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Jack Emmert Responds to Your Questions 198

A while back we passed on some your questions to City of Heroes Lead Designer Jack Emmert. He has responded with details on the upcoming CoH expansion, the future of MMOGs, and commentary on some of the decisions that led to City of Heroes in the first place. Read on for his responses.
1.) When will City of Villains be rolled up with CoH? by S810

I was curious when City of Villains 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 Villain.
Please let us know if, and when, this should happen.

Jack Emmert:
We have not yet made any final decisions about how City of Villains and City of Heroes will interact, but here is the direction we're leaning:

City of Villains is a stand alone game - which means that you can purchase City of Villains without City of Heroes. But you will only be able to play a villain and never a hero. If a player already has a City of Heroes account, then City of Villains is an expansion. In other words, it opens up content in addition to what the player already has access to. He can play either a hero or a villain on a server.

2.)How do you plan to get me back? by bugnuts

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?

The first step, I think, is to make missions less repetitive. Every single expansion we release includes significant mission customization. This means that we go back into pre-existing missions and add new art & features. For instance, the infamous 'rave' mission now has an actual rave going on (as opposed to NPC's standing around in a warehouse).

The second step is adding new gameplay. In Expansion 2, we introduced badges which reward explorers and achievers. Certain combinations of badges open up Accolades - which are permanent powers! The next major new feature is our skills system, which will answer the question, 'what do heroes do besides fight?'

The third step is to create more benchmarks in the game; 'carrots' that players strive for. For instance, a player can get a cape at level 20. At level 30, a player can add ongoing special f/x to his avatar. We're adding two more important landmarks with Expansion 3. At level 40, a player can begin selecting Epic Powers that increase his characters' abilities outside the normal Archetype restrictions. And at the highest level, 50, players open up two Epic Archetypes, which are dramatically different than anything else in the game.

3.) I hate subjects for asking questions :p by DragonPup

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?

I think I would approach Archetype balance differently. We relied heavily on some time tested MMP tactics. In other words, one Archetype attracts aggro, another deals heavy melee damage, while the long range Archetypes sit back and help. In addition, all Archetypes become more powerful at the same rate. If I had an unlimited development time, I would have loved to create a different system of balance between the Archetypes so that the urban, low powered vigilante could fight alongside the cosmic powered champion - and each would have something to contribute to combat.

4.) Boring Games by rlandrum

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, Ocarina 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?

The popular answer would be 'user generated content.' As someone plays the game more, they can create more content of their own. Traditionally, this had taken the shape of crafting or housing, though one can certainly imagine a player generating missions or quests for other players.

But, to be honest, some game mechanics are entertaining for some, but not others. I personally loathe puzzles, riddles and jump games. I would avoid any game that had these features, even if it was an MMP. It sounds to me that the current crop of MMP's don't appeal to you - that's no crime - and I'm sure eventually MMP's will start incorporating other tried and true game systems. Planetside, for instance, was the first mass market MMP to capture the feel of a FPS. Recently Star Wars Galaxies added twitch combat in their Jump to Lightspeed expansion.

5.) Death penalty? by claytongulick

I understand that without some risk, death in a MMORPG would lose a lot of the "tension" that game designers 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?

If players lose nothing by being defeated then naturally the players won't see death as an issue. Players will begin to look at their characters like those in FPS games such as Counterstrike or Battlefield 1942. In other words, the player's avatar is perceived as disposable.

The key, however, to a successful MMP is to create a connection between the player and his character. If the player feels that he can dispose of his character at any time, then the player inevitably doesn't care very much about his character. This works in a short term FPS model, but not so much in a game which is depending upon long term commitment.

By making death a penalty, players now have a goal to strive for: survival. Some players will inevitably be better than others, but players want things to distinguish themselves from others. So the players who aren't killed often level quicker, and thus are demonstrably 'better' in terms of the level difference. This is no different than one person earning a special piece of armor by going on a hard, long quest, and another one who chooses not to go on that quest. The former then gets the recognition for his effort.

6.) MMO Competition by servognome

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?

I think the MMP market is growing quite nicely. City of Heroes hit 180,000 in just a couple of months; as far as I know, the existing MMP's did not suffer an equivalent 180,000 drop in subscriptions. Certainly, some fans of the other MMP's kept their old accounts and played City of Heroes, but I doubt that a significant percentage of players has more than a single account with a MMP. In other words, I think City of Heroes brought 100,000+ new faces to the MMP market.

7.) Demo / Trial? by InfinityWpi

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 his book" vibe?

