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Role Playing (Games) Entertainment Games

Ask City of Heroes Lead Designer Jack Emmert 305

Massively Multiplayer games have grown increasingly popular in the last few years, and one of the hottest products out there today is NCSoft and Cryptic Studios' City of Heroes. City of Heroes is currently hovering around the 180,000 player population mark, with a European launch for the game coming up fast. The lead designer of the online super hero game is Jack Emmert, veteran of the video game and roleplaying game industries. He has written gaming supplements for Deadlands and All Flesh Must Be Eaten, reads several dozen comics a month, and saves the world on a regular basis. Jack has kindly agreed to answer questions from Slashdot readers about game design, massive games, and what it's like to be a superhero, so go ahead and let em' fly. One question per post, please, but as many questions as you'd like. We'll forward the best on to Jack to answer and post his responses when we've got them.
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Ask City of Heroes Lead Designer Jack Emmert

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  • by Skyshadow ( 508 ) * on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:16PM (#10693141) Homepage
    So far as I can tell, City of Heros is unique among major online games in that it uses its in-game mechanics to discourage people from spending every last waking hour in the warm glow of their monitor plugging away at their character instead of rewarding obsessively constant attention to the game.

    I'd like to hear about this decision since it's so obviously 180 degrees away from what other designers have been up to. What was the reason for this decision? Was it a public health consideration, a method of letting more casual players keep up with the no-life crowd, a way of reducing load on your servers, or are there other more significant reasons that I'm not seeing? Do you think that this decision has impacted the playerbase of your game considerably in terms of who picks up the game and who is still playing a few months in? In hindsight, should you have structured this aspect differently?

  • Endgame (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Selfbain ( 624722 )
    I'd like to know how they designed the game without ever thinking about end game content. I played this game for all of a month before I realized that once I made it to 50, there was going to be nothing for me to do. After reading the game boards, I found I was not alone and that lots of other people had reached the level cap only to find they'd wasted their time.
    • Re:Endgame (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Flamefly ( 816285 )
      I found I was not alone and that lots of other people had reached the level cap only to find they'd wasted their time

      Every second you spend in a game, you are wasting your time, that is indeed the point of games, a usually fun way to waste time when you have nothing better (or more fun) to do. To think that the game will be forever forfilling, that when you reach the top level you'll suddenly get access to a trust fund or a blast of enlightenment might be a bit of a wishful dream :] Luckily you realise

    • Re:Endgame (Score:5, Interesting)

      by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:43PM (#10693522) Homepage
      But that is true of many other MMORPGs too that lack an "Endgame". From what I can tell Dark Age of Camelot seems to have introduced the concept of an "Endgame" that is different from the regular gameplay, and now people seem to expect it, but its not the norm.

      What if anything is the "Endgame" for Everquest? Surely once you have all the stuff and you have all the levels thats pretty much it no?

      Arguably the Endgame for City of Heroes will come about with the City of Villains expansion which will introduce PvP play into City of Heroes. It will be a standalone expansion from what I hear, but both games are going to have to have some changes made to allow PvP.

      I am playing COH right now, with no PvP, no End game and I am perfectly happy with it. When my main character (currently level 37) reaches 50, they will retire until PvP is implemented. Not everyone anticipates an Endgame as much as some I guess, you see *I ENJOY THE GAME AS IT IS* not for some nebulous endgame concept that has still to be developed, or I wouldn't bother playing it.

      • Re:Endgame (Score:2, Interesting)

        by Selfbain ( 624722 )
        Uhm, in Everquest it was nearly impossible to make your character the absolute best it could be due to the sheer effort required to reach most of the endgame. It was almost always possible to advance it further and the gear you could obtain could add effects to your character and change its appearance. Aside from minor color changes and a cape, there is no way to change your character's appearance in CoH. Also, there is no equipment so your character is as advanced as it's going to become once you reach
      • When you aquire level 70 in EQ, thats not the end. There are areas that just open up to you. A lot of the areas require a LOT of highly equiped players to work together to unlock and open up more areas. Unlike in CoH - You get there and there is nothing.. Nothing to unlock, no carrot to keep you going. EQ *always* has something to do when you reach the "end game" - be it defeating GODS, getting more equipment (there is NEVER an end to this), or raising hundreds of alternate advancement abilities (These give
    • Death (Score:3, Insightful)

      by Databass ( 254179 )

      Let X represent the percentage of your life lived. So level 100 is your death.

      "Alas," you exclaim, upon reaching the end of your life "I have reached level 100, and there was nothing more! My whole life was for naught!"

      Can't the journey of the game be meaningful in and of itself? I grant that the endgame can be important in keeping players in the long term, but to make it seem like players were robbed and the entire experience up to level cap was meaningless without some kind of endgame seems a bit extrem
  • by S810 ( 168676 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:20PM (#10693199) Homepage
    I was curious when City of Villians will be rolled up with City of Heros?

