Early access to new powersets
On the one hand, I look at this and I can't help but think that we're getting another ranged powerset plus a new set of toys for Masterminds to toy around with. (Unless Demon Summoning crosses more lines than one might think... but that's a bit much to hope for sight unseen.) Cute, sure, and good for another alt if you like playing archetype or another, but is it really that big of a change to the game?
On the other hand, we're talking about two powersets whose absence has been felt long before they were officially announced. It seemed odd that you couldn't have a demon-summoning villain or a character with a nice pair of semi-automatics. Much like Dual Blades, it's an obvious design vein that just took a while to get tapped. And if there's one thing that's been displayed time and again, it's that the development team has learned a lot about set design since launch. I have little doubt that both sets will be a lot of fun to play around with, and really, that's what matters.
And it also puts us one step closer to the point where we need Trick Umbrellas and Matter-Consuming Symbiotic Slugs because we're out of more conventional superhero abilities. I'm fully in favor of both these things, mind.
Early access to Epic Archetypes
This one struck me as a big surprise. Certainly it's not hard for someone to get to level 50 at this point; however, this makes it almost child's play for someone to get access to both Kheldians and Soldiers of Arachnos within a few days of work. It also makes a player using the archetype as a main much more likely, since you no longer have to invest so much time into another character before you can even play one.
A logical question to follow the announcement, of course, is whether or not this implies we're getting more archetypes to choose from. Certainly a case could be made for Incarnates, but it's also questionable how they'd be much different from existing archetypes. By the same token, it could simply be an attempt to get new blood into the game and give fewer barriers to entry. Champions Online has lost some of its "new shiny" status, so why not entice new players with even more prospects of content and fun?
There's also another potential angle. There are players out there how either prefer to play a hero for more noble purposes, or prefer to play a villain for the more recent combat. This simplifies the process of obtaining future archetypes for these players if, say, they really want to play a villainous Kheldian.
Ultra Mode coming soon
This one, surprisingly, struck me as pretty lackluster.
I feel really odd saying that. I have a pretty new computer that I bought when I started working at Massively, and the idea of a new and brighter City of Heroes should strike me as excellent. But... really, all the screenshots say to me is that the water is getting new sparklies and things are a bit better shaded.
Now, those aren't bad things by any stretch of the imagination. They're just not a huge change in the way that the game plays, and graphics start becoming pretty transparent once you get into the game a bit. Unless I missed something, it's not going to update any models in the game (to address things like female physical features jutting out at a 90 degree angle), so it's going to look a bit nicer but not make any huge adjustments.
Going Rogue, of course, is designed from the ground up to take full advantage of the upgrades. That, I think, is going to have a little bit more of an impact on how the game looks as a whole. I'm holding onto my "wow" factor until I see this one in action.
New badges, new missions, new emotes
I admit to being very curious about the new missions. I'm cautiously optimistic about what we're going to be getting, although part of me says that the missions have to predate the changing of the guard and, as likely as not, will be a task force or two leading up to Going Rogue. But paranoia dies hard. Ditto on the new badges (most likely tied to the new missions).
It's hard to be much more than vaguely hopeful about content where the only information you have is that it will be brought into existence, and that's what we got right here. However, new emotes always make me happy. I admit it, I like unnecessary fluff, I'm a roleplayer. My secret is out, and I can't help that the promise of even more silly animations makes me excited.
Enhancements to the UI
Would it be too much to hope for a built-in buff/debuff timer of some sort?
We don't have a whole lot of details yet on what Issue 17 is going to contain, but it's clearly setting the stage for our next big expansion and promises some fun times even without all of the bells and whistles. While Ultra Mode is clearly meant as the biggest draw on the upcoming list, I'd be lying if I said it held the same appeal for me... at least for now. I'll probably feel differently once I crank up the new engine.
But even with that slight caveat, it's good to see another free issue on the horizon, which means the team is ramping up again. There was a long gap between 16 and the still-upcoming 17, but it looks to be worth it. And it'd be hard not to get excited about the expansion... especially with launch targeted in just a few months.
As an aside, the next couple of weeks are going to be targeting community discussions and questions from our readers. If you have a discussion thread on City of Heroes you'd like to see highlighted, or a question you'd like to ask about the game, send them in to Eliot at Massively dot com. I admit it's not quite as exciting as this week's news, but we can't all be graphical upgrades.