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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Champions Online, Lemurian events, and you

Eliot Lefebvre

Every so often, I'm told that I don't understand an issue under discussion, and it's entirely true. There are a lot of issues out there, and the best I can do is get some of the information, form an opinion, and then change that opinion based upon new information. So I do my best, but I'm going to be wrong sometimes.

Other times I'm told I don't understand an issue when I actually do, and the problem is that the issue under discussion is not the most relevant issue.

So let's talk a little bit more about Champions Online and the Lemurian Invasion. If you haven't been paying attention, this spawned a little bit of controversy among the playerbase and more when I said that the people raising a stink were wrong. They still are, even if they're also right about an unconnected issue I only brushed against before.

Having cool things and being cool are not necessarily simultaneous states.The source of the brouhaha is the fact that Champions Online's development staff backed off from a promise faster than a rapidly sobering prom date. Originally, the Lemurian Invasion finale was set to be exclusively high-level content. Then, the design was changed such that the event auto-leveled everyone to 30 rather than 40, much as the existing Alerts in the game already do. This prompted outrage from two separate groups: people angry that lower-level players would get to experience the content as well, and people angry that their characters would be leveled down yet again rather than having some new endgame content.

In the case of the former group, I could write more about that, but it's already been discussed eloquently. No point beating a dead horse.

The latter group has a very different point, albeit one that looks the same on the surface. Yes, these people are mildly upset about the state of affairs, but it's not because lower-level players get to be cool. It's because these players have characters hanging out at endgame with nothing to do, and since the last major updates for the game have all focused on content that levels players down, it's been a long while since being level-capped meant anything. This event was the promise of something new to do at endgame, and it's been lost.

On various occasions I've mentioned a dislike of the forced-group treadmill-style endgame, and part of why this has traditionally bothered me is that it means I reach the level cap and have nothing left to do. So you know I'm sympathetic to others being stuck in the same position. Not having stuff to do in a game you like is not fun, and the option of just rolling an alt doesn't fix the problem.

But I still think this argument is wrong, albeit for all the right reasons. I'll agree with the premise that Champions Online needs a serious shot in the arm for its endgame, but this is not the place to go looking for it.

Endgame content requires a lot of things. It requires a system of rewards outside of leveling, a reason for players to keep pushing forward, and a constant cycle of new things to do. (The real reason there's a new raid every few months in World of Warcraft is that you get bored beating the same thing when you do it often enough.) It's meant to ensure that someone who reaches the "end" still has something to do in the game.

Running Serpent Lantern repeatedly for endgame content sounds about as much fun as tweezing my eyelashes.This is not what events are meant to do. Events are meant to be big, splashy things that draw a lot of attention and make people pay attention. Former players come back, new players join up, and everyone wants to see what fantastic new stuff has been added. The point isn't rewards; the point is dragging everyone into the game and then hoping that he'll stick around after the event is over.

Imagine if you threw a party to promote a new book that you wrote. Now imagine that at the end of the party, when you're going to show the book off to everyone, you stop the party and tell everyone other than your closest friends to go home because you don't want them here for that. And as they leave, you remind them all to buy your book while you give out complimentary copies to your buddies.

Does that seem like an effective marketing campaign for your book? Seriously, even if your book is all about how you're an enormous jerk, you probably want the book itself to convey that message rather than your own half-baked tactics.

Obviously, Champions Online needs more endgame content badly. Players are languishing at the cap with nothing much to do beyond what was in place within a couple of months of launch, since the game went free-to-play early and never really got its development cycle under control. Some people accuse Neverwinter and Star Trek Online of kneecapping the game's staff, but I think it's more a case that it launched into some mixed reviews, took a big popularity hit, and has never really regained its footing.

This does not mean that a limited-time event is the place to go looking for this endgame content. The idea of it being endgame content was always dumb. It's two completely separate problems that shouldn't be smooshed together.

You can feel free to tell me I'm full of it down in the comments, as that's a popular place for it. Or you can send off a mail to, which is slightly less popular among the "tell the writer he's full of it" crowd. Next week, I'm going to look all cross-eyed at Marvel Heroes. It knows what it did.

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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