A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Questionable freshness

We've been on a bit of a kick for new players lately, and that's not by coincidence. Sure, City of Heroes has a well-established playerbase by this point, but it's not like the game is exactly hostile to new players. And while I wanted to do another session of questions and answers, I wanted to wait until I had a good crop of questions that pertain to the newer crowd -- players less familiar with the game or with a given archetype, players who are interested in learning more but unable to find a cogent resource amidst scattered threads on the forums and one-off references in posts.

Let's face it, after nearly seven years, a lot of us don't need or want references to these things any longer. We don't need someone explaining to us about Enhancement Diversification or why someone other than the healer asks what you need for a wakie when you die. A newer player might have no idea about these things, though, and so we're mixing up the format a bit here. Let's get back to basics and look at some questions that might seem simple if you know the answer -- but don't tend to get answered if you don't.

Note: All names have been changed to protect the innocent, both because no one wants to be known as the guy who asked a new player question and at least one person mailed me a question using a real name. This seemed the better option.

My Brute is a lot of fun to play, but he keeps running out of steam quickly. What can I do to keep him from running out of Endurance so fast?
Tired in Talos Island


First of all, I'm going to assume that you took advantage of the free respec to grant inherent Stamina -- and if you haven't, there's part of the answer right there. Just log in on the Brute in question, type /respec, and voila! Make sure to toss at least two slots in the power, possibly three -- if you need that extra slot, you can get away with two IO Enhancements without much of a change in performance from three SOs.

There are two big culprits in your Endurance running out quickly as a Brute, and the first is just in the way that Brutes are designed. When your class gets better and better the more things he smashes, you're naturally going to be inclined to just keep moving forward with the smashing instead of taking a moment to catch a breather. This works well as long as you have a stack of blue Inspirations and a reasonably good natural recharge, but you have to take it in moderation. If your Endurance starts to ebb, it's better to lose some Fury than keep going. Dead Brutes can't smash much.

However, before you do that, double-check how many toggles you have running at once. Again, because Brutes are a class with such high forward momentum, this can turn into a rather insidious issue when you don't quite realize how much your toggles are hurting your recovery rate. Keep it down to one or two tops if you notice yourself having trouble -- you can turn others on when needed situationally instead of keeping them on at all times.

I keep hearing that Defense is better than Resistance, but I'm not really clear on the difference -- doesn't Defense reduce damage? What does Resistance do? Which one is better?
Injured in Independence Port

Defense and Resistance are both common terms in MMOs, but they mean something different in City of Heroes compared to most other games. I'm going to try to give the simplest possible explanation for this, and to do so I'm going to use an example that many people here are familiar with: Magic. As in the card game.

Players of the game will remember that creatures are usually tagged with some arbitrary designation to indicate what said creature is, such as "Goblin Shaman" or "Human Man-At-Arms" or "Sand Town Selectman." Powers in CoH work in exactly the same way, except Energy Blast wouldn't be tagged as an Orcish Lifeguard but as a Smashing Energy Ranged attack. Similarly, Defense and Resistance both give your character tagged attributes, so a power will give you Defense against Smashing, Energy, and Ranged damage, for instance.

Defense is the chance for tagged effects to miss altogether. Resistance is damage reduction for attacks that hit. Stacked Defense against a single attack just results in the game using the best possible value to calculate a hit or miss, so the aforementioned Energy Blast against a target with 45% Ranged Defense and 60% Smashing Defense would be made against that 60% value. I'm not altogether clear on stacking Resistance, but to the best of my knowledge it's just stacking up to the resistance cap (90% for Brutes and Tankers, 85% for Kheldians, 75% for everyone else).

So why is Defense "better"? Well, it's not, strictly speaking. The reason that people sometimes say it is has to do with two factors. The first is that dodging a long string of attacks feels really cool, moreso than just taking very little damage from said attacks. The second is that while a tank with 90% Resistance to everything is functionally identical to one with 90% Defense, it's very possible for the latter to run into situations where everything dies before it has a chance to start hitting him, which certainly feels nigh-invincible.

So... wait. The Vanguard Pack being offered is just all of the Vanguard pieces? How is that a bonus when you can earn it in-game?
Swindled in Sharkhead Isle


It's all of the pieces that can be unlocked in the game, yes, but let's not understate two important facts -- these pieces unlock for every character on your account in perpetuity, and they unlock for free.

The second part is particularly pertinent for those of you (like yours truly!) who fight a continual battle between the half of your brain that knows to spend in-game resources on things that will actually improve your performance and the half that wants to be so pretty. Those Vanguard Merits can be used to buy some pretty useful functional upgrades, and now we're nicely being rid of our counter-motivation to glam ourselves up. If you don't normally have that problem, thought, I do envy you.

This ties into the fact that all of these unlocks happen for every character you have made or will ever make, allowing you to customize your character a bit more from the get-go. I'm always in favor of account-wide unlocks like this after enough time has passed; if I could do the same thing for the Roman costume pieces I'd do so in a second. (There's material for yards there.) Even if you have one character with a full costume, do you have the costume for everyone?

And last but not least... it's free. You aren't paying a dime for it if you were already planning on subscribing for the next few months. So even if you have a full armada of characters with full Vanguard costumes -- and how in the heck did you manage that? -- you aren't losing anything except for the sense that you look more special than everyone else. If that's really your cup of tea, I'm sorry, you're kind of on your own.

I hope you've enjoyed this dip into the question pool. As always, comments, questions, and angry diatribes about Kheldians may be left in the comment field or mailed to eliot@massively.com. Next week, well, it's been a full year of the column. Seems like a good time for a retrospective, yes?

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.

This article was originally published on Massively.