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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: The community and the harsh truths

Eliot Lefebvre

It's that time again. (Those of you who immediately started in with a Wheel of Morality sketch earn a gold star and are excused for the rest of the day.) With less than a month remaining according to the official timetable for Going Rogue's release, we're taking another look at the community topics of City of Heroes, one that should prove quite rewarding. Literally, even, as some of our highlighted discussions are about prestige, merit points, and what you get off of a Giant Monster's corpse when you kill it.

More than anything, if there's a theme to this round's discussions, it's a call for improvements. I've made the occasional joke about how the expansion will bring everything anyone ever wanted into the game, and there's certainly a strong thread of that running through recent discussions as well. After all, we all know there are areas where City of Heroes could be stronger, so perhaps a few side updates aren't wholly remiss? Or maybe I'm just feeling cantankerous this week. Every problem looks like a nail when all you have is a hammer, and so forth. Onward with discussion!

Base mechanics, as they currently exist, are... well, kind of silly. In a good way, mind you. I'm a huge fan of player housing, and building a base for a team of superheroes (or villains) is my cup of tea. The silliness is that there are set prices and requirements for base components that are balanced around the need to create a base properly defended against an enemy attack, one which is certainly not coming at the moment and in all likelihood will never come again.

Really, when the Paragon Studios developers said that Issue 18 was bringing back the Cathedral of Pain, they immediately added that we're not getting base raids to go along with it. That means base raids aren't coming back for quite some time.

All this is fine, but it means that the costs for getting a nicely decorated base are still balanced around hypothetical base raids that haven't existed for two years now. I admit readily that I understand PvP players who are bitter about this, but if they're not coming back and there are no plans to make them come back, it wouldn't be so horrible to make bases a bit easier to beautify, would it?

The lights are on, is anyone home?
First of all, I'd like to say that if I could take back any one column I'd written, it would have to include the one where I ballparked subscriber numbers. That was followed by me trying to explain how loosely I was ballparking those numbers, which was still met with shock and panic. In fact, I'll just come out and say it: I don't have any more facts about what the subscription numbers are than anyone outside of NCsoft, and I always estimate on the low end. For the billionth time, the game is not dying.

This having been said, there's a serious question of how populated the servers will be on August 17th, which is the day when we will get an influx of both new and returning players. Some of it will be fixed by the fact that all the players creating new Praetorian characters will be shuffled through the same general path, but anyone past level 20 or so might find a big wide world with no one to talk to.

I can't say as I've ever felt the game to be terribly empty, but then, I play on Virtue. It might behoove the team to add some of the unofficial community descriptors to the servers prior to Going Rogue's launch date, though, just so people know what servers are the most active, which one is the unofficial RP server, and so forth.

Merit badges
The fundamental problem with merits is that there's absolutely no way to give them out with everyone being equally happy. Blue side players complain that you get access to them earlier on red side. Red side players complain that you get more of them in the end on blue side. I'm going to just guess that players who start in Praetoria will have some beef with what the other sides get. They're endgame rewards that everyone wants; there won't be a proper compromise.

Personally, I've got to side with the villains who get them earlier but don't have as many options at maximum level. While getting early merits is nice, you aren't really going to have much to use them on until the late game, and you're best off saving them until the big five-oh. That means the edge goes to whoever has the easiest time grabbing them at the level cap, and it's a bit easier for heroes. Perhaps the relevance of this will decrease with the advent of the Incarnate system. I wouldn't mind IO sets being a touch less important.

Lost costume pieces
No, this thread is not about a group of costume pieces in their mid-30s trapped on a scary island, much as I'd like to have a character in a DHARMA Initiative jumpsuit. Nor is it an update on the timeline for getting tentacle hands and similar bonuses. It's David Nakayama (with his brand-new nickname of "Noble Savage," thereby putting an end to the recurring joke that he was David "David Nakayama" Nakayama) asking players to look back at the costume parts that are no longer with us... with the thought that some might come back.

Even if you're very content with the current lineup of pieces, Nakayama has been posting a lot of art-related threads to the boards of late, really looking for player involvement about character appearances. For an art director to be that open to outside input is pretty awesome, in my book. (And if you're listening? I want new costume pieces to make me look like the Robotics henchmen. Come on, throw me a bone here!)

Scale of events
While I love CoH greatly, I will agree that most of the periodic events feel, well... a bit lackluster. The one that always jumps out at me is the random fire alarm in Steel Canyon. I think a fire has been successfully used as a challenge for heroes twice, once when the characters weren't super-powered in the first place and again when the small scale was sort of the point. Imagination is rarely lacking in the game, but this does feel like a haphazard reason to spur everyone into the same direction.

I don't often link suggestions during these roundups, but this one is an in-depth and elaborate examination of how to potentially boost both Giant Monster appearances and the periodic events that run through almost every zone in the game. And I have to agree -- I love the idea of these events, but as I mentioned, they don't always feel all that dynamic. I'd be super-willing to see what they'd look like with just a little tweaking.

That's this round's assortment of discussions. It's the calm before the storm, for a given definition of "calm" here. Comments, questions, and other examples in which superheroes have been employed as firefighters can be sent to, or left in the comment thread right here. Next week, we're going back to the vein of the factions of Praetoria, and this time they're both getting equal screen time.

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