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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

City of Heroes / Villains: The Mission Architect Proves That The Players' Worst Enemy Is...

Posted by UnSub Wednesday April 29 2009 at 3:53AM
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... the players.

Along with I14 - CoH/V's latest free major update - came the Mission Architect system. Billed as the "the first MMORPG to offer User Created Content" (err, no - even if you don't accept that playing with another player is user created content, Ryzom certainly offered scenario building tools before CoH/V, Star Wars: Galaxies had the Storyteller system... but anyway) the Mission Architect (MA) system allows players to build their own missions, populate it with their own custom enemies and create story arcs up to five missions long. It is a fantastic idea. The system itself is pretty easy to use, well spelled out and is very popular right now. Creating custom villain groups in and of itself is a mini-game that can consume several hours.

The Mission Architect system is getting a lot of use from players at the moment

The Mission Architect system is getting a lot of use from players at the moment.

But this very strength is revealing a number of CoH/V's weaknesses. CoH/V's problem with repetitive maps hasn't been solved with the release of MA, as anyone who plays a mission set in a warehouse will soon find. The objectives of missions can feel very same-y. However, the greatest problem with MA is that in letting users create the content, you end up with content created by amateurs. Playing poorly designed content ends up being a turn-off for playing the game in total, especially when it seems the majority of people are playing through MA content (so your option to play other types of CoH/V content is limited at the moment).

Yes, some of the MA content is very good (although I've played some 5-star, Hall of Fame or Dev Choice arcs that I've found very ordinary). But a lot of it isn't. Sure, you can avoid that content if only play top end and well-played MA arcs, but even that opens the door to nothing but farming missions or MA arcs created by powergamers to test out their uber-powerful, purple slotted characters.

Common issues you can run into during MA missions include:

  • MA arcs / missions that a player has obviously not tested - there will be incomplete text, a token effort at spelling or grammar, badly defined mission objectives, etc.
  • Custom enemies that can have huge power differentials within one map. I played through one map where the minions, lieutenants and bosses were all easy to take on, but one Elite Boss (who summoned multiple ambush spawns) was all but impossible.
  • Coming across missions that are just in bad taste. Player created content where the bad guys used the vomit emote (which projects a stream of green vomit) over a cross-dressing developer proxy isn't something that was ever necessary.
  • MA arcs where someone's development reach exceeds their abilities. Or where English obviously isn't a first language. Or where the person who created the mission much have been 10 years old or younger.
  • The farm mission. Technically these are against MA policy, but there are tons of them just the same. Certain groups well known for the ease of fightning them or for their XP bonuses are packed into a mission to be steamrollered.
  • The powergamer mission, where the creator set out to challenge their build and punish everyone else who dare attempt it.

MA is a great system and the player response to it has been massive. Right now there are a number of teething problems (some of which will be dealt with in the upcoming I15: Anniversary update) but the main issue is something that no developer created update can fix: a large proportion of the MA content is ordinary at best. Distinguishing the new wheat from the chaff is only going to get harder as time goes on. I suspect we'll see large purges of the MA content over time (unrated and low-rated missions from inactive accounts will likely go) because it will be the only way to try and reduce the massive amount of content that isn't worth playing.

fansede writes:

 I was curious to see how that would pan out. Looks like lots of growing pains to be had. I knew there would be ways to exploit the system. A shame

Wed Apr 29 2009 11:48AM Report
NameWasTaken writes:

This is exactly the same type of shovelware I've come to expect from Cryptic... er I mean, NCSoft NorCal... no I mean, Paragon Studios. Just THIS time its the players shoveling the $#!t out the door, rather than the developers

Wed Apr 29 2009 5:43PM Report
ivan50265 writes:

Well it goes to show you when Devs either run out of ideas or want to punish players or both they give what you asked for. :)

Fri May 01 2009 2:31PM Report

MMORPG.com writes:
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