City of Heroes returns – sort of

Screenshot City of Heroes

The Were-Porcupine lives! (Willpower/Spines Tank.) 

During Easter week, the news broke that the online game City of Heroes  had not died at the end of November 2012, as most of us had been told. A secret cabal of reverse engineers had been able to set up a private server (possibly with the help of a former employee at Paragon Studios). For about six years, the cabal and their trusted friends had played the game that the rest of us could only watch in old YouTube videos (many of them in low resolution, as was common back then).

The source code went public during Easter, and a privately run server went public shortly after. Almost 20 000 players had signed up before a fake cease & desist warning caused the server and the forums to be wiped to protect the not entirely innocent.

A couple days later, a new server appeared, and thousands of people have once again signed up. It is kind of bizarre that this game was shut down when other games keep sputtering along with only a few hundred players. It is clear that City of Heroes  was dearly loved by many of its players, not only me. So I have conferred with the voices in my head and learned what made this game so special.

The secret ingredient

The thing people remember above all is the game’s community, the positive and inclusive and helpful atmosphere. Indeed that is a thing that stands out, but did this happen just because it was a superhero game? There have been others after it, that failed to create the same community.

And then, observing the game anew in 2019, I realized. Forming a party is an essential part of a multiplayer game, whether you are playing with dice at home or online with thousands of strangers. Parties / teams / groups / felllowships make or break the game. And only one game has a structure that makes virtually every class a welcome addition to virtually any team. That is City of Heroes, and the reason is its archetypes.


Instead of traditional classes like Warrior, Priest and Mage, CoH had a handful of archetypes. On the face of it they were just classes by another name, but there was one difference: Each archetype had a primary and secondary power set, with different functions.

Tankers can withstand massive damage, survive and bounce back. But they can also deal a more modest amount of damage to nearby enemies. With Scrappers it is the other way around, they do massive local damage and can withstand some. Blasters can do massive damage even at a distance and also have some modest crowd control (rendering opponents helpless or at least partly disabled for a while). Controllers can do massive crowd control and have modest team support abilities (healing, damage reduction, efficiency boosts). And Defenders have massive team support while doing modest damage at a distance, thus concluding the little triangle of behind-the-frontlines archetypes.

So basically if you have any one archetype and you add another, you will get some serious benefits to both, no matter which it is. If you add someone with the same archetype, you will still get a modest benefit, because of the dual nature of the archetype. It also lets one archetype substitute for another in a pinch, then revert to its strongest role if another player joins that is better suited.

While certain combinations of heroes work best together and lets you go through more challenging missions faster, you will always get a major boost from teaming up with another archetype and at least a minor boost from the same archetype. This means that instead of the “Team needs Healer” and “Team needs Tank” that you see in other online games, CoH will have a lot of “Team looking for more”, plain and simple. Because everyone is welcome. And that, gentle reader, makes a huge difference to how you perceive a game. The feeling of being welcome everywhere, being appreciated, being able to pull your weight and help anyone you meet? That is what creates a POSITIVE atmosphere that persists for years after the game itself is gone.

Or is it? With thousands of players gathering on the privately owned server as we approach the game’s 15th anniversary on April 27, it seems that NCSoft’s snap decision has been undone … at least for now.

To be continued…?

Not-City-of-Heroes Fanfic writing

Screenshot from City of Heroes character generator

This picture may be created by the City of Heroes character generator, but the heroine Nordic Spring is from the totally imaginary MMORPG Paragons which never existed in our world, only in the world of the novel I am currently writing (my second NaNoWriMo novel this year, after I won the 50 000 words challenge with my first story, Artworld.) In contrast to Artworld, I am having a blast writing Paragons of Virtue, where Virtue refers to “Virtue City”, the city formally known as “Virtual City” before it became real, and totally not the Virtue server in City of Heroes, which is an intellectual property held by NCSoft Inc, whose lawyers are probably on the Internet like most people these days.

Nordic Spring is one of the characters in my story set in the defunct MMORPG Paragons that has mysteriously become real. She is a Nature / Ice Guardian, which is totally not a Nature Affinity / Ice Blast Defender from City of Heroes, seeing how CoH doesn’t exist and never has in that world. Before coming to the alternate reality of Virtue City, she was a slightly physically challenged, long-haired woman named Tove something or other, which is totally not a poorly disguised rewrite of Tuva, not that it matters since they are both imaginary and all.

