Thursday, May 08, 2008

CoH: wthcomics repost flood

A couple of times I've used this blog to archive forum comments so that I don't have to go looking for a particular thread, and I can point to an easy URL to fill out a point later on. Well, WTHcomics just ran a couple of short strips about the MMO I've made it clear I do not like, World of Warcraft, and the MMO that I basically haven't shut up about, City of Heroes. Joshua Jericho is one of the, and I'll use the term loosely, victims of Jack Emmert's antics in the development of City of Heroes. Some of the claims I made in the forum are unsubstantiated. E.G. I repeat a claim that Jack once promised that tanks would be able to pick up cars on the streets and throw them at enemies, as super strength heroes are known to do in comics. However, I personally have never heard of such a claim made for City of Heroes, and originally called B.S. on the claim. Problem is, it sounds like one of the many extravagant promises Jack Emmert was known for making, and I dimly recalled the introduction of Mayhem Missions in City Of Villains featured cars that could be blown up. I also recall various players of CoH/CoV at that time saying that blowing cars up wasn't what the developers had promised, so there perhaps is indirect evidence of such a claim being made.

In the same manner I also lay claims that Jack was responsible for several boneheaded design decisions in City of Heroes. Some of the design choices such as Enhancement Diversification, as well as the addition of a mob-run to Fire Aura's Burn attack were most certainly were Jack's direct handiwork. Other elements of the game, such as Positron's Task Force and the I9 Hamidon Raid, were probably the result of several developers working in conjunction. However, upon talking with people who have been playing the game since Issue 1, as well as those who actively campaigned to force Jack Emmert to step down from the position of lead developer, I have been pointed to many various CoH forum posts which purport to detail Jack's direct involvement with undesirable portions of City Of Heroes, some of which laid the claims I made out in detail. Basically then, take what you read about Jack with a grain of salt. He may be getting blamed for stuff that he did not have direct involvement in.

At the same time, on a personal level, I would encourage potential CoH players, and readers of this blog to consider the actions that occured before and after Jack was in a position of authority for the game.

Lets get started with the posts now: http://forums.wthcomics.com/viewtopic.php?f=4&t=41
First : LAUGHING MY BUTT OFF AT THE COMICS. It is SO true. It's even worse when you get to level 50 and are into the Shadow Shard Task Forces. Faathim the Kind NEVER gets a Cell Phone so a 2~3 hour Task Force becomes a 4~5 hour task force just on travel time alone.

Second : Champions Online won't fix anything. It is going to be junk.

Here's the thing with CO : it's being made by the same guy responsible for all the boneheaded design choices in City of Heroes, Jack Emmert. Examples? The current Hollows Build. If you are following the story missions you will get sent into the Hollows at level 5, at which point you will find that the mobs just around the door door zone are already 5+ enemies large... and also start at Level 6... a full level above your avatar. If you continue in Hollows, you get sent to places like EastGate Heights around levels 8~10, which just happens to be a zone filled with levels 11~13. Some of the missions would have you on one side of Hollowing Crater, and then promptly send you to the other side of the Crater. If you followed the story line exactly, when you got to Julius the Troll, he could send you down to kill Trolls in the River 2 levels below the actual level of the trolls IN the river. That was all Jack's Idea of fun. Thankfully WarWitch is fixing the Hollows a'la Faultline in the upcoming Issue 12.

Further examples? Positron's Task Force was another one of Jack's ideas of fun. The Positron Task Force pits you against Clockwork (End-drain + hold + sleep + stun), Circle of Thorns (End-drain + accuracy debuff + hold + sleep + stun + massive knockback / knockdown) , and the Vahzilok (Undead Revive + Toxic Damage + Holds + Immobilize ). The Task Force was structured in such a way that no matter what group you faced, your team would be weak to at least SOMETHING in the arsenal of the opposing forces. If you did manage to build a group that could protect itself against the massive status effects, you would wind up short on damage. Other Task forces most people will repeat. Positron's Task Force? Everybody hates it, but it was Jack's idea of a Challenge. Well, I like a Challenge too. I don't think that Challenge should involve debt capping level 10-15 players.