    It would be very kewl to be able to choose, at time of character creation, either a Hero or a Villan.

    Please let us know if, and when, this should happen.
  • by CrashPoint ( 564165 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:21PM (#10693215)
    So, Statesman...has Magneto asked for his helmet back yet?
  • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:23PM (#10693246) Journal
    Jack, I played COH for a while, and am still very impressed by it. You should be proud of your remarkable achievement of finding the right niche. But after playing a couple months and doing several story arcs, I fell into the level-grind abyss. Things stopped being fun. The distance to my next power was seen in terms of xp, not in terms of heroic adventure.

    So, what is going to happen to get me back? How can you significantly reduce the "level grind" (even if it's just the feeling of grinding levels) to get casual players like myself back?
    • Hint: if you know the phrase "level grind" you're not a casual gamer.
    • I don't think the problem is level-grind per se. I fall into the same catagory you describe yourself in (played two characters to level 40+), and I found the thing that finally drove me from the game was the unrelenting monotony. Every single mission in the game can be summed up as: "Go here, kill some stuff, click on some glowing objects" or subset of the three. The only way to fail the missions was to let time run out, and some didn't have time limits, and those that did the limits were four times or m
      • The only way to fail the mission was to let time run out,
        Not so. There are some missions that you can fail by preventing the bad guys from destroying something glowing. It's not a large number of missions, but they're there.
    • by thenerdgod ( 122843 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @10:58PM (#10696511) Homepage
      Others have asked how to reduce the "Level Grind", but I'd like to get more specific. This Halloween, the wife and I passed up several of the usual assigned door missions, stopped caring about XP, and did nothing but run door to door playing trick-or-treat. I think what appealed to us was that it was not merely a change, but partially a game-within-a-game. It was gambling, with the bonus that we got badges for killing so many pumpkin-headed monsters, and witches, and zombies.

      Also, recently, Paragon City was "Attacked" by roving bands of monsters, which was fun, as well as the addition of new zones. Obviously things are being done to help alleviate the feeling of sameness and repetition, but it is unavoidably still there, since there are really only five or six common missions.

      My question is, specifically, what other forms of game-play are being contemplated for non-PvP expansion? Will we see more interactivity in the city? Will, perhaps, the very landscape of the existing zones change (It was interesting when I heard that all the lights went out in one Zone when the city was attacked). Will there be opportunities, as there were this halloween, for large groups of people to come together to fight giant, lumbering monsters, and not just beat up the same group of baddies in some abandoned warehouse?

      (The Apparatchik, Coalition of Communist Crusaders for the Proletariat)

      • I'd like to expand on what I wrote above. When we started playing, I mentioned to a friend that what I really wanted from an MMORPG like City of Heroes, was the ability to inhabit a place like Kurt Busiek's "Astro City", where normal (and not so normal people) lived out their lives amidst an ever-changing landscape with well-known and active villains and heros. What I was envisioning was a place where not every super-villain showed up inside a door mission, where sometimes an entire part of town face faced
  • Long term plans? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by claytongulick ( 725397 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:23PM (#10693250) Homepage
    I've been playing CoH (way too much!) since beta, and have really enjoyed it, but I am running into some of the same issues that alot of others are running into, lack of content, lack of purpose, no new powers, nothing but "grind". My question is this: With all of the new MMORPGs coming out (EQ2, WoW etc) this month, what will CoH do to keep my interest (and paying account)? New powers? Anything?
  • Why No Mac Support? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by JohnA ( 131062 ) <johnanderson&gmail,com> on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:24PM (#10693257) Homepage
    I would love to pay you a monthly fee, but alas, my Powerbook and it's Radeon 9700 are unsupported.

    So why no Mac support? Any request to your tech support department is a canned response.
    • by Kenja ( 541830 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:55PM (#10693686)
      "So why no Mac support? Any request to your tech support department is a canned response."

      I bet the reason is the same as it is with just about every other game. The cost of a Macintosh port and support would be more then the money made from the Macintosh market.

  • Capes (Score:5, Funny)

    by jreaperhero ( 827285 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:25PM (#10693265)
    Is it possible to iron your cape? Because I like to look fresh and clean in the game? Thx
  • by teamhasnoi ( 554944 ) <teamhasnoi&yahoo,com> on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:25PM (#10693268) Journal
    when I'm paying to play it too?

    (This comes from someone who has never played an MMPORG, as I've got enough subscription-based services to take care of, like electricity, food, web access, and smokes.)