The main main character of the story is Lightwielder Trainee, a Light/Light tank. The tank class is a mainstay of MMORPGs since long before CoH was made, and it is not spelled “tanker” like the corresponding archetype in CoH. Also, CoH doesn’t have Light powersets, although it has Darkness powersets, which work differently. (The MMORPG Champions does have a Light powerset, but it works slightly differently from in my imaginary world, beyond the obvious implications of the name.) Before coming to Virtue City, Lightwielder Trainee was an underpaid office worker named Markus. In the story he is mostly referred to as Markus when doing internal monologue or talking with friends, and Lightwielder Trainee when doing heroic things or being mentioned by others. Only Tove knows his former identity, and the other way around, as they used to team up together almost every day for several years, to the point where people thought they were a couple.

Of course, now that they are physically in the game world, who knows what will happen. But I am pretty sure it will be rated T for Teens, like the game itself. Or “Young Adult” as they say about books.


I am having a blast writing this story, it is one that practically writes itself. Which is great because I get to read a new chapter or two each day. The downside with stories that write themselves is that I have less control over them than if I crafted them from scratch. For instance, I had planned to introduce Tove early in the book and use her as an alternate viewpoint character to avoid this becoming just a translation from 1st person perspective.

One thing that bothered me about Artworld was that the heroine got way too little exposure and development because the MMC (male main character) was the narrator. An interesting character was largely kept unexplored and the romance was badly understated because the MMC did not really understand her emotions. (What guy can understand a woman’s emotions anyway?) So I decided that my next book would be 1) not a romance, although there might be pairings and triangles in it, and 2) not a first person perspective. In practice, however, I am now on the 6th chapter of what I call “translated first person”, by which I mean it reads as if it was written in first person narrative and then someone went through the text and replaced all instances of “I” with “he” (or occasionally the name), “me” with “him”, “our” with “their” and so on. Only one person has internal monologue, only one person’s feelings are clear to the reader, and the reader does not know things the main character doesn’t know.

Translated first-person perspective is very common in LitRPG novels, even in good ones like Aleron Kong’s Chaos Seed. But having recently rewatched parts of the anime Log Horizon, based on the LitRPG books by the same name, I see how useful it can be to expand the scope a bit, even if you maintain a main character. If you compare Log Horizon to Sword Art Online, another popular Japanese LitRPG which was made into an anime, you will notice that the main character of SAO has a pretty strong Mary Sue (or Marty Stu) flavor. In other words, he is too perfect and overpowered.

One of the most appealing aspects of LitRPG is that the characters are constrained by the game mechanics. You have to do your grinding and your artifact quests in order to become powerful, you cannot muddle through until toward the end of the book, when everything comes to a climax, the main character suddenly has godlike powers because of his heroism or his love or his heritage or an ancient prophecy or because Mystra said so. That is one of my major turn-offs about conventional fantasies, and conversely one of the things I love about LitRPG is that the character has to do the grinding to power up, use his creativity to find the best strategies and tactics based on understanding the rules, and gain the cooperation of other heroes or even villains to help save the day.

So what I wanted to write was a kind of “Log Horizon meets City of Heroes” (except not really). But the writing style, as much as I love writing and reading it myself, may get in the way of making this what I wanted.

Of course, it is still early. I mean, as of Chapter 6 (16000 words) we are still in the character’s first day in Virtue City, and he is still level 4. The tentative female main character has just arrived and is level 2, having done only a street quest so far. (Notice that the quests are usually called quests or quest missions, never just “missions” because this is totally not City of Heroes. I am sure not even lawyers could misunderstand that.)

But now it is time to get back to City Park, which is totally not Atlas Park, the starting zone in City of Heroes. Just like Factory Row is not Kings Row, Steel Towers is not Steel Canyon, and so on.

Fooled by an old trick


My main character of the weekend, Color of Reverence. No points for seeing a theme here.

No, I did not bite on a Nigeria scam. It is much more trivial than that, barely noticeable. But I need to learn from small things. Despite my lofty aspirations, I still make mistakes. And as St Teresa says, God preserve us from excusing ourselves with “I am no saint”. (She admits in her Way of Perfection that she used to say that before. Of course, by the time she wrote this, she probably already was a saint…)

Me, I am not a saint (except in the most generic sense, as synonym for God’s people, if even that.) Nor am I a hero, but I play one on the Internet. And that’s where I made my mistake, which I think may be instructive for others too.

