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City of Heroes Sr. Designer Talks Architect System 56

Kheldon writes "The MMO Gamer sits down with Joe Morrissey, a Senior Designer at Paragon Studios, to discuss the inspiration behind, and current implementation of, the Architect user-generated content system in City of Heroes. Quoting: 'Really for me, wanting tools so the rest of the team could actually come up with content was the idea. Because we have a lot of guys on the team that are hardcore players, they play the game all the time. Then they come to me like, "I’ve got this idea for this story, we should really do this arc with this guy!" And I’m like, "That’s great. I haven’t got time to do it. I’ve got plenty of other story arcs to work on." But, if we made the tools easy enough, then they could actually come up with the arcs, and we can put them out. Then somewhere along that road it dawned on me: Why stop with the rest of the team?'"
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City of Heroes Sr. Designer Talks Architect System

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  • ...and then... (Score:3, Informative)

    by happy_place ( 632005 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:50AM (#30734028) Homepage
    ...and then I was like, "I know, we'll create a program that lets the players create their own content!" and I was like, "We could call it, I dunno..." And then, I had this really original idea, "A level editor!" I announced. And then, I played DOOM, and realized that level editors have been around since the dawn of modern gaming! So then a little devil appeared on my shoulder shaped like the microsoft logo that said, "Hurry! Patent it! And claim originality!"
    • Re: (Score:1, Insightful)

      by Anonymous Coward

      level editors for mmorpgs ? really ? which other one has it ?

    • The Mission Architect is a bit more than 'just a level editor'. You pick the map, populate it with enemies (who you can design or use the standard ones), allies (who you can design or use the standard ones), and mission objectives of more than a dozen different types. Then you can write the intro text, the mission text, the villain's gloats, the hostages heartfelt thank you's, etc... etc...
      And that's just for *one* of the three stories you pack together into your custom mission arc.

      • What, you mean exactly like the more-than-just-a-level-editor in (for example) Neverwinter Nights?

        Just because it's the first level editor that you've used does not make it original or special.

        • The actual mission editor is comparable to NWN, actually not as good iirc.

          What's different is the integration - your mission goes into a global list available to everyone playing CoH with no installation required. There's an in-game feedback mechanism, a rating scheme etc.

          I'd be interested to know how many hundreds of thousands of times the most popular AE missions have been played, and compare that to the most popular NWN modules (a stat that obviously doesn't exist but you get the idea)

        • In a universe where the CoX Mission Architect was the first level editor I've ever used, you'd have a point.

  • How many variations of go to X and kill/collect Y of Z are there, I wonder? Granted, I remember a long time ago playing user created campaigns in NWN, and they weren't half bad, but even professional designers seem to have difficulty putting together compelling mssions in MMOs... color me skeptical.
    • by Jarnin ( 925269 )
      It's no different than any other medium for storytelling. How many televisions shows or movies are just variations or hybrids of some other works? The question is, are they good variations or bad? Since this is amateurs at work, most of the stuff you're going to end up with will be crap, but it only takes a few great missions to make the whole system worth while.
    • The engine is limited, so the quests pretty much have to take that form.

      You can still have clever or funny stories within that framework.

    • How many variations of go to X and kill/collect Y of Z are there, I wonder?

      Well, there aren't really that many variations of 'go to X and kill/collect Y of Z', but there are more possible goals than just 'go to X and kill/collect Y of Z'. For the basic mission goals available in CoX, see Tutorial 104 [paragonwiki.com], for more advanced goals see the 200 series [paragonwiki.com] of tutorials.

      There's also some deeper tricks you can play - like chaining goals. (Goal 'y' won't spawn until goal 'x' is accomplished.) If you have a 'boss

    • Even within the limits, I've seen people do some amazing things. For example: a murder mystery where you need to figure out which boss to defeat from the clues given, because you don't have time to defeat all four. Or a horror story where you're spending the entire mission finding nothing to fight and wondering when the statues scattered throughout the area are going to come to life and attack you. I've seen efforts at creating stealth-based missions, but the game mechanics aren't quite there: there's no

  • I Played it (Score:1, Informative)

    by Anonymous Coward

    I used to play City of Heroes like a die hard fan, Now its just a few times a year.
    I stopped playing b/c there is only one thing to do in COH, and thats combat, no other form of content in the game, at least none that is actually, entertaining. I play Eve Online now for content, much better.

    But COH isn't bad if you like combat games, the Architect system is actually, one of a kind, I do not know of any other MMO where you can design your own missions, and let others play them. the system is very nice, and e

    • Re: (Score:2, Interesting)

      by Anonymous Coward

      The only problem is, the Devs, within a week of the system going live, they realized that players were smart, some smarter then them. Players would use the Architect system to create missions that were nothing but easy progression, essentially, a developer designed power level tool. Once the devs realized that this mess let players play their way, and not the Devs way, they nerfed the hell out of the Architect, reward pools, gained experience, credits, all of it limited.

      You say that as if the developers wer

  • Why CoH rocks. (Score:3, Interesting)

    by oGMo ( 379 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @02:58AM (#30734064)

    In the (admittedly short .. only got around level 30) time I played CoH, the biggest thing that impressed me was the writing. Not that it was super great literature or anything, but I was coming back each day to do quests not to get experience or items, but to see what happened next. That's a good sign. I never got very much into the AE stuff, but the concept was great. Some people complained about balanced, but really... so what? Personally I play games to have fun, not balance formulas.

    I compare this to the newer Champions Online. Great hopes ... costume customization was a bit better, more powers, etc. But boy does Champions fail hard on everything else. Lots of flavor text is self-referential tongue-in-cheek commentary felt like the programmers put stuff in as a placeholder and they never bothered to hire writers to fix it. The stories are super generic and feel committee-written, the settings are just about as generic as you can come up with, and ... there's just nothing to come back for. WoW has better writing and content. CO just doesn't take itself seriously, and the only real reason to play is to get exp to get to the next level, and as soon as you have the powers you want, suddenly there's no reason to keep playing. Making hero concepts is the only interesting thing.

