233: Big Heroes, Little Gods

Big Heroes, Little Gods

If you had the tools to build the world in your hands, what would you do with them? For players of one popular MMOG, the answer seems to be to let their imaginations run wild. Nova Barlow takes a look at City of Heroes' Mission Architect and talks with some of the player creators putting it to good use.

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Whenever you give people the power to create something, there will be penises, or according to Wiktionary "Penisse"...guess you learn something new every day!

I've played CoX on and off over the years its been out, and the release of the mission architect brought me back for a month or so. The thing that drove me away again is that there had been no changes to the overworld environment.

I'm sorry to say it, but CoX has great gameplay, a compelling story, but its world is so dead. Its as if every fiber of the digital world screams out at you as you run down the streets "Hey look at me! I'm fake building facades!" And do you want to know why it feels so dead? There's no bloody music, and the music they do have cuts off after a minute or so in the zone. After that you get to listen to the ambiance noises of cars honking and the wind whistling past your ears.

Music helps to liven up the grind, and don't deny that CoX after level 16 turns into a very ugly grind fest (unless they've modified the curve since my last visit). All I ask for is an audio option to loop the music, and I don't think they understand how much that would improve and give life to the world they've created.

If they've added that option in recent months I might be inclined to check it out again.

The mission Architect is a good idea, but for some of the stuff I want to do it won't let me, in that the mission file has a size restriction of 100k.

008Zulu:
The mission Architect is a good idea, but for some of the stuff I want to do it won't let me, in that the mission file has a size restriction of 100k.

Actually that's something they'll be addressing in the future:
http://www.massively.com/2009/11/02/massively-interviews-city-of-heroes-newest-architect/

One thing that I know I've run into many problems with was the file size. This is actually something we mentioned last weekend at our Hero Con. In the upcoming expansion City of Heroes Going Rogue, we'll be doubling the file size capacity for Architect arcs.

I've been amazed at what people can do with such a small filesize - it does force people to prioritize what in the story is most important, when it is doubled I imagine it will be amazing and many missions will be revisited to "add details" that had to be left out.

Keymaster, I find your premise fascinating - only because I don't personally find music to be all that compelling after a while in a MMO. For certain moments such as a boss fight, or some such, perhaps. But many MMO players (including me) tend to listen a couple times, then turn it off in favor of personal soundtracks in the background. I'm sorry to hear your experience with CoX has left you a mite jaded, but since I joined post-MA, I suspect my leveling experiences might be a bit more rosy colored with the presence of personalized stories and whatnot to make leveling enjoyable. And truly, most MMOs available at present incorporate some sort of grind. It is all in the way that it gets dressed up and taken out to dinner that makes the difference, I imagine.

KeyMaster45:
I've played CoX on and off over the years its been out, and the release of the mission architect brought me back for a month or so. The thing that drove me away again is that there had been no changes to the overworld environment.

I'm sorry to say it, but CoX has great gameplay, a compelling story, but its world is so dead. Its as if every fiber of the digital world screams out at you as you run down the streets "Hey look at me! I'm fake building facades!" And do you want to know why it feels so dead? There's no bloody music, and the music they do have cuts off after a minute or so in the zone. After that you get to listen to the ambiance noises of cars honking and the wind whistling past your ears.

Music helps to liven up the grind, and don't deny that CoX after level 16 turns into a very ugly grind fest (unless they've modified the curve since my last visit). All I ask for is an audio option to loop the music, and I don't think they understand how much that would improve and give life to the world they've created.

If they've added that option in recent months I might be inclined to check it out again.

I have to agree with your point. I admit one of the major reasons I kept playing Age of Conan / left City of Heroes is the immersion factor. Soundtrack has a major role in keeping a person hooked to a game, if it is well thought of.

Come to think of it, most mmos that I stayed for more than a month have an awesome soundtrack. Ageof Conan, Aion and Guild Wars to name a few.

I find it interesting how the CoX MA works. From what I've seen it's quite impressive, and it seems to be a lot easier that other game creators. If you're not sure exactly what I'm talking about, check out the Left 4 Dead authoring tools, the G.E.C.K. for Fallout 3, or the Neverwinter Nights toolset. Making stories has never been easier to share, as most of the heavy lifting has already been done. Then again, the Little Big Planet tools are pretty easy to build with, but doing something great with them takes more effort.