    • by bugnuts ( 94678 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:03PM (#10693790) Journal
      I can answer that :)

      The development of a MMORPG client/server takes about as much work as a single-player game. Plus the packaging and distribution are about the same. But the MMORPG developer's duties are not done with just the sale of the game. Unlike the single-player game dev, the MMORPG game dev must supply

      • Servers
      • Sysadmins for the servers
      • Bandwidth (lots!)
      • and content updates to keep your playerbase playing.
      An interesting data point I read in an interview is that Cryptic (makers of COH) will not be in the black until next year sometime even with 180k people giving them $15/mo.
    • The cost of upkeep of the service. Like your cable bill, connecting to their servers, using their bandwidth, and getting their content costs a lot of money. Also the online support people need to be paid to help stuck people, etc.. You can't expect someone to sell a million copies and expect that revune to last 5 years later paying all these salaries that NEED to be around to maintain the hardware, helpdesk, and bandwidth .. It just isn't possible.

      Guild Wars will try a unique model where there wont have a m

    • The upkeep costs associated with massive online games have already been mentioned, but I would like to point out that even at fifteen dollars a month, Online games are still a far better dollar to entertainment hour purchase than three matinees a month. Perhaps not as cost effective as a game such as Diablo II, but the online component and long term patching ate considerably into Blizzard's profits, and I doubt that Diablo III will be similar in that regard.
  • by DragonPup ( 302885 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:25PM (#10693269)
    Is Geko still nerfing accuracy? Kidding, kidding.

    Real question: Looking back at CoH's development, if there was one thing you wished you did differently, what would it be and why?

  • Boring Games (Score:4, Interesting)

    by rlandrum ( 714497 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:29PM (#10693347)
    I've played MMO's, and I haven't been impressed. I think some of the lingo speaks for itself ('grinding'). The last game I got into was Star Wars Galaxies. While technically the game was very nice, and the gameplay was decent, the game became extremely boring after only a few hours of gameplay.

    I've also played games like Zelda, Occarina of Time (a classic), and the newer Zelda, Wind Waker. Both games contained a series of puzzles that needed to be solved before allowing the story to progress. It was this sense of achievement that made the games fun to play.

    In MMO's, I have no sense of achievement. Obtaining the next skill level doesn't get me anywhere, it only makes me more powerful.

    How will MMO's of the future fill this sense of achievement? Or do you see games progressing more towards the "Life simulator", like the Sims?
    • Re:Boring Games (Score:4, Interesting)

      by Sheetrock ( 152993 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:46PM (#10693561) Homepage Journal
      There is a problem with traditional RPG puzzles; MMORPGs allow collaboration or walkthroughs and the pressure to advance with your peers means that the individual player will most likely take the easy way out of puzzles to keep up, robbing him of the satisfaction of thinking things over and working at his own pace.

      A Tale In The Desert takes an interesting approach where community-wide advancement and shaping of the game world is possible and encouraged, but the advancement of the individual character is a little flat (gather items to build stuff or travel someplace to get another skill.) In a way, this is a "life simulator".

      Finding some means of bringing the two together is the way to go -- a potential future MMORPG would work out a system that randomizes the puzzles for each character, discover a way to permit characters with a wide range of 'levels' to adventure together meaningfully, and permit a very dynamic game world where players build their own towns and outposts and PvP becomes a little more epic.

  • Future CoH comics (Score:5, Interesting)

    by leyf ( 827286 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:30PM (#10693356)
    Not to knock the present CoH comic, but what are the chances of getting some 'name' talent to produce some issues in the CoH universe?
  • Death penalty? (Score:5, Interesting)

    by claytongulick ( 725397 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:31PM (#10693369) Homepage
    I understand that without some risk, death in a MMORPG would lose alot of the "tension" that game designerns feel that players need in order to stay "hooked". As a player, I can tell you that the exp penalty of dying is usually what ends up getting me to cancel an account. When I see all that debt/exp loss/penalty I start thinking "Why am I wasting my time here? Its a nice day outside..." Even the illusion of "exp debt" that CoH has still amounts to the same thing: total playing time added to make up for dying. Since death is frequently not a player's fault (lag, imbalance, etc...) I can tell you that I am very attracted the the approach that WoW is taking with having no death penalty other than travelling as a ghost back to your corpse. My question is this: What goes into the decision for death penalties? Has anyone actually asked the players if this is what they want?
    • All XP lost on death in AO (which could be zero anyway because you can insure at any time) goes into a death pool, and it just comes back out to you in large chunks whenever you earn XP, so there is never any XP actually lost.

      It's kind of fun to get huge amounts of XP back per kill while you still have XP in your death pool. Very good solution.

      Maybe suggest that for CoH?
    • no death penalty other than travelling as a ghost back to your corpse

      So, uh. "Getting killed and having to spend time making experience back is bad. But getting killed and having to spend time running back to your corpse is good!"

      Both of them take time. How are they fundamentally different?

      Would you really want to play a game where death is absolutely meaningless? Just get killed, who cares!
      • Let's assume for a moment that the run back to your corpse in WoW is the same amount of time you'd need to grind mobs in CoH to get back the experience you lost (this will almost never be the case, in favour of WoW from what I've experienced, but let's do it for sake of argument).

        In WoW, you mindlessly run back to your corpse to resurrect. The time is lost, but nothing else is.

