Issue 14 of City of Heroes finally hit open beta March 17th, finally letting its voracious subscribers a first look at the Mission Architect. Was the wait worth it? Was all the build up for this “new and innovative” feature really justified? Read on as I boot up the test server and give the architect a whirl in this City of Heroes Issue 14: Architect review!
Mission Architect Building
The first thing I asked myself after I logged it was, where exactly do I find this architect? As it turns out, there is one in almost every zone you'll come across. My character, a villain, was in Pocket D at the time. It wasn't long before I received a message from one of my friends that I should hurry to Port Oakes, where he was, to check out the Architect for myself. I got the impression that he was flipping out and going crazy, (as much as one can through text, at least) so I boosted up Super Speed and ran my evil ass from the D to the Architect in Port Oakes in record time. This was made easy; just open up your map and look around for a blue and white “AE” icon somewhere on your map. Upon getting close to my mark, I was somewhat surprised to see a HUGE building that was the Architect Entertainment building. In the game world, this new feature is explained as a sort of new entertainment, where people can create their wildest fantasies, then let other people try them out. Opening the door, I scooted inside...
Redeem tickets at the counter!
Players will be greeted to a very nice looking lobby which has a few friendly looking faces to help you out. Talking to one will give you useful information about the architect: How to use it, what you can do, how the devs go about policing stories that users come up with, and so on. From here, it's just a short elevator ride up to the action. When the doors open, you'll see another desk with a few more Architect employees. These are ticket vendors which will allow you to turn in the tickets you earn while playing created content, or while others play yours. A short hop downstairs gives you access to the computers; this is where all the magic takes place.
Architect main room.
In this large room, players will see a number of terminals presented to them. Clicking on one will bring up the Mission Architect's main screen. From here, you can choose various stories other's have created or, make your own. You can search through others stories with various search criteria, name, size, who created it, and so on. Each story will also show its average rating, as decided by the player community, and the number of votes it's received. Some special stories can be given the “Dev's choice award”, meaning the developers though it was something special, or the “Players choice award”, earned after an arc gets an average rating of at least five stars with 1000 votes. Any stories that have one of these rewards will permanently uploaded to the database and you can expect to received full experience, inf, and recipe drops while playing. If you think you have the creative talent to produce a story that might be able to earn one of those rewards, or you just have some ideas to vent, it's time to buckle down and dive into the Architect's mission creator.
One would think that making their own missions would be a daunting task; filling in all the dialog, which enemies should populate your story, which map to choose, but the architect is rather streamlined and user friendly. At the start you're presented with the mission overview page. Here is where you'll choose the contact the players will interact with during your story. You can choose from a number of predefined contacts, ranging from various in game characters and objects, or create your own. From there, you move on to setting the mission's enemy group. Much like the contact, this can be groups that you've encountered during the game or you have the option of making your own. When making your own enemy group, you can opt to pull select minions, lieutenants, and bosses from enemy groups that already exist. In my mission, for example, I looked around for all the different types of robots found in the game and conglomerated them into a single enemy group. Those who want to spend the time making something really original have the option to create each of their enemies from scratch, using an interface much like the one you used when you created your own hero or villain. This option is actually a little more free form than the standard hero or villain creator tool you used, however, as it will allow you to give them practically any power set combination in the game. In short, you could give your enemy the Assault Rifle set, normally used by Blasters and Corruptors, and also give him Plant Control. This allows for pretty unique enemies which are sometimes a bit hard to take down, depending on their rank. The Architect lets you pick whether your creation will be a minion, lieutenant, boss, elite boss, or the ever-so-evil Archvillain. This feature may leave some players a bit jealous; as this level of power customization isn't available to players.
Custom enemy creator, look familiar? (Elec Man)
After setting up your enemy group, you'll have to pick a map. You can't create your own, but there is a wide selection of maps to choose from. Players pick the overall “theme” of the map they want, then can hand pick the exact layout within that theme. Depending on how many different objectives you have during a mission, you may have to switch your first pick to a larger map to accommodate. From there you can set how the mission's mobs are scaled; front loaded for hard baddies early on, back loaded for a late push in difficulty, have the mobs ramp up in difficulty, or staggered for something a bit more random. At the end of the mission, your players can find “clues”, or little reminders of their exploits, and you can fill in the details of those here as well.