With more powerful tools you get more freedom to do what you want, but with great power comes, well a lot more work on your end to get everything to mesh together.

I've been playing CoX for almost 5 years now and Mission Architect really is a fantastic tool. My only key problem with it is the inability to pick specific spawn points for mobs/NPCs/Allies. The tiny file size is an obvious issue as well, I definitely want more room for custom characters per arc.

A shame the article focused on promoting MA author's that already have arcs that have developer's choice and are listed on page one rather than the many great authors that don't. This is one of the biggest problems with MA. The first two pages of arcs almost never change allowing others a chance to get their arcs played. So here is an article that helps showcase the same authors and arcs yet AGAIN. Lame. MA is desperately in need of way better search features.

Chimaera:

Keymaster, I find your premise fascinating - only because I don't personally find music to be all that compelling after a while in a MMO. For certain moments such as a boss fight, or some such, perhaps. But many MMO players (including me) tend to listen a couple times, then turn it off in favor of personal soundtracks in the background.

This is a seriously rotting necro post I'm about to make, but I was digging through my old posts archive and realized someone had responded to my post in this thread. Despite it being so old I can't bring myself to leave it unanswered.

Music is a very important aspect of immersion for me when playing a game. In a way it helps me to better connect with the character on screen; especially in MMOs. One of the things that kept me playing WoW for so long was the amazing soundtrack it had to offer. From setting the mood of an area or just giving me something pleasant to listen to while grinding away at dailies; it simply completed the experience. Music in games has much the same effect for me as it does in movies. The graphics and story may give you a world to explore and goal to reach, but the music sets the context for all of that. Some of my favorite examples of area music from WoW were Durotar, Sholozzar Basin, and The Stormpeaks/Ulduar.

The music of Durotar (pre-Wrath) fit the idea of the zone perfectly. Soft and subtle the dry harshness of the land was conveyed in the simple blows of the horns, but the occasional rise of what I think were violins would highlight the silent beauty in the harshness of the landscape.

Sholozzar's music was much like it's landscap; lush and filled vigor. It encouraged the sense of adventure associated with the Nessingwary expedition. It compelled you to move deeper into the thick jungle to find what was hidden and inspired a certain zeal for protecting the land from the encroaching scourge of Icecrown.

Then there was The Stormpeaks and Ulduar; hard pressed to be topped by any other. The haunting beauty of the snowy landscape littered with Titan artifacts. The music was filled with soft singing that sounded more like the wind endlessly blowing through the mountain passes than it did voices. The tinge of danger and epic adventure shining through every so often, but kept to a minimum to drive home the point that the beauty of the environment held something far more dangerous than you'd yet encountered. Ulduar took that underlying idea and drove it home with amazing gusto. It's music wanted you to know where you were; in a Titan city built filled to the brim with secrets and wonderment just waiting to be uncovered by brave adventurers. The two dungeons and raid contained with in each a different spectacle of visual feasts and moral inspiring music the deeper you delved down the darker growing rabbit hole.

WoW, however, is not the only MMO I've played that had a soundtrack which interacted so well with it's environment. City of Heroes simply lacked that, where was my motivation to save the day or bring unbridled chaos to the world? My imagination can only take me so far, the music of the world needed to be there to help me make that last leap immersion and take on the role of Professor Metric Chaos as he sows chaos and destruction with his army of metric unit themed robots.

The idea of turning off the music of a game and substituting it for my own soundtrack is utterly inconceivable to me. A soundtrack had already been provided for me by the creators, one that was designed to mesh accordingly with the environments I was interacting with. Shutting off that music and playing my favorite metal album would undermine the narrative and emotional structure of the game.

The point is that, for me, music is a very large factor that can make or break a game; especially an MMO. It's the final enveloping layer of immersion that allows me to get lost in a world for hours on end; whether it be gathering psychotic amounts of saronite and titanium or unleashing my menacing army of robots upon the unsuspecting denizens of the Rogue Isles.

Sadly the potential of MA is wasted. It's become a tool mostly used for farming. So a tool meant for diversity, expression, and fun is mostly used for level grinding. When MA first came out there were always new ways to exploit the system to get over the top exp gains. Since then it's been patched, patched, and patched again.

They made a mistake in allowing exp gains and rewards to be earned through MA. They should have made it rewardless and then hand picked missions to enable exp and rewards in.

 

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