        In CoH, you HAVE lost something, and you have to work to get it back. Depending on where you grind, you'll have to work shorter or
        • Well, technically, CoH has a debt limit - I think it's half your total level. Some people end up permanently debt-limit capped because they suck, and/or are scrappers. :) In FFXI it is actually possible to die your way back to lv5 (at which point it stops taking away xp), but in CoH nothing of the sort can happen.

          One other issue I see with WoW is that your team members have to sit around waiting for you to run back. In CoH you can be resurrected on the spot, although I'll admit as a healer with Resurrect I
    • I think a better penalty would be to not allow the user to login for 24 hours after a death vice taking exp.
  • Duping (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Duping seems to be the bane of many online role playing games. (Credit duping, item duping, etc.) What steps have you taken in CoH to avoid this problem?
    • Re:Duping (Score:3, Interesting)

      by Kaboom13 ( 235759 )
      I can answer that. CoH has no "rare" items, and the money is worthless, most lvl 40+ have enough to spare to buy every enhancement (the closest thing to an item in game, bought from the NPC shop) 100 times over. There is no parity in the money between levels, and lvl 50's often give away large sums of money for kicks. Any effort put into duping could have just as easily been spent getting one high level char and using it for all your money needs.
  • I've tried MMOGs before to little satisfaction. I am skeptical of the entire genre, is there anything City of Heroes can do lure players like me that normally will not have anything to do with MMOGs?
  • MMO Competition (Score:5, Interesting)

    by servognome ( 738846 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:36PM (#10693436)
    With several highly anticipated MMOs launching this year and next year (WoW, EQ2, Matrix Online), what is your perception of competition in the MMO industry, has it become too crowded? Do you believe new games can be supported by drawing new players into the genre, or will these games pull mostly from the existing player base?
  • Class system (Score:2, Insightful)

    by CrashPoint ( 564165 )
    I recall reading a couple of years ago that you didn't want CoH to use a class system. But with "archetypes" that define the powersets available to a character, that's essentially what happened. What made you feel this system was necessary, rather than a more freeform system where players could simply choose their powersets from all those available in the game?
    • Re:Class system (Score:2, Insightful)

      by kosanovich ( 678657 )
      This question has been answered by him before. Basically when they had it free form it allowed those who knew what they were doing (power gamers) to become super powerful and the casual gamer ended up gimping themselves more often than not. At the time there was no respec possible so all the people who didn't know EXACTLY what to choose were very vocally upset so they changed it to make it more friendly to the average person and balance things out a bit.
  • cross-influences? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by ed.han ( 444783 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:40PM (#10693480) Journal
    mr. emmert:

    as a pen & paper gamer myself, i'd be curious to know your opnion on just how transferable traditional RPG skill-sets are vs PC or console-based skill-sets, beyond the obvious things like coding, etc. i'm also curious to know what pen & paper designers would you consider most influential on your own work, beyond dave arneson & gary gygax of course.

    ed
  • Super Speed (Score:3, Interesting)

    by claytongulick ( 725397 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:43PM (#10693519) Homepage
    In a game where super speed is one of the 4 travel powers, why did you design levels that are impossible for players with SS to get around in? (Terra Volta, Faultline etc...)
    • Re:Super Speed (Score:2, Interesting)

      by wrong ( 27761 )
      Why are some levels difficult with Super Speed? So you have a reason to get Super Jump, Teleport, or Fly (or at least Hover).

      Hazard zones like Terra Volta and Faultline are meant for groups, so there's a much better chance someone will have Recall Friend and be able to bail your ass out of a large hole. Also, Cryptic have been very good about making sure that a character without travel powers can walk out of anything they can get into, although you will probably have to fight a lot of foes to do it and the
    • I have friends who navigated Faultline and TerraVolta only using SS. My friend (who followed me around w/ SS as I SJ'ed all over) couldn't figure out what the "wimps" were complaining about. He had to take the scenic route, but he could always get to where I was.

      Now shadowshard is supposedly much harder to get around w/o SS, but I haven't gone there yet.. too much other content in the early 40's for me to pull away from just yet.
  • How are things now? (Score:3, Interesting)

    by deanj ( 519759 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:44PM (#10693535)
    I left CoH after being in beta and signing up for the first month. They game was interesting, but it didn't have that "hook" that other MMORPGs have had for me. There just didn't seem that there was much to do, other than beat up the thugs. I know other people who have since quit CoH feel the same.

    What's in CoH now that you feel would be a good reason to come back and what do you have planned in upcoming expansions that might keep me coming back?
    • If you missed Updates 1 and 2, then you've missed quite a bit.

