City of Heroes: Ask a Dev

CoH Community Quiz: Serdar Copur Q&A


CoH Community Quiz #3
Answers by Serdar Copur (CoH Producer)
Questions from the COH Community

Marcian_Tobay: Hello, and thanks for making a superior product!

As a producer of this game, I am sure that you are often faced with a choice of deadline versus original intention. Or, more relevantly, your development team is clearly choosing to perfect Inventions and get them out in the highest quality rather than to release them early in the year and placate those that are impatient for the next expansion. Would you be willing to expound a bit on how to decide when you are going past “deadline” and at what point you decide that the specific product has taken “too long” to produce, and release as is?

Serdar Copur: No release is ever perfect, but we are always looking for ways to improve our process, and as a result, the quality of our product. One of the adjustments in our development strategy for Issue 9 was to add a Closed Beta Phase between the Internal Testing and Open Training Room Phases. Here is how the whole process works:

We start with a heavy focus on internal testing and when we are internally satisfied with the quality of our content, we then open it up to our closest friends and family for a very private beta test. After that round of iteration, we incorporate high-profile contributors from the community for a closed beta test. Once we are happy with the results of that testing, then we open it up to the rest of the community on the Training Room (which is our open test server.) The content stays on the Training Room for several weeks to allow for stress and stability testing. All along the way, we are gathering hundreds of bugs and suggestions from our testers. As our bug lists diminish and the general community consensus is one of excitement, we know we are ready to go Live. This process is reasonably predictable, therefore not impossible to schedule. We are lucky to be working with a publisher as supportive as NCSoft, who allows us the necessary flexibility to adjust our deadlines to meet the needs of the game. That doesn’t mean we have all the time in the world, but it does offer us room to release a product when everyone feels it is ready.

So as you can see, the answer to your question about how we decide when a product is ready to release is dependent upon the convergence of various factors (bug lists, community response, publisher support, etc.)

arthurh3535: What is the hardest ‘programming’ thing that you want to eventually add to the game?

Serdar Copur: Blue-sky questions are so much fun. The most difficult thing to develop that I would like to add to our game is a completely new database architecture which allows every single player who plays CoH & CoV to be able to play on the same game server. This means no more server selection screens, no more re-rolling because your real life friends are not on the same server as you, and no more trouble finding a group at 3:00 AM because everyone else is sleeping. It’s not an impossible endeavor but my programming team assures me that there is nothing more time consuming and complicated that we could develop for our game at this point. I guess we can always dream.

CrabNebula: What tools do you use to build maps and characters do you use a third party product or something in house?

Serdar Copur: Here is a little glimpse behind the curtain for those of you curious about the way games are made. We utilize raw asset creation tools like 3D Studio MAX and Photoshop to build models and textures. Characters are primarily built in MAX and then exported to our game library. Special Effects are generated by a combination of third-party tools and internal tools. However, most of our world building happens in the game. That’s right. Our game is our World Editor. We built the entire game like a proprietary, real-time, editing tool. In the development environment, I can be running around Atlas Park one minute, and then hit a key which allows me to select, move and edit buildings the next. Overall, I am very impressed by the power, quality and flexibility of our tools. They are second to none.

GreenLantern: Hi, Serdar! I spend most of my time in Paragon City, but I have a few characters in the Rogue Isles. A common complaint is that the CoV characters don’t feel “evil” enough in their missions. What are your thoughts on that?

Serdar Copur: This is a concern that gets a lot of attention internally. We put a great deal of value on immersion. We also have to keep in mind the difference between real evil and comic book evil. We tend to lean more towards comic book evil since those were the principles upon which City of Heroes was created. When we launched City of Villains, arguably, the villains were not as “evil” as we would have liked them to be. We alleviated some of this problem with the introduction of Mayhem Missions in Issue 7 where misguided villains got to rain destruction upon Paragon City. Additionally, the villain trade center for Invention in Issue 9 will be a Black Market Truck to further reinforce the fact that villains get their goods when they “fall off the back of a truck.” Although these are just two examples, rest assured that we are taking the necessary steps to make CoV characters feel more “evil” at each update.

LadyMage: Positron mentioned back in an interview last year about looking into changing SG membership from 75 characters to 75 accounts. Could we get an update on that? Is it feasible, is it coming, is it backburnered or scrapped, and why? It’s a feature I know a lot of SGs, preticularily larger ones are looking forward to.

Serdar Copur: Something along the lines of this is definitely coming. In fact, I will go so far as to say that both Supergroups and Bases will be getting some much needed love over the next few updates. We are fully aware that MMOG’s are all about the social element and we want to support that as much as possible.

Alpha_Ryvius: Here’s a question for you Mr. Copur aka Lord Recluse

If you’re the guy that decides what resources go where for the CoH/V projects. What do you use to base your decisions on? One of the things I’ve been dying to see is new power sets, especially for Scrappers and Tankers, Villian EAT (Epic ArcheTypes), and some high level content, specifically for players who hit the lvl 50 mark. Positron in his WarCry interview said that these kind of things are the first to go when discussing what goes in the next expansion due to time and resources. So if you’re in charge of the resources part and setting the goal for projects. Wouldn’t it be possible for you to give Positron the resources he needs to get things done?

Serdar Copur: We have a fixed amount of time and resources that we can use for each update. Therefore, we have to plan, schedule and approve updates many months before development even begins. For example, we are discussing Issue 11 features right now and most of the public has not even seen Issue 9 yet. Also, these decisions are not made in a vacuum. We sit down with the entire team and brainstorm feature ideas that get rated on a scale and matched against our overall goals. When this list is calculated, we come up with a short list of “must have” features for an update. Now this is where the art of game making meets the science. We have to break down each feature into tasks and times which are then projected against an overarching schedule like a puzzle. We then quickly realize where most of our time is going to be spent and which features are the biggest “bang for the buck.” At that point, some hard decisions need to be made. What do we cut? What do we shrink in scope? Where is my next caffeine fix? Ideally, I want Positron to get everything he wants because it’s probably the same stuff you want, but at the end of the day, we have to run a business. The whole process is about equilibrium and creative compromises on a very expensive scale.

Cronic-X: On the last ask a dev they hinted that issue 10 was going to add a lot more to the story line of the game. is there a possibility that new AT’s for villains and or heroes could be on the way seeing as adding a new AT or villain group would be a big addition to the games story line.

Serdar Copur: Issue 10 is going to be fantastic. It’s true that it will be advancing the story-line. You will probably not see any new archetypes in Issue 10; however there will be a great deal of other fun content to enjoy. I really shouldn’t tell you anything right now because it’s just way too early. Then again….a small hint can’t hurt. Right?
So here it is:

“Issue 10 will focus on a level range that you guys have been clamoring about for a while.”

Let the speculation begin!

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