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Behind the Mask: I lost my best friend to Gigabolt

Patrick Mackey

Powers in Champions Online vary widely in the eyes of the playerbase. Some powers, like Mind Lock and Arcane Vitality, remain mostly unknown, while other powers, like Regeneration and Haymaker, take center stage. Sometimes this reputation is due to a present or former imbalance like Collective Will, and sometimes it's due to an unknown combination of factors, like Roomsweeper (probably because Might is the most played powerset in the game).

And sometimes, like in the case of Gigabolt, it might just be something else.

Powers are balanced in CO according to a variety of mathematical factors, such as activation time, range, energy cost, and damage dealt. But the devs also try to have their powers balanced around another factor: Fun. On a 1-10 scale, most powers in Champions hover around a 3-4 on the fun scale, with the standout powers pushing up to a 5-6 and possibly as high as 7 or even 8 for good synergies between several powers. When a power gets too fun, like the Incisive Wit advantage for Kinetic Darts, the devs make sure to issue a patch to fix the imbalance.

Except for Gigabolt.

Unlike most other powers, Gigabolt's place on the fun scale is somewhere between 12 and over 9000. Something about Gigabolt just isn't legal. Maybe it's because Gigabolt is a huge AoE skill that (when coupled with Ionic Reverberation) often grants energy back to fire shot after shot. Maybe it's because of the gigantic lightning column it fires, or the explosive sound effect it makes every time a jolt of 1.21 gigawatts leaves your hands. Maybe it's because Gigabolt even has an advantage that causes enemies to explode in more lightning when it drops an enemy.

Either way, Gigabolt's got to go. That much fun just isn't fair.

I know, why nerf it? After all, it's not that overpowered; it's DPS is only a little above average, and really only shines in large packs of enemies. Heck, there are several powers, such as Pyre and Ego Storm, that have similar great AoE damage and energy perks compared to Gigabolt. However, Gigabolt's fun really is an x-factor that supercedes the raw mechanics of how it works.

My best friend has been playing Champions Online since closed beta. In fact, he was so eager to get into beta that he joined the 'beta wannabe supergroup'. At the time, the devs were giving large, organized supergroups beta invites, and the wannabe supergroup formed just to get a shot at getting in. He was my prime source of information about the game up until open beta. My best friend is the kind of guy who really looks at games with a fine-toothed comb. Like me, he enjoys finding exploits in games and figuring out the best possible builds for any given role in battle. My girlfriend tells me constantly that we don't like anything fun in our video games.

On a strange day a couple weeks ago, his level 11 main, an Electric/Regen build (I think literally everyone who has played the game has made one), was leveling with one of my alts. Between Sparkstorm and Shadow's Embrace, we were making short work of the enemies and missions in Westside. An hour passed, some fun was had, and we both gained a few levels. He leveled up to 14, and he expressed confusion about what power he should pick. In my infinite and all-seeing wisdom about game-breaking abilities, I suggested that he spec out of Regen, take all electricity powers, and get Gigabolt. He seemed skeptical about leaving his mighty Regen crutch, but he took the plunge and even went so far as to get Electric Form and switch to the Avenger Role.

It was around that time that he needed to get some food, so we both decided to head out to a local burger joint, as face-to-face contact is sort of a rarity for us. When I got back home, I sat down to work on writing an article on CO's gear system. By the time I'd finished with most of it, a couple hours had passed.

My best friend's main was level 18.

Perhaps the most identifying characteristic of my best friend is that he hates the PvE in Champions Online. He plays the actual game almost exclusively on the test server, and only gets on the Live servers to roleplay with friends. This isn't for a lack of trying -- he's experimented with numerous awesome builds (which he normally finds fun). He finds powers like Sparkstorm and Gauntlet Chainsaw, widely considered to be ridiculous and overpowered, to be merely "blah." Every one of his characters has Regeneration. No matter what he tried, though, he couldn't find PvE fun. All of his friends have a level 40; his highest level character (up until recently, anyway) was in the low 20s, and his main character was level 11.

At first I didn't quite understand what was going on. It's impossible to make a level 18 character on Test without actually killing mobs, and the Test version of his main was level 40 anyway. But then, it hit me. Gigabolt.

Somehow, my best friend liked Gigabolt enough to battle PvE, his arch-nemesis, in order to escape the ridicule of his friends and hit the level cap. Or maybe Gigabolt was just so fun that the reason didn't matter anymore. Either way, this power somehow changed his outlook on PvE. He's now tearing his way through Monster Island, demolishing any opposition in his path on his way to level 40.

How is this possible, you ask? How could someone who hates PvE this much suddenly decide to about-face and solo his way for hours each day? The answer is simple! Gigabolt has to be the cause. Now he's outleveled all of my current alts, and he actively chooses to go spam Gigabolt instead of doing fun things like roleplaying, playing in the costume creator, or checking the myriad things still on our testing list.

The solution is clear: Nerf Gigabolt.

At first I thought all the people who thought Gigabolt was too powerful were just whiners. There are quite a few powers on a similar performance level, after all. Gigabolt isn't the only power that can wipe multiple spawns of enemies in seconds, and it's distinctly worse than the single target DPS leaders in raw damage output. While Gigabolt does return a lot of energy back quite often, it's no crazier than Ego Storm, or even some (optimized) Muntions builds, or anything standing in Circle of Arcane Power while it fights. No, Gigabolt is not that mechanically OP... but it combines power with something all of these things are lacking in.


And the naysayers are all right. The amount of fun generated by Gigabolt is totally not in line with the devs spreadsheet matrices, and just like Incisive Wit, it needs to be nerfed. After all, if Gigabolt is too fun, it isn't fair for all the other, sort of fun powers in the game.

Now... before you write that scathing comment (if you stopped to read this, bravo), bear in mind that this (true!) story could have been told defensively, explaining how great Gigabolt was and how this much fun shouldn't be taken away.

But... that wouldn't be very fun, would it?

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