When Paragon Studios first launched City of Heroes: Mission Architect, it was seen by some as a bold experiment. By throwing open the doors to the tool behind their game, they were doing what very few had ever done before, taking user generated content to the next level.
On October 25th, the company will officially recognize the best that players have had to offer over the last six months and they will do so in a place that their efforts will be most appreciated, at Hero-Con, the annual fan event held for City of Heroes.
Awards will be handed out in the categories of: Best Hero Arc, Best Villain Arc, Best In-Canon Story, Best Enemy Group, and Arc of the Year. The winners in each category will go home with a prize pack that includes a Sapphire ATI HD 3650 512MB GDDR3 video card and other items.
While players, who all have different tastes, will argue the merits and detractors of the system, it’s hard to argue with the statistics that show its popularity. Since its inception six months ago, 200,000 have been published to the game’s servers, while 50,000 are currently active.
“When we first launched Mission Architect we only allowed three arcs per account, so players would fill up their slots pretty quickly,” Paragon Studios’ Joe Morrissey told us when asked about the 150,000 not on the servers. “Then, many would have a different story they would want to tell so they would remove one of the published arcs and put up a new one. This showed us how much the community was enjoying the system, and we wanted to support them so this is one of the main reasons we brought in the micro-transaction that allows players to buy more slots. Now players can gain up to eight Mission Architect slots. However, if one of your arcs is dubbed Developer’s Choice, that arc moves to the Dev Choice section of Mission Architect and frees a new slot for you to use! This encourages people to keep making good stories in the game. So the two numbers you see in the announcement refer to the number playable arcs versus the number of arcs published to the servers over time.
In light of this announcement, I asked Morrissey about the system and how it has affected both the development of the game, and the way that Paragon Studios develops the game:
“We’ve always been a very community focused team so to some extent we haven’t really changed all that much,” Joe answered in response to a question about how the new system has changed the way that the studio interacts with its customers. “That being said, we have shifted our focus with Mission Architect to some degree. Now we feel as if we have an extension to our development team working on the game with us. This team is made up entirely of players who are really excited about trying to create the best content possible for our game. We’re not just looking for subscribers, but participants in the game.
On the development side, Joe told us that, “We’ve become a lot smarter about how we handle our assets. Now everything we do has to be looked at through the lens of ‘how is this going to work in Architect’? We have a similar focus when it comes to Flashback. With Mission Architect the goal has always been to give the players access to as much of the content we’ve built as possible. That means, enemies, maps, powers -- all of it has to be created knowing that we will potentially end up giving it to the players. Again, it’s supporting our player base as a secondary development team.”
It isn’t all roses and sunshine when it comes to talking about Mission Architect. Like any new system in any new game, it has its supporters and its detractors. In that light, I asked Morrissey if he could speak to the players who accuse Paragon of creating the Mission Architect system strictly to keep from having to add new, developer created content into the game.
“Heh. That’s funny,” he answered. “Seriously, it’s harder to create the tools and the content for the players to tell ‘their’ stories with than it is to simply tell the stories ourselves. It’s not an easy job, even after we launched Mission Architect. We now have a full time designer just handling Architect along with the continued code and art support.
“Also, I should point out that the present is important but we’re also focused on the future of the franchise with the Going Rogue expansion. Our entire team is cranking on this right now. It’s got a lot of content in it and once it comes out I don’t think there will ever be an argument that we’ve ‘checked out’ as a development team. We’re actually doing the exact opposite. We’re working twice as hard now to give the players the content we want them to play as well as supporting them in creating the content they want to play.”
The Mission Architect system is built in such a way as to recognize creator excellence. First, players are able to vote on and rate the work of others and second, developers have their chance to highlight player work that they find exceptional as well. So, what gives? Why the need for these awards?
“Well, these awards look at all of the content that’s been submitted for the awards regardless of the current rating of the arc,” he said. “It’s a great way for players who haven’t gotten the attention they want on their arc to have their voice heard. Also, this award takes place outside of the actual game so it’s a great way to be personally recognized for the hard work many of the players have put into their stories.”
Players can submit their completed arcs (in English) any time before 11:59 Central Time on October 11th, 2009 by emailing them to: CoH_ArchitectAwards@paragonstudios.com. Please click here for submission format and full terms and conditions.