City of Heroes vs. Farming

After adding more than 100 Architect badges in Issue 14, Paragon Studios has decided that 80% of them were bad ideas. There is good and bad in that.

Good: “So, going forward—beginning with the Mission Architect badges—we’ve decided to move away from ‘count’ badges that might encourage farming and/or aberrant game play. Instead, we’d like to encourage players to try all of our content by offering badges for completing 1 time accomplishments and achievements.” Existing “kill 100 rats” badges will remain, although I guess we’ll see if they tone down the count requirements in the future.

Bad: “We really didn’t want the Mission Architect to be an environment that encourages farming for XP, Rewards or Badges…” Not bad as such, but again, they seem not to have thought that through. Seriously, you did not see how it might encourage those? Let’s take the last part: you did not want Architect missions farmed for badges? There is a badge for defeating 5,000 custom enemies in Architect missions and 50,000 enemies in test mode. Let me say that one again: 50,000 enemies, in the “no xp” test mode, and they did not want to encourage farming. There is one for earning 25,000 tickets and another for going 1,000 over your ticket cap, one for 10,000 in test mode, then another for 1,000 inspirations. Or more simply: 100 player-made arcs, 100 heroic arcs, 100 villainous arcs, 100 Developer’s Choice arcs, 250 Hall of Fame arcs, and 100 arcs in test mode. No farming intended, just hundreds of story arcs?

When your new release is more than half a year in the making, because remember it was originally intended for Issue 13, you need to at some point resolve diverging views like “reduce farming,” “require 50,000 kills,” and “give players easy ways to make lots of experience.”

: Zubon

17 thoughts on “City of Heroes vs. Farming”

  1. Didn’t some players get banned for exploiting the system? I really hate it when MMOs ban players for ‘exploiting’ bugs. I mean, it’s a flaw in the game and only human nature to go for the easiest possible path of progression. It’s not the same as hacking the game.

  2. There is always going to a conflict between people who will grind to any lengths to get an achievement, and people who are willing to just play and let the achievements come in time…

  3. Conflict is when Group A is fighting against Group B, and Group B is fighting back. That’s not this.

    The grinders have nothing against the “norms” (for lack of a better word.) It is the norms, and the developers, who have a problem with grinders.

    What harm is it to let people grind and develop “aberrant” playstyles? Why do the developers think that they own not only the game, but the way people play it? By what right do they get to define that? Just because they made it?

    That’s like saying “Since I made a car, you can only drive it the way I want you to drive it. You can’t alter it. You can’t put in new speakers. You can’t change your own oil. It’s MINE because I made it, and I’m just letting you pay me money to use it.”

    And about “Aberrant” play…wtf!? It’s like they’re calling grinders a cancer or something. Why is it “aberrant” and not “Creative”?

  4. Having a badge for killing 50,000 enemies, and then claiming that they never intended for the MA to be used for farming is pretty insane.

    In any case, I see this as another case of a developer getting ticked because the players aren’t approaching something the way that they intended. Someone compared players to water, they will find the paths of least resistance and flow through those regardless of what you intend. That’s game design 101, why are developers still amazed by it?

    For similar recent examples see LoTRO (book 8 will patch “rampant exploits” in the hard mode instances), and WAR (in a recent interview the effect of WoW on the general MMO populace was blamed for players taking the quickest route to gear upgrades instead of playing the game as it was “intended” to be played).

  5. Agent Eve, usually its because those aberrant playstyles don’t exist in a vacuum. If you can get cap in a matter of days through this, it will steal away from norms trying to get non-exploit means. Eventually they have to exploit because no one wants to do it legit, and you can’t blame them.

    Or like in DFO, aberrant macroing has led to a huge gap in skills between newbies and established players.

    It’s worse if the aberrant playstyles influence the game’s economy for everyone, because then it can lead to long-lasting harm that persists after the issue is patched.

    A car is a good analogy, because you can’t drive how you want. You have to share the road with other drivers and pedestrians, and thats where aberrant behavior is bad.

  6. @Agent EVE

    I think the problem – conflict, tension, whatever you want to dub it – arises when my grinding affects your gameplay. From a developer perspective, there’s also a problem when my game encourages boring behavior.

