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Vicarious Existence

To blog about what is going on in the MMO genre from a casual MMO player's viewpoint.

Author: UnSub

... still the players, but the devs can rank right up there too.

A big issue with player created content is that there will always be opportunists, designing content that makes farming for XP easy. The Mission Architect (MA) system had a number of things taken out before launch to try to reduce this exploitation potential somewhat, but there were always going to be issues.

Farm missions (also called meow missions; I'm assuming that catgirls are somehow to blame) were (and are) pretty prevalent, which I've covered before. Using Rikti Communication Officers - a mob type that gave above average XP because it could summon mulitple Rikti mobs through a portal - was a common way: load up the mission with them, send the players in, mop up and reap the rewards. Also used were hiccups in the way XP is delivered to sidekicked team mates, so that a level 40 might get the XP rewards that should be given to a lvl 50. And so on.

Stop, or face my banzor ray! says PositronMatt Miller (aka Positron) came out on Tuesday to announce that players found abusing the MA system could face the loss of access to the MA system, the removal of badges and even the banning of accounts. And: it would be retroactive. This set off the biggest threadnaught in recent CoH/V memory, with enough players threatening to quit and go to Champions Online that you'd think Jack Emmert had done a deal with his old studio for some extra publicity. The core of complaints was the uncertainty over what the term 'abuse' meant. There was anger, there were tears, there was high drama.

This drama was mainly driven by the fact that their were a lot of players who were overtly and covertly worried that they'd been exploiting the system. Some were at least honest enough to admit they had probably at least come close - they'd done farm missions en masse to get the badges, to get the XP, to earn in-game currency / rewards, all on a huge scale over multiple characters. Ultimately this is because all that separates a farming team and a non-farming team is forward momentum: a farming team will repeatedly hit one mission / arc because it provides maximum rewards, a non-farming team will change missions / arcs and head towards the mission objectives slightly quicker. Their actual play style - lay waste to all before them - is pretty similar.

On Friday Positron decided enough was enough with the threadnaught and released a clarification: only the worst of the worst abusers would be banned. The forum community is slightly calmer as a result, but plenty are still looking for a fight or to score points off a dev.

Player created content is always going to be a risky thing - by giving players enough rope, a developer can end up hanging themselves. Positron dealt with it the wrong way - he was too blunt, which often got his predecessor Emmert in trouble - and ultimately angered a lot of players. As a developer, you can't just put tools for the player to create content and stand back, unless you want a train wreck. Along with some sensible restrictions on the toolset, developers have to also have to put a big "DO NOT DO THIS" list next to the tools so that players don't have have any excuse for creating content that could be considered abusive. This list shouldn't be in patch notes, or email, or on forums - it has to be with the tools. Heck, make it something that has to be clicked through every time a player publishes a mission.

Otherwise you risk alienating your player base from a feature a lot of people have come to try out.

OddjobXL writes:

The problem was confusing what the rewards should be.  Giving players tools to make their own content should be designed with an eye to allowing players to entertain themselves.   Loot rewards, or anything that effects the game outside of the mission design system itself, is always going to be a bad idea.

I can't help but compare CoH's Architect to SWG's Storyteller system.  In the latter there are no rewards.  In fact, you have to buy all the parts to make an adventure!  They're not crazy expensive but it does add up.  What you can do is sell the templates for the adventure, which can be only copied from the original, with or without the component parts.  You can make scenarios that are elaborate, involving special effects and fancy arrangements of props, or very simple ones that can be used for small encounters like an Imperial checkpoint or a Krayyyt spawn.

Because these objects are dropped into the "real" world rather than being instanced people also use them for player events or just plain old decoration.  The hostile mobs and destructable objects will only interact with those who've been invited to join the adventure by the Storyteller running it.  So it does require a little more interaction on one hand, with a Storyteller and his assistants running the show, but that also means content and interaction can be improvised on the fly making for a more realistic, flexible and lively experience.

That's how you do it.  The reward should be the creative experience itself, the break from the regular game, and whatever profits you can make from selling this scenario to other players.

I've just started messing with Architect but my early impressions on its creative potential are mixed.   My opinion of the pitfalls of including free loot and lots of experience points (which aren't awarded in Storyteller either) to players in player made content isn't mixed at all.  It's more along the lines of "Duh, what did you think was going to happen?  Haven't you ever played an MMO before?"

Fri May 08 2009 6:33AM Report
Verem writes:

I use to play CoX a while ago.  When I read this Issue was coming out, my first thought was..."Wow, those developers at NCSoft are getting real lazy." 

Player created content is fine, and there will be some fantastic content people will create.  But think of this...if the players are creating new content, the Developers can sit back, and "promote" the best new missions.  If the players create the new villian groups, missions, and rewards, what else is there for the Developer to do?

CoX has been out for a while, and now Champions Online is coming, DC Universe is coming, and Marvel is coming somewhere down the line.  I think that CoX is going to find them selves shut down before long, if they don't work on or announce new Developer created content, new powers (where are the vehicles that were suppose to be added into the game?), new zones, or anything to keep the players happy.

One more thing, it seems that the life has gone out of the Developers out for CoX...Look at Champions...3 travel powers that should have long ago (and they learned to give the travel powers to players at lvl 5 instead of at lvl 14), been in CoX; Swinging, Ice Slides, and Rocket Boots.

Fri May 08 2009 10:13AM Report
ivan50265 writes:

Ahhh the good old PR blunder reminds me of SWG and Sony. 

Sat May 09 2009 2:49PM Report writes:
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