I joined the online superhero game City of Heroes during its closed beta, a great honor in my view, and played it probably literally every week for about 7 years. Usually more than once a week too. No exception for vacations (but then I don’t actually travel during my vacations, I write). It is only the last year or perhaps even less that the game has begun to gradually fade from my life, like so many other things do eventually.

It is a good game, too. I don’t mean just in value of production, but in production of value. You take on the role of a hero with slightly superhuman powers, and defeat criminals, protect the innocent (and sometimes the not quite innocent, when they need it) and gradually grow more powerful and famous over the course of this practice. So it kind of reinforces traditional values.  In the words of one of the scripted bystanders on the streets of Paragon City: “Forget those postmodernist deconstructionists! Itland is a real hero, plain and simple.” OK, the “simple” part may not be my favorite, but still.

Now as my life is moving toward its final exam (not that I am in the least hurry!!), I find a little less time for gaming than I used to. And that means my visits to City of Heroes have been quite irregular and mostly short. This suits me: When I play the same game for too long, I become kind of immersed in it and it begins to invade my real life with flashback moments and such distractions. And generally a feeling of emptiness after hours of playing. I don’t want that to happen.

But this weekend was double XP weekend, in which the rewards of virtue are doubled – both the experience points and the influence. So this makes it easy to make rapid progress on a character. I took advantage of this and played a lot this weekend.

I did not ask myself seriously why I would want to make rapid progress in a game I now only play sporadically. It is not like I actually need to do that. The fact that there was a reward took precedence over the fact that I did not need the reward.

This is really the same motivation that makes a lot of women go wild when there are sales. If things are on sale, they temporarily forget that they don’t actually need (and perhaps not even want) the thing. “But it was on sale!”

A voice in my head says something similar exists for sexual temptations. Perhaps it is a general human trait. Certainly it combines with greed to make a good scam. The typical Nigeria scam is based on the notion that this is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Once you start getting one each week, they are a lot less tempting. ^_^

So I ask my heart to learn from this mistake, although it would have been better to learn without mistake. At least you can learn from mine!

CoH Issue 22: “Death Incarnate”

Issue 22 - Death Incarnate is live!

By all means log in for double XP weekend 16/3 – 18/3, but you should probably stay away from the new content unless you have boundless optimism.

“Death Incarnate.” Not really a name that fits my mood at the moment. And not only the name. Most of the new content in this expansion to City of Heroes is set in a redesigned zone (“Dark Astoria”) which is now actually dark, with a reddish glow, and themed on death and madness.  The in-game lore is that the recent conflicts have wakened an ancient death god from the banished pantheon, who was buried under Dark Astoria. Feelings of guilt, hopelessness, despair and madness emanate to the surface, attracting monsters and villains that enjoy such an ambiance. It is up to the Incarnates – the high level VIP heroes – to try to hold back the darkness and if possible reverse it.

It is a worthy cause, by all means, and I don’t mean that the world’s mightiest heroes should fight kittens in a flowerbed. It’s just that the whole zone and all instances in it is so pervaded by this hellish atmosphere, it really isn’t something just anyone should immerse themselves in for hours each day.

And there is a reason why people my do just that: Dark Astoria is the first and so far only solo Incarnate content. This is a feature I requested almost as soon as I heard about the Incarnate system, which was released near the end of 2010.

City of Heroes had long suffered a reputation for being light on end-game content, compared to other online RPGs. Many players simply parked their level 50 character and made a new, since there are hundreds if not thousands of possible combinations of powers. After the Invention system went live, some people started doing repeatable high-level missions to gather recipes and ingredients for crafting, but it was only with the Incarnate system that a true challenge arrived for high-level heroes and villains.

In the original lore of the game, the arch-hero Statesman and his villain opponent Recluse were the only known Incarnates. They had found the Well of the Furies, and by drinking of it they were imbued with powers comparable to the ancient Greek pantheon.  The event also, as we later learned, unlocked the superpowers latent in scattered individuals around the world, causing this world to branch off from worlds (like ours) without superheroes and supervillains.

