NCSoft Just Doesn't Get It
The City of Heroes forums are abuzz with the news of a survey being conducted on behalf of NCSoft. To the CoH faithful, this survey is the Beam of Light From On High, a promise that their cries for change have been heard; it basically asks them which major feature they want the most. Long-requested enhancements like power customization, the ability to take your hero villain-side and vice-versa, and a custom mission creator were mentioned in the survey, causing much excitement in the community.
To me, it sounds like NCSoft is trying to turn City of Heroes into the game it should be at this point. Under Cryptic's rule, CoH was stagnant, with only the lowest-hanging fruit being plucked and implemented. Now with NCSoft's cash driving a new hiring push, the developers can finally work on "The Big Things" that (to them) would make the game better.
But NCSoft just doesn't get it. Power Customization won't make mission maps any more interactive or interesting. A new archetype won't suddenly make the game's bad guys more engaging to fight or the end bosses more memorable. Allowing players to create their own content will only flood the game with half-assed unprofessional junk. City of Heroes needs remade from its very CORE; it doesn't need more tacked-on shiny object fluff.
You see, the central flaws that makes City of Heroes so boring to play has nothing to do with customization or archetypes. It has everything to do with how repetitive missions are to play, how brain dead the bad guys are, and how limited players are in their abilities.
Missions are lame from start to finish. You are given a mission by a static, boring NPC who, despite the fact that they order around superheroes like delivery boys, are no more visually interesting than the building in front of which they stand. Then, you run off to the "super secret hideout", which happens to be unguarded, and enter what seems to be a small brick building only to end up inside a HUGE warehouse. Then you are treated to mindless, purposeless, fantastically nearsighted clumps of baddies, each spawn of which you attack in the same manner.
Apparently the developers are happy with this, since it hasn't changed in four years.
But how else could the game be? I mean, your character is so limited that the developers have to dumb-down the gameplay. Contrast CoH with WoW, where players have many unique and situational powers. That allows Blizzard to create content that utilitizes the many abilities of each class, which allows for a diverse array of encounters. In City of Heroes, most fights can be won by: Tank -> Debuff -> Nuke, even boss fights. And they don't want to change this? They really think that adding another Archetype will suddenly make the game's content fresh and interesting? The feel that letting players choose the color of their attacks with breathe new life into the world? Seriously?
And then there are the visuals, another point of failure for CoH.
Now, the new stuff looks pretty good, especially the costume parts. The old zones, however, look like utter crap. Seriously, how much concrete did it take to build Paragon City? Talk about dead space. And why don't buildings cast shadows? Is Paragon City in a bubble - the weather is always the same. And zones? Come on, its not as if the zones in CoH are so crowded, interactive, or huge that you MUST have zoning. All of this adds up to a feeling (FOR ME) that CoH is technically and artistically behind the times when it comes to the public spaces.
City of Heroes, at its core, is an old Honda. Cryptic and now NCSoft have done the equivalent of adding new wheels, a stereo, and a huge racing wing while ignoring the engine and transmission. NCSoft, its time to rebuild your old junker, and you better do it before the new cars show up in DC Universe and Champions Online.