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are u a bad enough dude to saev the President - EXCELSIOR, YOU FATHEAD!

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April 13th, 2009


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02:32 pm - are u a bad enough dude to saev the President
Issue 14 of City of Heroes went live this week (being a comic book-themed game, of course, they call their version updates "Issues") and it contained a big enough cookie to make me resubscribe for a while: the ability to create and publish your own story arcs for people to play and enjoy. Those of you who like your acronyms, that's OLC for an MMO, which I think is a first.

The Mission Architect system is implemented in-game as a "virtual reality simulation" (a simulation inside a simulation; wrap that one around your noodle) which lets your heroes or villians romp around inside a giant Holodeck or Danger Room or whatever you'd like to call it. This has the primary advantage of immediately declaring all user-generated content non-canon. You still can't infringe copyright, but you can create a mission calling upon heroes to save the iconic Statesman's mother.

So what can you do? Well, you can create your own amazing stories for everyone to play! Each story arc is made up of one to five missions, and the goals and overall story is entirely up to you. For example, my current work in progress is entitled The President's Pants Are Missing! and, as you can very well guess, involves you tracking down the purloined pants so that the Commander-In-Chief is not doomed to give a speech in his briefs. I realize the whole "pants is a funny word" thing peters out rather quickly, so I'm working on making the story more interesting than just that.

The editor is surprisingly sophisticated for an enduser application, and is handled entirely in-game. It's not as robust as it could be -- you must use pre-generated maps, for example -- but the ability to create your own mobs and groups, as well as the number of objectives you can chain to each mission, more than makes up for it. Even better, the entire story arc file is saved locally in text format. I haven't checked the files yet, but I'm reasonably sure you could do all your editing locally and that's pretty awesome when you think about it.

The story arcs are also supported by a player ranking system. This system automatically promotes any arc maintaining a 5-star rank over 1,000 votes into the Hall of Fame. This is not the best ranking system, but it'll have to do for now. Even so, arc creators will have to put on their best Patient Hat to endure the pubbie comments and scams. For example, this is a common scam: "Hi I just rated ur mish 5 stars rate mine 5 back k" Thing is, the scammer didn't even bother to play, much less rate, your arc. You can check how many plays you've received and how many votes, but players are only indentified if they send you personal feedback.

This feedback is about as constructive as you would expect from J. Random Internet Users. A step up from YouTube comments, but no less useless. While I have not published my arcs yet, I have listened to pals discuss the feedback they've received, and two of the all-time greatest are, and I paraphrase:
Your mission to save Statesman's mom isn't canon because Statesman's parents are dead. (Toot toot, all board the Missed Point train)
and
The goons in your arc shouldn't be wielding baseball bats because they're wearing suits and thus could afford to buy better weapons. (Well, then.)
And what of the arcs I've found? Well, I've played a lot of mediocre story arcs, some with difficulty issues and level balancing issues, and some with just a minimal grasp of story and pacing.

I've also played some truly ghastly ones. "Kill Andre and bring the peace to all heros of the world" was a particularly memorable one. Without explaining who Andre was or why I needed to kill him, my mission contact said "thank u for ur help" and sent me to an abandoned office building where, predictably, Andre lay in wait. As I shrugged and proceeded to pummel Andre into oblivion, he gamely told me that girls hit him harder, and then eventually cried for Mommy when defeated. I can only guess that Andre was this creator's little brother or something. Anyway, heros of the world, I hope you enjoy the peace I bringed you.

(Also, if the mission you choose involves dragons or catgirls, you know you're in for a truly special treat.)

There have been some really fun arcs, however. Most of my favorites involve a healthy amount of parody, but what I have found is that the story and the dialogue really make the arc. Anyone can throw you into a room and make you kill stuff, but getting to know the whys and hows is key.

Three arcs I can recommend to Co* players are The Footsteps Initiative by Muu, which involves helping out five newbie heroes who look and sound just like a stereotypical bad pubbie group (including one who goes AFK periodically and one who brags about having been in since beta.) Muu also wrote Troll Goods, Best Goods which involves Garr, the best Troll NPC ally you'll ever meet. (Leaving Garr behind in a mission prompts him to yell "WAIT, I'M SMASHING THINGS OVER HERE!" When you go back to get him, he cheerfully says "IT'S OKAY. I SMASHED IT." Oh, Garr.) The icing on the cake is checking each NPC's Info text, something that not a lot of people bother to replace from the defaults. Muu's Footsteps character bios are spot-on and hilarious.

Also recommendable is These Machines Kill Fascists by I think Doc Photon. It's a multi-part story about the 5th Council (the Nazi analogue in the City of Heroes universe) and their robots, who have decided to turn on their owners. It's not overall broad parody, but the storyline is interesting and just solidly written.

Anyway, that's why I haven't gotten much sleep over the weekend. I'll let everybody know how the President's pants turn out.

(15 comments | Leave a comment)

Comments:


[User Picture]
From:cursethedark
Date:April 13th, 2009 07:28 pm (UTC)
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I haven't had the chance to play with it since the beta, but it's pretty exciting. I'll have to check out those arcs you mentioned.

When I get the time, I'll be working on one featuring a villain group I created in my Mutants & Masterminds game, the Poolhall Gang.
[User Picture]
From:jotasbrane
Date:April 13th, 2009 08:41 pm (UTC)
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Will your villain force the heroes to battle a mob of animated trousers?
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 14th, 2009 03:52 pm (UTC)
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If I could get a character model of only pants, you bet I would.

