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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

CoH/V: How You Can Be Right And Wrong At The Same Time

Posted by UnSub Monday May 25 2009 at 3:48AM
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The Mission Architect (MA) system - where players could create their own missions and story arcs for in-game rewards - was always meant to get people talking about City of Heroes / Villains. What a pity that the things being said generally aren't that positive.

Fresh off the back of threatening to ban players for abusing the MA system, then banning them (but threads about bannings get deleted, making players unsure about what's happening), then framed by the excitement only a vague-defined expansion pack can bring, comes the news that 90-odd in-game badges introduced in I14 (April 2009) are going to be removed whenever I15 launches (I'm guessing August 31, 2009). Badges in CoH/V work in a similar fashion to Xbox Live Achievements - you unlock them for performing (mostly) in-game tasks, but in CoH/V certain combinations give your character extra buffs / powers / abilities. Badges have been part of CoH/V since Issue 2, which came out in September 2004.

The Halloween-related badges. Still in-game, but only really available during Halloween.

The Halloween-related badges. Still in-game, but only really available during Halloween when you farm doors for the right enemy types.

This is the first time such a large number of badges that have gone live are just being removed by the devs. Some badges have been changed over time - artwork, badge text, badge requirements etc have changed for particular badges - and some have been removed - Passport for instance, which was attached to a system that was never implemented but some people got anyway. Badges have also been removed in cases where heroes have achieved 'villain only' badges and vice versa. But never have badges been removed on such a scale before.

The dev's reason for taking out the badges boils down to not wanting MA to turn into a place to grind out badges - badges should instead reward during 'normal' play. Given that the Virtual Slayer badge requires you to defeat 50 000 enemies during MA test mode, it really seems that this wasn't always the idea. And yes, the Virtual Slayer badge is going to be disappearing. As are the Hall of Fame and Dev's Choice badges that were going to reward the best MA missions with a form of immortality, but apparently didn't survive the deluge of MA missions.

My view on this is that it was completely the right thing to do but incredibly wrong for the devs to do it. The short of it is that the badges that are coming out should never have gone live in the first place if, literally two months after introduction, they are coming out for what amounts to ideological design reasons. It is right for them to come out of CoH/V for what they encourage in-game, but it is wrong for them to be taken away from players who have earned them.

They aren't broken or bugged badges, or badges that allow for in-game exploits (even if they encourage in-game exploits to achieve them, but then so do the epic heal badges that are still in-game). So how did these badges launch only to be taken out again? Did the devs working on badges not talk to the devs working on MA, or even to the lead developer who has to sign off on everything? Is it a sign that the design philosophies of one developer group has been replaced by those of another post I14? 

Positron's badge list. I wonder how many he'll lose in I15?

Positron's badge list. I wonder how many he'll lose in I15?

I don't know. It could be that Champions Online has the Paragon Studio people under so much pressure that decisions aren't being made as well as they should be. Could also be as simple as one developer not checking with another about what kind of badges should be available through the MA system and going overboard with them (130 badges is a huge increase for an issue). I definitely agree with InfamousBrad that this kind of announcement - and the commentary that defeat X badges won't be the norm going forward - is a huge shift in design philosophy for CoH/V.

However, at the end of the day it is simple to work out: people are more annoyed if you give them something then take it away than if they'd never had that thing to start with. Although it is something I agree with for a number of reasons, pulling 90 or so badges from CoH/V players is yet another PR black eye for the highly touted MA system.

Inktomi writes:

 hey unsub,

  I read the article too, I was a little put off more by the fact that NCSoft has inmpemented a great new set of content for their subscribers. And in response they figured out a way to exploit it, unfortunately I feel that that is the nature of the beast. 

Mon May 25 2009 4:35AM Report
Curate writes:

I'm reminded of that lonely little Contaminated that spawns in Recluse's Victory so the "completionists" (as Brad dubs them) could go get the Isolator badge. That still makes me chuckle in a "hey, maybe you need to examine your priorities" way.

Not being a completionist, I'm always a little surprised when "defeat X critters" badges become an issue. Are there really that many people out there who crave "Virtual Slayer" (say) that their farming actually has a notable, detrimental effect on those who just want to complete missions? It's possible, but seems unlikely.

I'm also wondering about the "abberant" gameplay Synapse is talking about. When I got the Zookeeper badge (the new way, not the old way) I went out and killed lots and lots of monkeys. Sure, the gameplay itself was repetative - "grindy", in fact - but since I was just trying to get some goofy badge that was beside the point. The fun was simply whittling my way towards the badge. When I got bored, I quit killing monkeys.

Now, when an actual improvment to my character is on the line, that's a different story. Brad brings up the Illusionist badge, but he forgets that badge is (was?) linked to the Eye of the Magus Accolade power. Then the fun is not simply about gaining proof that you did something (kill 500 summoned Illusionists), but in trying to gain a benefit. When you do that, then I'm forced into "abberant" gameplay, by which I mean annoying and dull. The same accolade has the "defeat 200 Spirit Masks" requirement too.

So, I'm a bit torn:  I don't see the harm in just having some crazy farming badges out there for badges' sake, unless the game is so rife with Completists that you can't find any other team. However, I think such badges should be few and never tied to something people might want even if they don't give a damn about badges themselves.

I still remain surprised that the Mission Architect creations offer rewards on the par of the regular missions -- badge tallies, XP, salvage, etc.

Mon May 25 2009 4:05PM Report
Curate writes:

Dang, can't edit...

Aside: I would bet 50,000 influence that the groups getting farmed are largely the ones that are tied to Accolade powers. If given the chance, I'd stock a mission full of Master Illusionists without hesitating a moment.

I also find that my bets are often wrong...

Mon May 25 2009 4:10PM Report
UnSub writes:

The kill 500 summoned illusionist decoys badge is still tied to the accolade. Despite playing since launch, I still haven't got that badge or accolade (especially since Master Illusionists are just painful to fight).

Also, I don't think MA missions count towards kill X badges, outside of specific kill X in MA badges.

Tue May 26 2009 2:00AM Report
Curate writes:

Yep, I gave up on that accolade after a "grid the teeth and grind a mission over and over in a decidedly non-superheroic fashion" session resulted in a barely notable advancement of the achievement meter.

And presuming that MA missions don't move the needle on Kill X Badges... then I'm baffled. Either there are:

1) Far, far more people that chase badges than I'd realized, to the extent that they're screwing with the baseline gameplay,

2) Far more people that will chase badges and bitch about what they have to do to get the badge while chasing so the developers gave up on the "so... don't go after the badge?" reply,

3) weird ideas on what type of incentives you "should" provide

...or some combination thereof.

Wed May 27 2009 5:37PM Report
ivan50265 writes:

Ahhh good ol NC Soft I think you're right with the whole sweating the Champions Online launch.

Mon Jun 01 2009 4:10PM Report writes:
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