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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: News from around the superheroic world

Eliot Lefebvre

I've been talking about superhero games in the conceptual state over the past few weeks, which has been great for those of us who really enjoy that sort of thing. (I also got some very nice feedback from the folks at Missing Worlds Media regarding last week's article, so that's also keen.) But there are two titles in the genre already out, plus one that's not yet out but is rapidly approaching launch. So rather than speak in the abstract, let's talk about the news in review, yes?

Marvel Heroes has been making the biggest waves recently with a major beta update that trimmed up systems, changed statistics, and revamped crafting extensively. Champions Online's latest event became a point of some contention when the finale was swapped from being a high-end event to being something for everybody. And DC Universe Online waited until I had just wrapped up my month in the game to launch a big update including housing. So in no particular order, let's talk about all of this.

I just wanted to invade your city and have a nice time.  Is that so evil?Champions Online comes to its senses

If you haven't been following the Lemurian Invasion, you could be somewhat forgiven, unless you're knee-deep in Champions Online, in which case it's kind of unavoidable. If I had to venture a guess, I'd say the event was in no small part designed to lure former City of Heroes players to get involved in a big splashy event, and yes, that pun was intentional.

At any rate, the big finale of the event was going to be limited to high-level players, but -- you know, actually, I'm going to stop right there and point out that there has never been a time when that was anything approaching a good idea.

I'm not saying that high-end players should have no challenges to look forward to; that would be dumb. But the whole point of big show-stopping events is that everyone gets to jump in and take part, earning some bits of visual flair while feeling as if the game is undergoing something massive. Events should be inclusive, not exclusive, and the idea of locking most of the climax behind a wall sounds about as much fun as having the football pulled away just before you kick it.

Thankfully, someone among the powers that be recognized that this was really stupid, and the whole thing was changed to be inclusive of every player rather than a select few. Some of the select few were up in arms about this, upset that they were having something special taken from them, except not really because it was more like the idea of having something special that should never have been special to a few people.

I've said before that Champions Online really does feel like CoH's spiritual successor. Kudos to the development team for making its events feel the same way.

It's the worst when uninvited houseguests drop by.  Especially when they're armed. DC Universe Online buys a house

Individual superhero lairs are more of a thing in DC comics than in Marvel comics. Sure, most of the major teams have their own headquarters in Marvel, but even then stuff like the Baxter Building always felt subtly out of place with the more grounded ethos of the universe. So it makes sense that DC Universe Online would allow players to replicate the Batcave and points related with the Home Turf DLC, which...

Well, I haven't played around with it much. It's housing, which is great, but from what I've seen, a lot of the housing options are locked away behind the high-end walls, which is not so great. In other words, it's an addition for players who are already invested rather than something new heroes can reliably enjoy.

The fact that it has been added, however, means that housing is increasingly tied to the superhero MMO in ways that it isn't really tied to other genres. Every example has had some kind of housing, and that means that all of the upcoming projects are going to be expected to have it. True, we've always seen somewhat limited implementations, but that's nitpicking.

Marvel Heroes updates and also doesn't

A friend recently asked if I disliked Marvel Heroes just because it's a Diablo clone. Not so, I replied; I'm not fond of Marvel Heroes because it's not a very good Diablo clone. Considering that you can buy Diablo III for $60, Torchlight II for $20, and Path of Exile for absolutely nothing, I think a game that explicitly sets it up as being a successor to Diablo has a high target to hit. When I played Marvel Heroes, it was falling far shot of the mark.

That's not to say that the development team isn't trying; it's looking at a major update that revamps several aspects of the game including the stat system. I'm a little leery of that part, especially since the game is supposed to be launching in a couple of months. Major system overhauls when launch is around the corner are rarely a good sign; look back to the Champions Online launch if you need any more proof of that. It's certainly going to be more transparent for people with an obsessive knowledge about Marvel, but...

...well, we don't need to drag out this discussion again, do we? Moving on.

Anyway, the other major update aside from the addition of new heroes and regions is the revamp of crafting, which was a footnote before and seems to be taking pages from social games now. You collect stuff and then you wait for it to complete, and possibly you can buy something from the cash shop to speed up that process. Considering the focus of the game, I think this is probably smart thinking -- players invested in crafting will want to hurry up the process, but players who are happy to just punch away can continue doing so and be patient.

I'm going to probably aim at a roundup at least once a month, so let me know if you think that's a good or bad idea down in the comments or by mail to (This one was kind of backlogged.) Next week, a few thoughts about asymmetric gameplay as it could relate to the PvP problem in superhero games.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre spent years in City of Heroes before the world-shattering event that destroyed his home world. But he remains as intrepid as ever, traveling to other superheroic games and dispensing his unique brand of justice... or lack thereof.

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