Cylons and superheroes
I just finished watching the final episode of the Battlestar Galactica TV-series, after buying and watching the series on Blu-ray since early this year. Definitely one of the better SciFi TV series I have seen and the third one where I have the complete series (the other two being Babylon 5 and Farscape).
I liked the end and it instilled a kind of calm and and stillness now that it was complete. It felt good and I was happy to see that not everything needed to have an explanation; some movies and series come up with all sorts of convoluted endings just trying to explain every bit and piece.
This feeling of calm comes backa bit when I am thinking about my game time as well. This year my work situation has made gaming time somewhat limited; mainly a little bit of time during weekends only. City of Heroes has worked out quite well during this year as my main MMO-type game; it is quite casual-friendly with no need to invest long sessions and a generally relaxed and friendly community – at least where I am playing.
The latest two issues plus the expansion have added a bit of more life into the game. Some of my old game friends returned to the game, but also many have not returned at all. We have made some new friends in game though and it is always nice to be greeted with a friendly “Hi” when you get in the game.
I have a few short notes and pieces about game features and activities that I have played around with lately:
Praetorian live events
The game itself has already a couple of event-type features that gets triggered every now and then; including Rikti Invasion and the Zombie Attacks. These are nice extras that can be fun to jump in on every now and then. With Issue 19 there were three events of a slightly new type introduced in the Praetorian zones. Essentially these are very similar to what is also referred to as public quests/open missions in some other games; a certain area where some kind of event with multiple stages are taking place and people can jump in at any time to assist. The perhaps added twist here is that you also can choose a side, which gives you slightly different goals at each stage.
In essence the choice of side is about either helping or going against the cops – in Nova Praetoria you choose to either help the police to strike down on protesters voicing their opinion about the regime, or to help the protesters against the cops. In Imperial City it is either to be on the side of the cops or the side of the Syndicate, one of the crime organisations. In Neuropolis the event is ghouls vs cops.
Same as the other event types, the enemeis do not have any absolute levels. So anyone at any level can jump in and help out. However, xp and rewards are only given out at the end, which will probably stear off a few people from them. Once an event is completed it has a cooldown of one hour before it is started again. That is a long time I think for a game where short game sessions may not be that unusual.
As I have mentioned before, the winter event is ongoing now. This has all the usual stuff from previous years – ski slope and chalet, Xmas rewards and costumes, presents everywhere to open (fight if you have been naughty, rewards if you have been nice), a mission to save Baby New Year, fight the Winter Lord (giant monster). There is also the new mission to defeat Lady Winter, who has brought the eternal winter to some usually slightly warmer areas. This new mission was a bit so-and-so I think; they could have done a better job here IMHO. But the old stuff is still good also.
New post-Praetoria story arcs
One thing that was introduced with Issue 19 were new story arcs in the level 20-30 range aimed primarly at the characters coming from Praetoria – osr tof a way to better tie in the fact that they have come to Primal Earth from Praetoria. I have only played the hero side version so far, but this ws a quite good one – the story has multiple layers which unfolds and who the bad guys are changes more than once in the story. Great work here!
With the new incarnate system and also two new task forces introduced with Issue 19, people run task forces more than ever. Or perhaps rather, those who always have been optimizing their reward gain it is pretty much business as ususal. For us others who have been dusting off our old max level characters and started to look at the Incarnate system it has been an increase – but also the fact that we joined a group of more active players has contributed to this.
In the past few weeks I have probably done more task forces than I have done during the previous part of the year; this include ones I have not done before as well as some old favourites. In particular those task forces that can contribute favourably to improve the incarnate abilities get a lot of play time from people.
One of the new ones for me was the Apex task force, which is a continuation of the story set-up in the Praetorian zones about Praetoria planning to invade Primal Earth (our earth). Essentially it is about fighting off invading forces it certainly can get a bit crazy. I also joined an attempt here to get the “Master of” title for the task force, which is a title/badge you get if you fulfill a set of added criteria for the task force. We succeeded with that, which meant that I gaine dmy first “Master of” title – have not really been into attempting those before.
