CoH Community Quiz #2: Jack Emmert Interview

In our second CoH community quiz, we’re talking to Jack Emmert, the CCO of Cryptic Studios about City of Heroes. Recently, we gathered a few questions from our community to pose and those joined questions from European servers gathered by NCSoft to form this interview.

WarCry Q&A: CoH Community Quiz #2
Answers by Jack Emmert, Cryptic Studios Chief Creative Officer
Questions by the community

NCSoft Intro:
With this installment of the Ask a Dev series we are including some specific questions from different regions. City of Heroes and City of Villains is a global game, with players connecting from all over the world. Many of the questions are the same no matter what region they come from. Below you will find some specific questions from players connecting to our German, French and UK servers.

dwightsteel: What has been ironed out so far in terms of the I9 Inventions system? We’ve heard the response of “you can create any reward”, but are there any specifics you can offer? Maybe we can have a small taste in terms of what we can expect to see, or just something a little more specific than what we’ve been getting?

Jack Emmert: A player could potentially make any temporary power, Inspiration, Enhancement or costume piece…That’s what the potential of the Invention system is. Right now, my favorite part is never worrying about expiring Enhancements. I’d hate to level up only to find out that all of my Enhancements needed upgrading. Sigh. Well, the Invention system now gives everyone pretty easy to make Enhancements that circumvent this.

Alpha_Ryvius: My biggest fear with the new invention system is that it will create some kind of elite uber class amongst players. One thing that I loved about CoH/V was that there was no uber 133t gear needed to play the game and it wasn’t required. No 40 man guild/sg raids and spawn camping or grinding so someone can get that rare drop. So what can you offer to dispel my fear on this issue?

Jack Emmert: If it’s any consolation, both Positron and I are fathers of young children; we completely understand the fear of immense time requirements in a MMORPG. In fact, City of Heroes/Villains was designed for “bite sized fun” – a player could get in, play for an hour, get out and feel as if he’s accomplished something. None of that has changed.

Let’s talk a bit about Inventions and how that fits into this philosophy. First, there’s two kinds of Salvage: tech and magic. Each type drops from groups associated with that theme (Circle of Thorns is magic, Nemesis is tech, etc.). There are no recipes or Salvage that only drops from some spawns or mobs, but not others. Some rewards are common, uncommon and rare – but that’s determined at the time of the drop, not by the critter. In other words, a hapless Warrior in Talos Island can potentially drop something as good as a rare or something more uncommon. The only real rare spawns in CoH – Giant Monsters – don’t drop recipes, only Salvage.

Players get to choose a random recipe when they complete a Task Force, Trial or occasionally from missions. Each quest type draws from a separate pool of possible recipes, but all recipes are of equivalent strength. In other words, the Task Force recipes are no stronger than the ones given at the completion of a typical mission, but they are different. Admittedly, fewer Task Forces are completed on a given day than missions, so these recipes will appear less frequently in the Consignment House, but the Task Forces don’t deliver a reward that’s any better.

We’ve tried to make it so that even someone who does “bite sized fun” can still enjoy the fruits of Invention labor.

Chrome Magnum: Hi Jack. Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. There is something that I’m really curious about. As Creative Director, what are your responsibilities to the team and company? Also, What do you like best about your job and the people that you get to work with? How has Jack Emmert, the individual, flavored CoH/CoV and how has CoX seasoned Jack Emmert? And just for fun… do you own a cape? hehe

Jack Emmert: Yes, I’ve got a lot of capes. I’ve got several CoH capes hanging in my office, as well as some rare CoH boxing gloves that we used as a chotski when we shipped the Arena Issue. I also have two CoV capes hanging in a closet at home…one was just a prototype, but the other is the full collared version.

As for my responsibilities as Chief Creative Officer: I oversee the design of all Cryptic games. That includes two announced projects, CoH & Marvel, as well as unannounced ones. For Marvel, I also act as the lead designer. Matt “Positron” Miller is the lead on CoH. Generally, I chat with Matt on a strategic level – “I’d like to accomplish x” – and Matt makes the tactical decisions “I’m going to accomplish x by doing y.” I review all the design documentation and make comments from there. For example, we jointly decided that we wanted a way for players to forge their own enhancements. Matt ultimately came up with the specific details on how Inventions were going to work.

Probably the hardest part about my role is judging when something is objectively wrong as opposed to subjectively wrong. I might perhaps want to focus on a different zone than one that Matt wants to – or maybe do a different Task Force than he does. I always need to step back and analyze my thoughts. Do I differ with Matt because I’d like to see it different or because I know from experience that his design has flaws? To be honest, Matt is such a good lead that I rarely intervene on the specifics.