Currently, the basic City of Heroes game is available for $39.99 and comes with a free month. I don't know when or if other price discounts will occur; but I do know that we've discussed internally a short free trial period, but nothing is imminent.

Your second point, world changing events, is something we're aiming for in City of Villains. The activities of even a single player (hero or villain) can have a noticeable effect in the world.

8.) Biggest surprise after launch? by DevNova

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)?

I never foresaw how many characters each player would create. It seems that having a dozen or more 'alts' (alternate characters) is the norm, rather than the extreme. People love making lots of different heroes - and lots of costumes.

9.) A more general question... by Gothic_Walrus

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?

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

What the MMP medium has NOT had is the breakout hit that defines it. Duke Nukem and Doom, for instance, were so popular that they created the FPS explosion that continues to this day. In the RTS medium, every game is still compared to Warcraft and Starcraft. Successful MMP's have sold hundreds of thousands of copies, but nothing has yet sold the millions to match what these other games have. Eventually, there will be one. Of course, it's impossible to predict something like that until it already happens.

10.) Developer made content vs user made content? by Gldm

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?

I think user based content - where the player creates nearly all the material from preset building blocks - is a red herring for game development. The problem is that most player created generated content isn't very good. This shouldn't be a surprise to anyone; good level designers, for instance, spend hours and hours on creating good fun play experiences. It's no surprise that someone creating levels in their spare time isn't as good. Naturally, game design requires talent and experience, so that the really good novices will produce cool stuff.

But if that content is regulated in some way - either by the tools or some sort of player feedback - then I think I agree that user generated content is the wave of the future. For example, our City of Villains product (target release for 2005) includes super group bases. Players will be able to lay out their rooms and hallways according to a basic template.

11.) RPG "light" by Hays

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 too 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?

Yes, we eschewed many of the typical elements of fantasy MMP's such as body slots and crafting, but that was more to do with the choice of genre than anything else. If we had something akin to body slots, and a player equipped his character with armor, the game certainly wouldn't feel like a modern day hero game. And if someone doesn't feel like a hero, he won't feel immersed in the game. And if that happens, the player won't feel committed to play, because that player bought City of Heroes to be a super powered hero!

But what we've started doing is adding more mid and high level content. Currently, there are badges to collect. There's missions to earn capes or other visual rewards. Coming soon, we have a skills system. And then there's the Epic Archetypes which a player obtains by reaching a certain level or completing a particular Task Force. In the future, we hope to add such things as power customization. And with the release of City of Villains, there will be the ongoing war between good and evil.

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Jack Emmert Responds to Your Questions

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  • by FatPaulie ( 197122 ) <[paulie] [at] [fatpaulie.com]> on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:15PM (#10867099) Homepage
    As an experienced gamer, but one who's about to take my first plunge into the MMORPG realm, I think that a valid point is raised about the free trial being needed for MMORPGs.

    With a normal HL2 or D3 type game, I know what my $50 is getting me. There is a beginning, a middle, and an end to the game. When I shell out the same cash for a MMORPG, I'm basically getting a 1-month teaser, but then being asked to put forth more money to continue. It's like Gauntlet in the arcade, or a long distance phone call.

    If not for being invited into the closed beta for World of Warcraft, I most certainly wouldn't be picking up the game next Tuesday.

    I think if more MMORPGs offer a free trial, or invite more non MMORPGers into their beta tests, they'll end up with more paying customers in the long run.
    • by calibanDNS ( 32250 ) <brad_staton@hotmai l . com> on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:21PM (#10867175)
      Even if they never offer a free trial, I for would love to be able to download a demo that would allow me to design my character. I understand that the character design options in CoH are supposed to be huge, but I'd really like to play around with it a bit before I drop $40 on the game.
      • The ten day guest pass included with WoW collectors edition is nice, but ten days is generally a rather short time to test something for those less than fanatical players(Don't look at me, I got a lev 24 druid and six other somewhat smaller chars over stress test and open eta) and its not included with the regular version, let alone offered for those who don't have friends who play.

