You might wonder why I haven't written about this before. After all, there were rumblings about it back in December, right? The simple reason is because I assumed that this would not come to pass. I assumed, reasonably enough, that the powers that be would see this was a terrible idea for City of Heroes in the same way that those in charge of World of Warcraft would see that it was a bad idea to revamp the game's talent system for a third time in as many years.
OK, maybe that's a bad comparison.
The point is, this idea is a terrible one even at face value. People tolerate gambling because, you know, there's a chance at real money. People tolerate random drops for instances because you can run them again -- and as the years have gone on, game designers have realized that even that doesn't really fix the problem, hence the growing number of games that give you currencies to help offset any and all loot gaps. The idea of selling a player an item that might contain what said player wants is an exercise in terrible thinking, combining the worst aspect of two systems into some sort of Ruination Fairy.
But maybe that didn't provide enough evidence that this was an awful idea. Perhaps someone -- I'm assuming Snidely Whiplash -- pushed onward with the countering evidence of "but money." If the concept alone weren't sufficient to point this out as a bad idea, there were also the grab bags that rival Cryptic Studios foisted on the players. You know, the ones that were met with an all-consuming rage.
Actually, rage might not be enough to describe the player response. There wasn't cursing; there were sentences composed entirely of curse words, phrases that dived into fantastical terms like "gorram" and "frell" due to our own language's insufficiencies. We're talking rage on the level of the Hulk smashing mountains to bits because they happen to be there. Except I think the Hulk was a bit more polite.
So in light of the concept's being a bad idea, players in other games responding with hatred, and forum threads specifically saying this was a bad idea, the whole project... went ahead full-steam. And here we are with the Super Pack in the store, complete with bulk discount prices if you want to really up your chances of winning things that you should be able to simply purchase straight.
Perhaps I've been too subtle up to this point. Let me be direct. This makes me very angry.
I'm angry for two reasons. The first is that this is the real face of what it looks like when someone screws up the whole free-to-play mechanic. Not through selling back-breaking power ups but by selling items that are transparently unpleasant for players in the hope of milking out a few dollars more. I'm fine with having to pay for the costume set or Archetype Enhancements, but to pay for the chance at getting that or something mind-numbingly useless feels like an enormous middle finger.
And the second reason? The fact that nobody caught this. This isn't a subtle bad decision that slipped under the radar. Choosing to sell the Super Pack -- a broken item using a broken model that breaks player goodwill -- is like ignoring every sign on the path to Flameville and then complaining that it's hot around here. You couldn't throw a stone without seeing negative feedback to the concept, and yet the whole thing continued without losing steam.
I want that costume. But I really don't want to support this terrible, exploitative, cheap, greedy, and downright detestable way that it's being distributed. This might not be a matter of players losing trust in a developer breaking a promise, but it is an example of a developer making a really boneheaded choice that leads to a lot of hurt feelings.
Drop percentages don't matter. This is not all right. If you're the person who greenlighted this, shame on you.
This has been one of the single biggest blows to my opinion about the game ever. It might seem odd that it has nothing to do with mechanics, but mechanics can be changed and worked around. The philosophy indicated here can't be worked around. And it says nothing good about the game's future.
As always, feedback and opinions can be left in the comments or directed to email@example.com. I'm sorry that I didn't cover what I promised after all, but this sort of blindsided me. That column on what the developer owes to free and subscribing players will be next week... and probably followed up the week after by a supplement, considering this fiasco.
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.