A View from Atlas Park: Rewards! Huh! What Are They Good For?

The latest box version of City of Heroes / City of Villains launched last week – it was, of course, the Good Versus Evil edition that contained both games. Those players who didn’t want the box set could pay $10 and download the code to get the bonus items contained in the pack. These bonus items have been the cause of some complaint on the forums for a number of reasons.

But I’ll come back to that in a moment…

The Veteran Rewards system has also seen some announcements, detailing what players get for their 3 month increments. This too has stirred up a number of complaints and arguments among current players.

In both cases, the arguments are driven by two main factors: 1) the ability of the player to get the rewards / bonuses in question, and 2) the value of the reward to the player. There appears to be a large number of players who believe that the rewards (by which I refer to both the GvE bonuses and the Veteran Rewards) should be available to all paying subscribers. At the same time, there also appears to be a proportion of players who see these rewards as not worth having as rewards since they have a perceived minimal impact on the game.

Which, to my eyes, seems to mean that Cryptic have gotten it just about right. As a generalisation, there are two types of rewards in CoH/V – in-game active rewards and ex-game passive rewards. In-game active rewards are reached by meeting certain goals while in-game, such as killing 500 Devouring Earth eminators or hitting lvl 50. Such rewards (generally – that “hitting lvl 50” one is an exception) are awarded on a character-by-character basis. Ex-game passive rewards are on an account basis and are received by players for spending the necessary time and money on their CoH/V account. This means the player who logged in once on CoH launch day but only has one lvl 1 character to date but has kept paying their subscription will have the same access to the Veteran Rewards as the player who has 64 lvl 50 characters and also subscribed on launch day. Both types of rewards cater to different player types, with in-game active rewards generally being more powerful than ex-game passive rewards.

Veteran Rewards certainly shouldn’t be more powerful or unbalancing within the CoH/V world – otherwise, it opens the door for veteran players to exploit their position and possibly deter new players from continuing, especially if the increase in the power gap between veteran and newbie impacts heavily on PvP play. Making these passive rewards of marginal value to players (with only individual player preference dictating what Veteran Reward is “good” or not) means that they are unlikely to unbalance the game in favour of veteran players. Veteran Rewards simply offer some trinkets in exchange for having a long-term loyalty to CoH/V, which I think is fair enough (although I’ll be honest and say that I’ll be getting most of the Veteran Rewards due to the length of time I’ve been subscribed).

On the other side, active in-game rewards reward players for playing, or completing certain in-game tasks. That’s also a fair way of offering rewards and one that intuitively makes sense.

Both systems work well and complement each other. The passive rewards are nice to have, but you aren’t washed up if you don’t have them, while the active rewards are generally easy to get provided you play with a bit of care and pay attention to all the guides out there about how to get particular rewards.

The point has been raised about players just getting certain rewards (particularly passive rewards) when I8 hits – that there should be no requirements and that by forcing players to be subscribed for a certain period of time or having to pay extra money leads to elitism among the players. I disagree. First off, it is nice to be recognised as a long term subscriber to CoH/V, even if it is just a token reward. Sure, I may not find every reward immediately useful, but it’s nice to know it’s there. Secondly, I think that if all the items that are currently Veteran Rewards or GvE extras were given free to players, they would be undervalued since everyone had them. Sure, they’d be popular for a time, but then they’d be lost in among the other options or replaced by anticipation for new content. As passive rewards that players can’t grind through, I think the extras will still have an element of novelty to them, with players thinking, “Boy, only one more month and I can get wings!” and finding it to be something special when they do. (Of course, they may also go, “Screw this, I’m not waiting another month for wings!” and quit, but let’s hope for Cryptic’s sake that this doesn’t happen too often!)

Wherever people are required to achieve something in order to get a reward, there will always be a divide between the haves and the have nots. If that isn’t the case, you may as well just hand out certificates of participation, which aren’t exactly going to be highly valued because everyone got them. Rewards show that you achieved some goal within CoH/V, whether in-game or out of it. Such things, small as they may be, are meaningful to me as a player… even if it’s going to take a lot of thinking power as to which Greek letters outside of alpha and omega I’m ever going to use on a character.

[p] – UnSub [@UnknownSubject] unsub@warcry.com 10 October 2006

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