As any MMO player would tell you there are times when you can’t play the game. Real life comes crashing and makes playing the game impossible for periods of time. There could be any number of reasons, far too many to go into now. In my time as an MMO player I have experienced quite a few of these breaks. I’ve recently experienced one of these breaks as I went on a vacation for a week to the Great White North of Canada. From the stories I heard I thought the fishing would be good up there which it wasn’t. It may have been the lake we were on and other environmental factors but I was disappointed not to catch a lot of decent sized fish. Not to mention the 15 hour drive didn’t help matters to much either. Anyway, this trip has caused me to be out of action for the better part of two weeks now. Two weeks of time for me is about 15-20 hours of game time which is huge.

Now, Time Away is a problem for all gamers but ‘Heroes by Night’ have an especially hard go with it. The amount of time they play may already be limited. To stop them from playing for an extended period of time could be game shattering. From what I’ve seen and experienced there are three major game breakers due to Time Away – motivation, content/bug fixes and friends.

The easiest obstacle to overcome is motivation. After coming back from Time Away, it’s hard to get back into the flow of the game. I’ve been back for a few days now. While I’ve had the urge to play over the past few days, I simply haven’t had the will to sit down and log in. The major reason is there is stuff to be done. There is yard work to do, cleaning to be done and other stuff that piles up during Time Away. Not to mention I have to make time for my wife, friends and family. The problem is it adds to the Time Away and kills the motivation to get back playing. A simple week’s vacation can turn into a two to three week period of Time Away. After that long of a time it’s difficult to get back to swing of things.

Another significant deterrent to getting back to playing is content and/or bug fixes. After a significant time away in a MMO you could miss a great deal of patches and possibly some content updates. Now I must admit City of Heroes is pretty good about this. They haven’t patched a ton and their first official expansion is still a little under a year away. But further down the line as the game’s continues to grow this may become a problem. It’s always heart breaking to log in after Time Away and find they nerfed some of your powers and/or equipment. That can suck the fun out playing right away. I’ve seen people in other games abandon high level characters because the nerfing was so severe. This of course is a subjective matter. I don’t like the term nerf. Never have. Never will. Nerf has an implied meaning that the developers changed something they shouldn’t have or changed something to make life harder for gamers. I don’t think that’s ever the case. Still back on the subject, finding your favorite character un-useable or broken is a hard blow to take. The prospect of starting over doesn’t typically appeal to many people. City of Heroes has been good with this, more so then other games because the lack of equipment. Still there have been changes to powers people didn’t like, but they can’t please everyone.

The thing that Time Away most damages is friendships and play groups. I don’t have to mention that time away can create a huge gulf in levels between yourself and your normal group. I had quite a few experiences with this in EQ. I got into a grove with a group of players and we rapidly gain levels. After a while we got use to each others play style, skills and talents. Then I took some Time Away. It was only a week time but that was enough. One of our group members powered through 10 levels in that week. I lagged behind a couple levels compared to the other group members and that was it. The group broke up because we were unable to function effectively due to losing one member and my underpowered character. This is where I believe Cryptic has an outstanding job. With the side kick system the gap in levels that Time Away
creates is meaningless. With the coming of the reserve side kick system coming soon it appears Cryptic is taking care of both sides of this issue.

Time Away is unavoidable. For the ‘Heroes by Night’ out there, it’s sometimes forces us to stop playing the game we love. But once you know the main problems involving Time Away you’ll be better equipped to handle them. And knowing is the half the battle… or something.

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A friend and I were talking and about CoH. This particular friend has tried quite a few MMOs including Dark Ages of Camelot, EQ, Planetside and Lineage 2. He’s heard a lot of good things about CoH. The combat is quick and fun. The missions are plentifully and have good stories behind them. The character customization is awesome. The character types are very flexible and unique. There is no crafting system in the game. Yet the one thing that is keeping him away from the game is the lack of rewards. At first I was like the do have rewards – enchantments. As I thought about I began to see his point. Enhancements are a cool reward and it’s nice that anyone can use them. It just they’re not really things you can show off. You do get souvenirs but no one knows you have them unless you tell them. Plus they don’t even have unique icons in the menu. They just have that white question mark which we all now is très cool.

We discussed it some and came up with a good reward system that fits into the game. Since the appearance of your hero is such a big deal there should be specific missions that enhance your hero’s appearance. You complete a mission and you receive a costume option like a necklace, circlet or a ring. It could be something that could identity that you’ve done the mission. I know what you thinking. ‘But that’s equipment and what if it had stats’. Well, they could it’s just a graphic with no stat enhancements or anything like that. Just make it look cool. You could give it a cool effect like making it sparkle constantly. There could be a set of boots that would leave a trail of color behind you when you move. You could have pieces that are available to everyone and some that are limit to only certain archetypes and origins. You could limit pieces to story arcs. To get the ‘Ring of Enduring Light’ for instance you would need access to certain contact. To get that contact you need to be Mutant or a Controller or both. Task forces could do the same thing. You could also make them a super group costume options too. That way your get a piece that helps identify your SG.

I think that’s a good reward system and fits within theme of the game. Of course, right now it’s only wishful thinking but maybe it’s something the devs could keep in mind.

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There appears to be some exciting things on the horizon for us Heroes. First there is another update coming in the next few months that just rocks my socks. The coolest thing about the new Update is we’re getting the ability to wear capes. Anything else they mention about the update is superfluous. I’m super happy about the inclusion of capes. I even like the fact that they masked the inability to have capes with in-game lore. Yes at the same time I’m frustrated that a quest needs to done in order to obtain one.

Now I know this may sound like it contradicts what I said early about rewards but I’m not. I think there could be an easier way to work capes into the game then by a quest. I can understand making quests to get cooler or rare capes. If they are going to require a hero to prove themselves before they get one they should be a level cap on them. Like at level 20 or 30 let a player get a choice of a few generic capes. At higher levels you could quest cooler looking capes. That way everyone can get one but some are available only through select means. They could follow my example of rewards and make certain cape available to only certain Archetypes and/or Origins.

The way I look at it is I have to do a quest at 20 to get a second costume then again at 30 and 40. Now somewhere in there I have to do another quest to get a cape. I’m all for quests it’s just seems like some things don’t need a quest associated with them.

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