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

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

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  • Re:Poor Design (Score:3, Informative)

    by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:35PM (#28021461)
    The "loophole" is the whole point of the expansion. User generated content is their selling point but it ends up being destructive.
  • Re:Poor Design (Score:5, Informative)

    by Moryath ( 553296 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:11AM (#28021673)


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

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

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

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

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

    by Chas ( 5144 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:45AM (#28021843) Homepage Journal
    The thing is, the devs problem isn't with farming per se. If someone wants to farm nothing but bosses on the same map all day, every day, the devs don't particularly LIKE that sort of play style, but you're not going to get nerfed/delete/banned for it. Their problem is with abuse of exploits within the system. Prior to public release, there were certain "enemy" types that simply did no damage on their own. They were "healer" types or "enemy generator" types. But, because of how they appear and are used in some of the dev arc missions, they give XP. Most of these were stripped out prior to release. So the exploiters moved on to the next level up. "Skewed XP awards and mechanics exploits". This was the so-called "Rikti Doll" farm. A certain type of Rikti, the Communications Officer is a minion-class (lowest) foe. However, it gives liutenant (next class up) XP. Why? Because it's an "enemy generator" type that summons additional foes. Bit of historical info. Initially the Commos gave minion-class XP, but players were essentially farming them because all the summoned foes gave XP too. Like a fountain of endless XP. So the devs changed it so the summoned foes gave no XP, but bumped the XP on the Commos themselves to compensate. Bit of mechanics info. HOWEVER, in a group, only ONE Commo will pop a portal to summon more foes. This stops you from running into random groups that might occasionally have a high number of them and spawning an unmanageable horde of XP-less foes. The exploiters were utilizing this mechanic to built farms of low-risk enemies that gave out inordinately large quantities of XP. There were instances of people levelling from 1 to 50 in 6-8 hours. Which is just NUTS. (Note: There is one piece of "performance art" that purports to have gotten an L50 character in 1 hour. In actuality, what this person did was level-pact with someone who was farming these exploit maps. They then logged off and only logged back on after the pact had hit L50, resulting in an L50 character with a total played-time of 1 hour.) As soon as the devs were able (they were in a code freeze for a major event in the game), they removed the exploitable enemies.
  • by EricHeimburg ( 1558365 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:46AM (#28022135)

    Hi, Eric Heimburg here (quoted in article).

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

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

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

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

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @02:32AM (#28022355) Journal

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

  • by Moraelin ( 679338 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @03:11AM (#28022501) Journal

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

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

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

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

    E.g., both in game and on the forums, the consensus is that if you're, say, a Blaster, oh well, you better get used to faceplanting lots and being in xp debt half the time. Or that you can't really solo past a point anyway, because everyone and their grandma mezzes and you just have no protection against being mez-locked. It's one of those things that just are, like the sun coming up in the east.

    But if you think about it... why? It's the most piss-poor example of game design. How about some actual balance?

    And is it surprising that then a lot of them went and made custom missions full of enemies which _can't_ mez for a change?


  • by sabt-pestnu ( 967671 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @03:40PM (#28029979)

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

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

    ED - "Enhancement Diversity" - a system of diminishing returns limiting how much any given facet of a power can be improved. Where before, you could add up to six of the same type of enhancement and get full benefit from them, under ED you could hit the diminishing returns limit after applying only two. Any enhancements (of that type) after two returned barely noticeable increases.

"So why don't you make like a tree, and get outta here." -- Biff in "Back to the Future"