Why City of Heroes SHOULD Be Worried

Date: 08-04-2009 Views:
KeyWord: City of Heroes, Champions, pvp, comparison, beta, new game, clone
Summary: In my previous article, I ruffled some feathers by saying that City of Heroes had nothing to worry about concerning the impending release of Champions Online, its first competitor in the superhero MMO market. Maybe "nothing to worry about" is a little too strong. There are lots of valid reasons for the developers of City of Heroes to keep an eye on Champions Online, and I have no doubt Champions Online will do quite well for itself. While I don't believe that City of Heroes will just shrivel up and die in the wake of Champions Online's release, what follows are some of the reasons I think Champions Online could steal much of CoH's thunder.
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Cecil Why City of Heroes SHOULD Be Worried
By Cecil Adkins

Cecil Adkins is a fiction writer and covers MMORPGs for Examiner.com.  He is an active player of City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, and several other MMOs.  He can be found on the web at www.ceciladkins.com.


city of heroesIn my previous article, I ruffled some feathers by saying that City of Heroes had nothing to worry about concerning the impending release of Champions Online, its first competitor in the superhero MMO market.  Maybe "nothing to worry about" is a little too strong.  There are lots of valid reasons for the developers of City of Heroes to keep an eye on Champions Online, and I have no doubt Champions Online will do quite well for itself.  While I don't believe that City of Heroes will just shrivel up and die in the wake of Champions Online's release, what follows are some of the reasons I think Champions Online could steal much of CoH's thunder.

 

1. Champions Online is new and shiny.  It's the new kid on the block, so of course people are going to be interested in it.  Even diehard City of Heroes fans like myself can grow jaded sometimes and yearn for something different.  Up until now, that something different has meant World of Warcraft or some other non-superhero MMO.  Having an alternative to City of Heroes that still allows us to indulge our comic book fantasies is mighty appealing.  Being built with five-year-newer technology, of course, should mean that in all city of heroestechnical aspects, Champions Online is a better game.  And while I don't care too much for the cell-shaded-like graphics of Champions Online, there are many others out there who like it a lot.  There's no denying that it looks very different from City of Heroes, and that in and of itself will draw some people in.

2. The debacles centering around the Mission Architect left a bad taste in many people's mouths.  There were problems with the Mission Architect, centering around how easy it was to powerlevel (i.e., level much faster than the developers intended) using the MA, when Issue 14 (the update that included the MA) was in closed beta testing.  Those, and other MA problems, were virtually ignored by the developers and the update was allowed to go live with massive exploits.  It wasn't until after a "free" weekend designed to lure old players back into the game that punishments were retroactively handed out to the biggest "offenders."  The whole thing was handled very poorly, and for those who were iffy on staying with City of Heroes in the first place, this was plenty enough to push them over the edge.  A more minor, but still poorly handled, Mission Architect issue had to do with the game's badge system.  Dozens of MA-related badges were removed from the game because, according to the developers, they led to people creating easy-to-farm badge missions in the MA.  They never really satisfactorily answered questions about this, or suggestions for a different fix to the supposed problem, at least not in my eyes, or the eyes of many others.  Even ignoring these problems, many City of Heroes player believe that the Mission Architect has actually taken away from the game itself, because so many players focus on nothing but the MA and ignore the rest of the game.

3. PvP in City of Heroes is an ongoing mess.  No, really, it is.  There's just no other way to describe it.  City of Heroes didn't launch with PvP as part of the game, although they say it was planned from the beginning.  It never did gain a huge following, and changes made to the PvE game because of PvP just irritated those who didn't care for it in the first place.  Despite the relatively small size of the PvP community, though, it was an active and passionate group that held regular arena tournaments and organized their own competition ladders.  Then Issue 13 happened.  The massive PvP overhaul that Issue 13 brought baffled most avid PvPers to the point where many people who'd never PvPed felt sorry for them.  A community rep even admitted that the Issue 13 changes weren't made with the then-current PvP crowd in mind.  (That community rep left very shortly after making that statement, perhaps not coincidentally.)  What was a huge focal point of the game for a very vocal minority disappeared in the blink of an eye, and PvP in City of Heroes is even less of a factor than it was before.  NCSoft alienated a group of players who kept playing the game because they loved the way PvP was, and it was in the name of "further PvP changes" that so far haven't come to pass.  And with all the other big stuff coming down the pike (powers customization, the Going Rogue update, etc), it's hard to believe that these "further PvP changes" will actually ever come to pass.  Cryptic is including PvP in Champions Online from launch, and even attaching rewards to it (something that City of Heroes is just now getting around to).  Let's hope that Cryptic does PvP better this time around, and they'll learn from NCSoft how NOT to treat this part of the community.

city of heroes
Citi of Heroes PvP


Champions Online
Champions Online Pvp


4. Cryptic now has five years' worth of hindsight.  Even though some things I've seen from Champions Online make it appear that Cryptic is ignoring some good things from City of Heroes (yes, I think instanced quests are better than open-world quests, so sue me), I'm still hopeful that they've learned a lot over the last five city of heroesyears.  They haven't been involved in the development of City of Heroes for some time now, but between their time with that game and their observations of what has happened since then, they are in a great position to cater to the wills of players who have been unsatisfied with City of Heroes in recent months.  One thing that made World of Warcraft into the juggernaut that it's become was taking things that other games had done and making them a lot better (being made by Blizzard didn't hurt WoW's chances either, of course).  Let's hope that Cryptic does the same thing with Champions Online.  The wheel doesn't need to be reinvented, but mistakes from the past should not be made again.

5. The Nemesis system sounds really, really cool.  Yes, I'm a fan of the Mission Architect feature in City of Heroes, despite the problems it's caused.  However, one of the biggest things I'm looking forward to in Champions Online is the Nemesis system.  The idea that someone is out there gunning specifically for me – that other players might even someday run into while he's doing it – is just too fun to believe.

6. Updates to City of Heroes have been too slow in coming for awhile now.  True, Issue 16 and Going Rogue both represent a huge undertaking, but the last year has seen underwhelming updates to City of Heroes.  Even the biggest addition to the game in that time – the Mission Architect – has caused massive problems, hurt feelings, and lost subscribers, as discussed above, and has arguably detracted from the core game.  It won't matter if players can recolor their powers or make their heroes into villains (and vice versa) if they get tired of waiting around for the big update coming soon.  "Soon" is a word used way too often by the City of Heroes developers.

 

city of heroesThere will be people who flock to Champions Online at first opportunity, never looking back to City of Heroes.  And there will be those who adamantly refuse to even glance in the direction of Millennium City, preferring to stay and fight on the rooftops and streets of Paragon City.  And in the middle will be people who like both games, who are willing to give both games a chance to prove themselves, and who perhaps can find a lot to like in both games.

City of Heroes should hold its head high as it faces its competitor-filled future, but it can't afford to keep making the mistakes that have been made in the past.  At any rate, competition is always a good thing, as it should make both games better.  And if it doesn't, may the better game win.

 

Pre-reading: Champions Online? City of Heroes Has Nothing to Worry About

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