Of the old familiar task forces the Imperious and Lady Grey task forces are among the most popular as usual, those has been done a couple of times. The story is no longer important here of course, for me it is mainly to play with a group of nice people and these are popular choices. They are also good for receiving incarnate shards and components, so a popular choice if a character has the alpha slot unlocked.
Incarnate game play
Besides the new task forces (Apex and Tin Mage) there is not really so much new content for the max level characters; instead it is allowing people to play much of the same high level content as before, but actually providing an alternate advancement mechanic for that. I have unlocked the alpha slot on 6 characters so far, most of them have at least something slotted in it as well; if you run task forces it is pretty quick to get enough components – one task force and possibly a Rikti Mothership raid has been enough for my characters.
If I play a max level character I generally try to get the alpha slot unlocked and perhaps join a task force if it is not slotted yet. But other than that I do not spend time to grind/farm the needed components. Eventually they will drop and I am in no rush.
Tip missions and alignment changes
When the new tip missions to support alignment changes were introduced I was very pleased with them; the developers had done a good job in many cases to make nice mini-stories thta fit in a single mission map. Initially I did quite a few of these; partly because I wanted to change alignment for some characters, but also because that was supposed to be some rewards for staying with your alignment.
The villain/hero merits you get if you stay aligned is indeed a currency to guaranteed receiped rewrds for rare and very rare recipes of your choice – to make better enhancements for your character. As such they are quite good.
The problem here though is that even though there are well over a hundred different tip missions, these missions are split up in different level tiers as well as alignment paths (villain, rogue, vigilante and hero), which means that the number of tip missions available for a certain level range and alignment are not that many – one tends to repeat many of them.
Initially I did a lot of those, but have now reduced tip mission play to filler missions – they are still better than the newspaper/police band missions and a better choice than those IMHO. I realized that for the most part I do not care so much about obtaining these rare recipies through this way – there are more fun ways to do it (for me). Only when I want to change alignment of a character I tend to do these a bit more focused.
IO sets, crafting and market play
When inventions (crafted enhancements) were introduced some years ago and brought the marketplace as well as some crafting into the game, I initially played around with this with a few characters – they got some IO (invention origin) sets slotted for extra bonuses and it was fun to play around with. But after a while I stopped bothering with that; it did not seem worth the effort to do too much with this when I was leveling up a character, at least not invest heavily into IO sets – normal IO enhancements were good enough and easy to spend time with.
This has changed a bit lately as I started to play my max level characters again; putting in some new IO sets is another way to improve your character. I have started to do this again with a few selected max level characters. Combined with “playing the market” to earn some extra cash to cover these costs this has been quite fun, much more so than grinding/farming various merits (reward currency).
I am far from being a dedicated expert of market play, but as long as there are players that do not craft and want their new shiny enhancements rajt nao, it is an opportunity to earn some inf (i.e. in-game cash). One character has been slotted with a number of new IO sets and also at the same time increased the cash from around 60 million to over 800 million without that much effort; 100 million was fairly easily gained during the course of a day with some buying/crafting/selling – dedicated experts can do much better.
This is an area that has suffered a bit lately from my side; teams (non-farming) generally focus on other areas, partly perhaps because it is less cumbersome to run regular missions and task forces and the reward structure is a bit different. Also while Paragon Studios are doing some changes and updates to Mission Architect, they have still a number of fundamental issues to deal with and currently nothing in sight how they are going to handle it.
As it is now the system has a number of features and updates to support those who create the missions. But there is not that much effort to help and encourage people to actually play them, which indirectly also hurts the authors – it is not that much fun if no-one will play the story arc you perhaps spent a lot of hours to create.
I do hope they will try to do something about it; but probably this is something they would like to address from a creative poin of view, but will get low priority from a commercial perspective – how many new customer will they get and how many existing customers will they keep that they would other wise have lost, if they do any changes? There are probably other areas with more gain and less risk, I suspect.