    This brings us back around to CoH's AE. The ability to make your own content plays especially well with super heroes---especially player-made concepts---because you can go beyond just a costume and description, and create and play your own entire story. And that is just awesome.

    • by Jarnin ( 925269 )
      It's a bit unfair to compare Champions Online (which came out in 2009) with City of Heroes (Which is nearly 6 years old). I beta tested and played City of Heroes for about 3 months after it launched, and it was probably worse than Champions Online at launch. Champions is basically a very streamlined version of vanilla City of Heroes. I'd say most of it's systems are superior to the systems that CoH shipped with. That said, City of Heroes has 6 years worth of content additions and bug fixes, where CO has les
    • Having played COH extensively up until Mission Architect came out, and having tried CO for the open beta, I gotta say the 2 games are completely different. I realize CO is in its infancy, but its a different style of game. COH feels like a PC MMO and can have considerable depth and detail. Character classes have distinct roles - and quite frankly it still has the best group combat system of any MMO I have ever tried (and thats dozens of them). CO is a console game, it feels shallow, it feels simplistic, rol

      • CO was complete and utter crap to me and my friends, because it felt like it was designed for the 8-12 yr old console crowd. COH is a mature game with a lot of great content in it.

        A representative at PAX [wikipedia.org] 2007 told us that they were in fact aiming to make the UI usable on a game console. They may have had to give that up. I have trouble imagining the full range of abilities being used from a controller.

        On the other hand, you may be reacting to the fact that CO takes itself a lot less seriously than City of Heroes does. Missions like "How the Westside was won", heroes like Foxbat, Lunchador arena costumes....

        But if you're not having fun while playing a game, something is wrong. Pla

        • When I played CO, I played it with an XBox controller and it was *quite* playable - I really never used more than 9 "active" (read: requiring a button press) powers, so left trigger and 3 buttons or right trigger and 3 buttons or no trigger and 3 buttons handled all my powers. One button would jump (if no trigger was used), interact with an NPC/object (if left trigger was used), accept (right trigger), or decline (both triggers). The D-Pad would cycle through targets (left) allies (right) follow my target (

      • by oGMo ( 379 )

        CO is a console game, it feels shallow, it feels simplistic, roles are extremely poorly designed while seeming flexible and the action never stops.

        Eh. The problem with this comparison is that the primary console MMO is FFXI ... probably deeper and more complicated in many respects than many (other) PC MMOs I've played, especially the 800lb gorilla, WoW. CO on the other hand feels like WoW lite ... like someone played a few level 1 WoW missions, then made their entire game based on that without any real v

  • by glwtta ( 532858 ) on Tuesday January 12, 2010 @03:47AM (#30734256) Homepage
    I take it the headline is obnoxiously hard to parse* on purpose, right?

    (* at least for anyone who's not necessarily familiar with every damn MMO out there)
    • I defended the last idiotically written headline someone complained about, but I give up - these are consistently terrible. At least some quotation marks would help.

  • You can take your story arc and... I'm not that interested. Let me slaughter lower level players and give me challenging group content. That's all I need.
    • Let me slaughter lower level players

      Ah, one of those. I've never understood the appeal. What do you get out of killing low level players that you don't get out of killing low level computer enemies? The satisfaction of having inconvenienced a real person and reduced enjoyment of the game? I myself have killed players who were lower level than me in MMOs, but generally only if they had it coming. Otherwise, I really don't see the point. For all I know, there's some nice guy on the other end otherwise enjoying his evening, and I've just m

      • "Inevitably, though, the server ends up overflowing with high level characters"

        And the way the Warhammer Online folks handled this issue was indeed brilliant. Watching a lvl 30+ ganker heading into a lvl 10 PvP area and being turned into a lvl 1 chicken was great in and of itself. The further touch of his intended victim one-shotting said ganker and getting full rewards for the win - priceless. Pity the game did not otherwise keep my interest.

  • When AE went live, it was really crazy and the AE buildings where completely filled with peoples, to the point that entire game zones felt empty. Some peoples were creating missions for the sole purpose of farming, with buff bots following you, preventing the player from taking damage so a group could deal with massive amounts of boss at the same time, yielding enormous amounts of XP. Hell some people went from 0 to 50 without leaving the AE building... and when they were out doing regular missions, did the
  • If you ever want to know how to destroy an MMO the AE will be the best example of this.

    I was a hard core COX player. I have to say I really enjoyed the game. AE killed it.

    First you need to know something about how instances are made in CoX. They are cookie cutter dungeons made with the same map layout blocks. So if you have played for more then a month you will know how each corridor is laid out, where monsters spawn.

    There are exceptions to some of those dungeons, but very rare. Now they did attempt to impr

    • by Chas ( 5144 )

      AE killed it.

      Your enjoyment or the game? The game's still there, and with the latest adjustments to AE, the problem of PL from 1-50 in a couple hours is pretty much moot.
      You CAN still fight all-boss maps if you really want. But your XP and ticket earnings will be next to nothing. Essentially you HAVE to run balanced missions (mobs consist of all three critter types (minion, lieutenant, boss) or your earnings get slashed. Dramatically.

      Additionally, the various difficulty levels modify your earnings now

  • CoH is not the first MMORPG with a level editor.
    http://www.ryzom.com/en/ryzom_ring.html [ryzom.com]
    Couple of years old, and the game itself is indeed MMO *and* RPG.

Nothing ever becomes real till it is experienced -- even a proverb is no proverb to you till your life has illustrated it. -- John Keats