    Premises:

    1) One reason people play an MMO is to play with other people. In City of Heroes, I often teamed up for the sheer enjoyment of it.

    2) When people play a game, typically people try to win. In a game like an MMO, “win” usually translates to “get the maximum amount of reward for the minimum amount of effort.” In City of Heroes, I often teamed up (and found teams to join) because the XP was better in a team than playing solo.

    3)When people play a game, typically people want a challenge (or, as someone cynical noted, the illusion of a challenge). Simply pushing a button over and over until you see “200 pushes! Next level!” works as a rudimentary Skinner box for a little bit, but will ultimately bore people.

    I think much of a game’s enjoyment comes from fiddling with the tension between points 2 and 3. What’s the best way to fight this mob? What’s the best gear I can find for my character? What can I sell that’ll make me the most gold? Etc. When a game doesn’t provide enough challenge to overcome in order to reach a win condition, people will get bored. They won’t stop doing whatever it is that’s boring them, because that would contradict the “win” drive. They’ll keep doing it while griping that the game is dull.

    So, if you reward dull gameplay, people will play that way, complain that it’s dull, and leave.

    Getting back to point 1, if I’m trying to find a group to play with, but almost every group I stumble across is grinding because that’s what the game’s encouraging them to do, I’m going to get bored. In City of Heroes the problem’s often exacerbated because the more people you have in your team the more enemy spawns you get, so you want team mates to help bump your numbers.

    All that said…

    If the main target is some bit of fluff – some badge for killing 50,000 enemies, a badge that does absolutely nothing apart from exist – then I think most folks are going to ignore it. The badge hunters will go after it, but if you’re that obsessive about collecting badges the thrill of the hunt replaces any notion of “grind”. If it doesn’t… don’t go after the badge. (If you still find yourself hunting a badge just to have the badge and complaining about how boring the hunt is, remember the “D” in “OCD” stands for “disorder”.)

  7. I pretty much have to agree with Zubon here. I’m still a little stunned at some of the decisions that came out of the Mission Architect release. The badges issue not withstanding, they had to know that as soon as they rewarded experience for player generated content, then players would generate content to reward the most amount of experience for the most amount of effort. It’s a classic case of player optimizing the fun right out of the game.

    IMHO, MA missions should never had awarded anything but an alternate form of currency (tickets, for example). You may still then have farming for tickets going on, for badges or for items you buy with the tickets, but then you’re limiting your farming to one axis of the game, and your player’s aren’t also levelling themselves out of the game’s content while they farm.

    My 2 cents..

    Dlangar
    http://ofcourseillplayit.com

  8. I’m amazed that in this day and age, with a good 10 years of experience or more into making these things, there are still developers who assume they can dangle stuff in front of players -particularly in a multiplayer environment- and think they players won’t go for it.

    At this point (and not just because of this) I think Paragon’s concept of what constitutes ‘grind’ is quite different than what everyone else think it is. You can’t put in a 50K kill goal and say it wasn’t intended to be farmed with a straight face. You either have a different concept of what ‘framing’ and ‘grinding’ are, or you’re delusional.

    I think MA is a wonderful piece of tech, that was obviously very well thought out in itself for a long time. Unfortunately all that thinking apparently stopped when it came to figuring out how players were going to react once in contact with MA.

    I’m sorry, but if within the first month and change of MA going live you’re already making two major rule revisions due to player behavior, then you didn’t anticipate player behavior in the slightest.

  9. @Dblade

    How exactly does it “take away” from norms? I mean, it by “take away” you mean “Show that there’s always someone out there better than you” then, enh…isn’t that a life lesson? Doesn’t it mean you shouldn’t take it so seriously, or that you’re not as committed/dedicated to the game as someone else?

    Back to the car analogy – me having 100k miles on my car doesn’t impact anyone else. It just means I’ve done more.

    This is a BADGE. Something that has zero impact on other people. It’s e-peen, eye candy. Nothing more. How does me having that because I cheated or grinded to get it impact you?

    ———————————————
    Agent EVE, AFK Gamer
    http://eveagent.blogspot.com

  10. @Sok

    I think that #2 has no place in an MMO. There is no winning – there is playing, and there is not playing. That is all.