        A two week trial would entice me to play CoH, a game I certainly wouldnt buy otherwise. With MMORPGs, a bit demo risk, that p

      • Huge me too on this. I would like to get some feel for the game. The character creation engines is puportedly the best standalone component of the game. Allowing people to freely create a character would be pure marketting genius.
    • I agree completely. I've had friends that play MMOs (EQ, SWG, etc), and I just was never able to get into them. I never bought one, or even played much, because they just looked about as exciting as watching paint dry. I'm a huge Blizzard fan though, so I jumped on the open beta for WoW, and now I'm hooked. Was it because WoW is a terrific game (which it is), or just because they let me test drive it before I spent my money?? $15 a month isn't pocket change for a computer game that still costs you $50
      • yeah, I agree. I played the open beta of WOW and now I need a new computer so I can run it and get more than 5 fps if there's more than 2 PCs on the screen. There's no way I'd drop 50 bucks on it as is, but after getting a week of playing in, I'm starting to save for a whole new computer for the damn thing. Stupid addictive personality.
    • by lubricated ( 49106 )
      Really even $40 is way to much to pay for a game that requires a subscription. They should just give away the game or sell it for 15. Alot more people would jump on just to try it and more would end up staying on.
      • This is a good plan, but how do you get stores to stock a "free" or "almost-free" game on the shelves?

        The other problem with free trials is the opportunity for abuse. For example, in Asheron's Call you could build up prestige and rank by getting people to agree to swear allegience to you, and it took X number of people to obtain the next rank. Once you achieved a high enough rank (usually due to having several hundred followers) you were eligible to buy a guild mansion.

        At one point they started handing
        • That's easy to solve: a trial account isn't able to enter into any permanent relation with paying accounts -- you can't swear allegience, if you join a guild, you aren't counted in the membership numbers unless you convert to a paying account, etc.
        • Stores don't have to stock them at all: the download model works perfectly for MMOs. But a number of stores did and probably still do stock $10 EQ classic anyway.
      • I don't buy into this at all. First off, the vast majority of the MMOGs available give 30 days "free" with the purchase price. This gives more than enough time to figure out if the game is enjoyable enough to continue into the next month when the subscription fees kick in. Second, I think that the expectations for MMOGs are ridiculously high. People don't seem to bat an eye at blowing $50 for less than a day's worth of eye candy with weak gameplay (hi, Doom 3) even knowing IN ADVANCE the length of the g
        • I may spend $50 on Doom 3, and not find it all that fun, but it's still a better investment than an MMOG. Maybe the game wasn't that great, but a month later, I can still run it, I'll be able to play around with whatever mods have been created for it, I can even hack at some mods myself if I want to. Or I can sell it or trade it with a friend or something.

          If I get bored of World of Warcraft after a couple weeks, then what am I stuck with? A game that'll be useless in a month. If a year from now I'm bored o
    • The economics against a free trial are a lot higher for MMORPGS. First of all, it's not trivial but relatively simple to release a demo of a standard game that is simply short on content. The best you could do with a MMORPG is limit it to level 10 or something.

      But that's not the big issue. The $15 monthly goes to server support and maintenance, including things like electricity and bandwidth. There were 500,000 applicants accepted into WoW's Open Beta; who knows how many applied. If a standard MMORP
      • EverQuest (the original) has offered free trials in the past (with a free download or by including an installation CD in magazine advertisements), so it's apparently it's viable in some form. I think they let you play your trial on a "newbie only" server and the trial was relatively short (14 days or something). It could give you a taste for the game and at least give you an idea if you consider the game a "must buy" or a "must avoid".

        Also, I don't see why an offline demo/tutorial for an MMO couldn't wo

    • I played CoH on someone else's account for awhile and finally did get a copy of the game for myself when I finally got hired.

      I was really dismayed to find out that the "free" one month trial in the box was actually a "subscribe and we'll give you another month free". It was *not* a "Play for a month and pay us if you want to keep playing" *trial*.

      I was really looking forward to being able to collect *a* paycheck before being forced to subscribe but wound up having my brother pay for a month so I could get
      • If you are not working, or just started working, you really shouldn't be spending 50 bucks on any game, much less one with a reacuring fee.

        You should save that money. when you get a enough money in the bank to live for a year without a change in your spending habits then look around at the best thing at that time.

        There are free thing you can do with your time.

        A MMORPG is a hole in the wall you poor money into every month.

        heh, I think I'll register that with the copyright office.
  • Interesting, but... (Score:5, Interesting)

    by kjones692 ( 805101 ) <[the.cyborganizer] [at] [gmail.com]> on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:16PM (#10867104)
    While I have a lot of respect for his work, some of his responses to basic questions struck me as plain silly. How is getting a cape supposed to make a big difference in the tedium of leveling? Sure, it's something to move towards, but so is pretty much everything else.

    The problem here is larger. Doing stuff over and over and over again is tedious, no matter the game... hell, leveling in Pokemon is downright tedious too. The solution, methinks, lies in making things new and fresh, and making quests interesting and original.