Jack was also responsible for the reworked Hamidon Raid in Issue 9. Almost nobody in the game does the Hamidon Raid anymore. Yes, previous Hamidon raids needed 80+ people to succeed, and the new Hamidon Raid caps at 50 per zone, but you need 50 people... 2 to 3 hours if everything goes right... and if anybody screws up it's all over. The result for completing a new Hamidon Raid is exactly the same reward that you would get for completing the Lord Recluse and Statesman Task Forces... which require less people, and gives far more influence / infamy in return, as well as possibly taking less time.

Other examples of Jack in the game involved the Enhancement Diversification, which makes sense now with the Invention Origin Enhancements and Set bonus's... but back when City of Villains launched, it was a complete disaster to players from the start of the game. ED was so bad that even Positron commented on it being a bad move after Jack had been expelled from the game.http://www.cityofheroes.com/news/archives/2008/04/a_message_from.html
That’s not to say we haven’t been without our missteps. We’ve implemented a couple things imperfectly (Epic Archetypes and Enhancement Diversification come to mind), which caused a lot of headaches for us down the road. I can’t promise that we will never make mistakes, but I will say we will do our best to ensure that we don’t repeat them.
Jack was despised so greatly that a petition arose to remove him from the game : http://www.petitiononline.com/JackE/petition.html
Too bad it was run on Petition Online, which NCSoft has a public policy of ignoring, along with many other current and former IDSA/ESA members.

It's also not like he's learned any lessons from his time at the helm of City of Heroes. Remember Marvel Universe Online? Don't? Well, it was a City of Heroes Type MMO that Cryptic Studios (Jack's studio) were going to make for Marvel as part of the fall-out from the Marvel lawsuit against Cryptic / NCSoft. MUO was being made in conjunction with Marvel and Microsoft for the Xbox 360 and Vista platforms. However, MUO was canned at the last minute... Want to know why it was canned? According to Microsoft execs (talking off the record)... they reported the game was canned it because it did not meet quality expectations. Let me repeat that. Microsoft, the company known for shipping products before they are complete ( http://www.gearfuse.com/crazy-uncle-ballmer-admits-vista-is-an-incomplete-product/ ), has a long history of ignoring any kind of quality guidelines ( Zune ), stated that a game designed by Jack Emmert... did not meet quality guidelines. How BAD was MUO for Microsoft to can it?

Fact is, when Jack Emmert was ejected from City Of Heroes, and NCSoft took over full control and ownership, as well as most of the development team... In fact even adding some old developers back in. Sean Fish, better known as Manticore, was one of the developers responsible for bringing CoH to life. However, as he worked for NCSoft, not Cryptic, he had not been involved with the game for years. He's back. Matt Miller (Positron), Melinda (WarWitch), and everybody who had worked on I10, I11, and I12 were moving to NCNorCal, the new studio for City of Heroes. The news that Jack was being ejected from the game, permanently, resulted in Pocket D being filled to capacity with Dance parties... it's not often I see Pocket D1 / Pocket D2 on non-special events... but the nights immediately after it became known that Jack was gone? It happened... Not to mention the song parody's... some of which were distinctly NOT work safe... not even sailor safe for that matter.

Basically, don't get stoked about Champions Online. Maybe, just maybe, it could be good. But the guy who is helming development is the same guy that the vast majority of City of Heroes actively despises... and can readily rattle off various reasons as to why they hate Jack, and as to why they have no hope for Champions Online.

Frankly, Champions Online won't fix Jack's (Kitty Litter), and he'll probably still be heaping it upon anybody stupid enough to check the game out.

