One of the most often requested features for the “City Of” games is power customization. We already offer some of the most extensive costume customization of any MMO on the market, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg for what our players desire. They want the ability to customize every single bit of their character, including how their powers look.
Unfortunately, the animation and effects system that City of Heroes was built on didn’t lend itself well to customizing power blasts or altering the color of the fire attacks. Numerous powers have baked-in elements that would require a nearly insurmountable effort to get power customization to work at the level our players have come to expect. When faced with this fact, we decided that we would much rather devote the animation and effects time into new powers and new effects than going back over older powers and giving them a purely cosmetic facelift.
When it came to adding new powers to the game, Jack Emmert, the Creative Director at Cryptic Studios, suggested that we poll the players to find out what they wanted in the way of powers. We knew we wanted to do a melee set and a defensive set so that the melee archetypes (Tankers, Scrappers, Brutes, and Stalkers) could get some much needed love. When we reviewed the results of the polls, the defensive set that the players wanted the most was Shields.
The players wanted it, but we were pretty sure that the players all had different ideas of how it would be implemented. We did a straw poll within the dev team, and everyone had a different idea of what the “shield” should look like. It was so varied in responses that we didn’t think we could make a shield that would satisfy even a quarter of the people who wanted the set. That’s when the animation team did some investigation on the way our weapon powersets were rigged up.
The team came back with very promising results: they were able to swap weapon geometry fairly easily and still keep the animations intact. With this hurdle cleared we just needed the UI time to get the costume creator working with the new weapon altering abilities and we would be able to let players choose their own shield graphic when they were working on the costume for their character!
Alas, the actual animation time involved in getting the Shield set done was too much for Issue 11’s schedule, so the powerset itself was shelved for a later issue. However, we decided to use this functionality with any and all weapons that were currently available in powers, and with Dual Blades as the new melee powerset in Issue 11, it was only logical that players could alter the left and right weapons for powersets that used both hands.
The initial tests were very promising; using models ripped from the game, our development team was rediscovering existing powersets with new graphics. Although it was strictly a cosmetic change, no alteration of damage type or the like, new weapon models really made some of the older sets feel different and breathed new life into them! Choosing a Warhammer for the War Mace powerset doesn’t alter any of the powers, but does give your character a lot more distinction. And since these are chosen on a per-costume basis, characters can have different weapons for their different outfits, if they so desire!
The goal was that every weapon power would get their default weapon, an archaic or mystical version of the weapon, and a high-tech or more modern take on the weapon. We succeeded in this area with many powersets, and even were able to add a bunch of weapons that we had in the game already so the players could further customize their characters.
We then decided that certain weapons should be “unlocked” as rewards for achieving milestones. These would be the weapons that were closely identified with enemies in the game; the Thorn sword from the Circle of Thorns, the Red Cap’s daggers, Rikti swords, etc. These “prestige” weapons are earned through normal play so that archetypes that use them could further customize their character. Additionally, players who obtain these exclusive weapons could be seen, at a glance, as having overcome these opponents.
All in all we are very pleased with the implementation of Weapon Customization. We are always happy when we can give players something they have been asking for. Players can expect to see more and more weapons added to the costume creator as the game moves forward!
Following is a list of powersets and their respective weapons that are currently planned for testing in Issue 11. This list may well change during the testing process.