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Ask Massively: The actual most wonderful time of the year edition

Eliot Lefebvre

Tomorrow is a very special day, probably my favorite holiday in the year in terms of events. That's right -- it's April Fools' Day, the day when developers figure out what joke means the most to the playerbase. Sometimes they're hilarious, sometimes they're earnest efforts that fall short, and sometimes a really clever part of the development staff will sneak a real announcement in with all of the jokes. Fun for the whole family, assuming the family likes practical jokes of varying snark!

Ask Massively, of course, brings the snark with every edition, usually in the last question of the day. This week, we're answering questions about the interplay of the various superhero MMOs out there, the delicious mixture of sites in a blender, and whether or not you can take a fun offline game and make it an equally fun online game. As always, questions can be left in the comments or sent along to for inclusion in next week's column.

Bruger asks: So out of City of Heroes, DC Universe Online, and Champions Online, which game is the best?

All of them! None of them. It really depends on what you're looking for.

City of Heroes is the closest to the "traditional" MMO format, and it has seven years of content to back itself up. It's also a personal favorite of mine, as you can probably guess. On the other hand, it's an older game, and combat is probably the slowest out of the three games -- and because of how much of the game was coded, missions can get a bit repetitive.

Champions Online has much more active combat and a character creation system that lets subscribers build almost anything, and it's free-to-play to boot. However, being able to build your character any which way creates the same problems that open-skill systems always do: There are certain flavor-of-the-month builds that work a little too well and certain choices that will effectively cripple your character. And, of course, you don't get the full build system if you're playing for free.

DC Universe Online is as active as combat can get, it's new in town, and it lets you run around in the most iconic world out of the lot. It feels like a console game, from what I'm told, which is at once a good and a bad thing for some players. You're also more constrained than elsewhere in your choice of costumes and powers, which is going to rub some players the wrong way.

If you'd like to read more on the games to help make up your mind, A Mild-Mannered Reporter is our column for
CoH, Behind the Mask covers CO, and Alter-Ego covers DCUO.
Enosoma asks: Why is this Massively article mixed in with my Joystiq?
One of the positive features brought in via the site upgrade is the ability to crosspost Massively articles directly to Joystiq. This means more visibility and more news written by the people who already know a lot about MMOs, which is good for everyone. (Much like how we usually let the folks at WoW Insider cover the news about whatever game they cover. World of something-or-other, I think.)
GeneralStobo asks: Random thought. Assassin's Creed-like gameplay in an MMO? Could it be done?
It already is. Walk slowly through an open PvP region in a game where any class can stealth and you'll be nine-tenths there, at least from the perspective of the victim.

The non-snarky answer, of course, is that it could be but likely won't. The setup of the series generally endorses player skill rather than linear growth, while MMOs are built around the (sometimes unspoken) idea that your character gets more powerful over time. Trying to balance the two is a fine line, and games like
Guild Wars and Global Agenda have done an intricate dance to try to let players feel as if progress is happening even while overall power stays fairly low.
Looking for some advice on which class is best for soloing in Aion? Not sure who this Raph Koster fellow is? Curious about the release date of NCsoft's newest MMO? You've come to the right place! No one knows MMOs like we do. If there's anything you'd like to know about the MMO genre or the site itself, Ask Massively is here to help every Thursday afternoon. Just ask!

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