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Paragon Studios
MMORPG | Genre:Super-Hero | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 04/27/04)  | Pub:NCSoft
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City of Heroes: Mission Architect System Overview

Recently, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood took a look at the upcoming Mission Architect system coming to City of Heroes. In this article, the dev team sheds some light on what Mission Architect is all about via an internal Q&A.

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Recently, I had the opportunity to sit down with, and get my hands on, the upcoming Architect System coming to NCsoft’s City of Heroes in the aptly named Issue 14: Architect. For those of you who don’t know what the Architect System is, it’s a function within the game that will allow players the opportunity to design missions not only for themselves and their friends, but for the entire CoH community, across servers.

The system itself was conceived almost by accident: Up until fairly recently, quest writers working on City of Heroes were forced to slog through their task using an unwieldy spreadsheet. This fact had the unfortunate result of making quest creation a) more difficult than it needed to be and b) only accessible to the few select developers who knew how the system worked. This, thought those in the positions of power to muse on such things, was simply unacceptable. The tools needed to be accessible enough that anyone on the development team could sit down and write a mission.

Enter Joe Morrisey, Lead Designer of the Architect System, who improved on the old spreadsheet model so much that the tools became accessible to the point that the powers that be at NCsoft (who had fairly recently obtained full ownership of the game and infused a bit more cash into it, allowing this system to be developed) decided that it should be developed and released not only to developers, but to the City of Heroes community at large.

Plans to integrate the system into the game in Issue 13, released on December 3rd, 2008, had to be changed so that developers could properly respond to player feedback that they had received and expand the system to allow players as much freedom and customization as possible.

So, what is the Mission Architect system? I’m going to let the developers tell you themselves in this internal Q&A created to do just that:

Internal Question:

What is Mission Architect?

Answer:

Mission Architect is a new game system we have developed for the City of Heroes massively multiplayer game. It allows our players to create their own stories and share those stories with other players on our live servers. Creators can pick from hundreds of maps and thousands of characters. They can use existing characters or create their own custom enemies. They can get even more detailed and create full enemy groups, giving each enemy unique costumes and powers. We allow players to write all of the dialog for their story as well as decide on level of difficulty and enemy placement. We even give them the ability to trigger one mission goal off of another, creating a chain of events within a single mission. Each story can have up to five chapters or missions and each mission can hold up to a maximum of 25 achievable goals. For people who just want to play the user created content, we give them access to the mission browser that shows all the generated content. You can sort these stories by name, highest rated, length and recently added. You can also filter content to show only those with specific ratings, arcs you have or haven’t played as well as the alignment of the story. As people play content, they’ll be able to rate that content from one to five stars. Creators will actually get in game benefits for making content that gets highly rated. We even offer a Dev Choice and Hall of Fame standing for the best of the best.

Internal Question:

How does it work?

Answer:

Players create content in game through a computer terminal within one of the Architect Entertainment buildings. Architect Entertainment is the name of an in-game company that’s developed this type of ‘simulated experience’ for heroes and villains of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. You can think of this like a holo-deck or a simulated mission tool. Players go to these facilities that are spread through out most of our zones and interact with a computer that walks through the creation process. Here is where they pick all of their options for a mission as well as write all the dialog and build their custom characters. Once they’ve gotten their story together, they can test it out and see how it plays. Once they’ve gotten it perfect, they can publish the story up to our Arc Server. This server is cross shard and cross game. So, any content published will be seen by everyone on every server, regardless of where they play.

Internal Question:

What rewards are we giving to the players and creators?

Answer:

We’re granting full experience (XP) and influence rewards for defeating enemies in player made content. We’re also giving players tickets in place of random drops. They can take these tickets to an Architect ticket vendor and redeem them for various in game rewards, such as enhancements, recipes and salvage. We’re also allowing players to purchase unlockable content with their tickets. They’ll be able to get maps, costume pieces and different characters.

Internal Question:

What special features does Mission Architect have?

Answer:
  • At the high level we allow you to create your own stories and share them with others in the game.
  • You can build your own custom characters as well as full enemy groups, giving each one a unique costume, powers, name and background.
  • We allow players to link mission goals together, creating a chain of events in a single mission.
  • We offer rewards for the players who develop well received content (Hall of Fame and Dev Choice).
  • Every published story is visible to each and every one of our players.

Screenshot

Internal Question:

Can you talk more about Dev Choice vs. Hall of Fame?

Answer:

The Hall of Fame is where the best player rated content goes. To get to this rank you need to have over a 1000 votes with an average of 5 stars (we round up). Getting into the Hall of Fame changes your standing in the mission browser, moving it further up the cue.

Becoming a Dev Choice story happens when one of us (the developers) sees content that we feel best represents what Architect can be, good story and fun gameplay. Getting into Dev Choice actually elevates you beyond Hall of Fame and gives your mission the same sort of rewards and drops you would get outside of Architect. The only difference being that you get a ticket bonus at the end of a mission as opposed to an experience bonus.

We also have a third tier of stories which we will talk about at a later date.

Internal Question:

How are you dealing with inappropriate content?

Answer:

We’ve worked very closely with our customer service department to develop systems for this. In the end, we implemented a number of different systems. We have language filters that check for bad words and won’t let you publish them until you remove them. We’re also allowing players to flag content for inappropriateness. We also track all users and flags for any potential vote griefing.

Internal Question:

What’s appealing to the players of user generated content?

Answer:

We’re creating a system where the best content rises to the top of the list and everything else is filtered to the bottom. Players can sort by rank as well as what they have and haven’t played. When playing in someone else’s content you’ll continue to earn full XP and influence. We’ve replaced the random drop system with a ticketing system. Players collect tickets as they go through content. Once they’ve collected enough tickets they can go to a ticket vendor and purchase exactly what they want as far as rewards go.

Internal Question:

How long does it take to make a decent five mission storyarc?

Answer:

You can create a single mission rather quickly, in less then ten or fifteen minutes. However, to truly craft something unique and excellent, you’ll have to spend a decent amount of time in the tool. It could take someone a couple of days of to write, build and test something really good.

 

Not mentioned in the Q&A is the fact that NCsoft plans to release a new retail box of City of Heroes featuring the new system. The box, which will be released this April, will not only highlight the new system, but will also be the first to include both a PC and Mac client. More on this when details become available.

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