Saturday, February 28, 2009

City of Heroes: Concerns

Okay, here's the reason why I felt I should define what Pulling a Planetside is. I've been playing Warhammer Online on and off. However, I'm not a Warhammer Online person. I'm simply not into PvP combat in a tab-targeting / gear-based world. I like my PvP in games where skill actually matters. So while I appreciate and respect Warhammer Online for truely nailing the epic-fantasy genre, it's just not my cup of tea. One of friends, upon finding out I was playing Warhammer Online reactivated his account, and has since gone... well. FanPoi (inside joke, no, I'm not explaining it). Every day I'm met with a tale of something incredible that happened with his low level character in a scenario or public quest... and I simply just.. don't... care.

My friend hass been playing City of Heroes with me for some time, and he's voiced a concern that he thinks CoH is going to pull a Planetside. In expectation of this, he's gone after the genre he really loves, which is the tab-targeting / gear-based / forget-the-skill PvP play that Warhammer Online offers. Okay, to clarify here before I get an angry letter from Mythic, I know Warhammer Online does actually require some skill to play. I know that it is not as gear dependent as it's competitor, and I know that the focus is on team-combat, not solo-combat. Warhammer Online takes a lot after Dark Age of Camelot, and probably one or two of the devs remember me commenting on how much DAoC had taken from Planetside... but I digress.

My friend does have a point. City of Heroes has pulled some brain-dead design changes in the past, like enhancement diversification, and has taken some very risky steps recently, such as the recent Player-versus-Player balance rework, and the introduction of merits. With CoH having a history of risky maneuvers, or just plain-stupid maneuvers, the upcoming releases of Champions Online and DC Universe Online are cause for paranoia at the least, outright panic at the most.
What's worse for many players is that there is no public road-map for City of Heroes. There's next to no information over what's going to happen after Issue 14, Mission Architect, hits. Given that the development team is in a position to do just about anything, and claim they were planning it all along, is a bit nerve-racking. In addition, another NCSoft game, Tabula Rasa, pulled a Planetside literally during the launch, converting from an epic team-based war into a solo-frag fest, so there's a bit of credibility to the idea that NCSoft could allow massive design changes as a publisher and project-developer.

While I honestly believe NCSoft has nothing to worry about given whose backing Champions Online, and the fact that SOE is putting together DC's game, I'm not NCSoft. It is possible that NC-NorCal, the former Cryptic Studios Team, could possibly implement knee-jerk reactions to it's upcoming competitors.

What I'd like to see though is a dedicated mission statement. I'd like to see Matt Miller, even if he does it in character, layout the design goals for the next 3 or 4 issues of City of Heroes.

To me, if a company has a clear goal in mind, they'll be able to meet that goal, and they can ignore the temptation to chase after other people's goals. A good case in point is actually Warhammer Online. Mythic Entertainment has stated they hang their hat on RvR play, and in all honesty, Mythic's team combat in Warhammer Online is as good as Planetside's was.

I think the fear is justified that if CoH doesn't speak up on what their goals are, the player base will simply see Issues 15 and 16 as reactions to what are, right now, inferior games.

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