    I think he hit upon this in his interview when discussing user-created content. Within the massive user bases that these games have lies a lot of creativity and talent. Granted, most user-created stuff will suck, but there will be a LOT of stuff that is fresh, new, original, and fun to do.

    If a game could integrate user-created content into the ongoing quest system, I think it could avoid the tedium of the level grind.
    • by ZaMoose ( 24734 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:43PM (#10867425)
      Besides, capes are a bad thing, as anyone who has seen The Incredibles knows. They just lead to untimely superhero deaths.
      • It's okay, capes in CoH don't actually exist as "physical" objects (in the virtual world). Your hair, armor, and cape happily intersect and move through each other.

        Given that, we can infer that capes don't have any real physics in the game. On your machine, they may, but they don't on the servers, which means they can't check for cape jet engine collisions.

        Besides, in CoH aircraft would be point-sources just like cars. You'd just get shoved to the side.
    • by Slowping ( 63788 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:44PM (#10867443) Homepage Journal
      First, watching any episodes or reading comics of superheroes, their lives are pretty repetetive. Save the world. Save the world. Save the world. Did you expect the game to be any different?

      Second, playing a MMRPG from a single-player perspective is definitely going to get boring. The key is to have a system where capes, badges, and insignia plays a social role with other players and NPCs. In effect, you want them to give a "non-functional" quality to the game.

      And finally... dude, it's a game. For real dynamic, fun, and interactive experiences... leave the computer and do some real human activities.
      • I think you hit the proverbial nail on its head -- a good MMORPG should have its rewards revolve around team-play or inter-person play.

        If it doesn't, its just a single-player game.

        I've played several MMORPGs that were just cheasy levelling single player games with other people playing the same plot. That sucks.

        One of the things is to not allow multiple people to complete the same quest simultaneously and know about it. "Hey, I'm carrying that purse back to the same lady!" kills the suspension of disbel
    • I have to agree here. I stopped playing COH precisely because the supposed "carrots" are just not big enough to warrant paying for.
    • Believe it or not, getting a cape does make a pretty big difference in the tedium of levelling. The most exciting content in CoH are called Trials, and they're The Cape mission isn't a trial, but it is still very neat. The storyline (originally used very creatively to cover up the absence of capes in a superhero game) is that Paragon City issued a moratorium on cape-wearing in honor of the sacrifice of its premier heroes in stemming the tides of the first alien invasion, which is the major plotline in the
    • In regards to the carrot bit, he basically answered by saying "we're going to give you another hit of crack from the Skinner Box at some additional points in the game to keep you hooked".

      Which brings me to MY question of "what is CoH doing to get itself out of the Skinner Box model that all MMORPGs today currently fit into? The closest thing I've seen to a MMORPG stepping away from that is Second Life and ATiTD.

      That's really whats turned me off from every single MMORPG out there though. I start playing, t

  • Customize Vehicles-Use a designer to build your own depending on cost, slap in seating/engines(conventional and jet)/fueltanks/armor/weapons/acesssories like radar or a snow plow in front.

    Customize Fortress-Pay for all sorts of wall and floor pieces, gun turrets, fortifications, special buildings, etc. Design so players can really spend time making big castles.

    Basically power sources would appear in the wild, and all the clans would have to compete for them. So teams would secure as many power sou
    • I don't subscripe to CoH, so can someone with some in game experience let us know if the game supports vehicles and lairs?

      This idea would be excellent. Every good super-hero needs an awesome ride and a comfy place to hang his cape.

      • The game did not have vehicles when I cancelled and I didn't see plans for them mentioned. Heroes have a number of travel powers to choose from (super speed, flight, and super jumping).

        By lairs, do you mean enemy lairs to invade/conquer? CoH does have static missions and places on the world maps in which certain enemy types spawn. There are no player "lairs" (housing) right now but per the article it seems super groups (guilds) will be getting access to those in the expansion.
  • by Elsebet ( 797203 ) <(elsebet) (at) (gmail.com)> on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:23PM (#10867197) Homepage Journal
    By making death a penalty, players now have a goal to strive for: survival. Some players will inevitably be better than others, but players want things to distinguish themselves from others. So the players who aren't killed often level quicker, and thus are demonstrably 'better' in terms of the level difference.

    Levelling pace in an MMORPG has little to do with how much "better" a player is but more with how much time said player has to invest. An experience debt/loss penalty hurts a person who has 1-2 hours to play a night far, far worse in the short term than one who has the ability to play for 8-10 hours at a time. This is one reason a casual player could get upset and quit after amassing a large amount of loss/debt from an unfortunate death or series of deaths in an MMORPG.

