A View from Atlas Park: Cowardly, Superstitious… and Neglected?
In recent weeks on the official forums there has been a number of threads that all circle a similar question: is City of Villains a neglected side of the “City of…” franchise? Someone (and I apologise – I deleted the message so can’t attribute credit to that person correctly) also recently emailed CoH Warcry and asked why there were no CoV-focused columns. Both of these issues are related, and it is an issue that concerns a lot of players – my understanding is (but I can’t find any hard data) that 85% of the CoH/V playerbase owns both titles.
CoV is definitely the weaker cousin to CoH. It has some better features – the majority of missions being in the same zone as the contact who gives them is a big one – but it has a lot less content and seemingly fewer players. Sure, CoV is a newer title than CoH and it did get one issue since that was a big content update, but it still lags behind. I’ve noticed that the majority of dev focus seems to be on CoH – for instance, CoH gets a storyline that started with Faultline being rebuilt. CoV certainly didn’t get included in this storyline at launch, which seems surprising since it was meant to be an in-game narrative that ran over several issues. If (as many players think it is) the storyline is the reappearance of the Fifth Column and the discovery of a Rikti base on the Moon, then CoV not being included in the opening salvo would certainly seem like it was missing out.
Part of the problem is that CoV is tied to a storyline that makes perfect sense (well, close enough if you pay any attention to the schemes of supervillains – “find the Destined One who will eventually kill you” is par for the course) for the Rogue Isles setting where villains are based, but at the same time hamstrings much further development. There isn’t a lot of leeway in the Destined One metaplot to do something different or to spin things another way while still keeping it part of the narrative. CoH doesn’t suffer that fate – because its lacks one overarching story that holds everything together, new storylines can be patched in without disrupting anything. As an example, Striga Isle and Croatoa both are additions to CoH that don’t require a lot of explanation. They are just there for heroes to enter and get drawn into the in-zone story arc.
Villains don’t get that kind of freedom. Everything tha that happens in the Rogue Isles happens under the purview of Lord Recluse and (at least in part) according to the Destined One prophecy. While a zone could be added that provided additional insight to that prophecy, that particular storyline has a fixed beginning and end while the middle is pretty well defined. More zones could be added to the middle act of the metaplot, sure, but it would mostly likely appear shoehorned in and / or not contribute much to the overall narrative.
Why am I going on about the Destined One storyline? Apart from computer resource issues that hit many users when they tried to load up Arachnos zones and maps, a lot of player complaints about CoV arose from the feeling of being straightjacketed by the direction of the narrative – at no point could you avoid your destiny as the Destined One. Predestination is a very strict mistress. Players who like to create their own characters in a MMOG don’t like feeling they are being railroaded to somewhere they don’t want to go. (To be fair, some players liked the metaplot and felt it provided a character direction that CoH lacked, but I perceive that as being the minority viewpoint.)
To help crack that particular nut, CoV needs more content and content that moves away from the sole Destined One metaplot. It needs a different path from level 10 to level 50 that doesn’t involve being a Destined One, or even being part of Arachnos for that matter.
There are numerous organisations on the Rogue Isles who would love to see Lord Recluse fall and a number of them could easily be spun off into competing groups of a worthwhile size. Alternatively, a new group could appear – perhaps the Praetorian version of Arachnos is horrified in what their counterparts are up to and seek to employ freelancers against them. Or the Fifth Column, or the Malta Group, or the Coralax, or someone else completely new – a large number of alternatives exist that could be manipulated to create a more modular, less Destined One-dependent narrative for villain characters to experience. These could even be split out by zone – you wouldn’t need to see the Praetorian Arachnos “fixing” the Rogue Isles at lvl 15, for instance, or perhaps the Coralax’s plans only really apply to lvls 20 – 30.
Once the narrative(s) had been decided, it would be easy enough to start creating new zones that follow and shape the story. The design would need to allow players to weave between old and new narratives if they wanted to, but ideally would let a player deny their Destined One heritage if they wanted to. For this to happen, I’d see it necessary to create around eight new zones (sorry to Archon Voss, Ravenstorm and War Witch!) that would overlap in 10 lvl increments from lvl 10 to lvl 50. These new zones would boost CoV’s content considerably and make it shown that CoV was just as important as CoH. In fact, to try to bring CoV up to scratch, it would be ideal to see zones designed on a 2:1 basis for CoV compared to CoH (ie for every one zone CoH gets, CoV gets 2).
Of course, this is early days for CoV, but at the same time this half of the “City of …” franchise risks being relegated to second-class status. Villain players already complain that they are held back by the non-respecable Patron Power sets, a comparative weakness in PvP, a lack of Epic Archetypes et al – being slow in releasing unique villain zone content would certainly indicate that CoV resides below CoH in importance for development, which is not a good sign for a title that shares 50% of the “City of …” franchise in name.
(I’m aware that some indication has been given that I9 will give the villains a new zone to play with – the above is meant to be considered as a longer term idea than just cranking out a new island for CoV every issue or so.)
I would comment on the 2XP weekend that occurred recently, but a bug hit my main that wiped all his badges and then even took away his character model. Fortunately Customer Service was able to roll the character back to a point before the bug… but it meant I basically lost the xp I’d gained during the weekend.
So I’ll only say: double xp was fun while it lasted.
– UnSub [@UnknownSubject] firstname.lastname@example.org 4 February 2006