A View from Atlas Park: The Radioactive Boy Scouts

When the badge system was first announced (I’ll be honest be honest about it) I thought “So what?”. Collecting badges sounded pretty dull. Sure, the idea that certain combinations would give you extra abilities sounded nice, but hardly imporantant. I thought I’d just pick a few up as I went along. But I’m sure that now Statesman goes to sleep chuckling at my situation. Why?

I am addicted to getting badges.

The first thing I do when I enter a zone is check my handy badge list (CoH Warcry has one such list here, but I use a list available here because it was available before CoH Warcry’s) and get to work finding those Exploration badges. I’ve gone back and kicked grey-con villain butt for certain badges (eg Hellspawned and Bonecrusher). Because of badges I’ve spent several sessions of my very limited time collecting badges in zones I’ve outleveled, which means I spent sessions gaining no experience. For a mmog, where generally getting to the next lvl is generally the fun part, I’ve been wasting some serious time.

But I don’t care. I want that next badge! When that yellow “Badge Collected!” title pops up on screen, I race to the Badge window and see what I’ve actually got. In the process, I learn a little more about Paragon City, or about the villains, or even just about the badges. But the shine on that new badge doesn’t really last that long, because I’m quickly off in search of that next badge.

Currently I’m in the process of getting all the individual Exploration badges from zones I can “safely” (ie not get one-shotted) run around in. This means a lot of running and super-leaping to reach the necessary spots. In the meanwhile if I come across a villain who can help me towards a badge (eg a Circle of Thorns Mage for the Soul Binder badge) I’ll stop to take them out – even if they grey-con (ie I get no experience from the fight). Watching those counters slowly go up is perversely fascinating and frustrating at the time time (as anyone who has ever installed something big or played Progress Quest would know).

The next step is to do the History badges and visit all the plaques in the correct order, which is going to take a lot of time (and super-leaping). But it is something that calls to me. In the mean time I might just also hit lvl 20, which will also let me open up a new costume slot and let me take a shot at having a cape. Not that I really want a cape, mind you, but I am a completist (like you couldn’t have guessed from the rest of this column!) and feel obligated to get one and then put it in the closet for another time.

When CoH started, it was promised that you could create your own hero. With the implemenation of the badge system, Cryptic have shifted me away from being a hero to some sort of superpowered boy scout… but I don’t care. Badges are like Pokemon (but less irritating) and I gotta have them all. I’m sure I’ll struggle when it comes to the healing badges (my blaster really isn’t equipped for that) but I’ll deal with that when I come to it.

[And for those who are interested, I stole the title for this column from another article that was about (and I kid you not) about a boy scout who attempted to build a breeder nuclear reactor in his family’s suburban potting shed. Read about that bit of fun here. He was trying to get a badge too!]

My last column about the end of secret identities saw a number of people respond to me about it. The responses came in two types: the “I respectfully disagree” type and the “here’s the comic explanation and yeah, it is stupid” type.

From the latter type I learned that Superman:

    [li] super-vibrates his face, so that video cameras can’t get a clear look (thanks Alex);
    [li] has glasses that project a holographic image over his face, so he looks different as Clark Kent (oops – lost that email!); and / or
    [li] just looks different as Superman and people don’t recognise him (thanks Sam Phillips).

but it was generally recognised that these were fairly poor explanations about why Superman and Mr Kent aren’t connected as being one and the same. Boy, I wish I could super-vibrate my face! That’d come in so useful…

Or perhaps it wouldn’t.

Those who disagreed with me did so for different reasons. Brian Stork said that they do use their new costume slots to have a “normally” dressed character, who can then change in an instant into their costume. I do appreciate that this can be / is done (and actually strikes me as kind of fun, if done right) but this is roleplaying thing. Don’t get me wrong – I’m not knocking roleplaying – but it means that the player has to pretend something that isn’t really supported by the game world, and typically mmorpgs have only had a very small amount of rpg’ing in them from the players’ side. But if you enjoy using your costume slot(s) like this, feel free to enjoy it, but don’t be surprised when other people don’t do the same thing or ;look at you oddly for it.

The other area of disagreement was about secret identities in comics. Charles York and Steve Brooker point out that 1) secret identities make superpowered characters more real and understandable to us mere mortals and 2) if I’m willing to believe a boy can fly, accepting people not recognising him in the street isn’t that big a leap. I agree with both aspects and don’t doubt that a secret identity can enhance a character, but it has also been used frequently as a crutch by lazy writers.

Overall though, I am glad to see secret identities start to fall by the wayside. Unless it can be done well, I’d prefer not to see it done at all. This isn’t to say that it can’t be done well, but this doesn’t seem to happen a lot from what I’ve seen.


On the note of Superman, I’ve just heard that Christopher Reeve has passed away. Reeve is probably best known for his role in the Superman films as well, Superman. After receiving a cripping spinal injury, he became a spokesman and campaigned for more stem cell research. Rest in peace, Mr Reeve.

[p] – UnSub [email protected] 12 October 2004

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