At the best of times, the fruits of their labors guide us along in our progression of a local or global story, immersing us in the world. Even the nefarious "kill 10 rats" versions can be mini stories that pull players in when done well. But how many of us have ever had a "I could do better than that" moment or have simply wanted to live out a personal story or share in a customized grand adventure with our friends? Someone wished upon the right star because with features like the Mission Architect in City of Heroes you can do just that.
I am just going to come right out and say it -- the quest builder is one of the greatest boons ever for player-generated content in MMORPGs. Besides housing, it is the feature du jour for the creative crowd; I honestly can't see how any game can actually go without one. During this latest round of Choose My Adventure, I had the opportunity to check out the system in City of Heroes and revel in the creativity of others as well as try my hand at developing missions. And I tell you, it is addicting.
Feel like trying your hand at shaping some stories for heroes (and villains) to star in? Stick with me, kid, and you'll be directing your own missions in no time.
Get to one of the Architect Entertainment facilities (marked as a big AE on the map) spread throughout Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. To start making history, or at least missions, set yourself up at a terminal in the main room or go to Studio B. Kudos to whomever thought of Studio B -- it's a "no powers zone" meaning you can create in peace and quiet without effects going off all around you.
Next, click "Create a Mission" and let the creativity begin. This part of the process is separated into three settings: story settings, mission settings, and mission details. You only fill out the story settings once, but the mission settings and details must be completed for every mission you add to the story. Whichever pane you are on, the information is entered on the left and a summary is visible on the right. Some categories are optional, so if it is your first time, you can skip these extras. If you need a hint of what is expected, just click the question mark next to each line. In all, the process is fairly self-explanatory and intuitive.
Once you move on from story settings, you click the little book on the top labeled mission -- this represents the two parts of each mission, the settings (1) and the goals (2). Under mission settings you choose types of mobs, the map, mission parameters, time limits, and the like. Mission goals allows you to choose what the objective is, from killing a boss to finding an item. There's no need to stop at just one mission; you can click "add mission" and do it all over again for additional chapters in your story.
If there is something wrong with your mission making it unplayable, the Architect will warn you; there is an orange icon on the right hand side named "show errors" that will open a window and tell you exactly what errors need to be fixed. For detailed instructions on every single step in the process, you can refer to the guide on the main site.
Once you are happy with your story, you can publish it for others to participate in. By running player-made missions, players gain regular experience just like missions out in the rest of the game. They'll also earn tickets that can be redeemed at the Ticket Vendor for other rewards, including enhancements, salvage, recipes, unlockable content in the Architect, invention salvage, and badges. As creator, you, too, earn rewards. And the higher participants rate your mission at the end of their run, the more rewards you earn.
One negative to the experience is that once you have entered a player-created mission in the Architect, you are locked into completing that whole story arc; you cannot reach out to any other contact without first abandoning the player-made mission. And although you can go back and get the mission again if you abandon it, you have to start all over. For this reason, be very sure you pay attention to the time span for the mission -- very long is not a good idea if you have impending plans for another group.
Overall, I liked how the Architect system itself was woven into the game lore. These missions take place in a virtual realm as opposed to the game realm; participants are uploaded into a server and receive stimuli as if the experience was real. (Anyone feel all red pill/blue pill with me?) A restoration room in the facility re-materializes you when your mission is completed or if you took on a little more than you could chew. The downside to this method of integration is that nothing is happening out in the world: For the duration of your mission experience you are sequestered away.
Also appreciated is that unlike a previously discussed quest builder, this system does not add an extra layer of grinding to be able to produce better missions. True, you can get more stuff to add in your creations, but that's possible by actually running missions yourself or creating them, not some arbitrary extra system.
In all, if you enjoy creating stories and missions for yourself, your friends, or even the public at large, the City of Heroes Mission Architect system fits the bill. Even better is you can jump in and play around with it for free! It's a great creative outlet and allows for so much additional player-generated content. It may not be a perfect system, but it is a good one. Now if only the rest of the MMO market would get on the bandwagon and realize what an asset this feature is.
Every two weeks, Jef Reahard and MJ Guthrie take a break from their themepark day jobs to delve into the world of player-generated content. Comments, suggestions, and coverage ideas are welcome, and Some Assembly Required is always looking for players who'd like to show off their MMO creativity. Contact us!