Tuesday, May 12, 2009

CoH: Kotaku Repost

This is a quick repost of a comment I made on Kotaku. Since I could not find it after the post was made, copying it here.
and with one move, Champions Online and DCU were rendered into dust. -over reaching sweeping statement made to sound like somebody who played the games had said something meaningful.

Here's the problem with the statements about Champions Online: It's being made by the same guy, Jack Emmert, who was directly responsible for City of Heroes stagnating. Most beta testers agree that Champions Online, now, is just about where City of Heroes was 2 years ago. That's not a good place to be when one thinks about how far City of Heroes has come with it's free issue expansions. While there is a lot of hype surrounding Champions Online, and it is hype, the fact is, the development behind it isn't the development team behind City of Heroes. It's the development team that was behind the canned for quality reasons Marvel Universe Online. Take that how you will, but if you honestly think Champions Online will somehow deliver a good experience to play? You've got a lot more faith than I do in people that have a track record of ruining games.

The problem with DCU, and it's not really a problem, is that it's an SOE game. If you think about the majority of SOE releases, you'll probably only come up with 2 games that actually had long-lives as MMO's. Those are Everquest and Everquest 2. All of SOE's other properties ranging from Star Wars Galaxies, to that Pirate Game, to Planetside, have problems with developers loosing sight of what their game is about. To many players, SOE has the worst history possible in the development of MMO games. Given SOE's track record, one is forced to wonder not when, but HOW the upcoming DC MMO will be screwed up or over. I'm not saying DCU is going to be bad. It actually looks quite interesting, and should DC actually maintain control over the development, does pose a threat to NCSoft's Playerbase... or does it? A lot of people today play two or more MMO's. NCSoft already has a partnership with Sony, and while Marvel has a bad history with what is now Paragon Studios, DC does not. Could there be a link-up between CoH and DCU? Probably not, but I wouldn't be so quick to think that Statesman and Synapse wouldn't have a quick crossover with Superman and The Flash.

Another problem I see in these comments come from those who whine about a level cap. Well, there's a reason most games have a level cap. Players have a goal to shoot for. Moving the level cap onwards and upwards forces players to continue to re-evaluate and redesign their characters. World Of Warcraft is a prime example of why developers should maintain a consistent level cap. The constant ever upward spiral of levels prevents all but the hardest core players from experiencing character archtypes in an effective manner.

There is no other way to say this: If your player base strategy depends on forcing players to continue to chase rebalanced levels instead of actually producing content for the players to experience, then you have failed. World of Warcraft, at first glance, seems to be counter-intuitive proof. Until you actually start looking at how the player base is made up. There are tons of flavor of the month classes. The majority of the player base aren't gamers, but merely people who find the interface simple to understand, and consider World of Warcraft to be a safe option. It's sort of like the difference between Halo and Metroid Prime. Real gamers wondered what the heck people were on about with Halo and didn't understand why Metroid Prime didn't get that sort of public exposure. However, the barrier of entry to Halo was much lower, and therefore palatable to the mass market. World Of Warcraft's level grind is attractive to the semi-gamer market since they can basically pick one or two character classes and stick with it. Then if anybody asks why don't they play something else, they have a legit excuse that they don't have the time to go play another class.

City of Heroes, by sticking with a level cap, encourages the player base to field several different archtypes. Okay, not everybody is going to play a defender. Not everybody is going to play a corruptor. However, the percentage of the player base that has actually tried to level multiple archtypes is significantly higher than other MMO's. While I could be wrong, I think only Guild Wars has a higher ratio of players with multiple character types.

City of Heroes also has the strength, at least on the hero side, that players have a variety of ways to level up. It is possible to take 4 different single Archtypes to level 50 and never take the same level path. I should know, I purposely went out of my way to do that.

Now, that is is my point of view. I see constant level cap increases as a sign that the development team does not know what they are doing. There is little doubt that somebody will say World of Warcraft's stellar player-base numbers prove that idea wrong.

So I'll leave with just this question:

For those who play World of Warcraft, how much of the current player base you know actually worth PLAYING WITH?