The Leveling Pact
Massively: Brian, you talked about how day jobs are part of NC Norcal's idea of involving players in the game even when they're not necessarily playing, and it seems like the Leveling Pact is obviously a tie-in to that. Can you talk a little bit about that, from a philosophical perspective?
Brian Clayton: I'll talk about it from a philosophical perspective and then let Matt follow up with the nuts and bolts of it. The one thing that we continue to strive for with City of Heroes is to pick areas where the MMO genre could use some innovation. We certainly have the best character creation system, and I would argue that sidekicking was very innovative, at the time when that was released. Even the further iterations, like our base creation system, were still very innovative.
So we looked at another area of innovation with the Mission Architect system, and now the Leveling Pact. These are things that had been begging to be done in the MMO space for so long. Again, while sidekicking and exemplaring accommodate a number of player types, we feel that the leveling pact now accomodates another type of player. These things not only benefit City of Heroes, they push the genre forward.
Matt Miller: It's definitely one of those features that came to us based on a lot of feedback we had from our players, and especially our friends who are playing the game. They came to us and said 'You know, I like playing the game, and I like the sidekicking system, but I'm getting to a point where my friends are so far outleveling me that they don't want to exemplar down and do my stuff because they've already done it before. Is there any way that we can stay more in synch?'
"So we had this idea for the Leveling Pact: essentially splitting each character's XP gain directly in half and just distributing it across two characters whether they're offline or online."
Massively: So basically the main character's XP gain is halved, and the other part is given to the buddy?
Matt Miller: Yeah, basically both characters when they earn XP, they go through all the calculations for earning XP – how much they're supposed to get, based on their team size, what they defeated – every calculation possible in the game, and at the very end it's divided in two and each person in the pact gets their share.
Massively: So the obvious question there, and Brian, this might be more to you, is from a business standpoint, this seems like it might be a dangerous ground to walk for powerleveling services. Because there's some obvious ways that this could be taken advantage of by those kinds of guys. Is that a concern for the company?
Brian Clayton: Sure. I mean, it's absolutely a concern. It's a concern that we deal with today, without the system. Really, what we're trying to do is build opportunities for our players to play the games in the way they want to. We'll continue to enforce our policies, and do everything we can to mitigate powerleveling services and things like that. But more importantly, this is a feature that our customers have been asking for, and it's a feature that we want to provide them with. Arguably, you could say we're making it easier for some of these powerleveling services, but at the same time we're probably improving the grouping experience for a substantial amount of our customers.
Matt Miller: There's actually less incentive now to use a powerleveling service, because now instead of paying someone to powerlevel my guy, I can actually have my friend play... and I'm not giving up my play time to some other service. I actually get to play whenever I want to on my character. And my friend gets to play whenever he wants to on his character, and we're both leveling at the same rate.
New Story Arcs
Massively: So for both of you: Issue 13 had already announced that you were going to do more Cimerora mission arcs, and now we hear there will be more Midnight Squad arcs too. Can you talk about where those are coming from as far as the overall story is concerned, and what you guys are hoping to get across for players on the mission content front?
Matt Miller: Sure. On the overall story, we always had more story to tell in Issue 12, with both the Midnight Squad and with Cimerora. We just didn't have time to get it all in. When we hired on – we just hired on a couple of new mission writers, and we wanted to make sure that their training didn't go to waste. We wanted to make sure that they understood the systems they were going to be dealing with.
And so we had a bunch of these leftover stories from Issue 12, and said 'Okay, let's get these in. Let's train you, and at the same time, get content in the game.' It's a win for us in training, and it's a win for the players in that they get some content. So that's basically what we did, and the story arcs are really fun. They give you more of the background to Cimerora, and more of the characters of the area, and more of the characters in the Midnight Squad, and more of the background on who they are. So it's a lot of cool stuff for the people who are really into the storylines.