In Issue 19, we learn that the Well is actually more of a metaphysical thing. The physical Well of the Furies is gone, but myriad Shards (and later Threads) from it are scattered around the world. Through a special trial, a hero (or villain) can become attuned to the universal Well and begin to randomly find shards when overcoming high-level enemies or completing certain trials. Other rewards related to this also appear, but mainly in trials that are set for large groups of very powerful heroes. Through these, the hero can unlock powerful new abilities. But without taking part in these large-scale trials, the progress was painfully slow and limited to the first of the abilities, the Alpha ability.

With Issue 22, it is possible to unlock and fill all known Incarnate slots through soloing or smaller groups. It is still quite a bit slower than the massive trials, though. And that is why people will have to spend months in this evil twisted zone if they for some reason prefer to go it alone (perhaps because their computers cannot handle massive battles, or they live in a time zone where there are few players).

Or they could just log off and spend their time in prayer and fasting, which would be less depressing.

The Incarnate content up till now has pretty much exclusively been related to the war between Primal Earth and its evil twin, where Statesman has become ruler of the world and is trying to take over the multiverse. So I had expected any solo content to be more of that, more sci-fi. But I guess people who like the whole Lovecraft thing with elder gods, madness and tentacles will appreciate the opportunity. I am not one of those.

Even so, I have run Itland the were-porcupine through a number of missions. It is a little tougher than the usual content, and there is clearly put some serious work into making missions and dialog that fits with the atmosphere. Too bad the atmosphere is one of decay, tentacles and suicides.


City of Heroes Freedom

A mastermind doing the Midnighter arc in Steel Canyon! Once unthinkable, this is a quite ordinary sight now. Whether you become a hero or a villain now depends on your own moral choices, not what powers you have. The spiral swirls around Happy Scientist is his time warping powers, a new powerset in CoH Freedom.

Regular readers will probably remember the name City of Heroes – it is one of the few computer games I still play, and I played it probably every week (holidays and vacations included) for over 7 years, from it was in closed beta and until this summer. With the announcement that the game was going to change drastically, I started to lose interest. It seems I was mistaken though.

I must admit I was skeptical when NCSoft announced that the 7 year old online superhero game was going to become free to play, under the name City of Heroes: Freedom. There is no such thing as a free lunch, as the saying goes: Somebody always pays, and in any kind of commerce, that somebody is always the customer.

The transition has recently begun, starting with us regular subscribers. We are now called VIP players. When we logged on after the new major update, we could pretty much continue doing whatever we had done before. One little-used newbie city zone has been taken for use as a new tutorial. On the other hand, a new level 20+ zone has been opened. And we now have a brand new server. Just in case 12 character slots on 13 English-language servers were not enough… The point of the new server is that when the free players arrive, we will have an exclusive gathering place for the “elite”, making us feel exclusive. And of course, it is a new start, where every character is new for a few weeks.

In addition to the usual content, we get part of our payment converted into “points”, which can be used to buy such things as rare auras or costume pieces. Perhaps the most controversial decision was to let one of the two new power sets only be available for points. Since subscribers get points as part of the package, they can buy this Beam Rifle power without pulling out their credit card again – if they don’t prefer spending the points on other goodies. But usually all main powers are directly opened to subscribers. This is also the case with the other power set in this issue, Time Manipulation.

While little has changed for the subscribers – we have a new server and some new shiny stuff – the big winners are the former subscribers who for various reasons have wandered off. These have now “Premium” status. Their accounts are activated again for free. All their characters are mothballed, but they can play a number of them depending on how long they were customers. They keep rewards and mini-expansions they bought before. They can’t play as Incarnates, wielding even more power than usual heroes, but that is beyond what was recently the endgame anyway. There is certainly a lot to come back to – the game keeps growing. And you can still buy the new extras.

The third group is those who haven’t played before and don’t plan to subscribe. They get to make only two characters  in total (unless they pay for more character slots), and won’t have shiny stuff (unless they pay for it). But it is “Free to play. Forever.” as the slogan says. Obviously it is not actually forever. Eternity is forever. But if you want to hang out with us heroes (or the despicable villains, but then you wouldn’t be reading this website, right?) for free, you can do it now. Enjoy your flight – or your superspeed, if you so desire!


City of Heroes: Power Spectrum

2008-12-22 20:06:50

Colors are very important for heroes! You can’t have a green aura with a red suit, right?

