A View from Atlas Park: UnSub’s CoH Wishlist

In last week’s column I wrote that every player has a wishlist for features they’d like to see in their favourite mmogs. I’m no different. Some of my wishes are unfair and / or impractical and will probably never see the light of day. But, hey, a man can dream, can’t he?

Below are a couple of things I would like to see introduced to CoH. I’m going to try to stay away from things that have already been announced for future release, except where I think it should be a priority.

I should also point out that thus far, Cryptic have done a spectacular job (by mmog standards) of releasing content (rather than just bug fixes) for a new game. Although the first issue / update was mainly aimed at the higher end of the game, it was good to see it put out as quickly as it was. Issue #2 looks to be even better, especially since it will give players of lower levels new toys to play with (eg get badges, visit new zones).


Anyway, my wishlist:

The metric system: This feature is so obvious, it probably is already in the game and I just don’t know about it. If it isn’t, then I ask you this: why is the Birthplace of Tomorrow using the measurement system of the 18th century?

It’s only a small thing, especially since distance only really comes into play when you are heading off to a mission zone (which I do a lot) but it bugs me. As a non-American, I’m used to measuring distance in kilometres and metres, not miles and yards. It throws me off a bit in terms of how far I actually have to go.

I don’t see that introducing this feature would be hard to do (says someone who wouldn’t be doing the programming) and it would be nice to have. But that’s just me.

Temporary travel powers: Last week I indicated that vehicles shouldn’t be introduced given that CoH already had travel powers. But I also know that players get frustrated when a team-mate lags behind, or when they have to get all the way across to the other side of a zone that has a lot of obstacles / ground to cover. So here’s my solution.

In front of every train station and zone gate, put an “Activator” who will give you a temporary travel power with a very limited duration in exchange for some influence. This lets a hero entering a zone grab a travel power and be where they need to be in less time than is currently the norm.

The details would need to be worked out – perhaps each Activator could only give one travel power, perhaps they would be like a temp. travel power shop – but this method provides players with a way to reduce the time they spend travelling and increase the time they spend fighting crime.

Now, you’re probably thinking “hey, why would I ever get a permanent travel power if I can just rent it when I need it?”. Three reasons – time, influence and utility. Firstly, these powers would be very temporary, since they only need last long enough to get you across a zone. You only really need 45 seconds of (for example) Flight and you’ll have already covered a pretty good distance. Secondly, it should cost you a moderate amount to get a temp. travel power: not so much that it is too expensive to ever use, but not so little as players can always use them. Players who want to use temp. travel powers all the time should feel the pinch of not having enough influence to buy the enhancements they need. Thirdly, the utility of temporary travel powers is much less than for permanent travel powers. Having 30 seconds of Super Speed will be hard to exploit as far as I can see. Also, by not having a permanent travel power, players won’t be able to call on them when they really need them – like when they are running away from a fight that’s gone pear shaped.

As a consequence of having this system, players could also test out the different travel powers and see which ones they would want to choose permanently from the power pools.

I’m aware that there are plans to let players “craft” temporary powers for other players and expect (depending on how the system works) travel powers to be a fairly common temp. power to be traded.

This suggestion is probably a bit unfair, but wouldn’t need to be tweaked very much to strike a balance in-game.

Full powers respec: Although the flexibility of character costuming gets a lot of attention, it would be folly to overlook how important powers are to CoH. They are the functional core of any character. With new powers due some time in the future, the ability to fully respec your character’s powers is something CoH needs.

I know the fear that exists against full respec – that players will exploit it. And they will. Already I’m sure that the partial respec is being manipulated, with all enhancement slots being thrown into the power(s) that will lead to the fastest lvling up and changed when the respec point is hit. Then rinsed and repeated up to next respec point. Players are always going to seek the path of least resistance (otherwise called the “best build” or “best character template”) because it makes things easier.

Having partly opened the gate on respeccing, Cryptic should really open it up fully. Having four or five full respecs across the course of a character’s life isn’t against the nature of comics – characters have been known to change power focus (and even archetype, if you want to go that far – Emma Frost as an example of this). I’m against archetype respeccing on the grounds that it would be truly game-balance-breaking, with all those Tankers converting to Blasters for the higher lvls. But powers are a different story.

Having powers respeccing (ie letting players change their power sets) provides players with more flexibility: to test out powers, to fix mistakes, to experience different sides of the game. I know for certain that some players would use full power respecs to find out the optimal respecced powers combination to progress through CoH as fast as possible. But it also will allow players to better evolve their characters in Paragon City by giving them more options.

I want to see full powers respeccing introduced for purely selfish reasons. At some point I expect Dual Pistols (under whatever name it will go by) to be introduced as a powerset. That’s the power I’ve always wanted to have (more due to the Phantom than any of the John Woo-knockoffs of recent history, lest you think me a munckin). However, there is no way I’ll restart my character from scratch to get it. As I’ve said before, I don’t have a lot of time to play CoH. Unless I’ve hit max lvl at the point Cryptic release Dual Pistols, I won’t have the inclination to scrap all my progress thus far and start again.

Besides, even Superman has had his powers respecced several times. And if it’s good enough for the Big Blue Cheese…

More power!: Well, more powersets anyway. I’ve already said above that I’m biased and want to see Dual Pistols in CoH, but that’s not the only reason I want to see more power sets available.

Powers (as also said above) are the functional core of the superhero. Being able to fill out the spandex is nice, but there are plenty of pretty young things that have fallen by the wayside because their powers aren’t up to scratch. The current CoH powersets are nice, but (at almost five months since launch) they are pretty well known. Some more powersets would help to shake out the complacency I’ve seen in players who always look for team-mates with certain powers.

However, I know that creating new powersets isn’t easy. Apart from working on design and game balance, there is the time consuming process of animating them and making sure they will work (as an example) with the costume features. I also recognise that when new powers are released, every archetype will have to get them to be fair to players, which adds to the workload. So I suggest cannibalising some existing animations, perhaps with minor changes, and arranging them into new powersets.

As an example, there are already grenade-throwing and bomb-planting animations in place. How hard would it be to create a Demolitions powerset from what already exists? Multiple grenade types exist that haven’t yet found their way into CoH (eg Impact, Fragmentation, Tear Gas) that could be used to form part of the powerset. Other explosives and bomb types could make up the rest of the powers. I wouldn’t want to see every power in this set using the same animation – that would be dull to play – but don’t think that every new powerset needs completely new animations either.

I’m aware that Statesman has said that new powersets are not a priority at this point, which I think is a pity. Although all the extra stuff sounds great, the core of CoH is using your powers to fight villains. Villains are plentiful (with more coming); powersets don’t appear had the same emphasis put on them. Let’s hope we don’t have to wait for CoV to come out for the release of numerous new powersets.


So that’s my wishlist for CoH features. There are other features I want to see, but they have already been promised for release in the future, so I am happy to wait. Nothing I’ve said above is that revolutionary, but if they were adopted I believe they would make CoH an even better game than it already is*.

And I also know that the above is probably unfair, somewhat impractical and would take resources out of developing other game features that you would probably prefer to see. But hey, that’s why it’s a wishlist.

* which is obvious because why would I want to make CoH worse?

– UnSub [email protected] 20 September 2004

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