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Behind the Mask: An anniversary well-spent

Patrick Mackey

Over the last week, I've been spending a lot of time playing Champions Online's anniversary event. In fact, I'd go so far as to say it rekindled my enjoyment for the game. While I've been playing CO, here and there, I think like many players, I suffered from a little burnout.

The anniversary event itself wasn't really what cured my ills. The extra things involved in the event were just little fun add-ons to the game. The main tasks in the game were still there for me: run Serpent Lantern, run NemCon, maybe level an alt, mess around on PTS, and roleplay. Even the "big bang" Destroid attacks were only a decent diversion for a half hour or so.

What really got my excitement going was the increased socialization. A lot of people claimed "the zones are empty," but that couldn't be further from the truth. I logged out one night in Millenium City #7 and logged in the next afternoon to Millenium City #20, with most of the lower instances completely full. That's close to 2000 players in just MC alone. I participated in a lot of roleplaying and hung out with the CORP guys during their RP event. I added over 10 people to my friends list last week.

The main reason my burnout was cured? I gained an optimistic look at where the game is headed.

To be honest, I already sort of mentioned this. You readers have already seen my thoughts on CO's future potential. I've always been a critical sort of person, so I am bound to bring up any flaws in a game that I play. However, in the case of CO, when I first started writing Behind the Mask, CO was just starting its upturn, and there were a lot of bad things to talk about. Now that I've spent a lot of time with the community and heard its collective thoughts, I realize that CO has started to fulfill some of that potential we knew it had when it first was announced.

Our story begins

Instead of writing something cool like a guide on how summoning rituals are awesome (next week, guys), I'm actually just going to recant my fun times during the anniversary event. I began the event playing my current main (it kind of changes frequently), since I was interested in participating in the CORP anniversary bash. I was level 38, in a very strange healer/tank build with sorcery powers, pets, Celestial heals and Defiance.

Anyway, I signed up for the PvP event and decided my gear was awful. A friend and I did some daily Serpent Lantern runs, and with the nice Anniversary experience boosters and resource boosters, I gained XP pretty quickly and banked a lot of cash to buy some really nice gear from the auction house. We did the runs on Elite difficulty, and I was kind of surprised by the difficulty. Our first few runs were actually sort of hard. As my gear got better and our strategies were refined, it obviously became clockwork, but the early runs especially were pretty challenging.

I'm going to pause for a minute to express some joy here. I do think that the Serpent Lantern rewards are too good, but I can't stress how awesome it is that they are bind-on-equip. I wish that the level 40 purple drops from various other dungeons were also bind on equip. The market actually serves a purpose now, with the Vibora costume pieces and SL equipment drops. This was my first real time using the market for anything useful, and I was so pleasantly surprised by the outcome that I had to mention it here.

I was pretty invigorated by playing SL with just a friend, to my surprise, so I didn't just log out after my daily runs. I would go off and level or roleplay, and I made some new friends pretty quickly. The number of RPers during the anniversary event had surged wildly, and Club Caprice was often full. Pretty soon, even when I was leveling, I would be buried in tells, talking about IC situations or OOC builds.

CORP's costume contest

The first day of the "Qularr Suck Anniversary Bash" was on Saturday, and it featured a number of themed costume contests. I'll be honest, here; I don't really hang out with the CORP guys even though I think what they do for the RP community is great. Thus, I was sort of an outsider, wall-flowering my way through the various contests. No one even laughed at my "shut down all the beacons" joke. Everyone else had a lot of fun. There was a ton of banter and people getting excited, plus water balloon fights and anniversary disco balls getting thrown every few minutes. I didn't win any of the costume contests, but I wasn't really all that surprised. I was just there to hang out and take screenshots, anyway.

Afterwards, a bunch of people started randomly dueling each other. When The Blue Bruiser (pic right; he got a runner-up prize for being in the "hottest girl" contest in that awful dress) started rolling faces left and right, I decided to step in and try my luck. It went pretty well.