And now for something entirely different.  I haven’t written about the online superhero game City of Heroes in a long time, but it is still going strong.  The question is, will it still be going strong once there is direct competition?  The people who play a superhero game are not necessarily the same as those who play elves and dwarves (although I see some suspiciously elf-like heroes sometimes). But with the release of Champions Online, there will for the first time be another dedicated superhero MMORPG, and one developed using newer technology and learning from the experience of CoH.  Learning very closely, actually, because the company that releases Champions Online is the same that originally created City of Heroes. They later sold CoH to NCSoft, a large Korean-American MMORPG company which had published and supported the game from the start.

So how does CoH prepare to meet their doom the competition? In the long run, by promises of a third expansion. There are currently two games in one, City of Heroes and City of Villains. Strangely, it is often the same people who play them both.  (I don’t like villainy myself.) A third expansion will make it possible for villains to be redeemed, gradually, through a series of quests, while heroes may become vigilantes and eventually go bad.  It will also add large new areas in another imaginary world where the heroes of Paragon City have become tyrants, and the villains freedom fighters.

This is still some way off though, and in the meantime there is Issue 16: Power Spectrum.  “Issue” is their name for the free expansions that are added to the game, typically three times a year, although not necessarily exactly every four mounts.  Some are larger and some are smaller. This one is small in the sense that it does not include new areas or radically new powersets. Instead it changes how the game works, in a number of ways.

The most obvious, if you visit the test server, is the colors.  Players can now modify the colors of all powers that have a visible effect.  Most powers have, so there are a lot of interesting colors to see.  Originally the color was hard-coded into each powerset, so it took a lot of programming to make them available to the players.  But the result may well be worth it.  The fact is that most people who come to the game with a concept of a superhero already in their head, also has color as an important part of the concept.  For instance, my Lightwielder characters from the (still unfinished) books are typical Defenders in City of Heroes, but the powerset that best corresponds to them is “Dark Miasma”. Not good!  Now, with Power Spectrum, I can change those powers to bright white, as they should be.  Your hero may vary.

While this is the most visible change, it is not the only one. The project of “power proliferation” continues, with powers that have formerly only been available to heroes becoming adapted to villains and the other way around, and some powers becoming available to more archetypes than before.  For instance, tankers and scrappers can now have an energy aura that absorbs attacks, something only available to villains before.  On the other side, villain dominators can now have Earth Assault, which is related to but not quite the same as Earth Control for Controller heroes.

Perhaps the deepest change however is not very visible. It is the way teaming works when heroes (or villains) are of different levels.  Levels play a defining role in all MMORPGs.  To go up in levels is the most important thing for many players, and it is not unusual to park a hero once it has reached the maximum level and start over with another.  But the usual approach means you move through the game world in a very defined way:  You start in the newbie zone of Atlas Park or (more rarely) Galaxy City, then move to Kings Row or The Hollows, then Steel Canyon or Skyway City, then Talos Island or Independence Port, then Brickstown or Founders Falls, then Peregrine Island, the final zone where the portals to other worlds are.

From the very start, it has been possible for a higher level hero to sidekick a lower. The sidekick operates as if 1 level lower than the mentor, but has only the powers available at his real level. The powers are boosted to the higher level, though.  Also very early came the concept of exemplaring, or reverse sidekicking, where the  higher-level hero fights on the lower level of his sidekick, but retains the enhancements to his powers, at least within certain limits, so is somewhat better than he originally was at that level.  The hero that is exemplared down does not get experience points, however, instead getting double influence points (the currency of the game).

This has changed.  Now, the team leader or owner of the current mission sets the level for all members of the team.  Lower-level characters are automatically sidekicked, and you can have as many sidekicks as the team limit allows.  (Still limited to 8 characters, not counting pets.) Conversely, higher-level heroes are automatically exemplared down to the level of the team leader / mission owner.  However, they now get xp as if they were fighting enemies their own level.  So if you would get 1000 xp for fighting a minion, you will still get 1000 xp even if it is only worth 100 to those who are naturally at that level.  This will encourage people to return to lower-level zones and help teams of younger, weaker heroes.  It is in fact possible to level all the way to 50 without ever leaving the newbie zones, if you always team with newbies.  Not a good idea, probably, unless you are my signature hero, The Eternal Newbie.  ^_^  But it is nice to be able to visit the lower zones again occasionally without having to create a new character.

