A View from Atlas Park: Can You Hear the Screaming, Clarice?


A View from Atlas Park: Can You Hear the Screaming, Clarice?

CuppaJo certainly dropped a bomb yesterday with the announcement of the euphamistically called Enhancement Diversification change to the CoH powers system. In short, instead of getting the full advantage from six-slotting your favourite powers with the same enhancements (particularly if they are dual origin or single origin or Hamidon origin), players will now start to see diminishing returns once the enhancement bonus they receive hits over 70%. (You can see the full details of this issue here.)

This is a big lump to swallow for the CoH community, espeically on the back of the other numerous changes to gameplay that were ushered in by Issue #5. Players are threatening to quit and I’m sure that some already have. They complain that the change will wreck their ability to play their hero, render some powers / archetypes useless and generally cause lots of problems for no good reasons.

For me, the biggest question that has arisen from the announcement of the Enhancement Diversification system is: Why? Why change something that has been working so well for this long? The answer that I can see is, of course, City of Villains, which has ironically started causing heroes problems BEFORE it has even been released. (Hmm, I wonder if the first issue of the new City of Heroes comic book was being intentionally portentous when it had all the heroes losing their powers due to the actions of Lord Recluse? Anyway…)

The issue is balance between CoH and CoV, particularly for PvP encounters. At the moment, a hero that is six-slotted all the best (ie highest percentage returning) enhancements for (as an example) damage has an unfair advantage in PvP over players who haven’t done the same thing. An in reality, PvP is all about doing damage to other players. In order to be competitive, you would have to have all the best enhancements, or you probably won’t be able to keep up.[/P]

The Enhancement Diversification system places a cap on this, forcing players to use different enhancements to boost their powers or see minimal returns when putting the fifth or sixth damage (or accuracy, or slow, or whatever) enhancement in a power. It just will not be worth most players’ whiles to do this, so they will use enhancement slots five and six (and maybe four as well) for other enhancements in order to maximise their avatars’ abilities.

Of course, it is doubtful that the Enhancement Diversification system is really going to diversify enhancements that much. Instead of six-slotting, players are likely to three-and-three slot or four-and-two slot, which is hardly a huge improvement. What it does do is reduce the importance of enhancements for CoH / CoV characters so that a character who wants to be competitive in PvP doesn’t have to have the same single-origin enhancement in every slot – they can get away with having more of a lesser enhancement that gives them the same bonus levels.

Of course, this doesn’t exactly help players with little interest in PvP and will change the dynamics of PvE combat as well. Perhaps not by a whole lot in the end – I’m sure the villains will be scaled up / down to match the changes, given enough time – but for a few weeks after it is introduced players are going to have some surprises in what they can and can’t do. Having just blown all my influence on new enhancements (no six-slotting, but a couple of five-slots that will see their effectiveness reduced) I am a little annoyed by the announcement.

But not that much. The only players I can really feel sorry for are the lvl 50’s who have spent a lot of time getting all the best enhancements and getting used to how their character(s) play. You guys have a lot of relearning to do, should you choose to stick around. For the rest of the player base… well, enhancements were designed to be pretty temporary, so give yourself a couple of levels under the Enhancement Diversification system and you’ll probably not really remember the difference. At the moment this is a big thing, but it will fade in importance over time.

However, and this is the thing Cryptic should listen to, it really upsets the community to have large changes dumped on them repeatedly, with little additional information provided about why it is happening. This has happened a lot over the past few months, with change after change that appears to reduce the ability of heroes down to the bare bones. Some of this reduction is necessary due to mix / maxing players, or archetypes being able to do what they shouldn’t, but some of it feels overly harsh. As with everything, the bad news is overshadowing the good – no extra monthly cost for CoV if you are a CoH subscriber, a 12% across the board reduction in stamina costs, a 50% fall in the debt cap, the change to the naming policy, etc – with a lot of the negativity is being driven by uncertainty about what is going to be next.

It would help settle things down (well, maybe) if Statesman was to come out and fill in some of the gaps about what the future holds … but I won’t expect to see anything like that. given past history. After all, you announce something and players will expect to see it “soon” (although I am wondering when the Super Secret Skill System will actually eventuate … what do you mean you don’t remember it? It’s… nah, nevermind). Given that Issue #6 is probably going to be a post Christmas release (since CoV and the other changes are going to need some bedding down first) there’s going to be quite a while before CoH players will be given something they can get excited about if they don’t care about CoV.

In short, I don’t expect that Enhancement Diversification will really have that much of an impact to playing CoH. Players will adapt to the new system. Cryptic have shown themselves as being pretty good in adjusting things over time and generally listening to players. However, what Cryptic have done wrong is in badly managing the community. Just going, “Here’s the change, we’ll sort out the details later” is a bad thing to do and is evidenced by how the forums have just exploded on this issue. It sets a bad precedent and the more official silence on the motivation behind the changes, the more it is filled by unofficial rants that may or may not have the ring of truth to them (my ramblings included). So, Statesman / Positron / whomever, here’s what you should do:

Tell us what you plan for CoH in the next twelve months and how what you’ve just announced fits into that plan. Yes, some people will twist your words or not like what you have to say. But this is the first time for quite a while that CoH has nothing big on the horizon, given that CoV is about to launch. For the first time, CoH has no announced potential upsides outside of a few new powersets.

So tell us what’s what. Or else we’ll fill in the gaps for you.

Rant Checklist:

Long: Check

Goes off on tangents: Check

Tells officials what they should do: Check

Contains sarcasm: Check

Wasn’t spellchecked: Check

Will have zero effect on the issue at hand: Check

One tidbit I picked up from the support database that might save you some surprises is that enemies (and pets) can now go up and down elevators. As such, catching the lift so that you can take a knee in complete safety is no longer an option!

A Defender player named Scott Payne wrote to me and told me about the conflicting nature of inherent powers, especially for Defender who heal. See, Defenders get Vigilance, which decreases their powers’ endurance costs as their teammates become more damaged. However, this doesn’t really help Mr Payne, given that:

  1. It forces teaming for Defenders if they wish to use this power.
  2. Blasters want to be damaged to use Defiance, so although this may see Vigilance activated as the team gets hurt, it reduces what some Defenders can do since are being told not to heal.
  3. Finally, healing their team mates robs the Defender of their ability to use Vigilance.

All in all, it seems a bit of a catch-22. Mr Payne would rather see an inherent power that boosts the effectiveness of their powers and potentially has some solo applications than Vigilance. Given his argument (which I’ve badly summarised above) I can’t help but agree. Defenders are getting short changed in the inherent power stakes. Hopefully the future will see a bit more love given to Defender players in this area.

[p] – UnSub [email protected] 12 October 2005

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