A Mild-Mannered Reporter: A chicken in every pot, an answer for every question

It's the first Wednesday of the month, and like always that means we're going into the questions-and-answers for City of Heroes players. Before we delve into this week's column, I'd like to take a moment to thank everyone for the amount of discussion that took place about our last article extolling the virtues of the Loyalists. It brought a smile to my face to see all of the back and forth about the topic, something I haven't written the last word about. But that's next week's column, and right now it's time to see what other questions the community desperately needs answered.

Superfan asked:
"Why is the game so repetitive and lacking imagination?"

On one level, I can't answer this question because I don't agree with the basic premise. I don't find the game terribly repetitive, and it's lacking in imagination in the same manner that Transformers: War for Cybertron is lacking in robots. But I've acknowledged before that there is a certain rinse-and-repeat feel to City of Heroes, even beyond the equally repetitive feeling in any given MMO. There's something about the game's layout that just gives players that feeling, and I'm not immune to it.
Why is the game that way? Part of it's due to how the system was designed to begin with, set up so that content could be assembled by the development team in a quick and easy fashion, which later led to random generation and player-generated content. Another part of it is that the game has been out for six years now, more than enough time for players to wring all the unique experiences out of the engine. Then there's the fact that most of the actual gameplay is instanced and feels more "canned" as a result...

That having been said, the team is clearly working hard at diversifying and splitting off from some of the older and less engaging content. The doppelganger arcs that were added with Issue 17 are a big step forward for the game as a whole, and they hint at just how spiffy missions should be in Going Rogue. Whether or not the additions of more choice for morality will revitalize the game as a whole is a bit questionable, but I'm going to err on the side of positivity here.

khonshu asked in relation to developer statements about the new missions with Going Rogue:
"[...] how many of these new missions will be authored content, and how many are auto-generated "tips" missions?"

Despite my best efforts, Paragon Studios will not release all of their internal design documentation to me. I even baked them a super-nice cake and everything. So all I can go by is what I've heard from the developers and what they've been saying... and that leads me to believe that most of the content being added in the expansion will, in fact, be scripted and worked out by the team rather than randomly generated.

Here's the reason: the development team loves to use the word "system" in relation to any possible term. To the best of my recollection, generated missions such as the newspaper or police scanner have always been referred to as a system rather than X amount of additional missions. The repeated statements about hundreds of new missions suggests to me that these are actual missions, rather than "a system capable of generating hundreds of new missions" or something similar.

Praetoria is only a stretch for leveling characters 1-20, yes, but there's also the Incarnate system to be concerned about, as well as the moral slide or climb for heroes or villains. Increasingly, the developers are talking about the system as being all about choice, not about going to see John McMoralityChange and doing his arcs to switch sides. That would require some complicated nested missions and a deviation from the usual arc structure... something which seems like it might be in the works to begin with.

Tigron asked:
"Why do we have two separate transitional states [for alignment]?"

Because vigilantes and rogues aren't quite the same thing. That is to say, both of them are still essentially representative of their core archetype, and the steps they're taking in the other directions are notably different. We already have heroes willing to use sometimes-harsh means to keep crime in line, and villains who wind up occasionally teaming up with heroes to help save the world.

Vigilantes don't just use more violence and force than is wholly necessary -- the archetype's defining trait is the mindset of being above or beyond the law. The law might be too weak, or perhaps the hero in question just decided that "getting paid" was a better goal than "protect innocents." From there, it's a short skip into figuring that Arachnos has a pretty good point, that the strong really ought to take what they can get and it's no one's job to look out for the little guy. A vigilante is disillusioned with fighting crime, and has stopped caring about occasionally overstepping bounds.

On the other hand, a rogue has never cared about the law. Changing from a villain to a hero is deciding that all of the nonsense heroes spout actually does have some merit. Maybe getting paid and enjoying yourself -- or taking what you can and crushing all beneath your heel -- isn't quite as satisfying as making the world a better place for everyone. You're still unlearning a great deal of pre-established notions, but it's in a very different direction. A rogue is still looking for a quick buck, but might also save a kitten if the whim strikes.

Could all of the states be handled by a single "middle" state? Yes, but I don't think Paragon Studios wanted to push the idea that this transitional area is somewhere to stay for too long. We'll get a clearer picture as we get closer to release, and even clearer once we're actually knee-deep in the expansion.

(I should note that Tigron went on in part to answer his own question, which took the analysis in a very different direction. You could do worse than reading a competing view.)

It's a short list this week, but those are our questions, and I hope everyone's enjoyed the brief respite from philosophy. Especially since next week we're diving right back into it, as it's time for the Resistance to get up on its soapbox with a gun and a bat. Comments and questions can always be mailed to eliot@massively.com, naturally.
This article was originally published on Massively.