Behind the Mask: A way to improve microtransaction consumables

Patrick Mackey
P. Mackey|12.16.11

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Behind the Mask: A way to improve microtransaction consumables
A couple of weeks ago, I lamented the existence of grab bags in Champions Online and how they could be made more worthwhile. Although I made quite a few suggestions on what could be changed, the main concern was that the consumables placed in the grab bags were simply not worth anything.

Improving the value of C-Store consumables won't appease the vocal minority whose sense of entitlement tells them that they deserve the ultra-rare grab bag items. These people only see the grab bags as chances for costume unlocks, so making the consumables worth the 80 CP ($1 US) won't matter to them. For the general public, though, making the consumables worth the gamble makes the grab bag items much more desirable.

This week on Behind the Mask, we'll look at the C-Store consumables and weigh in on whether they're worth the money. If they're not, we'll look at what could be done to fix it!

Some are worth the money, mostly

The first consumable that I think is fine is the Triumphant Recovery 4-pack. There is no ambiguity about when using this item is worth it, which isn't the case with many of the other consumable boosts. In lair runs, key team members should carry these in the event of deaths. In particular, healers and tanks find these quite useful. I don't think these items need to be changed. Triumphant Recovery is much more than 80 CP to buy on its own, and I definitely don't think it's worth much more than a dollar for four self-resurrects. If this were another MMO, they'd probably be worth a lot more, but in CO they are not. Getting one in a grab bag is a good deal, though.

Another item that I think is worth the grab bag is the Teleport to Ren Center 4-pack, which is only available in the Cursed grab bag. Although many veterans who played CO prior to the F2P conversion have friend-referral teleporters (and even those without friend referrals have access to the VIP Lounge transport card), not everyone has these options. Silver members will never get access to the VIP Lounge teleporter, and many Gold members are under 200 days and/or didn't play before F2P launched. Paying a little bit for a convenience like traveling to Ren Center from anywhere in the world is definitely nice. As with Triumphant Recovery however, the presence of travel powers doesn't make this item so critical that it's worth the ridiculous 200 CP. It's worth the grab bag, though.

The final item on my list is the Heroic Comeback 4-pack. Like the other two listed above, it costs more than 80 CP to buy normally. The Heroic Comeback is an awesome item for Archetype heroes or for anyone who needs a boost in performance. When activated, it fully heals your hero, boosts your energy to maximum, raises your equilibrium to maximum, and gives you health and energy over time. The buff lasts for 3 minutes. This item is awesomely good. Tanks and DPS heroes can really benefit a lot from it in lairs, and anyone can benefit from three minutes of boosted energy recovery. I have to confess that this item is probably worth more than the grab bag, although the default price (about $4 US) is a colossal ripoff. Getting one in a $1 grab bag should be considered a pretty nice victory, though.

Items that need a little work

Most of the grab bag items aren't worth the money, but some are a little closer than others. The Boost Enhancers are generally seen as worthless ripoffs, but I personally think they aren't too bad. They last an hour, which is a lot of time, and have four charges just as do some of the other items. Getting four hours of the Boost Enhancer buff for a grab bag is not too awful. The actual buff itself is pretty nice; it doubles the duration of red and yellow boosts and gives green and blue boosts extra heal or energy over time buffs. Its final effect is to give each boost that spawns a 10% chance to spawn a second boost.

The main reason the Boost Enhancers aren't totally overpowered is that boosts are still random and you can't hold onto them -- if a boost drops, that's what you get. Still, the effects are really good; you're much more likely to get semi-permanent red or yellow boosts, for instance. However, the benefit from red and yellow boosts are sort of weak for most characters, so that isn't a big deal. I think that improving the performance of the red and yellow boosts would make the Enhancer a lot better. I also think that the 10% double boost is too low; when you're fighting a boss, it'd be nice if it were more like 30% so that bosses would be a little more likely to drop the green boost you probably need. Honestly, the Boost Enhancers are pretty good. I think they're almost worth the 80 CP right now for characters that have trouble soloing.

Also on the subject of buff consumables is the Heroic Might, which improves damage for five minutes and has four charges. There are a couple of ways to improve it. The first is to make it longer; the main use of this item is going to be for lair bosses or for speeding up leveling. The five-minute duration isn't enough to reasonably do either. Shadow Destroyer can take over a half-hour to battle, and Therakiel fights easily last 15 minutes for most people. I think that extending the duration to 10 or 15 minutes would be helpful.

Another option is to make it slightly shorter but extremely powerful. Giving over +100% damage for, say, two or three minutes would make it very crazy for boss fights. I don't like this as much as extending the duration for general use, but I think it makes the item a lot more fun.

Lastly, adding resistances to the buff, rather than just damage, might also be a reasonable choice. Giving hold, knockback, or damage resistance would go a long way toward making this item more of a lucky grab bag draw.

Dud items and their problems

The worst of the worst draws from a grab bag is a pack of Energy Surges. To be honest, I think that an Energy Surge 100-pack would not be worth the dollar. Instantly refilling your energy bar is not worth anything in a game where everyone can refill his energy in five seconds or less. Most freeform characters continuously generate energy while fighting, so this item is completely worthless to them. There's simply no situation ever where I've thought this item would have saved me or even helped me out.

The simple answer is to make it an energy-only version of Heroic Comeback, maxing your equilibrium and giving you energy over time. It would still not be very valuable, but it would be a lot better than it is now. I think the better solution to Energy Surge is to remove it from the game. It's worthless and nobody wants it, but making it a worse version of Heroic Comeback would not be that great a solution. Maybe making them super-strong, giving infinite energy for 30 to 60 seconds might be worthwhile.

The next item on the list is actually a double feature: the experience and resource boosters. The resource booster is available only in the Service grab bag, and the experience booster isn't available in a grab bag, but it's still trash. I shouldn't really have to explain this, but one hour of 120% experience or money is worth hardly anything. The resource boosters are useless except in really abusable circumstances, as drops form the majority of most players' resource income. The answer is pretty obvious to me. Six hours of 150% boosted EXP seems much more reasonable for the experience booster, which should also affect quest experience. In my opinion, the resource booster should just be removed as it causes resource inflation. If people want extra resources for real money, they should sell grab bags on the AH.

Lastly, we have the humble healing pack. Four charges of 100% health seem OK at first glance, but healing simply doesn't work that way in CO. Characters don't have a lot of HP, and they lose large chunks out of their life every time they get hit. Sustained healing is generally better than burst healing, which is why the Heroic Comebacks are so good. Tanks can make use of instant burst heals, but there's not much incentive to use the healing packs over consumable stims that cost very little and heal a lot.

Rather than make the heal a halved version of Heroic Comeback (which is a legitimate solution), I suggest giving it an PBAoE effect, healing both you and your team (healing the team for less than it heals you). Additionally, it should deal breakfree damage and be usable while you're held or disabled. Lastly, it should end all cancellable debuffs (anything that can be dispelled with Celestial Cleansing) on your character. If I'm paying real money for a consumable item, I really think it should be considerably better than other consumables I can already get. Craftable shields can already give my character a 50% or more heal with a bonus 50% temporary health. That's really nice, and while the health pack is slightly better, it isn't worth paying real money to acquire.

This doesn't cover the consumables that don't come in grab bags; some of them are also really bad (star refills) while some are really amazing (summoning your whole team to you). However, because the main issue with grab bags is the trash that comes in them (like Energy Surge), these are the items that deserve the most attention.

I was very surprised that some items, like Heroic Comeback and Boost Enhancer, were actually worth more than zero when doing the research for this article. You should probably pick some of these up on the AH for dirt cheap. They're worth it.

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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