A game that heals?


I’m not talking about my imaginary girlfriend today, but her imaginary sister. Not that it makes much difference, I suppose.

I came home from work and was about to mow a part of the lawn again. I try to do this for a while each day when it is not raining (and rainy days are few here on the south coast of Norway). I do it as exercise as much as I do it for the lawn. So I strapped on the pulse clock and belt, so I can keep track on how hard I work. I try to keep my manual lawn mowing in the range of 120-140 beats per minute, whereas my resting pulse is around 60 (55 on a good day, up to 70 if I have worked hard the day before or if I have a cold.) Well, to my surprise my pulse was much faster than usual. Whether standing, sitting or walking, it was nearly 20 bpm faster than the baseline. That is about as much as it gets without breaking out in actual fever.

Since I had recently walked home from work, it might be some delayed reaction to the walk home or the stress of the workday. I sat down and meditated for about 40 minutes. This had barely any effect at all. So I gave up on the mowing and went online. Soon I was playing City of Heroes, duoing my Fire/Willpower scrapper with the Gravity/Kinetics controller of my imaginary girlfriend’s imaginary younger sister.

After a bit over an hour, I logged off. I checked my pulse again to see if it had grown worse. When it is 15 bpm over baseline, it is usually either because I exercised hard enough yesterday or because I am catching a cold. And this was higher than that again. So I expected a nasty infection, that’s why I checked up again. And the pulse was down to normal levels. Not the very lowest I’ve seen, but normal for a workday.

What’s up with that? Games can be relaxing, but not in the same league as meditation, I dare say. And a fast-paced combat-oriented superhero game is not exactly the most relaxing of the bunch, I suspect.

In the game there are various sources of healing, including the “transfusion” power of kinetics. She used that a few times, though mostly for herself. My character is more robust, and has an innate rapid healing. Not quite Wolverine-level (there is a movie about Wolverine now, right?) but still pretty nifty.

But this should not extend out of the game and into real life, right? I mean, I have been flying since shortly after City of Heroes was released, but gravity has the same grip on me in real life as it had then, 5 years ago. OK, I’ve lost a few pounds, but that’s because I lost the fat on my backside during the Months of Starvation. (If you did not know, men are the opposite of women in this regard. If we lose the fat there, it is almost impossible to get back on. Or perhaps that’s just me. Probably not though.)

There are some things in games that carry over to real life though. Primary emotions like anger or sexual excitement acquired in games can have visible physical effects in real life. (Not that this is why I play CoH, of course. And in any case, both my imaginary girlfriend and her imaginary sister tends toward dressing as Japanese schoolgirls, which are actually not very distracting compared to the skimpy or skin tight uniforms of classic superheroines (complete with gravity-defying breasts of doom). So yeah since hovering is the signature movement mode of Levity Lass, you could theoretically look up under those short schoolgirl skirts and see her light blue panties, but why would you do that with an imaginary character?)

Anyway, I think we can’t credit the in-game healing, except possibly by a slight amount of placebo effect. And even then we would have to factor in all the times one gets wounded over the course of the fight against evil, wouldn’t that too feed back into real life if the health did?

One more explanation I can think of is the social aspect, even if imaginary. Humans are social creatures and in general health is strongly correlated with social involvement. Then again, causality is a two-way street. It could be that sick people have less ability to socialize, because they are, you know, sick. And in any case very few humans make my heart beat slower – the number is down to zero, I would say, these days. Subjectively at least I find it easier to relax alone. That is not to say that I hate humans. Relaxing is not the only goal in life. If it was, I would not be playing CoH in the first place, would I? I would sleep and meditate and wait for my final rest. That is pretty far from my average day, I assure you.

Perhaps it took some time for the meditation to kick in. Or perhaps the body really was fighting some invader, but was already winning by the time I noticed, and the lymphocytes had packed up and gone home later in the evening. What do I know. More experiments are in order! Especially since the experiments involve computer games.

CoH: My first story (continued)

So I continued to work on my first Mission Architect story in City of Heroes. I ended up using a scrapper for my third mission instead of the mastermind.  I still consider adding a mastermind later, and possibly a controller. For now, the story is published with these three missions:

-Assist the tanker, levels 1-14

-Assist the defender, levels 20-29(?)

