Archive for May 11, 2008

Teaming: Why City of Heroes beats Tabula Rasa

May 11, 2008 2 comments

In the past 9 months there has been two MMOGs I have been playing regularly – City of Heroes/Villains and Tabula Rasa. The points I wanted to bring up here are applicable for other games also, but I have taken the two games I played much recently as the examples.

The short summary is that teaming in City of Heroes/Villains (CoH/CoV) makes a good job of avoiding obstacles to set up a team and have a bit of fun. Tabula Rasa (TR) has still some way to go here.

1. Team-oriented content:
In CoH/CoV everything and nothing is teamoriented. Almost all content can be played solo, but the same content is scaled up depending on team size and difficulty setting for the mission owner. More enemies and more difficult enemies is the result for larger teams. This is for instances only, but since almost all content is instance-based that could be said to be the general state.

In TR a lot of the content is on outdoor area, with some instances accesible through each outdoor area basically. The instances are designed for small teams primarily, but have some ability to scale, although this is more subtle than CoH/CoV. Also the control points in the outdoor areas are also places that benefits from having teams. Although it is stirctly not necessary to form teams, it generally requires multiple players – unless the player level is (sometimes substantially) higher than the enemies. If you get into the higher levels, the requirement to team even in the outdoor areas also becomes a bit more common.

Both have lots of content for teams, although CoH/CoV has the edge here with allowing everything to be team-oriented, while TR is almost forcing teams for some content.

2. Team requirements:
Both games are quite good in that they do generally not require a certain team set-up, e.g. “the holy trinity”. This makes it easier to find characters/players that fit and they are both better than many other MMOGs in that area.
Still, CoH/COV has the edge with the sidekick/exemplar functionality. While the actual level span that works for a team is quite small in the game the sidekick/exemplar functionality more than makes up for that limitation. This makes it possible to transform another players effective level to be quite close (same or 1 level below) to a player character they pair up with in the team.
Which means that almost anyone can be invited to a team. There is a split where heroes and villains cannot team together in most places of the game though.

In TR the usable level range is quite forgiving for team compared to some other games, so everyone does not have to be very close in level. However, without any sidekick/exemplar-like functionality there is still a shorter level span in practice for teaming.

3. Team content experience:
In CoH/CoV most instanced areas are built with with a few common building blocks and players become all too familiar with those. Some of the story content is quite good, but requires reading a number of text “clues”, which may be received at times when there is not much opportunity to read them.
In TR the instanced areas are much more varied and the environment itself a quite enjoyable experience and quite good-looking in comparision. The story is also more accessible and visible in TR. There are also text here to enhance the story experience, but this is generally associated with the missions taken.
Both games can take advantage of some scripted encounters and added allies in the missions.
In this are TR is the overall winner.

4. Mission re-play and co-play:
So bundling up a number of people to take on some team content missions, how does that work with what everyone in the team has done before or not?
In CoH/CoV everyone can participate in the mission content, regardless of whether they actually have the mission or not, or whether they have done it before or not. It is automatically shared with all in the team, including progess, objectives and rewards. Which means in practice that whether people have the same missions or are at the same step in a series of missions does not matter so much.
In TR, missions are more traditional. Most missions can only be played through once. If you join to play in an instance where you have already been, you do not get to participate in the story progress other than what you may see as an outside observer. This dimishes the experience unless you are all at the same page. Missions can be shared, but only if those mission could have been picked up directly anyway from the mission giver.
And what maybe is worse, many instances seem to get into “bug infestation mode” if your team has members that have partially completed the missions available while some others haven’t. The game logic seems to have trouble handling that, often resulting in some frustraing experiences trying to work around the limitations in some way.
Also, if people get disconnected from the game and have to log back in, the state if the instance and the mission may not be synchronized and they only way to be able to complete it is to reset the instance and start over again.
It requires everyone to be on the same page mission wise and also to potentially have some spare time and good relations between people if disconnects starts to happen. These are the most frustrating aspects of TR teaming in my opinion.

5. Looking for teams:
CoH/CoV has a pretty good search tool to find team members, which makes it easy to look for potential members and to “announce” if you are interested in teaming.
TR has an LFG chat channel, by default in a separat chat tab. There is a new LFG tool on its way in a future release, but right now CoH/CoV is simply much better in this area.

This past week has been a double XP week for teaming in Tabula Rasa – you get twice the normal XP in teams, which was already better than solo. Obviously this is to encourage people to team up more. Personally I do not care much for the exact amount of XP,but rather the other points mentioned here. Less obstacles and inconveniences will make for better and more enjoyable teaming, not more XP.


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