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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Matter of pact

Eliot Lefebvre

We're back online in this neck of the woods, and that means that I can catch up on all of the things that I missed over the past week. And even within the fairly focused sphere of City of Heroes, there was a lot going on -- a headstart for subscribers, the removal of leveling pacts, more details on the rewards you can uncover for Signature Arcs, and the lowdown of the Seed of Hamidon event. Interesting stuff, all around, but it was the pact removal that first jumped out at me.

One of the things that CoH has been loath to do over the years is remove things. That's part of why the game has become so all-encompassing for so many players -- every new system has built upon its predecessors, adding new options, moving in new directions. So the removal of one of the game's interesting features struck me as a little odd just because it's something that's nearly without precedent in its lifespan.

I keep wanting the little part on the front to open up to reveal a guy piloting the hoverseed or whatever.It's not like level pacts and I were exactly close, of course. I hadn't actually used them in any real sense, which is probably for the best considering that my leveling is almost criminally slow. (Although perhaps that's actually for the worst.) And the statement of their removal has made it clear that they will be coming back again, even if it's not going to be for some time.

And if you think about it, there are probably very good reasons for the removal. There are certainly issues with letting a free player and a VIP make a level pact, and there's also the simple fact that a level pact is a great feature for adding to the store or VIP benefits at a later date. (Avoiding the obvious joke about your big reward being the option to level without playing.) Plus, for all we know, there's some technical issue that makes the system more complicated with the game's new subscription tiers. It's not as if you can't replicate most of the functions just by playing together.

Yet I can't think it's not a coincidence that that announcement was folded into the announcement about the upcoming headstart for VIP players, especially since it was made very clear that the change isn't going to affect any extant pacts, just prevent any new ones from forming. In short, free-to-play and premium players will be excluded from the feature once City of Heroes Freedom goes live.

Is that really a negative? Certainly it's stripping away a feature that's been part of the game for a while, possibly intending to re-introduce it later as a paid perk. On the other hand, it's also making sure that new or returning players are going to actually play the game rather than just having a VIP power them through lower content.

But of course, that's not the only news that's fit to discuss from the past week. (It's just the piece that lends itself to the catchiest title.)

Issue 21 should include this man, and I like his fashion sense.Seed of Hamidon looks like an interesting sort of hybrid, somewhere between an ad hoc task force and a zone event. It also seems like an interesting way to introduce players to more advanced boss fights prior to the level cap, especially since the reward is a big boost to further leveling. That's not going to be as attractive to someone sitting at the cap, but it's going to mean quite a bit if you're marching up. It's also the sort of show-stopping event that would look quite attractive if you were just tooling around as a free player, which helps to sell a little nugget for non-VIP members of the community.

And then there are the details from the producer's letter, mostly regarding the signature arcs. Interestingly enough, the addition of a weekly reward for the arcs raises questions about which ones will become the most "productive" from a weekly standpoint. Certainly comparisons will be stark for the first few months, but once there are a fair number of arcs to run for the weekly reward, scaling or not, I have a feeling that some of them will look like the best options for the most rewards in the least time. That's inevitable.

What's especially nice is that the potential rewards are so varied. Lower-level characters will find some nice bonuses with the reward and alignment merits, while capped characters can get some mileage out of the astral merits and incarnate strands. The latter especially looks like a nice opportunity for solo characters to proceed along the Incarnate system, assuming that the signature arcs are as open to players as we've been led to believe.

Right now, the big piece of news that's going to break things open is the question of when the headstart actually, you know, starts. The sooner Issue 21 comes around, the sooner existing players will see what our (currently) 1200 points will translate to in the store. That's going to make a big difference right there, even amidst the promises of a new story arc every month. Until then, while there's a lot of speculation to be had, hard information is in fairly short supply. But the fact that we know a major game feature is getting removed in anticipation certainly means that we're getting closer.

Sorry that this column is a bit scattershot, but I'm trying to work overtime to catch up in the wake of being out of commission for a week. You can take me to task for it in the comments, of course, or just sling some invective straight to the inbox via Next week, barring some unforeseen revelations, I'm going to head on to the next group in the villainous pantheon, a group that just isn't quite welcome.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.

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