened. Every single AE mission I've been invited to has involved one single damage type (e.g., all enemies do only lethal (sharp) damage, one of the two easiest to resist or dodge for anyone), all of the enemies were melee only, none of them had any stun/hold/sleep/etc attacks, none seemed to resist such status attacks, etc.

  • For a lot of MMOs time IS money and so the game designers use XP to ration the content (areas, capabilities, classes, etc) and extend playing time to reap more $$$. The game design is all all about placing barriers to content access - this is an incentive for users to generate content that avoids the barriers.

    It seems like you cannot avoid a red-queen race (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Red_Queen) unless you change the underlying incentives. I've no idea how or what you would be left with after...

  • Gaming company executives try to replace content designers with users doing it for free and users stray from "the vision" ...

    ... more news at 11!

  • "Paragon City has tried to maintain a good risk/reward ratio for experience in these missions."

    Sorry but CoX has been a complete Monty Haul [urbandictionary.com] for some time now. That and the limited formula of missions is what is killing the game.

  • Oh hey. Aren't they the ones coming out with Champions Online? DIRECT COMPETITION to City Of *?

    Way to get an "unbiased" opinion.

  • How can anyone be rightly bothered by other users who, within the confines and rules of any game, manage to play it more successfully than they can? If a game is designed in such a way that it benefits users who are smart enough to figure it out over those who aren't, then isn't the problem with the game itself?

    Are these users cheating, or are the ones complaining doing so to cover up the fact that their incompetent? And what of the game developers? Is it just easier for them to hire watchdogs to go on rand

  • add filter toggles, let people call them "farms" and alow them to be rated accordingly.

    I have no issue with power leveling.. I've done it a few times. this game is often about making MORE characters and doing it again.

    I've got characters I'd deliberately left around level 30 because I like doing the sewer trial, or the Hess task force. I LIKE doing different things with different toons. I made a stalker JUST so I could use him to design MA missions, (invisible, so I can walk up to all my critters and check

  • The content isn't the problem.

    Many people are using the Mission Architect (MA) to create customized story-based missions, for themselves or their friends. This enables long role-playing sessions in a coherent group, just like the tabletop games of old. The MA has brought role-playing back to this MMO-RPG. It's an amazing thing that no other game has accomplished as well.

    The problem is the *reward*. Giving full xp for MA-created enemies was just stupid, and providing an easy way to cash in tickets for lo

  • User-generated content systems for MMOs aren't a dead end. But *shitty* user generated content systems that are poorly implemented and left wide open for abuse are.

    The Mission Architect system has some good points and some very, very, VERY bad ones:

    Good:
    Players were able to make more missions in 48 hours than the development staff had made in the history of the game

    Some of that content is interesting and well executed

    Gives players with a creative side something to play with/get under the hood/tell stories

    Ba

  • The problem with user created content is it doesn't force the people to work within the designed system to do the best they can. There is no incentive to challenge the laws around the game when you can change them.
  • ...every professional game designer could have told you this in five minutes. Of course they are going to game the system.
    I think it's even mentioned in the book by Jesse Schell [amazon.com].

  • I was going to allow people to make their own emotes and dance animations for my game. The trick was that they'd have to be GAME MASTER approved so you don't get obscenities into the game.

    You can do the same with levels to make sure they're not giving too much reward/risk.
  • I bought the game and started playing again because of AE.
    I heard how you could level up quickly and then go out and enjoy PVP as well as get plenty of gear etc.
    I even played around with the mission architect to make a chain mission about saving the sewage system below lord recluse's castle.
    I got up to level 40 in a week or so, then they announced that they were deleveling people and removing XP.
    I gave away 5 million influence in a costume party then cancelled my account.

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