Behind the Mask: Welcome to my lair, do not touch my radio

Patrick Mackey
P. Mackey|07.14.11

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Behind the Mask: Welcome to my lair, do not touch my radio
Hideouts are the one of the most anticipated features in Champions Online. Players have wanted their own personal space for a while, especially because City of Heroes has had supergroup bases for a very long time. Ever since Champions launched, players have wanted space to call their own. Most roleplayers have made do with private mission instances, but this was a tenuous situation at best.

Do Hideouts live up to the hype? What do they mean for roleplayers, or for the average player? Are they worth purchasing? After the jump, we'll cover the consequences related to hideouts and some of their implications in the CO roleplaying world.

Hideouts are a shared space that any of your heroes can use. If you unlock a hideout, it unlocks for any character on your account, and each of your heroes can access all of the hideouts you've unlocked at any time. Gold members get one hideout unlock for free, but every other hideout is a paid feature. Silver members don't get a free hideout, but they do get unlimited access to their hideout if they buy any one of them. They are comparable in price to a costume unlock (about $7.50 USD), so even Silver members don't have to sacrifice an arm and a leg for a shared conversation space.

Each of the hideouts have a tailor and a crime computer and can be customized. A lot of the little bits can be modified, but the physical layout of the hideout cannot. The customizable details differ greatly depending on which hideout you're using. In particular, it's easy to make the Mom's Basement hideout look like your own (especially once more options are released), but your Arcane Sanctum will look similar to every other Arcane Sanctum, no matter what options you use.

Each hideout can accommodate up to 11 players (10 guests and yourself). I'm glad that an overall balance was reached; one of the biggest problems with private missions is that only five people can be on the map at a time. Hideouts allow for bigger and more private SG events, although it's possible that even 11 people is not enough. Not all maps are suited to having 11 people, though. Even the large Arcane Sanctum is kind of cramped with a huge crowd. The devs have expressed that supergroup bases will eventually come to alleviate the need for large individual space, but until then, hideouts are a good stopgap that will cover a lot of roleplaying needs. For really large SG events, 11 people is a little small, however.

Problem, hideout?

It is rather awesome to have a tailor that is accessible from literally anywhere. There are some problems with the tailor, though. Unlike the Millennium City tailors, the lighting in some of the hideouts doesn't work well with many costume parts, especially metal and leather, which appear as different colors in different lighting situations. This is only really a problem if you have a friend giving commentary on your costume, since the tailor interface itself is lit just fine. Overall, it is a much better idea to use the MC or Desert tailors if you want input from someone else.

This can be an advantage, however; you can make costumes specifically for walking around in your hideout. This is especially true of the Arcane Sanctum, which has much different lighting than the other hideouts.

The number of different options for each of the hideouts is also woefully limited. Each hideout might have a thousand different permutations, but each hideout option only has a couple different choices. For instance, if you want to change the carpet or wallpaper of your hideout, you might only have 3-4 different choices each. If you want decorations in a particular part of your hideout, you may have only one or two choices (besides none at all).

They are planning on releasing more options for each hideout (in addition to a fifth hideout option, the penthouse) in the near future to help with this problem. I feel like charging 500 Cryptic Points for expanded options is a little overpriced, especially if each new hideout selection adds only a few options in each category. Hopefully if we own the initial hideout types, the options will be cheaper to unlock. Somehow, I doubt this will be the case, but I'll be buying the Alchemist's Sanctum in phase 2, regardless.

Lastly, at least as I write this, hideouts are not available on the test server. This is a big deal if you want to try hideouts before you buy them. I recommend going on YouTube and doing a search for "champions online hideout moms basement" (or whichever hideout you want to look at), as many players have graciously made video tours of each Hideout. The CO website also has quite a few screenshots of the hideouts.

The bigger problem

Hideouts are largely a roleplayer thing. It's also worth mentioning that roleplayers are a huge portion of CO's paying customer base. I don't have hard facts on this, but I know that the hardcore roleplayers on my friends list spend a lot of money beyond their stipend on the game, and most of my non-roleplaying friends corroborate that roleplayers spend far more money on costume packs, costume slots, and other vanity items than other subscribers.

Unfortunately, the pick-up roleplaying community in CO is in bad shape. It's still quite possible to meet people, especially through groups like Champions Online Roleplayers. Unfortunately, the community in the three big roleplaying hotspots (Club Caprice, Sherrera's Bar, and Carl's Gym) has diminished to a tiny fraction of their original size. Caprice is still quite busy, but the RP there has degraded to very juvenile levels. While griefer problems aren't as bad as they were immediately following the F2P update, there are a lot of bad, godmodding roleplayers now. It's rather troublesome.

Has hideouts contributed to this? I don't really think so; most of my roleplaying friends are in zones now, outside of teams and presumably leveling or farming. Many of them only connect to the game through XMPP messenger. I think that the double whammy of the Kitchen Sink 2 patch (as we're calling the Vivox patch now) and the Steam summer sale may have caused minor hiccups in the roleplaying community. I'm pretty guilty of not spending a lot of time in CO lately, too.

I realize my friends list and the roleplayers I spot in Caprice in a few time slices is not the most accurate evaluation of roleplaying health. Some of my friends mention that while pick-up RP is harder to find, it does exist. Others agree more with me. Some have quit because "RP is dead."

Overall, I'd just like to see more recognition of the roleplaying community by the CO devs. I'd like to see recognition of roleplayer communities (especially PRIMUS Database and CORP) who work very hard to bolster the RP community.

Hideouts are a great addition to the game; I just hope that people come out of them in order to roleplay in public once in a while...

When he's not touring the streets of Millennium City or rolling mooks in Vibora Bay, Patrick Mackey goes Behind the Mask to bring you the nitty-gritty of the superhero world every Thursday. Whether it's expert analysis of Champions Online's game mechanics or his chronicled hatred of roleplaying vampires, Patrick holds nothing back.
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