    Yes, I do realize knowing how to maximize xp gain can be considered a "skill" (a challenge measured by how hard it is to google that info) but for the most part my previous point stands.
    • No, it really doesn't hurt the short-time player that much worse since the time spent paying off the debt, expressed as a percentage of time played, should be the same.

      As someone who has played MMOGs both casually and obsessively, the commonly proposed idea that there should be some crutch for people who play less than others is just ridiculous. Someone who plays less has access to the same content as someone who plays all the time - it just takes longer to get to it. Should someone who has only an hour

    • I would be interested in a game that rewarded how much you accomplished versus the time you spent doing it.

      There are some balancing issues to that thought alone, but its an idea.

      My other thought has been as a result of playing Morrowind with its practice-makes-perfect skill system and other related game styles. I'd like to see unused skills atrophy.

      I know for myself, I often chalk up enough points in each skill I want to be uber-good and then lay waste to stuff, frequently not using my jump skill till I
    • Debt in COH is very connected to play style and risks taken. I know some players who die very often and get angry about it. I've also watched them play and its more often than not their (lack of) tactics that is getting them killed. Doing melee attacks with a Blaster? Good way to get killed. Using your Blaster's nuke attack on a too high level group? Here comes the debt. Your scrapper wants to be a tank? Debt.
      Yes the occasional lag death occurs but it's rare.
      Also maximizing XP in the game IS about being a b
    • Levelling pace in an MMORPG has little to do with how much "better" a player is but more with how much time said player has to invest.

      Obtuse much? If I told you my Ferrari was faster than your Honda, how would you reply?

      Movement rate on roads has little to do with how much "faster" a car is but more with how much time each car has been driving.

      Both statments are true. Both are also irrelevant, miss the obvious point, and attack things that weren't even implied in the original.
    • I concur wholeheartedly. Playing Final Fantasy as a level 41 character got pretty tough when life started to take more of my time. I would log on, spend 2 hours tooling around making money until I found a party, get killed twice in 10 minutes right off the bat because the puller couldn't dodge aggro. Play for an hour, die a few more times before giving up on the idiots, and then I would have to log off and go somewhere. XP gain? None. After spending 3 hours losing 1500 xp (if I was lucky), I would realize a
  • Thanks for the interesting answers Jack.

    I played CoH for a couple of months, but the same thing always seems to happen: You get sucked in, and you lose of alot of real life time trying to push your character higher.

    Someone needs to create a MMORPG with a fast track, so someone who has a real job, and a family commitment can reap the benefits of the game that they pay for every month.

    The funny thing is, that even though I haven't played in a couple of months, I still can't force myself to cancel my accou
    • I posted this before [slashdot.org] but it seems relevant again: (I've been karma capped since the day karma caps were created so don't worry about that...)

      The levelling treadmill is a fundamental result of trying to apply the levelling system to MMORPGs. Anything that tries to apply the idea of levelling runs into two fundamentally conflicting forces:
      • 10% of your customer base accounts for 90% of the logged in time, and
      • 90% of your customer base (and by extension, income) doesn't do that.

      You need to make the game fun f

      • A Day in the Desert also eliminated some of the levelling. You had a multitude of different directions you could go with your skills and some of the "grinding," repeating a task over and over again, could be automated to be run while you were gone. (I think... I only played for a short while before life intervened, so most of this is based upon my brother's experience, him having spent much time on the original and its sequel.)
      • It's not something that can be designed around, it's fundamental to the genre and the technique. Fortunatley, all hope is not lost. I know of at least two systems that eschew the levelling treadmill: Puzzle Pirates, which uses head-to-head puzzle competition as its combat technique, and Planetside, which I've heard is more FPS then level-based. (Could be wrong. I haven't played either.) Until these alternate techniques go mainstream, MMORPGs are going to be stuck in the same rut they've been stuck in since
  • by ggeezz ( 100957 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:35PM (#10867339)
    I believe he hit the nail on the head with the death penalty question. Sure it's frustrating when you die and lose experience (and thus time). But shouldn't death be at the very least frustrating. If it isn't then why do I care about protecting my character.

    I do, however, think there is a happy medium. Games such as Nethack, where death is permanent and final, scare me into not putting too much commitment into a character because the next key I hit could berieve me of my character. While this does make every choice I make intense, I don't want my games to be like real life where death actually causes pain (because you put so much effort into a character only to lose it). I think the experience penalty is good compromise.
    • Games such as Nethack, where death is permanent and final, scare me into not putting too much commitment into a character because the next key I hit could berieve me of my character.