Objective settings (Bubble Man)
After setting up the mission, your mission needs goals. The second part of making any mission has you choosing which goals your players are to tackle. These can range from fighting a boss, to collection an object, to escorting a person out, defending or attacking an object, and more. Creators won't find anything new when it comes to these goals, but you're at least able to mix up a variety of them in your mission keeping things somewhat fresh. Each goal has its own little settings you can adjust. In my story, I decided that the players would have to defeat the evil Dr. Wiley and his Robot Masters from the Megaman series. This meant my missions were largely “defeat boss” missions. I could decide which faction the boss fought for, the animation he would do when you find him, the animations of his surrounding mob, how hard that mob was to be, and the general location that this boss should show up. The Architect doesn't allow you to place a goal in any specific spot, instead you must choose between random, front, middle, or back. These options sometimes puts them in the general area they should be, but in my mission with upwards of eight Archvillains, sometimes they get a bit cluttered depending on the map. After setting up the parameters of your goal, you can set the text associated with them if needed. With bosses, you can write their bio, or what they say when first encountered and beaten. This adds a little bit of depth and personality to your characters, not that mine had a lot to begin since they're robots.
Custom enemy group editor.
With all the text editing and options, what about mistakes? Thankfully the Architect will notify you of any errors in your mission, telling you where you can find and fix them. Even more thoughtful: clicking on the error will automatically take you to the error so you can fix it. Some of the errors are straight forward, while others a bit more vague. I was told my custom group was invalid, but not told why or how to fix it. Some fiddling around and all was well, for the time being. Players also should be aware that there is a size limitation on your overall story, not just the mission you're creating, and it seemed the patch introduced on March 23rd lowered that limit by quite a bit. If you can create your mission with no errors, as well as being under the size limit, then it's time to test!
Ice Man in action!
Cut Man looking to slice and dice!
Quick Man looking...quick!
Testing a mission is just like playing through any mission of the game, and allows you to further tweak your enemies' attributes, looks, and placement should you feel the need. During testing you won't earn any experience or architect tickets, those can only be earned if your mission is published. You can still earn Architect specific badges, however, which should appeal to the avid “badgers” in City of Heroes. If you're happy with your creation, you can publish it which will make it available for play to anyone and subject to voting. You're limited to only three published stories per account, but can un-publish your stories anytime you want. There is no limit to how many stories you can have unpublished. Playing through a published story will give you full experience and inf rewards, but no enemy or mission completion drops. You will, however, earn tickets for defeating enemies and completing a story. These tickets can be redeemed for a plethora of goodies, ranging from Architect specific unlocks, to enhancements and reward rolls. Some of the reward rolls seemed a bit expensive (4000 tickets for a random Task Force recipe roll) but I found that the Bronze rewards, enemy recipe drops, to be not only cheap at just 35 tickets, but rewarding as well: my character got his hand on a Crushing Impact and a Efficacy Adapter from just the five rolls I did for fun. Tickets earned go into a pool which can be claimed at a Ticket Redeemer by any character on your account but, once claimed, can only be used by that character.
Various rewards you can buy with tickets.
Overall, the Mission Architect is something fresh and innovative when it comes to MMO's. Being able to write your own story arcs for at least your own personal amusement is sure to appeal to the creative minds out there. The badges that can be earned will keep the “badgers” busy for at least some time, and the tickets system ensures that running though other's stories isn't a waste of time when compared to running regular missions. Still, one has to wonder how long this appeal will hold. I play on Virtue, the unofficial RP server, and was told long before the Open Beta started that a lot of my friends had plans to make arcs related to their character or Super Group. On Freedom, a “normal” server, most players may choose to simply run the regular content over any of the Architect created ones once learning theres no recipe drops. It will be interesting to see how many of these missions are being run after a few months of Issue 14 going live, and if the devs have any plans to add to the allure of playing player created content.
Along with the Mission Architect, there is also a number of small changes being implemented to the game which can be found here: