So when I have the opportunity to give the team behind City of Heroes props, I'll take it. And this week, I can give it props for a bad idea and then further props for apparently realizing that this was a bad idea. I'm talking about the Tweet Code Thursday giveaways that the community team had been running via social networking. It's an idea that deserves tons of respect for the attempt and tons more respect for the cessation of same.
Let me sum up for those of you who missed them: The code giveaways were pretty standard as these things go. At a designated time, the team would tweet an image with a set of 10 codes. The astute player would jump in, grab a code, and then enter said code into the usual spot on the account management page. If you got there first, mission accomplished -- you get a neat little cosmetic item. If you failed, well, wait an hour because another set will be coming along eventually.
This is clever on several levels. For one thing, I'm a big fan of giving away cosmetic items to your players just because it's a fun way of giving people gumballs without unbalancing the game at all. It's also a good way to get players following the official feeds, which is a great way to spread news about the game, though it relies on a certain portion of the playerbase being present. Last but certainly not least, it sparks that little loot rush when you get to open a box and see what you got. It's the same basic rush you get from lockboxes in many free-to-play games.
All that being said, this was also a bad idea, for three main reasons.
The first is that these codes were being offered at times when most of the world is at work. There are a lot of people who can't check in on Twitter once an hour several times in a day, then navigate over to the management page and start trying codes in the hopes that one works. This includes, for example, people whose entire job consists of sitting at home and staying up-to-date on the internet. It meant a lot of people who wanted a code basically had no chance of getting one, and this wasn't the same as scenarios in which a kind soul could snag an additional code like with the costume giveaways at various conventions.
A similar and more serious problem is the fact that cosmetic items in City of Heroes mean a lot more than they normally would in another game. If I miss out on a minipet in Star Wars: The Old Republic, I just don't have that pet. It's not really a big deal. (I'm also not much of a minipet person.) But if I miss out on, say, a limited-edition chestpiece or aura or whatever... well, there's a long-term item that I could very easily build a concept around, but I don't have access to it. It matters a lot more, to the extent that silly vanity items in an MMORPG ever matter.
Last but not least, while these concerns could be raised for other giveaways in the past, previous giveaways were generally for things that you could just buy outright or things that were meant as convention bonuses. The former meant that you weren't gambling over having or lacking; you were gambling over having free vs. having for a few dollars. The latter, while arguably problematic, sits comfortably with me for the most part; I like the idea of having these convention exclusives as a mark of "hey, I attended." (This is also why I usually poll my friends to see if they want something at a convention that they aren't attending.) In this case, to the best of my knowledge, these items could not be obtained any other way. Either you lucked into the code or you didn't.
But I don't need to complain about any of this because after a couple of rounds, Paragon Studios seems to have come to the same conclusion and dropped the practice. A few last codes were given out after a post about how the team just didn't have the bandwidth and manpower to get people involved, and that's that.
This is both why I like Paragon Studios and why I sometimes wind up harping on the studio harder than may seem necessary. While I think some missteps have been taken in recent memory, this is a studio that does a good job of listening to the playerbase and deciphering mistakes without ego. Yes, we got the Party Pack, but we never saw anything that irrelevent again. Yes, we've gotten lockboxes, but (hopefully) that's a one-time thing that won't be revisited. Yes, the studio tried a giveaway that didn't work, but then it pulled the plug when it became clear that there were issues with the methodology.
So bully for you guys and gals for trying something, and extra points for letting it go when it wasn't working, odd as that tip of the hat might sound.
Feedback, critiques, and of course bragging about getting a code yourself can all go into the comments below or can be sent along to email@example.com. Since I'll be switching over to a new computer next week, I thought it would be appropriate to take a look at some hardware in the column -- specifically, the sort that seems to be all the rage on the streets these days.
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.