A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
PAX East this past weekend was indeed filled with revelations, but none of them had to do with City of Heroes or any other NCsoft game, really, so I can't even complain about one getting all the love while the others were ignored. And while I could probably try to spin a thousand words out of wanting to insert a Rock Band Blitz-style minigame into the game under discussion, I have the feeling I'd get some odd looks and a rejected column.

What I did have opportunity to consider, however, is how pretty much the only thing I've brought up in regard to the Paragon Market has been the many, many choices made regarding it that I consider debatable. The Super Pack and the numerous power sets both have been targets for negativity, and I honestly haven't said anything corresponding about the positives. This seems unfair on many levels. Sure, I think the implementation is sometimes dicey, but there are a lot of parts of the market that are great, and I happily doff my hat to the team for them. So instead of burying the shop, let's praise it.

Submitted without comment.Costume parts, costume parts, costume parts

This may not be immediately evident to you, but costume parts are kind of a big deal in City of Heroes. They're also a big deal to me, and they're clearly a big deal to a large chunk of the game's players. So a cash shop for the game absolutely needs to respect that importance and give players new pieces.

Not only does the Paragon Market do precisely that, but it does so in a manner that's astonishingly user-friendly.

Obviously, we've seen a lot more costume packs since the game has gone free-to-play. This is understandable; rather than having to put together a whole themed booster, the team can just draft out a costume type, throw it together, and see whether people are interested. So we've had some kind of off-the-wall stuff, and while there are some real clunkers in there (like preventing female characters from dressing up in those nice gunslinger outfits), there's also a lot of great stuff. That's good.

But the real winner here is the interface. You can go ahead and just browse the whole sets... or you can go into the costume creator and put on some non-purchased parts to see how they look, and then decide whether you want to buy the piece individually.

It seems obvious. You don't buy a shirt without trying it on, so you shouldn't have to buy a chestpiece without knowing how it'll look. But it also has little added effects, like letting you compare a new piece versus a piece you already have and letting you see whether the set as a whole fits your characters or would see use on only one or two of them. Amidst the plethora of new sets, the interface has given you a lot of useful tools to determine whether the new set contains parts that you'll use individually or a large enough number that the whole costume package is worth buying.

Plus, they're individually cheap, so you can just buy that one part your overall look is missing instead of being forced into buying a collection of many pieces to just add one new element.

By the same token, we can now acquire additional costume slots. Those are a little pricey, yes, but I would be lying to the world if I said it wasn't a welcome addition just the same. I can fill up 10 slots for a single character easily.

As in the real world, bankers ruined everything.Invention sets

Yes, I'm genuinely happy that the game sells some useful invention sets. More accurately, I'm glad that the game gives you the option of bypassing the nightmarish process that getting those sets can entail.

The economy in CoH is broken. It's always been broken, and it was inevitable that it would become broken. When the game launched, there was no economy; there was just money and NPCs who sold things that you'd need to improve your character. There was no reliance on other players, and unless you tossed a little money to someone for a service, money meant nothing. You used it for nothing and needed it for nothing.

When crafting was introduced, then, runaway inflation had long since set up shop. People were tooling around with ridiculous amounts of money right alongside people who had very little money because who cares, ever? Except suddenly you needed to care, and you wound up with a whole clustered mess of a system in which someone could put up a marginal increase to a high-end character for a billion influence without it seeming all that expensive. And now, anyone coming into the game faces a real mess.

Then the Incarnate system rendered all that yesterday's news anyway. So it's a mess compounded by a mess on top of another mess, and quite frankly just selling invention sets is an obvious kludge that works well enough in broad terms. It's not a great long-term plan, but it does take a hesitant step toward cleaning things up in a roundabout way for newer players.

Neat ideas (that need more love)

I can't, for the life of me, figure out why we haven't seen another First Ward yet, and not the literal zone but another area that's free for VIPs and charges a little money for free or premium players. CoH has enough content that these sorts of zones will never be required, but it's a great way to monetize area revamps or new quest lines. Plus, it gives us a reason to go through different content, and it's an excuse to use some more out-there settings aside from the ubiquitous city streets.

That's not the only thing, though. The first Signature Arc was neat, but we need more arcs, and we need some that are a little shorter. Having buyable archetypes is neat and could really lead into more epic archetypes. There are lots of really cool one-off ideas in the shop, and I'm hoping we see more of them in the future.

Feedback, as always, can be left in the comments or sent along to eliot@massively.com. Next week, I'm kicking off my usual anniversary bit, starting with how well my prognostication from last year turned out.

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.