Today the latest update for City of Heroes, Issue 19: Alpha Strike has been released. This is a quite interesting release in a few different ways.
Perhaps the most significant part is the new advancement system for max level characters; the incarnate abilities. These new abilities will be released step-by-step, with the first part being what is called the Alpha slot. The Alpha slot is essentially an enhancement slot that is global – its improvements will affect every power that can be affected with whatever bonuses have been put in there.
Bonuses in the alpha slot is something players will successively build and improve upon, gathering components. Components can be gathered through running certain task forces – specific task forces provide different components. If it is not possible to get certain components for various reasons, then it will also be possible to build the necessary components using shards. Shards can drop from any level 50+ content, or can be obtained through exchanging Vanguard merit points (e.g. typically gained from Rikti War Zone content).
Thus anyone can get what is necessary to advance the incarnate abilities and the alpha slot with a level 50 character – however, playing solo and just regular missions will probably be a somewhat slow approach.
The two new task forces included – Apex and Tin Mage task forces – will in practice require people to have an alpha slot with some enhancement in it, even though it is theoretically possible to play without one.
From what I heard comments from people who tried the task forces, they are really quite good and do provide a step up in challenges compared to some of the old content. It will be interesting how that turns out. But since I generally only have time for a few hours play each week, it will probably take me some time to get there. The Going Rogue expansion is required to access the incarnate system.
Are you an altoholic, or do you focus on one or two characters only in an MMO? I am an altoholic myself, which means that I typically play a couple of characters in an MMO and most likely alternate between them.
In most level-based MMOs, if a character reaches the max level I pretty much stop playing it. Not because the level itself was a goal, but it usually serves as a trigger to focus more on other characters. So most of my max level characters in different MMOs are rarely played much after they reached that level. The exception is Guild Wars, but there one reaches max level more or less after rounding off the newbie experience.
However, after Paragon Studios released the Going Rogue expansion for City of Heroes, I have found myself spending a fair amount of time with my old max level characters. A combination of the ability to switch sides, the power customisation options and various new costume options (I buy most of the booster packs in addition to what is included in the game updates) really triggered a desire to revamp old characters.
On Thursday this week Paragon Studios/NCSoft moved the European City of Heroes servers to a data centre in the US. Or rather, migrated the data to a new setup of server hardware, closer to the US server.
This move have maintenance benefits for Paragon Studios/NCSoft, as they now can have all servers in one place. The network infrastructure and the “pipelines” that the data traffic should go through should be good enough that the game experience would not be affected by the increased distance. Also, the server hardware is newer/better than the servers used on the European side.
I played for some time and I can agree that it was not noticeable the servers were much further away now.
In general most European comments in forums were also positive. Not only because that it should work just as well as before, but also because this could be the first step towards a server list merge of the Eurpean and US servers. This is a topic which has been discussed for years, in particular on the European side. With some of the game systems already being global and shared between US and Europe (market, mission architect etc) the separation of the different servers do cause some issues. Plus, people want to play with friends on the other side of the pond as well -without resorting to have separate account and a separate set up of characters.
I think this is a good move and I am looking forward to see if Paragon Studios will take further steps to unify the community.