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Role Playing (Games)

City of Heroes Purchased By NCsoft 127

Rock, Paper, Shotgun comments on the big news from late last night: NCsoft has announced that it has purchased City of Heroes/Villains from Cryptic Studios, the Massive game's original developer. Everyone on the team has been offered a new position with the newly formed NCsoft NorCal studio, and many of them have accepted. As far as the players are concerned, NCsoft only intends for them to see freebies as a result of this deal: "Now back to you, the players. You are the lifeblood of our game. In celebration of our new studio and our exciting plans, and in order to thank you for the fantastic community that you have built, we are pleased to announce the following: All players with City of Heroes retail accounts will now have access to City of Villains, and all City of Villains retail accounts will now have access to City of Heroes. Players that didn't previously have access to "the other side" will find that they do now. Just log in to check it out! After the launch of Issue 11: A Stitch in Time this Fall, we are removing Debt from all characters and giving you a fresh start ... Also after the launch of Issue 11, all Supergroups will receive an additional 20,000 Prestige per Supergroup member."
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City of Heroes Purchased By NCsoft

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  • by GammaKitsune ( 826576 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @12:41PM (#21268471)
    I've got to say that I'm kind of worried. One of the best things about CoH is that the developers seem to focus a lot on what the players want. There have been several instances of major changes being brought to the game simply on player request, and it's greatly appreciated. I'll be kind of upset if NCSoft abandons this policy in favor of their plan to "aggressively develop and expand the franchise."
  • by Aladrin ( 926209 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @01:02PM (#21268801)
    I think you're worried for nothing. NCSoft makes GuildWars under the ArenaNet name and they definitely DO listen to the players and the internet in general. The game is filled with references to popular internet sites and phenomena and each new version has things that people have been asking for. I don't see why they'd nix this policy when they make sure liberal use of it themselves.

    That's not even mentioning that the majority of the dev team will remain the same, and it's only an ownership change.
  • by Bieeanda ( 961632 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @01:16PM (#21269037)
    When I was more obsessive about not out-leveling story arcs and hidden contacts, I would regularly run a character into groups of tough mobs and politely wait for them to hand my ass to me. Fortunately, that particular stunt is going to become unnecessary when the Flashback system goes live.

    I can see some people running up debt on their idle 50's, in order to get a sliver further into the various XP debt badges, but overall this seems to be nothing more than a nice (if kind of empty) gesture.

    I'm definitely turning 'ignore Supergroup invites' on for my unaffiliated characters, though. Random pubbie invites were common enough before; the prospect of signing bonuses is going to whip them into a frenzy.

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @01:45PM (#21269545) Journal
    Until level 10 there is no debt at all, and below 20 or so, debt is a silly joke. Doubly so between levels 10 and 13, which is where people do it the most. (Because at 14, as you know, they get a travel power.) That's why people do that: because it doesn't matter at that level. The first couple of groups in a solo mission will clear that hospital teleport debt.

    So now look at the GGP post or so, claiming that people will abuse that debt forgiving. What's the worst that can happen there? That a couple of frustrated newbies will be forgiven of 100xp debt because they hospital-ported from the Hollows?

    Well, good, because God knows that the Hollows can be a kick in the nuts when you get a mission at the opposite corner, you're level 12 and your Zero G pack just ran out of fuel. (Though admittedly it was an even bigger pain in the nuts before they introduced the safeguard missions and those temporary travel powers.) You know, whop-de-do, such a game-breaking exploit it will be that someone might actually have fun instead of running through purple trolls and COT.

    Or, what, will the level 49's start doing that too now, just to exploit the debt forgiving? Never mind that anything that can kill a level 49 is in PI, and it takes less time to even run with Sprint+Swift to the hospital than to go looking for a group that can kill you, and wait for them to finish the job.

    Basically that's all I'm saying: I don't see how that's abusable.
  • My impressions. (Score:5, Insightful)

    by MaWeiTao ( 908546 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:06PM (#21270759)
    I played City of Heroes for a couple of years, from a few months after initial launch up until shortly after the launch of City of Villains. I experimented with a few alternate characters but I had reached level 45 with my main; 5 levels below the level 50 cap.

    I got into the game on the recommendation of my brother and another friend of ours. I played Everquest years earlier for a few months, shortly after the first expansion. The demanding nature of that game, including the reliance on grouping burned me out quickly. What attracted me to CoH was the ability to solo and lack of reliance on gear. It was kind of like a socialist MMO.

    What really hooked me was the pace of combat. The game gets really exciting during a fight; I don't think there's been another MMO yet that matches the pace of that game. It's as close to direct, active control as I've seen thus far. Apparently a new powerset is being introduced which even allows for combos.

    Additionally, a lone hero could face a group of upwards of 5 foes and emerge victorious, depending on the class. It was fun to jump into the midst of some villains and beat the hell out of them all. So in that regard, it was a very satisfying game.

