A View from Atlas Park: The I5 Highway

A View from Atlas Park: The I5 Highway

Hello all, again. Yes, I’ve been away for a while, which was due to 1) management staff disappearing off the CoH Warcry site so I could no longer get these things posted and 2) my Warcry email not working due to a gypsy curse. Did anyone out there really care? No, probably not – after all, if you want to read a semi-informed rant, the CoH forums are full of them.

So, straight back into it. And onto the only topic that any CoH player worth their salt cares about: Issue 5 And How It Will Bring Ruin And Devastation On Everything We Hold Dear. A lot of finger pointing has been going on, assigning blame on Statesman, Positron, NCSoft, Cryptic Studios and anyone else unfortunately enough to get in the way. Sadly, not enough are being pointed where they belong.

All this is PvP’s fault.

It’s true – a lot of the changes are being made to allow PvP (player versus player combat for those who don’t talk MMOG) to be more fair. If PvP is to be in CoH (and City of Villains in November) then it will need to be as fair as possible. From what I can work out, the easiest way that this balance can be achieved is to dial back the current powersets and make everyone equivalently weak. This has upset a lot of the veterans of CoH (naturally) because to them it is just the indiscriminant use of the nerfstick to make things harder for no good reason.

Although Cryptic has been pretty quiet on the issue, I’m sure a number of Cryptic staff are also unhappy with the changes, because they are widespread and would be completely unwarranted but for the pending release of CoV. I mean, CoH is going along pretty well, and it’s not like there is a shortage of things that couldn’t be added in (the Dual Pistols powerset, for instance). But CoV is on the way, it’s the next major release, and changes have to be made to accommodate it.

CoV is the next logical step both in terms of the world created by Cryptic and to attract customers. On release, a lot of people came to CoH, played for a while and said, “Hey, this is fun for a bit, but gets repetitive after a while.” CoV provides two great hooks to bring some of these players back (along with new players) and get them to bring their credit cards: 1) they can be a world class supervillain (which, face it, is a pretty good gig); and 2) they can fight heroes in PvP. In fact, it can be argued that the only thing CoH lacks is a true PvP capability. But to do this and to avoid a lot of complaints – not that there will ever be a shortage of complaints in an online environment – PvP must come close to being fair.

Of course, PvP in a PvE (player versus environment) game is never fair, nor can it ever be, because the abilities of the two environments are quite exclusive. PvE is predictable and linear; PvP is unpredictable, potentially rude and holds a grudge. The two can’t be balanced because they require different tactics and capabilities from the player.

But the “PvP vs PvE” argument is an old one, and has been better argued elsewhere, so I won’t go into it.

I’m also not going to go into the minutae of how Issue 5 is going to change the CoH experience, because I think the only complaint that really stacks up for all players is that it will make their characters less heroic. As a blaster player, I can’t accept players complaining that they will no longer be able to solo purple villains because I can’t do that now – although I may just suck at playing CoH – so have no sympathies for such whinging. But I do accept that the great thing about CoH was playing a superhero and being able to take on multiple enemies at once. Reducing that capability further just reduces my ability to see the character as heroic, which reduces the charm of CoH.

However, I will wait and see. Cryptic have a history of doing the right thing by their players, so I’m hopeful that the situation will improve after the release of CoV. Once Cryptic have seen what happens when large numbers of heroes and villains fight, they can hopefully start to open things up again and return the “super” to Paragon City.

My other main complaint about I5 is the inclusion of the Archery powersets. I mean, it’s Archery. In my opinion, archery is the red-headed stepchild* of the comic book world, who no-one really wants but keeps popping up anyway. For the love of god, what makes someone, in a world of steel-skinned behemoths and flame-throwing beauties pick up a bow and think, “I’m off to fight me some crime!”? Guns replaced bows in the real world for a lot of reasons, but mostly because they are just more effective than bows in every area. Yet guns are ‘bad’ while bows are given some kind of romantic attachment.

Comics also know that bows are terrible in that everyone who uses them has ‘trick’ arrows – it’s an unconscious nod towards the fact that archers who just fire arrows are pretty boring and useless. So they are given ‘trick’ arrows that let them do whatever is needed at that point in time. Need a net? Trick arrow. A gas cloud? Trick arrow. Something to blow yourself up so that you can go retrieve the spirit of Statesman? Trick arrow.

To be blunt, the bow is an outdated, obsolete weapon. Only in the comic book realm that is a guy who can fire an arrow real good feasibly put on the same team as a supersoldier, a Norse god and a master magician.

* My apologies to any red-headed stepkids out there – you are much more wanted than any comic book archer.

– UnSub [email protected] 20 August 2005

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