Tuesday, September 8

Champions Online Ramblings

Over the last few days I played some more Champions Online again. My regular COH friends are trying it out, and one of them went even as far as to pay 6 months subscription. That would give him enough motivation to stick it out for a while and really give it a change. It even rubbed off on me a bit. Because if they wouldn't be so committed I probably would have put it aside as another terribly failed MMO.

So far I have created 3 heroines. A tank, a melee attack, and a sorceress. All three look kinda cute, and the character creation does have some decent options. At least I have managed to create something I couldn't already in COH. But they play all three actually exactly the same. They have different animations, but all three start off with a powerful attack that drains your endurance, followed by a low damage auto-repeat attack (which helps rebuilding your endurance). But since there are tons of mobs often attacking from all sides, the combat system works pretty good. I can live with the way it is. And maybe as I level up more variation is possible.

Or at least I thought it would. Once you get out of the tutorial area you visit the powerhouse. That is where you 'buy' your new powers. You get to chose a travel power, two dull stat improvements, and one new power. All three characters could have picked the exact same power. It makes the whole character development as dull and boring as can be. It takes the whole feel of character development away, and turn it into a FOTM thing.

The travel powers didn't get me all excited either. The sometimes clumsy camera control makes some power plain bad. And all of them seem to have to put weird animations at start and stop making my heroines look like fools.

On to my next problem. It is not an MMO at all! I created a special chat tab that only shows what players say. And players don't say anything! Which is not too surprising. Every area you enter you are put into an instance of around 30 people. And those 30 people are the only people you can hear or talk to. There is no global chat where you can ask questions, or recruit people for your team. You are stuck talking to those 30 people. You can switch and talk to 30 other people, but you must be really desperate to go through such lengths. I believe guild chat might work, but I haven't got there yet. Especially since nobody talks I can't imagine any valid guilds being around.

Another bad design is the hero quest. You get one at the end of the tutorial. And I have seen two others beyond that. They are public quest areas where you join in with other 'heroes' to fight a series of tasks (kill 50 mobs, pick up 20 boxes, defend a machine). Once it is over it shows a list which 'hero' did the most damage, and I guess he/she will get some award. So what this means is that you have to compete with other players for kills and loot. Woohoo! 10 minutes of kill stealing to proof you are a bigger e-peen than the other players. This is one of the most horrible designs I can imagine.

Ok, now I have rambled enough. It is time to go home and play some more. I don't want to give up on it yet. But I am looking more and more forward to Aion.


  1. You know, all your griefances with Champions Online seem to me to be answerable by one statement:

    Champions Online was designed and developped as an MMO for the console.

    Everything that doesn't make sense with the game begins to make sense if you consider the limitations and strengths of an XBOX360 controller and a headset. The way combat works, even the camera controls and the limited amount of people to communicate with at one time (do you want more than 30 people on audio chat???) all make sense in the context of a console MMO.

    What doesn't make sense is why this game was launched on the PC platform at all then. Or why Cryptic is only now finding out that publishing on a console has drawbacks, especially with quality control. Apparently it actually exists in Console land (as opposed to traditional PC MMO-land). The game is so totally and glaringly designed, developed and tested primarily using the console controller you can attach to PC that it's stunning how they dare to market this as a PC game at all. NOt even Oblivion and Fallout 3's Console to PC conversion of controls are this bad (and those are pretty bad).

    My first and only toon so far was a sorceress to, in the first five minutes I accidentally picked up a police barricade and had to pummel mobs with that until it deteriorated. That kind of stuff was fun in Freedom Force but there you could at least drop it if you accidentally picked it up with a non physically inclined character. That's the other kind of glaring gap I saw.

    It's interesting to note your issue with the open character progression system. I've always felt that this kind of system deserves a sticker saying "Be careful what you wish for, you might just get it". While officially "open" the reality is indeed that the people around you will rapidly become to expect you to conform to a limited set of FOTW as you call them. You'll find the builds that develop are more limited in scope than your average 6-9 classes setup and focus on the unHoly Trinity as that's the path of least resistance.

  2. At least Mythic's Public Quest system included "damage" counters for healers and even crowd control for their loot tombola at the end of it. Cryptic had plenty of time to steal that concept and improve upon it. Odd that they did not.

  3. Yeah, it is a console game. Not bad idea as such. MMOs should not be stagnant in their predescribed world. But I do hope this is a lesson to future developers that this is not what a very large part of their market wants.

    Healing, buffing and crowd control might work on the hero quests. No idea. I was just so digusted by the fact I had to compete with other hero's to show who is the biggest 'hero' that I didn't really bother looking at the details. It goes against everything I want from an MMO. Bah!

  4. Yeah, it's feeding to the achievement crowd.
    I remember one time in CoH (EU) when I was in a team that was on a Mission Binge from Saturday noon till something like 23:00 and it was fun to see my name at the top of the Healer chart for that day, with nr2 having about half my score. That was fun, also interesting to note that by evening I kept getting tells to ask if I was available as a result. But overall I really hate having to be competitive in MMO's. I play them in part to get away from that kind of thing. But for a lot of people it's part of the fun. They may be downtrodden, browbeaten in RL, but they are in the top 10% of their class.

  5. My own approach (well the planned one) from now on is going to try to see upcomming games as games first and MMO's second.
    Whenever you expect an MMO, you're going to keep noticing the ways in which it's not, or the ways in which it's too much like the "standards".

    Take Secret World. I can't imagine it being a classic MMO. If it is, it'll suck I suspect. So I think one should approach it in a Tabula Rasa manner, not expecting a WOW or EQ clone. Embrace the gameplay first and the MMO elements second. Just rambling.

  6. Sounds a good approach to me Lani, leave those MMO expectations at the door and see how it plays as a game, everything is so solo friendly these days.

    Phe - the kill stealing will have you prepared for that in Aion, along with resource node camping.

  7. That might take it too far, though not altogether bad either. I was more thinking along the lines of "is this fun to play, will I enjoy doing this with my friends? Can i incorporate them in my fun?" And not worry about things like true MMO spirit and such.

    Even though the basic concept has little appeal to me Cities XL has some of that. You can build your own city, which is mostly solo play, but also don your avatar and visit other player's hometowns and socialize. Dunno if there's an economy to speak of.