    The pace of leveling was fairly quick but, like all other MMOs it still had considerable grind. And that's really where things broke down. There was nothing else to do but fight. Every single thing in the game revolve around beating up badguys. There were conditions for some missions, like clicking on glowing items, but even then it required getting past hordes of villains. Story was presented in dialog boxes; at the time there were no cutscenes. Alternative skills, comparable to blacksmithing in fantasy MMOs were finally introduced a few months ago. This was after years of promising they were coming soon.

    Apparently the skill system was completely redesigned at least 3 times over because it was deemed to not be fun enough. I haven't played what was finally implemented but from what I've read I'm not impressed. It looks like it's merely an adaptation of the supergroup base item building feature.

    The character customization is excellent, and probably still surpasses what's available in most other MMOs. Beyond that, however, there's only one way to improve a character. And that's through enhancements which is comparable to stats for other games. Basically, enemies "drop" these enhancements which are then applied to a character's powers. So a player can boost damage, or the power's secondary debuff effect. That was all well and good until the developers decided they didn't want people focusing on a single aspect of any given power. So, every power has 5 slots, if I remember correctly, but using more than two slots for the same boost was essentially a waste. This was supposed to encourage enhancement diversity but I think it resulted in standard ideal templates for specific powers.

    There was also the incessant complaining by those who had chosen classes that were less effective solo who felt it was unfair that other classes could solo so effective. Nevermind the fact that the best solo builds weren't always well-suited for groups. So a lot of work went into addressing that with mixed results and to, I feel, the general detriment of the game.

    Another problem I came to find with the game was the excessive reliance on templates for environmental design. Basically, upon entering a zone the first time a player had a good sense for how the rest of the zone looked. And many of those features were reused in most other zones. So where other MMOs have a varied and dynamic landscape City of Hero's was a bit contrived. It was tiring running through the same laboratory with a random, nonsensical layout for the 5th time in a few hours. Despite that, the art style was great. It was a lot of fun traveling amongst those skyscrapers. The game simply could have benefited from more variety.

    One thing that was good about CoH/CoV was how Cryptic has maintained a close relationship with the players. They've n
  • Bzzt, wrong (Score:4, Insightful)

    by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @03:26PM (#21271077) Journal
    Bzzt, wrong. Look at some of the early comics, and super-heroes were just that: unassailable gods with perfect morals.

    Superman, for example, started with no vulnerability whatsoever. The whole "kryptonite" thing was invented as a tongue-in-cheek explanation when they had to skip an episode or two for the radio version later, for example because the actor was on vacation. And even there it wasn't actually used _in_ any story line. Superman didn't have to battle anyone wielding kryptonite at that point.

    Mind you, if you're going to say that that's not (necessarily) much fun in a game, we can even aggree quickly.

    But that's a limitation of video games, not a limitation of super-heroes. Literary or comic book characters can be as god-like as the author wants, and still be fun and popular.

    Heck, you don't even have to look only at superhero comics. Take Terry Prattchett's Diskworld books, for example. Cohen the barbarian is, for example, so good at dodging that in Interesting Times he even dodges a cannonball from a gun that got teleported right in front of him and fired. Rincewind is comically incompetent except he always ends up on top, even if by sheer luck and without fully realizing what he's done. The witches are just short of god-like in their own right, and can pretty much get what they want even from Death himself. Wossname the monk learned from yetis how to "save and reload" IRL, so he just comes back after being beheaded. Etc, etc, etc. Almost every single major character in those books has some kind of super-power that makes him completely invincible and unstoppable, even by the whole freakin' army of China (or the DW equivalent of it.)

    Does that make the books any less fun to read? Nope.

    Think action movies. Rambo can stand tall with a machinegun in front of a whole tank division, or get in a pissing... err... shooting contest with a gunship and come out on top. Jedi in SW movies are just about gods that can only kill each other. But they're way out of the league of mortal soldiers or drones, even when those are in brigade-sized formations and with AT-AT and air support. Etc.

    And you know what? I dare say that that's actually good character design. People want to be told a nice story where the hero overcomes everything, and everything ends with a happy ending.

    Not many people want to be told a tale where the hero thought he could fly circles around the Death Star, but the laws of firepower always beat the rules of literature. Or not many want to be told the story of the guy who thought he could jump in front of the enemy company with a pistol, and was riddled with bullets before he even finished the clip. Those are depressing stories of failure. They're not fun.

    We want to be told stories where one determined guy changes the world for the better, and nothing whatsoever can stay in his way. Not one where he fails in the first 15 minutes.

    But, again, I can see how that doesn't translate into a fun video game. We just have to accept that it's simply different media, with different rules.
  • Re:Bzzt, wrong (Score:3, Insightful)

    by Haeleth ( 414428 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @04:47PM (#21272291) Journal

    Bzzt, wrong. Look at some of the early comics, and super-heroes were just that: unassailable gods with perfect morals.
    Did you ever wonder why that only happened in early comics? Has the possibility crossed your mind that the reason modern comics feature almost exclusively complex, flawed heroes is that comics about flawed heroes are more popular than comics about unassailable gods with perfect morals?