      Update 1 added costume changes, a raise in maximum level to 50, several new city zones, such as Peregrin Island, outdoor instanced missions (more mission variety), new villain groups, new tiles sets,

      Update 2 was HUGE:

      Added a badge system where you collect badges for completing certain missions, completing task forces, visiting certain areas, reading history plaques, accomplishing certain tasks (healing, being mezzed, paying debt, taking dmg, e
  • Content updates (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Uriel ( 16311 ) *
    CoH is the first game I've noticed since Asheron's Call to really provide large amounts of new content on an ongoing basis. That's great. So far we've seen amazing amounts of new stuff. Will there be new powers or costume pieces any time soon?
  • Game Infrastructure (Score:5, Interesting)

    by chiph ( 523845 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:47PM (#10693580)
    180,000 players is lot of people -- obviously, not all of them are online at the same time. But even so, what's the backend of the game like to handle that number of players?

    Do you have redundant servers to handle systems failure? Are they geographically dispersed to avoid "backhoe" cable cuts? What are some of the operational challenges involved with running a Massive Multiplayer game?

    Chip H.
  • by Phrogman ( 80473 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:51PM (#10693629) Homepage
    Do you have any plans for development of another MMORPG - possibly Fantasy or SF based - using the City of Heroes game engine?

    This subject just came up today as a discussion on one of the gaming boards in fact. Many current players of City of Heroes who posted there seemed to think they would be very interested in the possibility of a Fantasy-based MMORPG using the same game engine. Obviously, when adapting it to a new genre many changes would be required.

    Cryptic has shown they can think outside the box and push the envelope in MMO design, it would be very interesting to see what they could do with the more traditional MMORPG genres if they put their mind to it.

    I would love to see a 3 realms at war style game a la Dark Age of Camelot based on the COH design and interface...

    • >> Do you have any plans for development of another MMORPG - possibly Fantasy or SF based - using the City of Heroes game engine?

      Because if there's one style setting that's totally under-represented in online RPGs, it's fantasy!

    • While you're waiting for his next game with the CoH engine, check out EVE Online [eve-online.com]. Four starting factions (not actively at war last I heard) and dozens of large player organizations make for very strong raiding and "realm" competition. EVE also has a lot of PvP. Core areas are patrolled by tough NPC ships, rim regions are patrolled by even tougher PC ships. On the downside, the game is very, very hard solo. If you don't have backup, you're dead in over half the map.
  • by a3217055 ( 768293 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:52PM (#10693637)
    I was wondering if City of Heroes ( which I played at a friends house ) can be available on for a Linux x86 based system? I seem to have used up all my money making my 100% Linux compatiabale Athlon 64 and so did not have any money to buy a Microsoft Windows License.
  • Demo / Trial? (Score:4, Interesting)

    by InfinityWpi ( 175421 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:53PM (#10693655)
    As a gamer geek but also a new father and a victim of the economy, I have to be very careful with my 'entertainment' money. I've heard good things about CoH, but I can't justify buying the game if I'm only going to be playing it for a month (I can really only justify that with $15 bargain-bin titles). Will CoH have a one-week (or, better, two-week) trial available in the near future?

    Second question, if I may: Everyone talks about how MMORPGs are different from 'traditional' RPGs mainly due to the lack of a strong, world-changing storyline. Granted, comics aren't always world-changing except for the occasional crossover, but you never see Superman's secret identity being revealed to the world in the pages of, say, JLA. Comics have a definite 'solo' vs 'group' theme going. Is it possible to really have a single-character-changing experience in CoH, or is it all mainly "Nothing major will happen; this isn't hos book" vibe?
  • Priorities (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Dragoon412 ( 648209 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @05:56PM (#10693699)
    City of Heroes had a fantastic beta, with much communication with the dev team, and a sense that the game was truly moving forward.

    However, almost immediately after release, issues regarding aspects of the game that had been widely known, reported, and even confirmed by developers to be working correctly during beta (i.e. Super Speed, Hasten) were quite savagely nerfed. Along with those nerfs was a change to the con system that drastically slowed the pace of advancement in the game.

    One expects MMOGs to be in a state of perpetual change, but the severity of the changes made were practically unprecedented in the genre. What changed between beta and release that made those specific issues such a priority and warranted such a drastic change?
  • by a3217055 ( 768293 )
    I am not quite sure how City of Heroes is set up and it seems that you cannot leave City-1 and go to City-2 due to some reason or the other. I was wondering if you could travel by a Train over a period of days there, so all the database stuff can be synced up and you won't loose your character ?
    Another thing that I think would be cool if their was something like your City of Heroes Character can go back in time to and save people or get teleported back into the past and have some sort of story along those
  • by DevNova ( 24921 ) <info2&network23,com> on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:01PM (#10693769) Journal
    Since the official launch, can you think of something that really, really surprised you about the game? Did the players start to do things you didn't expect, or did some game mechanics/results turn out far differently than you thought it would (for better or worse)?
  • Fees (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:04PM (#10693804)
    Alot of the complaints and concerns about MMORPGs resolve around the ongoing monthly fees. Can you give us any idea of how these fee's are spent?

    ie. What portion pays for the servers, and the content development.