I do, however, have the President joining you on the final mission and he's in his skivvies, so there's that.
[User Picture]
From:grumqa
Date:April 14th, 2009 07:52 pm (UTC)
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There's a mission where the Fifth Column are going to return, only you go and steal their uniforms from the dry cleaner. So there are a bunch of angry Fifth in their underwear. I think it's called Saul's Discount something or other.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 14th, 2009 09:21 pm (UTC)
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Well, hell.

If it's heroside, then I wouldn't have known about it anyway.
[User Picture]
From:sargent
Date:April 13th, 2009 08:59 pm (UTC)
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Oh, wow, that's almost enough to suck me back in.

I will stay strong!
From:zhym
Date:April 13th, 2009 11:54 pm (UTC)
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Oh dear.

Must. Not. Reactivate. Account.

I'm not sure what would be more fun (for the first 30 minutes): the good arcs, or the really, really bad ones.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 14th, 2009 03:51 pm (UTC)
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The good arcs. Easily more entertaining and you don't have to suffer through too much bad spelling. However, just because an arc is a Dev's Choice does not automatically make it good. I hated the current top-rated arc because while it may have been a good story, the gameplay stunk on ice. Putting a boss who flees in the front of your mission, like right by the goddamn doors (and without letting on that oh hey he may try to escape, which you find a lot in the Cryptic mission descriptions) is setting people up for failure.

The worst arcs are badge and ticket farms, full of the same enemy mob and only a bit of writing thrown in to justify filling a map full of the same mobs. You can tell them pretty quickly, though. Some are even kind enough to let you know in the description or title.
[User Picture]
From:grumqa
Date:April 14th, 2009 03:58 am (UTC)
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This will, of course, be cool. You should make a quick League of Above-Average Gentlemen background arc.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 14th, 2009 03:46 pm (UTC)
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That's not such a bad idea. Considering I've only three arc slots, I may be able to work it into the Super Hero Temp Agency idea I'd been kicking around (first mission: FILING!)

The third slot I'm saving for I dunno a rainy day.
[User Picture]
From:grumqa
Date:April 14th, 2009 04:04 pm (UTC)
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FILING!

That would be neat. I really don't know anything about anyone that was gone or on their way out when I showed up. I may do something similar someday to explain all the witches.
[User Picture]
From:derspatchel
Date:April 14th, 2009 07:10 pm (UTC)
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Honestly I think the only real people who were around when the Ed's Worlders showed up were me and Zhym. And maybe a random person or two we'd grouped with who needed an SG.

I logged in as Lux the other night only to find that my old workaround doesn't work (I saved a skill slot by not taking Flight but instead using Hover 3-slotted with MAK FLY FASTAR enhancements.) Looks like Hover's speed got nerfed. I'd have to respec before I could do anything further, I believe.

Are elec/elec blasters still weak, d'you know? They're fun conceptually, that much I remember, and Tesla Cage is damn useful. But I also remember dying a lot. As Lux is my highest level hero (in the high 20s, hello altitis) I don't know if I should continue with her or bring Samurai Accountant (katana/regen scrapper) up in the ranks next.

Edited at 2009-04-14 07:12 pm (UTC)
[User Picture]
From:grumqa
Date:April 14th, 2009 08:53 pm (UTC)
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Hmm, who is Zhym then?

Field guide to Who's Who: Some friends have alts in the SG: Rejuvenatrix, Gilded Lilli/Gilt Complex, Mr. Tephra, Striker Whiskey. Captain Kangaroo predates me, not sure who that is. Anything else that's logged in since Demon Echidna (Owen, obviously) is probably me, including all the second-generation witches. AW finally hit 50 a few weeks ago.

On Flight: Three-slotted Hover with green SOs or 25+ common IOs, along with Swift (helps flight speed now, worth taking but not worth slotting), isn't too bad in combat. I do have one that uses Hover as a vertical travel power, and otherwise gets by on three-slotted Sprint, but I'm kind of insane. You probably just want to pick up Fly.

On Elec/Elec: Damage isn't the strongest. Mine (Zen Overdrive) went the endurance drain path. Six slots in Short Circuit (the one that makes you look like Magneto from the old X-Men game), acc/3x end mod/2x recharge will mostly drain a group. Mostly. Two problems with this: you might get mezzed, in which case you are excruciatingly dead, and they still have some end left. So, you can use a break-free in advance, and I slotted Ball Lightning for end mod and run the electric damage aura from the secondary. That tends to finish off the blue bars, and it gives you time to do the other half to the red bars. And it looks cool. I agree Tesla Cage is useful (Rej uses it), but I didn't even take it yet. Too busy with AoE drains.

The player that runs Lilli has a katana/regen at 50, and she was pretty much always tough. She swears by regen, and katana is supposed to be solid. Regen is way too fiddly for me, so I finally rerolled the lion as willpower, which is much more even.

Anyway, we should team up the two electric blasters. None of my secondary end drain toys would be half as good as dual Short Circuit. Or, team her with a tank, defender, or controller, and you should be much less dead. Also, can set you up with some influence if you want, and you may want to look at IOs, which are kind of fiddly but often will let you get essentially a free slot, plus some shiny global bonuses.
From:zhym
Date:April 25th, 2009 07:44 pm (UTC)
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Zhym is me. My main character is Capt. Kangaroo. SS/SR Scrapper with lots of jump powers.

I also claim partial credit for the "League of Above Average Gentlemen" name.
[User Picture]
From:antiquated_tory
Date:April 14th, 2009 03:44 pm (UTC)
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This sounds truly excellent. If I didn't already waste far too much time on the computer, I would totally play this (as I say every time you blog about CofH.)

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