***

Further edit : on a more personal note. Jack was also the guy responsible for changing the Fire Aura power Burn to include a -mob run effect. Fire Aura is supposed to be the offensive Tanker set, with more Damage than other sets. Fire Tanks used to be able to gather up a mob, and then drop Burn for a very heavy Damage over time effect. Combined with Fire Sword Circle and Combustion, Fire Tanks could drop a mob faster than a scrapper or a blaster. With the -mob run attachment though, Fire Tanks were severely nerfed. Burn is still a heavy DoT power, but unless you have a controller around who can keep enemies in place, it's next to useless as it sends enemies running away. Sort of pointless when the job of a tank is KEEP enemies in one place. Not send enemies running away.

Okay, next post.

Joshua Jericho, the artist behind WTHcomics stepped in to talk about how annoying CoH was at low levels. I almost went off on a long tangent about Tabula Rasa... very good reason why I haven't talked about it. The new lead developer made a big mistake in his entrance letter, and instead of downplaying or omitting PvP play altogether, Tabula Rasa is now trying to force a PvE engine into a PvP game. That, however, is a topic that can be addressed later.

In this post I also go over Faultline, which is one of the first maps to be zone missioned. To get an idea what I mean, a Map of Faultline is available here : http://vidiotmaps.com/maps_int.php?map=new_faultline. Each of the rectangles is a zone, and each of the 4 contacts only sends you to missions located in their rectangles. So if you get a mission at level 15, you won't be sent all the way to the area that's colored red.

There also is another unsubstantiated claim in this post, that of WarWitch claiming that all the sub level 30 zones were scheduled to be redone according to the Faultline pattern. I remembered something being said about reworking all of the low level spawn areas, but was unable to obtain a link where such a claim was made by the development team themselves.

On with the posts:
JoshuaJericho:: Awesome! Glad to hear it. I'll never get to 50 though. >.> That whole Hollows trap you talked about pretty much did me in. The running back and forth thing really hurt too, I got mentally exhausted. In the end I'll say this: WoW is the most user-friendly game but the end game is annoying as hell. CoH is conceptually really cool but mean to the players, and FFXI was my favorite but the community killed that game for me as I got tired of elitists and people ruining parties by being jerks to often.

So, MMO is the crap and I'm done with them. =P

Not really, I still play them all on occassion.
I agree about FFXI. Same thing happened with Tabula Rasa for me. I loved the game itself, but I'd be hard pressed to say it had a community. FFXI annoyed the living daylights out of me as the only way to really progress in the game was to get in a group... but because of the WorldPass featureBUG, you probably were not going to wind up on the same server as your friends to play. Tabula Rasa's community basically has forced a PvE game to go PvP...

The good news about CoH is that back in Issue 9 the devs started working on making the game less... hostile... at the earlier levels. One of the points I mentioned was the a'la Faultline. Faultline used to be a true hazard zone like the hollows. You went into it an inappropriate level (level 12). Inappropriate being that Faultline contained several huge cliffs and drop offs... that without a travel power... you were hosed to get out of. If you had missions that took you into Faultline, you'd easily find yourself running through level 20's at level 12... not exactly fun. The entire Faultline map was redone to flatten the level out. Less drop offs and crevices. Missions were also changed so they started at level 15, after you had your travel power. Some missions still haven't been rebalanced, you can still be sent to hunt Vahzilok at level 12... and Numina's Task Force sends you to hunt Vahzilok as well... who have a very limited respawn time. Other changes to Faultline also included Zone Appropriate missions. Basically each contact would send you to a specific zone with enemies leveled for that contact. So if you went in at 15 to start, you wouldn't be completely out of your league, with the highest average enemy level you'd run across being 18. When you hit 20 and can complete the second half of the missions in Faultine, the highest enemy you can run into will be 25. Enough to send you running... but you won't be one shotted either.

Melinda (WarWitch) has pretty much stated that all of the sub-30 levels will eventually be reworked to follow the Faultline pattern. I hate the current Hollows, but having played on the Test Server Version Melinda has cooked up, it's much easier to live with.