      I'm personally partial to the Nethack way, but I'd rather see a compromise that made more sense--e.g. if your 14th level character dies, you have to wait 5 minutes and can roll up a new character, but the new character starts just a level or two lower than the old one (and with some okay equipment for whatever level that chara
    • Hm, I think death penalties are pretty meaningless. Yah, it takes me twice as long to level, but I play to have fun where I am, not to get to the end.

      If you get to the end, you're Done, in a MMORPG.

      In city of heroes, the death penalty cuts experience in half for a certain amount of experience to earn. But not money. So one way to be a rich hero is to stay in debt.
  • by DoorFrame ( 22108 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:40PM (#10867393) Homepage
    If you're in the mood for a chuckle, check out this contest [cityofheroes.com] that City of Heroes had for people to dress up like their hero. Some of them are actually pretty good. Who would have thought?
  • For instance, a player can get a cape at level 20.

    Somebody hasn't seen "The Incredibles"...
  • What the MMP medium has NOT had is the breakout hit that defines it.

    From this guy's numbers, CoH has about 200k people playing it. World of warcraft had 500k in the public beta, and I would expect a whole lot more people to play the full game. 2x? 2.5x? 3x? Who knows. But from what I've seen so far, it does an amazing job of putting together things that already existed in MMO's but hadn't really been used correctly, and certainly not all at once. I think this is going to be the breakout title of MMO
    • I tend to take the opposite view. Sure, 500k people signed up to play the game *for free*, but how many of those are going to dish out the $50 +15/mo? By contrast, how many people that intend to purchase the game wouldn't have signed up for the open beta? WoW is gonna be huge no doubt, but 1.5 - 2 million huge? I don't think so.
      • Good question. I think it's more than you think ... I played open beta for all of THREE DAYS, and I immediately went out and pre-ordered the game when the open beta ended. Calling WOW the breakout hit of the MMO genre isn't that much of a stretch ... given Blizzard's track record, if anyone can do it, they can.
  • NO CAPES (Score:2, Funny)

    by Anonymous Coward
    Sheesh, you'd think that recently released documentary [imdb.com] would teach people...
  • If the player feels that he can dispose of his character at any time, then the player inevitably doesn't care very much about his character. This works in a short term FPS model, but not so much in a game which is depending upon long term commitment.

    First off many FPS games have been around as long as or longer than MMORPGs, so that arguement right there doesn't hold up. But players stick around in MMORPGs not because death penalties somehow give their characters depth, but because of the player community
    • First off many FPS games have been around as long as or longer than MMORPGs, so that arguement right there doesn't hold up.
      I suspect that what he means is the short-term experience with the session you're playing. While I've been playing games of Eradicator for over 5 years, it hasn't been the same session that I've been playing. In comparison, in an MMORPG, you may have been building your character for years. *shrug*
    • I can't wait until World of Warcraft blows this myth out of the water.

      Amen to that. It's about time people stopped making excuses for crappy gameplay in MMOG's. They are full of harsh death penalties that make users not want to explore areas for fear of dying and tedious grind-a-thon crafting.

      WoW really does blow that out of the water IMO, I do think it has what it takes to be genre defining.

      I find it totally rediculous to suggest that harsh dealth penalties lead to greater immersion due to being more a
  • WoW death penalty (Score:4, Informative)

    by yeoua ( 86835 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @03:56PM (#10867616)
    Note that in WoW (I was able to get into the open beta before it closed) the "penalty" is not quite a penalty, which is quite good.

    In WoW, you lose no experience, no gold, no equipment... infact, your character comes back intact. What you do lose is time... and a lot of it. And you can also lose your place in the game.

    Basically you spawn as a ghost at some graveyard, and now you can either hike to your body or pay the penalty of 10 minutes with a curse on your stats (a major curse) and all armor on you and your inventory takes a hit on durability. This basically puts you out of the game for 10 minutes, loss of potentially a substantial amount of gold, and you spawn fresh at the grave site which could be many minutes away from where you were. That's a decently big penalty of basically... you have to wait 10 minutes before you can attempt what ever you tried again, which could have taken half an hour.

    If you attempted to walk back as a ghost, you have to walk back for potentially 10 minutes (Barrens comes to mind), and when you get there you have a chance of not having a safe spawn point in which case you could just die again and repeat this process.