    I know exact values aren't likely, but I've always wondered how much of that fee goes back directly into maintenance and content development.
  • Real-life. (Score:4, Interesting)

    by Mac Degger ( 576336 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:05PM (#10693816) Journal
    What's stopping more real-life equivalents from crossing over into MMORPG's?

    I'll give an examples to illustrate my point:
    -griefers are a problem; why not allow either (part of) the dedicated live team or 'the good players' (meaning those who play a lot and have good community standing [you dev's know who your cream of the crop are] and maybe an innate sense of fairness) to become cops or peacekeepers within the game? Give 'em not-exactly-admin powers, but enough to grief a griefer (maybe after being called up on an ingame 'hotline' and judging the situation).

    My point is really that MMORPG's have real-world problems...so why not use more tried and true real-life solutions?
    • Re:Real-life. (Score:2, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward
      In the case of griefers, the reason there aren't police in CoH, is that they have a GOOD DESIGN.

      Griefing in MMOs occurs because players exploit design flaws. If your design says that mean monsters will get mad at a player, then follow him across the level when he flees (despite an inability to catch up or hurt that player), and finally decide to attack people standing near the "zone entrance" when the person they were mad at before goes through it, you'll have a problem. (A worse problem if the monsters
      • It's more of a general question: I've never played CoH, but I do know that in many MMORPG's griefing (which I define as a high level character fucking a low level character [don't bother, Trolls: you know /exactly/ what I mean]) occurs.

        What I want to ask an actual designer of MMORPG's is why that kind of thing hasn't been implemented, because it could negate the 'PvE vs. PvP' discussion: That discussion only occurs because of people abusing it.

        Furhtermore, there are many examples I didn't give (either bec
  • by Gldm ( 600518 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:05PM (#10693819)
    Recently I started a thread on the COH suggestion forums [cityofheroes.com] that got a high rating about wanting a new ski area zone after having seen how ice worked in one of the missions I played. I also mentioned in a later post if there was a map editing tool I'd probably make it myself.

    Do you think most future MMORPGs are going to stay with the developer-based content model like COH and Everquest, or do you think we'll begin seeing more user-based content such as in Second Life [secondlife.com]?

    Do you think Cryptic will ever release some kind of content editor (aside from the already incredible character creator) to the users?

  • Now that MMORPG's are a "genre", making your version stand out from the crowd has got to be a challenge.

    So is it 1% perspiration and 99% inspiration, the opposite, or somewhere in-between ?

  • Perils of Design. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Alkaiser ( 114022 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:16PM (#10693937) Homepage
    Two-parter:

    What's the biggest misconception the general public seems to have about the job of Lead Designer, and what's the best path for me to take to get your job? (you know, like, at a different company...heh.)
  • by Gothic_Walrus ( 692125 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:41PM (#10694210) Journal
    My question is simple, but I think we need at least one question that's not related to the game or to Mr. Emmert directly.

    What do you think of the MMOG market as a whole? Over the past few years, we've seen a flood of games released. We've seen sequels to established games - Everquest II, for example. We've seen games based on licenses, such as Star Wars Galaxies. We've seen high-profile titles such as Mythica cancelled. We've seen completely unique ideas, like A Tale in the Desert. Obviously, the market is completely different than it was even a year ago today.

    Put simply, what do you think of the market in its current state, and what future do you see for it? Will you be a part of that future? MMy question is simple, but I think we need at least one question that's not related to the game or to Mr. Emmert directly.

    What do you think of the MMOG market as a whole? Over the past few years, we've seen a flood of games released. We've seen sequels to established games - Everquest II, for example. We've seen games based on licenses, such as Star Wars Galaxies. We've seen high-profile titles such as Mythica cancelled. We've seen completely unique ideas, like A Tale in the Desert. Obviously, the market is completely different than it was even a year ago today.

    Put simply, what do you think of the market in its current state, and what future do you see for it? Will you be a part of that future?

    The question might not seem very exciting, but I belive that Mr. Emmert is in a very unique position to answer it...

  • RPG "light" (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Hays ( 409837 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:47PM (#10694277)
    I'm an active COH player and an ex-everquest player. I must first give you kudos for making a really polished, fun game. It's really a great take on the MMORPG.

    The game has a bus-load of fun ideas. The badge system is great. The costume system and character creation are amazing. Technically, the game is top notch- great mapmaking, great animation, etc...

    One of the best ideas is simplicity. Starting players don't have to worry about complicated inventory systems. They just go out there and start kicking butt. Kicking butt is not to difficult, because the player is quite a bit stronger versus the environment compared to previous MMORPGs.

    But that simplicity becomes a drag in the later game. I've got 3 characters approaching the high end (mid 30s) and I'm starting to dislike the slow experience grind, with nothing to look forward to but a new ability every 3 levels.