-Assist the scrapper, levels 25-34.

Apart from freeing the heroes, you help them complete their missions, which vary slightly but contain at least one boss (but no elite bosses or archvillains). If one or more of the missions is outside your current level, you will be set to the nearest possible level.  You will not get new powers if you play at a higher level, but your current powers will work at that level.  (This is always the case with Architect missions, not just mine.)

I tested it after publishing, with my level 8 mastermind.  I made him spesifically to level up on Architect content, since I hate the evil missions in City of Villains. But I have not played much lately, so he is still a lowbie.  He did gain a level from testing this story arc a couple times though.  (I did some pure testing before I published it, which gives badges but not experience points, influence or tickets.) After it was published, it gave all those things, but not a whole lot since it is not very difficult.  In addition to giving villains a wholesome classic heroic story, I also wanted it to be useful for newbies who are still not very good with the game, and for archetypes and power combinations that start out weak and may have problems soloing a normal mission. (I remember having that problem when I was new myself, and made a promise to myself to help others when I got the chance.)

I consider making another story arc that is even more designed to help weak characters, but this is it for now.

CoH Architect: Making my first story

2009-05-04 22:16:30

Me and Otaku Offense, screenshot from testing my first Mission Architect story.

Today I made my first story arch in City of Heroes.  As recently as before Easter, only the developers from NCSoft could make stories for the game.  Now even I can do it, and trust me, this is not the kind of creativity I have a natural talent for. I really feel like a newbie at this, and fellow players would probably notice that newbieness if they played the story I have made.  Then again, give me one more day to finish it and it will look pretty good.

The tools are amazingly easy to use.  I did miss out on some details because I did not scroll far enough down, but  the program reminded me if it was important, and took me to the place where there was missing information.  Creating new enemies and allies is as easy as making a new character in the game proper, which is famously easy and fun and a main attraction of the game.  (Probably also a main reason why a large number of the players are women in real life, or at least on LiveJournal.)

It is also possible to build some randomness into the story arc, such as a randomly chosen abandoned warehouse among several different possible, or a randomly chosen boss to fight among several possible. On the other hand, you can put in a lot of detail such as things the allies and enemies say.

I made a story arc in which you are sent to help (computer controlled) heroes who got captured while doing a normal hero mission, fighting a house full of villains.  They are held capture inside the house, and once you have freed them, they will assist you with clearing out the baddies.  (Story-wise it is actually their mission and you are assisting them.) I made this story for people who have not made their heroes good at playing alone, but who for some reason may have problems getting a team.  Or for newbies who suck but will improve with time.

The first mission is to help a tanker (heroes who can take a lot of damage without getting defeated).  The creatively named Tankman Man has a bright red, white and blue uniform and a vacant grin on his face, but he can take almost unlimited amounts of attacks without buckling.  He is also excessively agrressive, running ahead and attacking anything in sight.  After the mission is over, he takes all the credit (but you still get your tickets so who cares). The mission is very low level, but this does not really matter much since you automatically get translated to the correct level.

The second mission is to help a kinetic defender, Otaku Offender. She is dressed like a Japanese schoolgirl (see picture) and has an impressive array of powers to power up her teammates.  (Or teammate, if you play alone.) She also has a few attacks, but will not hare off on her own, staying near you and assisting you instead. This mission is in the level 20-30 range, or around the middle of the career.  (50 is the highest level.)

I plan to have a third mission, on an even higher level, featuring a mastermind (villain archetype) doing a heroic mission.  But perhaps I will publish it with just the two missions first and see how it works in terms of rewards before I complete it.

Or perhaps I suddenly think of something else I would rather do, and wander off.

City of Heroes Architect tickets

So this day I found out something new.  I haven’t held the Architect missions (user-made) in high regard because you only get tickets, not recipes and salvage and enhancements.  But then I got the message that I could not get more tickets because my inventory was full.  It turned out I had 9999 tickets after a couple levels.  I went to the ticket person elsewhere in the AE building, and it turned out I could use it to buy… recipe, salvage and enhancement.  Actually I got a lot of stuff, more than I could have gotten the usual way. That may be because I had been on farming teams for a couple levels though.  I thought they only farmed experience and influence points, but evidently they make lots of tickets too. I never noticed.