    So yes there is no character based penalty... but with the potential of needing to basically start a segment of your quest from scratch (especially where its instanced since you have to start at the start... and enemies respawn at some rate) after a relatively long run back to perhaps a hostile spawn area (and you spawn without buffs at that)... or a choice to take 10 minutes of ability drain and gold sacrifice...

    WoW is not without its penalties. But the penalties are not your character... the penalties are on you the player.
    • You now have a gold penalty in the form of equipment wear when you die (at least that's how I read it in the forums). Not that it's much, mind you, but it's not nothing.

    • Re:WoW death penalty (Score:5, Informative)

      by SuperRob ( 31516 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @05:08PM (#10868701) Homepage
      This changed late in open beta. Death now results in a 10% reduction in the durability of all items (which have durability ratings to begin with). If you choose to use the Spirit Healer, you are resurrected without finding your body, but you get a 25% reduction in durability. This basically costs you a little money in addition to the curse, which isn't that bad a deal. The death penalty in WOW is very minor compared to a lot of games.
    • I rather liked the death penalties in Horizons. You couldn't just rack up death points, but if you took a couple deaths a night, it wasn't a big deal.

      Here's how they worked for those of you unfamiliar:
      Dying gives you a Death Point.
      Death Points go away after 8 hours of real time, whether or not you're online.
      Eating a variety of foods can reduce the time until the next DP goes away by about 5 minutes, on average. Eating the same foods repetatively has a significantly reduced effect.

      1st DP: No ill ef

  • I have played CoH in beta to the present and as the game slowly matures (and I use that term loosely, it still has a LONG way to go) it becomes more and more unbalanced. If you play anything besides a tanker or scrapper you are destined to die quite often and quite easily as opposed to those other 2 AT's I mentioned. It really comes down to having a couple badly overpowered classes that as you get closer to the high end (40-50 range) the gap of ability vs survivability is huge. Most blasters, controllers
  • Free month indeed. (Score:2, Insightful)

    by Stalin ( 13415 )
    I can't believe people accept that if they pay $39.99 for the game they are getting to play it "free for one month." /me knocks on the fools head "Hello in there. You just paid over twice the monthly fee for your 'free month'." I wish MMOs would adopt the business model that Vendetta Online [vendetta-online.com] is using. You can go to the store, buy the box which comes with goodies like a map and a plastic disc, and get your "free month." Or, you can go to the website, download the installer, and then play for a free eight ho
  • by Paolomania ( 160098 ) on Friday November 19, 2004 @04:20PM (#10868018) Homepage
    If players lose nothing by being defeated then naturally the players won't see death as an issue. Players will begin to look at their characters like those in FPS games such as Counterstrike or Battlefield 1942. In other words, the player's avatar is perceived as disposable.

    This fallacy is very popular amongst MMOG devs. Avatars are disposable only if the player considers the cumulative time that they have put into developing their character as worthless. I believe that most people value their time, and therefore value their developed avatars with or without some penalty for dying that equates to hours of game time.
  • I bought into these for a while. I was a member of Galaxies. Beta member of WoW. Beta member of CoH. SecondLife member. I can't fathom how these people can charge $50+ for the game then an additional $15 a month and people actually pay it. You want to get your product out there... free download then pay the monthly fee.

    If I pay $50 for a game that sucks and then after a month it's no use to me, I would feel completely screwed. Give me a free download and a $15 first month... then if it sucks I'm o
    • The problem is that if they lose the revenue from initial sales, that fee will be more like $20 a month. Or did you think you were paying for the packaging? But I definitely agree that free trials are essential for mass MMO adoption. WoW got it right, download and play for free, then if you want to continue, buy a retail box and pay the monthly fee.
  • MMORPG masochism (Score:2, Insightful)

    by WombatDeath ( 681651 )
    A couple of things:

    "So the players who aren't killed often level quicker, and thus are demonstrably 'better' in terms of the level difference."

    Really now, this is frothing idiocy. I haven't yet seen a MMORPG where skill and strategy isn't entirely overwhelmed by the time invested in playing - a high-level character is simply demonstrably 'older'.

    "This is no different than one person earning a special piece of armor by going on a hard, long quest, and another one who chooses not to go on that quest. T
  • I'm personally very interested in Guild Wars [guildwars.com]. Not really a MMORPG except for some aspects, but very little grind, no monthly fees, a lot of content and even more to be released in expansions that *you* decide when to buy and not absolutely necessary to play with those who have the expansions, excellent graphics (see website), Player vs Environment areas, Guild vs Guild areas, Player vs Player arenas, and questing and a decent storyline. Overall a new kind of game genre and I have already pre-ordered the gam
  • Tell that to the NWN scripters who have spent literally years creating fantasticly detailed worlds, the kind of thing that can only be achieved free of commercial pressure and driven by the players.