Other changes for "new" players is the addition of radio missions in Kings Row. Completing the Kings Row safeguard mission grants you a jetpack... which you can get on average around levels 5-6.. .well before you get a real Travel Power at 14.

So the current CoH isn't as Hostile as it was before. Going back to Champions Online, it's important to remember that Jack Emmert likes to be hostile to new players. He likes impossible challenges. Sure, I like challenges to. I love trying to complete Statesman's Task Force for the Master Of Statesman's Task Force badge. Sure, it requires nobody dying, and using no Temporary powers... which isn't easy when the first mission has one arch-villain at 51, the second mission has 4 arch villains at 52, the third mission has the Arch-Villain that forms the basis of the Villain-Side respec, the forth mission has 5 archvillains at level 52... then the fifth mission with 5 archvillians, all at level 54. It's bloody hard. Same with Faathim. I love the Faathim Task Force, although the average completion time is 3hours Plus, mostly due to travel time and being unable to call the contact.

On the other hand... these events are end-game... where you WANT a challenge. I would not wish the difficulty of STF or Faathim on anybody whose just starting up the game... but that's the kind of difficulty Jack wanted across the entire game. My biggest concern about Champions Online is that the guy responsible for turning players, such as Joshua... away... is the guy helming the project.

Other points I skipped out on is that Jack E. has a reputation for running his mouth when he shouldn't. He's not as bad as Peter Molyneux, exampling the massive fallout from Fable... but some of the stuff Jack has promised before specifically for City of Heroes is unique color options for players attacks. Exampling a Fire Tank, where most attacks are colored Flame Orange. Jack promised to be able to change the colors to Blue, or white. He's also promised Tanks the ability to walk down a street, pick up a car, and throw it at enemies. Jack also ran his mouth about Incarnate Classes and Level 60 by issue 10.

Problem is, I look at what he's claiming for Champions Online... and it reads like his exclamation sheet of everything that City of Heroes was to get. So I'm having a hard time taking anything the guy says with anything less than 5 barrels of salt.

***

Now, before I start ranting here... Issue 12 will be released for CoH in a few weeks, and probably will be accompanied with a free trial. That might be a good time to take a look at it again. Just... avoid Freedom server. (Personally, I'd say come to Triumph... but I just don't see other people reading this forum wanting to join a Cat-based supergroup... or a schoolgirl based supergroup... (don't. ask.)).

Ryeata popped up next. Ryeata is one my compadres from Clan VT, so veteran Unreal players, as well as players of F.E.A.R. Combat, might recognize VT-Ryeata. He's been a sounding board for my game reviews on multiplayer content for years. He brought up the subject of WarHammer Online, which I haven't talked about. I've been invited by the developers to look at Dark Age of Camelot before during an E3. I walked away... impressed. Anyways, Ryeata's dream is also to be cannon fodder in a Webcomic.

Okay, that's not his dream, but you wouldn't know it by another post he made in the WTHforums.

I'm also NOT going to bother spell checking his post and fixing the grammar. Trust me on this, he's much more intelligent than his typing skills would leave you to believe. I personally lay the fault on too much Counter-Strike.

After Ryeata came an occasional CoH player, Symbolis, whom the bulk of my response was aimed at. As I don't know Symbolis, his post is not copied here. The basis of Symbolis's post is that he views CoH as a solo type game. Well, for some classes of players, it can be, but we'll get into that later.
Ryeata :: Hey Ryeata here been a long time fan of your comics. But ya i noticed you and me buddy talkin bout some MMO stuff. Im the same as you man it was so hard to get to that 20 mark in COH specially having to go through the hollows. But hey if you do want to play WoW to the end game stoof come over to Sisters of Elune and ill show ya the ropes on pretty much everything. But ya one game to check out that you may like cause its pretty much different then any other MMO ive played (( Its got of elements from diff MMO's IE: the Seige type deal from from that one game "Saist back me up here my memmory is shot >_< href="http://www.warhammeronline.com">http://www.warhammeronline.com im tellin ya man it has everything it needs to be a great game the dev's are really into it and... well just check it out my inate rambling will just confuse you even more :D.


pssst, it was called Dark Age of Camelot. I've semi-joked to Rye before that WarHammer Online is basically Dark Age of Camelot 3, a reference to almost complete generational leap from the first DAoC to what the developers are attempting now. I liked DAoC, but it came out when I was extremely heavy into Planetside... and I'd rather play an FPS over a more traditional RPG setting.

