A View from Atlas Park: Powersets, The Care and Feeding of

Last week I ran a column saying how Cryptic should try to get CoH/V out their to non-MMOG players because the MMOG playing market had already made its mind up about if it was ever going to play CoH/V. This week I’m going to talk about what CoH/V needs to do to keep its current player base attracted to the game for the next 12 months. It all comes down to one thing: powersets.

Powersets are the tools by which CoH/V characters interact with the world. Without them, we’d be left with a City full of brightly costumed sightseers. They are the basis of a lot of argument – what’s best, what’s worst, what works, what doesn’t – because they are so important to the game. However, since CoH launched two years ago, only two new powersets have been added (Archery and Sonics) which aren’t available to 40% of the heroic ATs. (CoH also received inherent powers – for what that’s worth to your AT of choice – and Ancilliary powers, which are first available at lvl 40, but I’m going to focus on the primary and secondary sets). CoV has seen several new powersets added with I7 on the Test Server and, once live, these new powersets will be at least flavour of the month (if not longer) as players scramble to test them out.

Powersets are what drive character creation. Without the ability to combo primary and secondary powersets CoH/V would not nearly have the player army of alts (ie alternative characters; you can have up to 12 alts per account if you own both CoH and CoV, otherwise you are limited to 8 alts per server) that it has. The costume generation system is fun, sure, but character creativity is heavily backed up by the number of different combinations of primary and secondary powersets you can have. Conceptually, instead of a single Blaster class, you have 35 different types of Blaster at lvl 1; 24 different types of Scrapper; 28 different kinds of Tanker, and so on. At a rough estimate, CoH has 185 different types of characters created through beginning powerset combinations while CoV has 165 beginning powerset combinations. Because of this, all Defenders (or Stalkers, or Dominators, or Controllers) are not the same and it’s this kind of diversity that sees players create numerous alts just to see how things work out.

And it’s all because of powersets. Which is why players should get more of them. I don’t believe any new powerset (well, outside of a Hardcore Nudity powerset – go go PhysX Aegia with that one) would really pull huge numbers of players to CoH/V, but I do think that new powersets keeps players who have already hit lvl 50, perhaps multiple times already, playing the game. Given that CoH/V is all about the journey to the endgame and not the destination (at this point), new powersets provide different ways of making that journey. Players may not stay around as long when playing through on their second character, but every additional month sees Cryptic get a bit more subscription money from them and a more stable playerbase.

Positron mentioned in a recent interview that the paid expansion that all ATs would get one new powerset. That’s great for then; what about now? Twelve months before everyone gets some new tools seems like a very, very long time to wait. What should happen is that existing powersets should be made available to other archetypes as appropriate. By this I mean that most villain-only powers should be brought across to the hero side, while hero-only powers should head across the waters to the Rogue Isles.

There will be exceptions where it can’t happen. Brutes won’t get Tanker weapon sets because they are no good for building Fury. Villains won’t get as many healing powers because it goes against the concept of being the bad guy. Certain powersets would never work outside of their original AT (eg the entire Mastermind Henchmen sets). That still leaves a number of powersets that could, and should, be ported. Players will get a kick out of Plant Control Defenders or Scrappers with Ninjitsu. They will roll up an alt, or respec a favourite avatar and check out what it can do… and, in turn, keep playing that little while longer.

Although porting these powersets around would lead to some complaining in the forums about the devs just recycling content instead of releasing original content, I believe the majority of players (and those poor, poor altoholics) will love having more character creation options available to them. It won’t completely stop the call for more powersets, but it will at least temper the desire for a while.

Post-I5 and post-ED, the playerbase has been told that there is little chance of large wholesale changes to how powersets work. With this in mind, it also means that little change will occur to existing powersets (outside of tweaks / nerfs). MMOGs are all about change. If they aren’t seen to be growing, players very quickly get the impression that the MMOG isn’t doing very well. With powersets being as they are – the key tool for player interaction within the CoH/V world – making more powersets available to each AT is a good way for Cryptic to give players something new(-ish) within the CoH/V world and provide an excellent stop gap before the new (and I’m assuming 90% completely original here) powersets debut in the paid expansion.


I’m late in mentioning this, but Sigil Games announced that Sony would be distributing its new MMOG, Vangard: Saga of Heroes. The reason this means anything to CoH/V is that Sigil was linked as the developer of the Marvel MMOG managed by Microsoft for the Xbox360. Now, if this arrangement is still in place, you could end up seeing Sony distributing a Microsoft Xbox360 only game while at the same time releasing its own DC MMOG. That would be a bit embarrassing for Microsoft, I think.

Not that Sigil mentions the Marvel MMOG anywhere on their website. If Sigil were at one time going to be making the Marvel MMOG, they aren’t anymore as far as I can see. And so the Marvel MMOG takes one further step into the wonderful land of vapourware. TAlso, there is still no info on the DC MMOG other than Jim Lee will be giving up some sketches for it.

Looks like CoH/V will be the only superhero MMOG out there for a long time to come…

– UnSub [email protected] 28 May 2006

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