    Most is dross but a significant minority is OUTSTANDING and the man is a tool to ignore it.
    • Jack Emmert: "The problem is that most player created generated content isn't very good."

      Realistic Dragon: "Most is dross but a significant minority is OUTSTANDING"

      Nice to see that you guys agree. Now, take a deep breath, and think about how long it took them to come out with NWN, which, in the end, has a sub-par editor that requires a lot of hacks and workarounds. Think about combining that with an MMORPG, where the technological dilemma is compounded by fifty times.

      Think about the legal iss
  • These are the same questions/issues we dealt with back in 1992 while working on a text-based MUDs. Level-grind, balance, compelling content, death, population size, mules, persistence, etc. It saddens and gladdens me to see the MMOGs haven't adequately addressed these issue either. The game that does will pwn you.
  • There is no single acronym for them. Just on this page I have found:
    1. MMORPG
    2. MMOG
    3. MMO
    4. MMP
    5. MMRPG

    ... none of which is pronounceable. If you can't pronounce it, how can you discuss it?

    Am I supposed to ask my friends "Hey, are you into Massive Multiplayer Online Roleplaying Games", or what?

  • by MilenCent ( 219397 ) <johnwh@Nospam.gmail.com> on Friday November 19, 2004 @06:36PM (#10870013) Homepage
    I personally loathe puzzles, riddles and jump games.

    Wow, way to dismiss about half of computer gaming in one statement. Using this he is responding to the 3D Zelda games (which don't feature "jump games" as such, in fact they have an auto-jump feature in order to avoid that).

    While riddles and "jump games" (his term of dismissal is telling) may or may not be arguable, puzzles are one of *the* integral elements to gaming. All games are a puzzle of some sort, held to different standards of timing. (In Robotron, for example, the puzzle is deciding which ways to run and shoot in the split-second usually available to you.) And his argument that making a virtual rave in a mission into a "real" one, and calling that an improvement, falls flat with me.

    Also, I was struck by his stock answer to the XP-penalty-for-dying issue: To get you to emphathize more with your character, next question. Surely there are better ways to do that than docking the player on the experience count. His response to the "grinding" charge is similar.

    He also dismissed user-created content, apparently ignorant of the fact that no game can possibly keep all its players interested with a "top-down" approach to content. Also, user-created content (*if well implemented*, and allows players to genuinely create new experiences) can have a way of building on each other to "evolve" into new concepts in a way that a team of explicit designers can never match. Yeah, lots of user content sucks, most of it in fact, but that isn't always the user's fault. Also, you could view the web as the ultimate user-content-created MMORPG; there's huge numbers of pointless websites, but the best ones are what people visit over and over again. Find a way to reward those people for producing content with an in-game mechanism, and give people a way of finding those players (like a search engine), and the problem should solve itself. (Not that I consider this to be easily done. But someday, someone will do it right.)

    I was considering playing City of Heroes before this interview -- I had heard it approached a number of problems in a novel way, maybe even the right way, but I am less certain now. It's starting to seem more like the novelty arises out of setting rather than being truly different gameplay.
  • This was my question and I'm glad it got asked.

    I agree much of the user produced stuff is going to be total crap. It always is with ANY game, massively multiplayer or no.

    But the real staying power of the few outstanding games in other genres has been the ability of users to add their own content.

    Consider what map making did for doom, quake, and the like. Or strategy games like Command & Conquer.

    Or how about what Counterstrike did for Halflife? I'd argue that even given the original game's wonderful
  • pffft (Score:2, Insightful)

    I never foresaw how many characters each player would create. It seems that having a dozen or more 'alts' (alternate characters) is the norm, rather than the extreme. People love making lots of different heroes - and lots of costumes.

    That's because that's where the most fun is in the game - creating a charachter. As opposed to where the fun SHOULD be - playing the game.
  • I see a lot of comments on every story about MMORPGS about the problem with level grind. The solution mentioned in the interview is to offer players more "carrots" but I think thats like sticking your finger in a dam, it's just not a viable solution to keeping players playing. The biggest problem with level grind is that combat in MMORPGS (and most CRPGs in general I think) is that combat is boring. Especially for a fighter, where you just click on the enemy and watch your character fight it out, and it'

"Even if you're on the right track, you'll get run over if you just sit there." -- Will Rogers