    Missions are fun, but they get a bit formulaic. With one huge exception, they offer uninteresting rewards and have cookie cutter goals. (The exception being the wonderful respec mission)

    I'm sure it was a conscious design decision to have no inventory system, no armor, no weapons. And I think that's a great idea, at first. But by the time you're level 30 and you've played the game for a couple of months, you really start to want MORE. The enhancement system doesn't cut it. That's just a trip to the store every 5 levels. I'd like to get a cool piece of (origin specific) armor when I complete a task force.

    Even baby steps in this direction would great. A way to distinguish myself (other than aesthetically) from other players would be nice. This could also give origins a chance to actually matter.

    So the question in all of this is- why the aversion to traditional RPG elements, even at high levels? Is this going to change?
  • Maximizing time (Score:3, Interesting)

    by Lord_Dweomer ( 648696 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @06:58PM (#10694398) Homepage
    One of the pitfalls of every MMORPG I can think of is maximizing time in order to advance. Every action to advance your character requires you to think of the most efficient way of doing things.

    This does not sound very fun, and aside from social aspects, what gameplay features do you plan on implementing to make sure CoH strays away from this rut that every MMORPG has thusfar fallen into?

  • World of Warcraft has a huge base of Blizzard fans and the company is generally one of the best in the business. Is the City of Heroes team (and other developers) scared of it?
  • One of the things my friends and I comment on most about the game is that it is fun. However, we almost always follow that up with a comment how poorly the game runs. Even on high-end video cards (my roommate's Radeon 9800 and my GeForce 6800) with better than average CPU and RAM the game runs so choppy and slow. It seems to be that if you don't turn your particle counts down to nothing, it's visually annoying. Also, visual sluggishness seems to be directly affected by ping and since all the servers we
    • That's odd. While I do have to drop my particle count a little to prevent jerkiness when fighting with a large group (plenty of powers/buffs going off) I haven't had a major problem like you are describing.
      On my older P4 2.4GHz with 5600 Ultra it ran fine in 1024x768. On my upgraded p4 3.2GHz with 6800GT it runs great at 1280x1024 with 4x aa 4x aniso.
      I agree with your comment about showing server pings and locations though. I think there are west coast servers, at least some people in game were surprised to
  • Character Designer (Score:5, Interesting)

    by Kentamanos ( 320208 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @07:16PM (#10694584)
    CoH probably has the most flexible system for designing the visual appearance of a character of all the MMORPG's I've played or tried (beta/free trial, etc.). The Star Wars Galaxies character designer is maybe a little more flexible in certain areas (face, age, and weight), but I think CoH's offers more variety. It usually takes an hour just to play around with how your character will look.
    Due to its flexibility, it's not too hard to make characters that look very close to copyrighted comic book characters etc.

    How big of a struggle was the content creation process for costume items. For instance, were certain masks rejected by your legal department because they looked too much like Batman's or perhaps Cyclops' visor. Also, has anyone actually calculated the number of combinations of all 5 archetypes and origins?
  • Live Events (Score:3, Interesting)

    by brandonY ( 575282 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @07:55PM (#10694960)
    On the last day of the beta test, there was a famous invasion of Paragon City. Now, in the live game, there have been a few events like Trick or Treat, but there hasn't been any real attack or invasion approaching the Rikti invasion in size. Does having a number of worlds instead of a single one make things like this harder to implement? Is it hard to create events that players of all levels can participate in? Will we see more major events in the coming months?
  • I have a couple questions:

    1. With so many heroes possessing herculean strength (hence the term "herculean", of course), are there special structural considerations you have to make when designing buildings? I mean, it only takes a few pissed-off Samson types pulling over columns before your "City of Heroes" is more like a "Ruin of Heroes". I realize this may be more a question for the "City of Heroes Chief Engineer" but hey, you're the one answering the questions...

    2. Also, do you have the city apport

  • PvP Healing in CoH (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Elsebet ( 797203 )
    Thank you for an enjoyable game. I only levelled to 34 before it became less enjoyable and more a grind. However I do have to commend you on the Defender class and more specifically the Empathy line. It was the first healer in an MMORPG that I've played (and yes I've played almost all of them) where sacrifice was an important aspect of the class.

