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GDC: Issue 7

Jon Wood Posted:
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Game Developers Conference: City of Villains, Issue #7

Cryptic Studios put their next issue on display, Jon Wood reports

My first stop after arriving at the Game Developer's Conference in San Jose was to drop by NCSoft for a preview of Issue 7: Destiny Manifest, the update for their game, City of Villains, the stand-alone, follow-up, to their superhero MMORPG, City of Heroes. Issue 7 is going to bring us a number of changes that add to the immersive aspect of the game, and address one of the biggest complaints that players had about this game, the fact that, up until now, the characters have been villains in name and story only, rather than in deed. Issue 7 also brings us a number of cosmetic and game play changes that aim to improve an already popular game. As an avid player of the game, I can't help but add my two cents about what I saw, so at the end of each section, I'll share my opinions, good and bad, of each feature.

One of the things that stood out most for me was the addition of "Mayhem Missions". This new mission-type will allow players to be truly villainous in action for the first time. Want to wreck those cars that are parked on the side of the road? You can. Want to see what really happens after you set those bombs in that building? You can. Want to teach those once-immune citizens that you are someone to be feared, not just another person to be ignored on the street? You can.

Mayhem missions will be incorporated into the quests that are generated randomly for players through the game's newspaper. Not only do these missions give players a chance to interact with their surroundings in a way that was impossible before, but they are also a new and unique challenge that must be overcome. First of all, the missions are timed. The original countdown is short, giving players very little time to complete the mission. Bonus time can be earned by completing side-quests that encourage players to make use of their new abilities, wrecking the environment, defeating the newly introduced Paragon City Police Department, and causing general havoc. These new missions add to the immersion factor and make it far more believable that your character is indeed the paragon of evil that the game's storyline would have you believe. Watching the character on the big screen, smash cars, phone booths, barrels and fire hydrants and then play with the pieces made it feel less to me like a second City of Heroes, and more like a real City of Villains.

Jon's Opinion: Flat out, I can't wait to try these things. For me, it's this kind of mission that finally sets City of Villains apart from its predecessor. I also think that any time that a game introduces a new type of mission, something that we haven't seen before, and puts it out for free, it's a plus. I should also mention that I like to smash things, it just feels good. The one down side to these newfound evil powers are that while you can attack and manipulate the citizens, you can't flat-out kill them. There are a thousand reasons why NCSoft could have made this decision, and I can understand that, but having them run away in fear just isn't the same.

Another highlight of the presentation was the new areas that players can explore. Most notable for me was Grandville, home to Lord Recluse. This new area is described by the developers as "a vertical zone". Basically, rather than simply spanning on and out like the other maps, this one, through the use of towers, goes up. "This way," said one of the developers, "as you work your way up through the ranks of Lord Recluse, you're actually physically going up." This new area was our first real look at the way that Issue 7 is put together visually, and the thought that was put into the planning of this. The area actually looks like a zone controlled and owned by a super villain. The developers clearly took the time to plan out the area in a way that is both visually appealing, with statuary and architecture dedicated to Lord Recluse, and from a game play point of view, easily navigable by players as well as being vertical. In order to help non-flying villains, elevators have been put in place which we are told will be work in throughout the game to give players easier access to certain high-up places that flyers have been accessing.

Jon's Opinion: I was impressed with the look of the new zone, and feel like they combine the elements of game play with the ongoing character story. This is something that I've been a bit concerned about with this game up until this point. The look, while impressive, just hasn't seemed to be all that it should have been. It's not that it wasn't nice. Something just didn't ring true for me in terms of an area populated by villains.

One of the selling features of City of Villains and City of Heroes has always been the ability to fight the super-powered players on the other side. Issue 7 will see another layer added to that. A battleground has been added that gives a real purpose to the fighting. Players on both sides will now be competing for waypoint pillboxes, the goal being for your side to possess six of the seven valued points. As one side or the other takes a waypoint, the visuals of the area will change to reflect the new owners. Let's take a statue of Atlas as an example. If the villains happen to take the pillbox near to the statue, the image will morph and show Lord Recluse holding the world on his shoulders. Flyers can also gain control of "heavies" that will follow them around, jugernaughts of destruction that you can fully control. The goal of this area and the new and exciting mini-game is to "keep players immersed in the game play". Rewards can be earned in these areas that players can carry outside of the zone and into their regular gaming.

To add another layer of interest to the game, the developers have introduced the addition of NPC re-enforcements. When one side gains an advantage, this will trigger the spawning of not just heroes, but the Freedom Phalanx itself, big tough superheroes that will battle against you for their side. This gives players a chance to kill those notable NPCs from the story. The developers tell us that once these guys appear, it will take between 8 and 12 players to take down just one of them. This feature works in reverse for the Heroes side, as major villains will appear.

Jon's Opinion: I'm a fan of real, competitive PvP. I like to have a reason though. I don't like to go out and randomly kill people. This feature gives me a reason to try out the game's PvP, and I honestly can't wait to take down my first Phalanx member.

There are lots of other things that stand out about Issue 7. Supergroups will be given new base features that will allow a level of customization and interactivity that we haven't seen from the game as of yet. New classes will become available, new costumes are coming, and they are also introducing something called "patron powers" that will allow players to choose a specific major villain and gain some of their unique powers. Also, as a treat for players who play both CoH and CoV, costumes will be fully interchangeable between the games as hero costumes and elements will appear on villains and vice-versa.

Issue 7 is an extremely in-depth updates to the game. It's no wonder that players are excited about the new challenges, and new abilities that their characters will gain. The developers, in my opinion, seem to be making the game, both inside and outside of instanced mission, more immersive for the villains that will play it.

Jon's Opinion: This battleground-type "mini-game" certainly has my interest

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Jon Wood