For those readers who don't play CO, melee characters are generally seen as the new PvP FotM. I don't really agree that melee is the undisputed best in the game, and I like that it is slightly better than ranged overall. I think there are numerous counters and answers to melee that people haven't really explored, especially in duels. I would be lying if I said I didn't deliberately PvP on the wackiest build possible just to say that "yes, there are answers to melee you haven't thought of."

I won some battles and lost some, but my success with a build that did not use Ego Blade Breach, Defile, or traditional melee probably turned a few heads. I didn't make any friends at the event, though.

Afterwards, I roleplayed in CC and made a few more friends, some of whom had been at the costume contest. Again, there were tons of roleplayers packed in the club, and it was really entertaining just listening to people chat.

Qularr Suck Tournament

After a bit of a rough start with the organization, the tournament got under way, and a lot of the early rounds were kind of surprising. I don't mean surprising in that strange people won, but more surprising in that the people who lost put up really good fights. It was a little strange not seeing brutal one-sided battles happen every match, but there were a few. There was one near-disqualification for breaking the rules (he ended up just losing one round) but other than that, everything went pretty smoothly.

I chatted with some of the stronger competitors after the event, and we were in agreement that the huge number of martial artists and super-strength heroes was a little on the boring side for spectators. Playing in the event was fun, but watching the same Uppercut-Haymaker combos was not as enjoyable as watching the ranged characters bounce around with fire blasts, lightning blasts, and other cool explosive powers.

In the end, my wacky build took second place. I won in the semi-finals due to a time expiration, and the judges ruled that my opponent could not have broken my defense after a brutally intense match. In reality, I was playing with 110% of my mental energy focused on not throwing away the match, and one mistake would have lost it for me (he was a really powerful dual blades build). I lost in the finals to a Might heroine, but she stomped me pretty badly. I couldn't have reasonably defeated her without replacing some of my less-useful powers.

After the tournament, I got some cool 2nd place prizes, added some people to my friends list, and generally left with a lot of rep for being either cool, strange, a jerk, or a good PvPer. I'm not sure.

I want to contrast a bit the general perception of PvP with this event. PvP is generally seen as a gigantic e-peen booster. I hate the big egos involved in PvP, and after the kind of chilly reception I had at the costume event (mostly my fault for not being outgoing enough) I was sort of surprised to see how exciting and fun it could be to play in a PvP event. The real difference was the spectators, the competitors all being interested in the matches, and the overall expectation to not act like a jerk. Everyone was courteous when he or she lost (I think there may have been one exception but I don't recall), and everyone was really supportive of both the winners and the losers.

If PvP events were like that in general, I think more people would find them fun. Obviously not everyone will, but I think the biggest opposition to PvP is the ego in general.

When Destroids attack, I go inside

After the event, I roleplayed more and added more people to my friends list. Eventually, the big Destroid attack came on the last day of the event. A huge number of Mega-Destroids accompanied by numerous standard Destroids attacked the city, and the zones flooded. Thousands of heroes arrived in Millenium City to battle the threat. However, for me it was just another string of cosmic boss fights. I got bored of fighting them pretty quickly and went back to roleplaying.

I actually stayed online, chatting, until the maintenance for the event began. I'd padded my friends list by a huge number and met a whole slew of other acquaintances.

The day after, I was surprised. Still hundreds and hundreds of people populated the game, and Club Caprice was so full I had a hard time getting in. Numerous people on my friends list had commented that they were here to stay, and I felt like we were going to keep some of this big surge of players. For me, the anniversary event may not have been that important mechanically, but socially it was a big hit. I think that the anniversary event breathed new life into CO in a different way -- it brought players in to try this "horrible" game that had received a lot of awful press.

And a lot of players found a new home.

Special thanks to @Reldin and all the people at CORP who put the effort into the player events.

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