    But that's a limitation of video games, not a limitation of super-heroes. Literary or comic book characters can be as god-like as the author wants, and still be fun and popular.
    Yes, there have been flawless godlike heroes aplenty, but how many of them have survived the test of time? Damn few. Compare them to flawed heroes like Achilles (wrath, heel), whose story has thrilled generation after generation for literally thousands of years. Or Oedipus (incest, patricide), or Agamemnon (filicide), or pretty much every other damn Greek hero.

    And we find the same in heroes from all other traditions; Sigmund committed incest, Sampson fell for Delilah, Lancelot fell for Guinevere, etc.

    We want to be told stories where one determined guy changes the world for the better, and nothing whatsoever can stay in his way. Not one where he fails in the first 15 minutes.
    I beg to differ. Even if you eschew the highbrow and turn to Hollywood blockbusters, I think you'll find that having the good guy fail in the first half of the movie is part of the standard formula. We like our determined guys to change the world, but we don't want it to be a pushover! That's no fun.

    Yes, James Bond always blows up the villain and gets the girl, but you know damn well he's going to fall for the wrong girl, get captured, and face torture and "certain" death first.

    And to counter those of your examples that I'm also familiar with:

    Almost every single major character in [the Discworld series] has some kind of super-power that makes him completely invincible and unstoppable, even by the whole freakin' army of China (or the DW equivalent of it.)
    But they sure aren't godlike beings with perfect morals. How is Rincewind, one of fantasy literature's all-time great cowards, a "perfect hero"? How is Granny Weatherwax, whose arrogance nearly gets her killed in pretty much every book, perfect? The books are fun to read precisely because, while you know the right people are going to triumph in the end, you can't imagine how they possibly can. They can't simple wander up to the chief villain and prod buttock like a Kryptonite-immune Superman.

    Jedi in SW movies are just about gods that can only kill each other. But they're way out of the league of mortal soldiers or drones, even when those are in brigade-sized formations and with AT-AT and air support.
    Clearly you didn't watch the second and third prequels, in which 99% of all Jedi were wiped out in a matter of minutes by mortal soldiers and drones.

    In short, what makes a hero interesting is the dramatic tension caused by the existence of character flaws or overwhelming odds. God mode is as boring in books or movies as it is in games. A great hero is one who wins even though he could easily have lost.
  • by sfranklin ( 95470 ) on Wednesday November 07, 2007 @05:34PM (#21272915) Journal
    I've been with City of Heroes since open beta 3.5 years ago (just missed the closed beta). I've seen several posts here on /. saying basically "Been to CoH, didn't like it, left the game" and I'd like to say a little about how the game has matured since then.

    Today's CoX (so abbreviated since both City of Heroes and City of Villains is really the same game) has changed massively during those 3.5 years. There's City of Villains, 2 years old as of last week, which nearly doubled the number of playable archetypes (think classes). There's tons of new zones (over 30 now) to play in. There's different mission types - rescuing hostages, destroying or defending the urban landscape - than the original "beat up all the bad guys". And there's Inventions, which is the CoX crafting system, a fairly new system that's still growing.

    Bad things have happened too. Enhancement Diversification, unfortunately abbreviated ED, upset a lot of people by basically capping the amount by which you could improve your powers. Just over 2 years ago, there was a massive nerf to defense that made melee archetypes much squishier. And plenty of the little nerfs that every MMORPG gets along the way.

    One thing that has not changed in the entire 3.5 years is the dedication of the CoX team to the community. The faces have changed - we've had several community representatives, the original lead designers for both CoH and CoV are gone - but the team has continued and has been very open with us about how the game is doing and their plans. Sure, they don't tell us everything, just as I wouldn't tell my clients everything about how I run my consulting business - but they're very open with everything they're allowed to share. And we get new updates (called issues) typically once every 3 months or so, which is great for keeping the game fresh even for us old-timers.

    Another thing that continues to grow is the player community. Sites like http://www.paragonwiki.com/ [paragonwiki.com], http://www.cohtitan.com/ [cohtitan.com], http://coh.redtomax.com/data/ [redtomax.com] and http://www.badge-hunter.com/ [badge-hunter.com] are continually adding more support for players.

    This NCSoft acquisition is a good thing for the game, in my opinion. The developers will no longer have to worry about two masters (Cryptic and NCSoft) - even when both your bosses are in agreement, red tape can cause problems, much less when they don't agree. That issue is gone. NCSoft has shown their commitment to maintaining the game through their offers of employment to practically the entire development and support team, as well as the creation of the NorCal studio. Personally I won't get much out of the in-game gifts, but it says a lot about NCSoft that they're reaching out to the community in this way.

"I don't believe in sweeping social change being manifested by one person, unless he has an atomic weapon." -- Howard Chaykin