Joe Morrissey, Senior Game Designer and Matt Miller, Senior Design Lead at Paragon Studios are just great people to talk to and we joked around as they waited for a "Marketing Watchdog" to come by before we could start the interview at Comic Con. "Just a mindful presence to keep me from saying too much," Joe quipped.
"Shhh! Don't tell her about the Ninja Space Monkeys?" Matt hushed him. "Are you sure they weren't Pirate Space Monkeys?" Joe responded "The space expansion? What space expansion?" They chorused, deadpan.
Build 16, which goes into open beta in two weeks, is a response to player requests and primarily consists of the Power Spectrum, which is the ability to customize the colors of your character's powers. A new interface has been created with tabs across the top so that players creating new or tailoring old characters can easily switch from the different customization screens to adjust each of the customizable features of their characters.
Joe ran the game and character customization screens to show the new system while Matt talked. "Each power will have a palette associated with it," he said, "a reflection of the type of power it is."
They showed off the earth armor, which has a palette of earthy tones associated, although you can push the boundaries of blue and green, it won't turn shocking neon green or electric blue.
"The summons will take on the color palette of the summoning spell," continued Matt, "and some powers, like energy and fire, will have additive or subtractive colors in the effects." Masterminds, however, will have a larger palette of colors for their pets, and this will not be included at launch of build 16 but will come later on down the line.
Another player request being fulfilled in this build are animations, in particular for super strength and martial arts. The current animations will be the default animations, but others may be set at the character customization at character creation or at a tailor shop.
The mission difficulty mission settings will also receive an overhaul. Players will be able to adjust the difficulty level according to team size as well as the level of the NPCs. "For example, the player or team leader can say... treat me or my team as a team of anywhere from one through eight and NPC spawn will be set accordingly," said Joe. For NPC levels, players can set them to from minus one of their level to plus four. This creates missions of flexible variety. To test himself against many, a player may choose settings as a team of two or three but set the NPC level at negative one to see how he does, and then move up the difficulty. It is a joy to test the power of your character and sometimes you just want to go in with a bunch of friends and kill things with the action coming fast and furious.
When I asked about the continuing rumors of the game dying, both disputed that. "We had a bump in numbers when we released the Mac version of City of Heroes and our numbers rose quite a bit more when Mission Architect was launched," said Matt "and they have stabilized."
"I think we are a victim of our own success," Joe commented. "The streets are empty because everyone is playing player designed missions at the System Architect building."
The team is enjoying the success of their Mission Architect system and both were proud to speak of it. “We have over 50,000 arcs in Mission Architect right now. It’s leveled off as each player has only three slots unless they choose to buy 5 more.” Said Joe. Players get three story arcs with five missions in each, and up to 5 more may be purchased via micro-transaction in game.
"We've put in a new search system and continue to tweak the system," Matt elaborated. Players may now search the system using key phrases and then refine the search from there onward.
"It's amazing to play the missions that players have come up with. They use the NPC designers to great effect and put the system in use in ways we've not imagined."
The next build after Build #16 is their coming paid expansion, "Going Rogue." As the title hints at, players will have the ability to switch allegiance. Players can walk the line between Hero and Villain, or they can cross it. Two new iconic characters representing "Going Rogue" will be introduced: Maelstrom, a pistol-wielding hero gone rogue, and a Desdemona, a demon-summoning villain who has been redeemed.
They could not talk much more about it other than to say that they would have missions and areas for new characters as well as level 50+ characters. Although we did joke again about Ninja Pirate Monkeys. Yes, the expansion after #16 is Going Rogue... the Space Expansion. This is a joke, readers. No Ninja Pirate Monkeys down the line. Unless of course, the joke is too good not to make true in an April Fool's Day event.