    For those of you who haven't played, the Defender's Empathy power set was the most robust when it came to heals. However the Empathy Defender had only 1 way to
  • Genre Innovation (Score:3, Interesting)

    by sprayNwipe ( 95435 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @08:12PM (#10695101) Homepage
    As a long time game designer, why did you choose to go through the cliched "Skills and Levels in an RPG" route for COH, when there is such a huge gaping hole for MMO games that don't have their core game mechanics rooted in old-school tabletop mechanics?
  • Hmmm (Score:2, Interesting)

    What have you learned about what players want from MMORPG's from the creation and operation of CoH, and will you apply what you've learned in future expansions? Or will that be saved for another MMORPG to be stuffed into an already crowded enviroment?
  • 1) City of Heroes is the only major MMORPG, to my knowledge, that puts out expansive updates on a regular basis that add tremendous content into the game. EQ, for example, releases a bunch of small changes bundled together in expansion packs (some of which have been less "expansive" than the free content updates), and SWG has been playing catch-up with content promised at the beginning. What enables CoH to pump out large updates relatively bug-free using only the subscription fee, while other MMORPGs charg
  • by gad_zuki! ( 70830 ) on Monday November 01, 2004 @09:15PM (#10695670)
    All MUD-based games are simple skinner boxes in which we are expected to perform repetitive tasks (killing mobs, missions) to get rewards (levels, powers). I played COH for a couple months and appreciated how your team shifted away from the standard MUD model by incorporating missions and large group missions as opposed to relying on just killing mobs which pop-up. Still, its just a variation on the skinner box and there is a lot of MUD-like killing.

    Ironically, there is no incentive to "act like a hero" in City of Heroes. Everyone has their role to play, be it tank, healer, hitter, etc. Its very formal and deterministic. Trying to be Spiderman or Superman will get you killed quickly. Can you break this formula and deliver a game in which taking chances produces results? Can you envision a level-less character system? That is to say a game where your cunning, skill, intelligence, patience, tactics etc determine your strength not your level or armor rating? A game where a gunshot kills any level character and only the better players survive regardless if the character is 2 minutes or 2,000 hours old?
    • I like what you're saying, but let me just play Devil's Advocate for a moment.

      CoH is a game about superheroes. Superheroes (at least, traditional ones) do not generally take chances or rely on "patience, tactics, etc.". This may sound ridiculous, but think about it for a moment. Superman is impervious to all damage (except for Kryptonite); it's impossible to hurt him. He can also fly and throw cars around (after grilling them a bit with his heat-vision). Spiderman's Spidey Sense warns him of imminent dang

  • Shared World (Score:5, Interesting)

    by miyako ( 632510 ) <miyako@gmail. c o m> on Monday November 01, 2004 @09:17PM (#10695695) Homepage Journal
    not sure if this will get modded up, I'm posting a little late, but anyway...
    One idea that has always been interesting to me is a shared world between many online type of games, COV seems to be the first game to do something like this, with two stand alone clients connecting to the same world. Star Wars Galaxies tried to do something similar by allowing many different play styles. My question is this: With many different types of popular online games (first person shooters, RTS, RPGs, as well as more social type games like A Tale in the Desert and The Sims Online), what do you think of the idea of having a single shared world in which multiple types of games take place.
  • I happened to notice that if you zoom in very close to the textures on one of the magazines sitting on a table in mission - the cover features the BSD daemon! This got me to wondering - do you use FreeBSD on any of your servers? What platforms are you running on and what kinds of challenges has the scale of an MMORPG presented to that system?
  • I realize as the designer this isn't really your thing, but...

    180,000 players x 15 bucks a month = 2.7 million dollars per month. That's over 30 million dollars a year. Add in another few million for (probably more than) 180,000 initial purchases of the game. Now, surely, I want you and your team to be rich, and no doubt there's a lot of bandwidth to pay for. But still, it seems a tad expensive.

    Couldn't these games cost, say, five dollars a month? The (exorbitant?) recurring monthly fee has been the
    • Re:Costs too much (Score:3, Informative)

      by zokrath ( 593920 )
      I am going to throw some theoretical numbers at you, because I doubt he is going to give you any real numbers to contradict the ones that I am about to retrieve from that infinite repository of questionable facts that is my arse.

      Let us assume that fifty people are paid directly by this game; this includes live content creators, the design team, 24 hour IT guys, and management at the companies involved. It does not include the full team that created the boxed product, or the Game Masters, or tech support.
  • where do you see the future of gaming going?

    With the amount of money required to produce games, and the increasing levels of expectation on the part of the consumer, do you see the distinction,(and independance) between say the film industry and the immersive games industry blurring further, or do you see them as intrinsically separate art forms?
  • by Erik Hollensbe ( 808 ) on Tuesday November 02, 2004 @01:46AM (#10697570) Homepage
    Hi Jack,

    One of the things that originally attracted me to CoH was the more action-geared combat. As I'm sure you know, a good deal of games in your selected genre involve basically initiating an attack, and pressing a key at an interval or not at all. Magic is "fun" by letting you do different attacks instead of just one.

    My point is, you guys have carved a niche that is not so much action it's a FPS (Planetside), but has not made combat so dull it could all be done on pen and paper with relative ease (FFXI, EQ, etc). CoH does a great job mixing things like proper positioning with powers and great teamplay.

    Where do you see this going in the future? If I may be so coy to coin your game as a "Massively Multiplayer Platformer", do you agree with this assertion, and (heh) without violating any contracts, do you think it has room to allow for expansive gameplay beyond what CoH offers?

My idea of roughing it turning the air conditioner too low.

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