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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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  • by panthroman ( 1415081 ) on Tuesday May 19, 2009 @11:51PM (#28021565) Homepage

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

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

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

    by Brian Gordon ( 987471 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:10AM (#28021665)
    The key is to sandbox it heavily. For example don't let the players design their own attacks, but limit them to 8 skills at a time and if the skills are balanced well there's a mind boggling variety [] of possibilities.

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

    So give me an MMO with a low level cap. Everyone has exactly the same number by their name and the same possibilities for stat building, so there's no epeen waving and no reason to abuse the system. If players want to sit around all day playing farming missions then I guess they're having fun and it's fine because their little number isn't moving. Of course it always comes down to EPIC GEAR that (even in guild wars) takes at least like a thousand hours of farming, but you can just make user generated content not eligible for those items.
  • by jandrese ( 485 ) <> on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:40AM (#28021823) Homepage Journal
    As someone with an active CoH account, I've seen several articles like the above and it strikes me that the only people who are angry enough about this to write online articles (and get them linked) are the gold farmers who were abusing the heck out of the system even after the devs told them to stop and warned them about not abusing it. For regular players this has not been a problem at all.

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

    In the long run, the Mission Architect has given the players an enormous amount of new content. It really is an amazing system, and it has plenty of headroom to grow even more amazing.
  • by Chas ( 5144 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @12:50AM (#28021871) Homepage Journal

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

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

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

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

    by tonywong ( 96839 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:52AM (#28022169) Homepage

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

  • Re:Poor Design (Score:2, Interesting)

    by Anonymous Coward on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @06:33AM (#28023329)

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

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

    What is their solution? If you guessed instance the zone, or add incentives to spread out within the zone rather than concentrating on the area, you'd be wrong. Their brilliant solution was to make the zone less desirable and less enjoyable, so that fewer people show up to do it.

    I guess that does technically solve the problem, though. I wish I could get away with crap like that at my job.

  • by unsigned integer ( 721338 ) on Wednesday May 20, 2009 @01:11PM (#28027771)

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

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

    They nerfed Invuln tanks. They nerfed regen scrappers. They nerfed fire tanks. And then they nerfed everyone across the board with diminishing returns from SOs. (patch 4? 5?)

    Welcome to the City of Mediocrity. Statesman observed you were being too heroic and awesome, and made sure that you sucked more. The nerfs hurt more in this game, because this was the game where you /were supposed to be awesome/. You're a fucking super hero!

    Frankly, the most fun I ever had in CoH was the Crystal Cavern, where I pulled half the map as my fire tank. I felt like I had finally reached a pinnacle of my hero's power. I bet you can't do that anymore - which is a shame - because that was the most fun I ever had in CoH.

    It's too bad MMO's optimize for keeping you around and paying, instead of letting you go nuts and have fun. You'd think someone would hit on the formula for the latter, which would beget the former.

1 Mole = 007 Secret Agents