A View from Atlas Park: Odds and Ends

A View from Atlas Park: Odds And Ends

I received my copy of CoH last week (a big thanks to Sundancer for bouncing it to me from Amazon.com) and managed to find a couple of hours to play it on the weekend. Having had a time away from it, I was a bit tentative in going back into Paragon City – would I find going back tedious? Would my enjoyment of CoH have dulled in the off period?

Fortunately, no and no. CoH is still fun. In about 7 hours of play I managed to almost reach security level 11. I did find myself hitting power slot keys for powers I didn’t have yet (I got very used to having Sniper Rifle at #5 and Buckshot at #3 in beta, neither of which I currently have) but I’m sure I’ll learn.

Another fear I had was about the player base – if you read the forums, you’ll see plenty about kill-stealing and other griefing activities. At the very least, I was concerned about my other mmog experiences being duplicated in CoH – not being able to find a group or even have people answer my questions. In my very short play time, this didn’t happen. I had little problem finding some decent groups and people seemed at least civil.

Anyway, for those who are interested, look for UnSub (Assault Weapon / Devices Blaster) on the Virtue server. Given my current hectic schedule, I probably won’t be in-game a lot, but if you do see me feel free to say hi – I promise I won’t bite.

Names are important. They define that which they represent. The whole “What is in a name? A rose…” argument aside (which is really more a Montague / Capulet justification than anything else) names have a lot of power. A good name can attract attention and admiration; a bad name will also attract attention, but with derision and scorn attached.

I’ve seen some iffy names in my short time in CoH, but I’m willing to give players a bit of leeway. Sure, some are completely innappropriate (a hero called The Menstuator leaps to mind), but CoH customer service appears to be doing a good job of minimising those offences. Lots of player-named heroes also lack any sort of spark or creativity in my opinion, but as long as they aren’t offensive, I don’t really mind. After all, I’m called UnSub, and what the hell does that mean, anyway?

Where I do take some issue is for two official names released by Cryptic Studios, both attached to the City of Villains expansion. They are: Lord Recluse and the Paragon Times.

First off – Lord Recluse. I’m sorry, but that’s a terrible name, especially given the caliber of villain names like Dr Vahzilok, the Reichsman and the Clockwork King. Lord Recluse? Should you fear him because he is lord of all hermits and people who like to be left alone? If he is a recluse, he won’t be going out much, making his crimes located pretty much to his home, so they’ll be easy to solve. Even translated to italian via the magic of the internet (I’m assuming a WWII Axis link and CoH already has Nazis, so maybe he’s a Facist), Lord Recluse comes out as “Signore Recluso”. This isn’t a good name for a world-class villain either and I doubt that it’s the translation that is ruining it.

Given that Lord Recluse is a flagship villain for CoV, I’m a bit disappointed that the name is so … ordinary. It’s a pseudo-Doctor Doom, but with none of the menace. In fact, if such a character did appear in the comics he’d probably be a b-grade Captain America villain who pops up in filler issues. It could have been so much better, especially given that Lord Recluse looks pretty good – a Doctor Octopus-eque character you’d be scared of (instead of the pudgy Roy Orbison-clone we’re all familiar with).

As for the Paragon Times… perhaps this is just because of my delusions of newspaper-related grandeur, but this name is also incredibly average. I am biased on this issue – for the three of you who don’t know, I run a newspaper-themed fanfic / in-game orientated site called the Paragon Beholder – but believe that Cryptic could have done much better than having the Paragon Times.

The reason my site ended up being called “the Beholder” was because I wanted a title that wouldn’t be found in the real world newspaper and that evoked concepts of awe and wonder. You don’t behold ordinary events, you see / watch them. Great events – the kind that occur in a comic book universe, where the world is saved once a week – are the kind you can behold. (I’ll admit that “beholder” is just a fancy way of saying “observer”, but it carries a bit more weight in my opinion.)

The Times, on the other hand, is almost weightless. Everywhere you go, you can find a Times. Some of them are great papers, sure, but it’s an overused name for a newspaper. It’s an everyday kind of name. Given CoH’s strong link to the comic book genre, it should be avoiding the everyday and going for the exceptional. A place called Paragon City shouldn’t have a newspaper called the Paragon Times; it should have a newspaper called the Paragon Champion (or something else that is linked to greatness). The title should stand out, be original and proclaim CoH’s themes.

Both of these names irritate me because they are so bland and the rest of the CoH names aren’t. CoH should be full of the extremes of the comic book world – the shining light of heroes against the dark glow of villains, set in a world both greater and worse than our own. Neither of these names add to the CoH world and it’s a pity to see them so prominant in the next big step – the addition of player villains and player versus player combat.

Final point for this time – the CoH comic went out recently (of course you’d know that having 1) received yours in the mail… if you live in certain countries and 2) read my short review of it in my last column). According to the ad in the June Previews, 200 000 issue #1’s got distributed – 100k to subscribers, leaving 100k for comic shops, promotional purposes or for building shelters from (I hear it gets hot in Austin). Most of the reviews have been positive – over-expectations aside – but the most salient criticism I came across was from someone who’s comic got wrecked in the post due to rain.

Sure, it will add extra to the costs, but surely something as simple as bagging the comic must have occurred to those in charge of shipping it. By bagging it, the risk of damage (eg water, tearing etc) is greatly reduced, which in turn keeps the comic as a positive promotional tool rather than something people complain about. As subscriber numbers (hopefully) grow and the seasons magically move towards winter in the northern hemisphere, the issue of damaged comics is going to grow.

While it may not be Cryptic’s / NCSoft’s fault that the comic was damaged (who knows what goes on behind the locked doors of a post office?) but they will be the ones getting the complaints and requests for replacements. Best they take the simple step of wrapping the comic in plastic and try to avoid problems before they arise – prevention is better than cure, after all.

[i] – UnSub [email protected] 14 June 2004

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