It’s inevitable that CoH/V has seasoned me in the school of MMORPG development. I know how long things take for Art, Design and Software. I have a sense of where problems arise in both development and live operations. I think I’m far more aware of how the different segments in our community will react to things. I’m also a lot more patient with how things flow. I remember, for instance, when players were complaining bitterly that Tankers just didn’t do enough damage. Heck, they’ve got “Super Strength”! Shouldn’t they be able to destroy things with one punch!”. I pounded my fist up and down that Geko should change their damage…this only led to more issues down the lane. I don’t think I came up with a good, measured response back then. I’m far more likely to be analytical now.

I think the biggest effect I continue to have on CoH/V is the focus on not just the hard core, but also the casual fan. This is probably because I myself often fall in the latter (one doesn’t play MMORPG’s into the wee hours of the night as much with an infant!). This sensibility remains a large part of the CoH/V universe.

Marcian_Tobay: If you could wave your magic wand and add any feature to the game that is not in I9, what would it be and why?

Jack Emmert: Powered armor suits. Gosh, I’ve wanted these forever. In the original plans, each Origin had a special prestige class that opened up when you hit level 50. These classes were significantly different in gameplay than the standard Archetypes. Powered Armor guys, for instance, had armor that degraded with combat. So a player would be losing the use of some weapons, his protection, maneuverability, etc. – kinda like a standard mech game. The suits wouldn’t use Endurance, but rather power from a battery or just plain ammunition. I always liked the idea. From memory, Science had some sort of transformation Archetype – a player would go from normal person into a raging monster. Magic had a relic bearing class; all the person’s power was tied up in an object. I don’t recall the Mutant one.

If I thought about it for more than a moment, I’d probably say Skills. I wish we could add something into each mission that would allow someone to be a scientist. Or a doctor. Or a thief. Or whatever.

Punklich: Hi Jack, great game, been playing since Issue 3. I’ve noticed an increased use of cut scenes in game, but players are split on how they feel about them. I personally love them to help get me into that RP part of an online RPG. I was wondering your thoughts on the future of cut scenes in CoX and also what are your thoughts on using cut scenes when you talk to a contact rather than putting one in the middle of a mission?

Jack Emmert: I wouldn’t mind it a bit, as long as you could skip it! But our cut scene tech isn’t really amenable to this. When a player comes across a mission cut scene, everything is actually happening. Those characters are moving, speaking dialogue, etc. in real time (that’s why players could start blasting targets when we first implemented this). There’s no sense at the moment of a cut scene just playing for one person; it’s going on for everyone in the map. Obviously, that presents difficulties in a persistent zone!

Azrhiaz: Is there anything in the CoX games that you wish you’d never put in? Was there something that sounded great and then turned out to be a disaster or more trouble than it was worth?
Thanks for a great game! I waste many hours on it! 😀
Jack Emmert: I regret not putting more time and energy into Hamidon. It turned out far different than I envisioned. Hopefully the new Hamidon encounter we are putting into Issue 9 will make the raid more enjoyable and interactive for a greater number of players.

-=RSF=- JoeyMoe – UK: Which direction do you see CoH/COV heading?
Jack Emmert: I’d like to see a lot of interaction with the community – let’s find out what the players want! I know from reading the boards that certain features are popular – heck, I’d like to see polls! If we’re going to add a new power set, see which Archetype wants what. We did that with zones in the past and we’ve included the results in our future planning. I’d like to do a lot more of that.

Harermuir – France: The background story of CoH/CoV goes forward very slowly. There hasn’t been any major progress of the storyline in most of the issues. Is something planned regarding this in the near future, major events (apart from the seasonal events) that would bring something to the story of the game?

Jack Emmert: I think this is an area that we can focus on a lot moving forward: the story. Issue 10 will definitely keep you on your toes.

Dwightsteel: Matt’s responses in his interview were, needless to say, a little bleak. With all this news from Matt, is there anything promising, aside from this inventions system, that we have to look forward to, in terms of new content?


Taberian Fiend: When are we going to see a continuation of the Rikti story arc? Will we ever learn of Nemesis’s role in the Rikti War?
Jack Emmert: (Answer to both Taberian Fiend and Dwightsteel) We have a great plan of updates for the game through the rest of the year and beyond. The next Issue after Inventions is planned to be a real story themed update. I can’t give you a lot of specifics or too much of a scoop but we are very excited with how Issue 10 is shaping up.

German Question: Is there a way to share more powersets between heroes and villians? Like Poison for Controllers or Defenders. Sonic for Masterminds, …
Jack Emmert: We want to keep some distinction between Archetypes. I know that we’d like to add new powersets for all Archetypes moving into the future.

damien omen: Teaming is to me the appeal of this game and the fast way to 50. Are there any plans in the future for making finding a team easier? and if so how soon can we expect to see this happen? Thanks
Jack Emmert: Anecdotally CoH/V has traditionally been a game where teaming up was easy and casual. I remember at first release, the game was praised for its sleek UI for grouping. We’re constantly on the lookout for any improvements we can make – so make sure to visit our Suggestions forum! Let us know what we can do!

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