***

Symbolis : The teaming, or lack of teaming, largely depends on what server you are on. City of Heroes is very much about Team Play, and always has been, and always will be. Example, Defender classes are very much in need of a team. At high levels they only have 1/3-1/2 of the attack power a blaster has. The main problem is finding people to play with. Also, given some of your build choices, I'm not surprised you would have difficulty finding a team. Kin controllers never make good team players. Basic problem being that Kinetics is a buff / debuff class all on it's own. In order to be a good kinetics, you can't do anything but kinetics. As a secondary set, you get Transference and Fulcrum shift way to late in the game to be useful on Katie Hannon Task Force, Citadel Task Force, or Manticore Task Force. Then there's the problem that the kin buff / debuffs are only 70-80% the strength of their Defender counterparts. Where-as a Kin Defender can easily shut down the regen rate on a Giant Monster or AV by spamming Transfusion, a Kin controller can't. Same thing applies to the -Storm build. A Storm defender can completely shut down a Malta Sapper's or Carny End-Drain with O2 Boost. A Storm Controller can't.

Anyways. One of the things to keep in mind is that some of the servers are heavy on the Themed SuperGroups. My primary server, Triumph, is one of those. If you aren't in Triumph to join a particular SuperGroup, such as Feline Fellowship, Feline Foundation Z, Girls of Nukem High, and so on, you probably won't have an easy time finding a team. Other servers like Guardian and Infinity tend to be heavily geared towards clique SG play.

Some servers just have bad reputations to begin with for team play, with Justice, Pinnacle, and Protector easily topping the list of servers I hear people complain about.

Freedom tends to be the Farming Server. It stays popular because it stays in a yellow loaded condition. Since Freedom attracts new players though, it also attracts people who DO NOT know what they are doing. I've ranted several times on http://zerias.blogspot.com about some of the idiotic builds I've seen on Freedom. Fire Tanks not taking the Leaping set for Acrobatics, but take fly instead... and wonder why they can't hold aggro. Kinetics of both controllers and defenders skipping Increase Density. Illusionists not taking either of their native stealths or Recall Friend. I've seen stone tanks that in full granite that can't hold a level 50 Arch Villain. I've seen controllers that only took their first and second primary powers, then filled up the rest of their attacks with pool powers... Granted, I have seen an invuln tank on Triumph that only took his first primary defense that he couldn't skip, and then filled out everything else with pool powers and attacks because he wanted to be well-rounded. I had no problem taking a real-kin to 50 in under 2 weeks on Freedom server because I had a bloody clue about what I was doing. Quite literally when I hit 50 I still had a Faultline mish, a Brickstown mish, and a Founders Fall mission in my to-do log. Had to go into /hide to do my own missions.

Virtue tends to be popular as it's a heavy RP server. I detest referring to any server as the RP server because, lets face it, the game is a ROLE PLAYING GAME to begin with... Virtue's just a little more strict about people staying in character. If you don't stay in character, it's hard to get teams around Virtue.

***

The best advice I can give for finding a team is to check out your servers Global Channels. More often than not hanging around the Servers Badge channel will get you a lot of teams. There are some cases where a server has a private badge channel. E.G. Triumph created it's own Global channel called Triumph Watch. It's a private channel, but it also allows the mods to enforce keeping jackasses out of the channel.


Alright, that's it for the post round up. Some of the subjects addressed I will follow up on later.

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