    As for #3, isn’t that all that WoW is, underneath it all? It’s very simple, casual friendly, and since #2 isn’t valid in an MMO, it’s really just a “Hit this button and we’ll give you some more good feelings!”

    How people enjoy the games is a personal endeavor and I really resist efforts to try and define that since human behavior varies so wildly.

    I see nothing wrong with expanding the number of things rewarded to include the grind. Players come in all shapes, sizes, and preferences and I don’t think developers get shape them – they can choose to whom they cater, sure, but they can’t turn someone like me into someone who really really cares about “winning” the game.

    I just want to play. Because, it’s just a game.

    ———————————————
    Agent EVE, AFK Gamer
    http://eveagent.blogspot.com

  11. “This is a BADGE. Something that has zero impact on other people. It’s e-peen, eye candy. Nothing more. How does me having that because I cheated or grinded to get it impact you?”

    If I may chime in, I don’t think it impacts other players, but it impacts the game.

    Maybe a bit of a moot point in older games like this one, but people still talk. Whether we like it or not, whether we do it or not, whether we think it’s cool or not, the majority of gamers look down on pure, unadulterated grinding. If someone who doesn’t know about CoX hears it’s grindy, that predisposes that person a bit, and reflects badly on the game.

    Of course it’s the dev’s “fault” for grinding up the game so much (hasn’t the grinding and repetition been a constant complaint about CoX since, well, day one?) but if people are massively using MA to grind….

    “Hey, you can do your own missions and dungeons in this thing.”
    “Cool. What did you do with it?”
    “Grind, grind, grind.”
    “Pass.”

    They would have been better served by not making the game so grindy, but if you have to have it, it’s not -that- unthinkable to try and dissuade your players from doing nothing but grinding, since it reflects badly on the game, generally speaking.

  12. But, hasn’t “the grind” been in every single RPG since they first went online? I think back to text-based games like Major Mud and I’m reminded of endlessly wandering around sewers to level up. The grind practically defines this entire genre, and always has.

    Why not embrace it? Yeah, it’s boring for some people – those people shouldn’t play these games.

    Why cater to people who don’t want to play this style of game in the first place?

  13. “But, hasn’t “the grind” been in every single RPG since they first went online? I think back to text-based games like Major Mud and I’m reminded of endlessly wandering around sewers to level up. The grind practically defines this entire genre, and always has.”

    I’m putting myself at a great risk of sounding Picardish here.

    Yes, the grind defines the genre. But that’s not a complete definition. There’s so much more. The pleasure of playing with others (and I say this as a soloist). That sense you get when you discover new areas, new landscapes and new things for the first time. The thrill of a nice clean battle, or getting through a good fight you were not supposed to win. Developing and playing out a nice RP story arc which couldn’t be done elsewhere.

    Games are the sum of their parts, but excellent games are much more than that. Grind doesn’t define MMOs anymore than war defines mankind. Progress, in every sense, is not found on the embracing of our baser natures because “that’s what we are”, but constantly improving and trying new things, doing it better than before.

    “Why not embrace it? Yeah, it’s boring for some people – those people shouldn’t play these games.”

    Because you’re basically saying “Many people like red, so why don’t painters just embrace painting only with shades of red”. It’s an extreme example, but it illustrates a point.

    We’re still collectively carrying a large load of baggage from Diku. Amongst this baggage is grind. I don’t think it was initially conceived as something desirable, but simply as something that had to be done to keep people engaged (engaged, not necessarily entertained). And we’ve kept it, in larger or smaller amounts, because either we could not think of anything better to replace it with, or people didn’t have the time or resources to replace it properly with more varied content. That will change at some point. Hopefully sooner than later.

    “Why cater to people who don’t want to play this style of game in the first place?”

    Lots of reasons, really. Because you want your game to be enjoyed by as many players as possible and not just a small fraction. Because those people’s money is worth the same as the small fraction’s. Because it’s in your vision to innovate and improve on what’s been done before if you can. Because you trust many players will recognize this is you extending a hand to them and you hope they’ll reply in kind with their interest and support.

    I don’t presume that all developers have all those goals in mind, but even if they have one of them that makes it worth a try.

    Besides, players always retain the option to leave at any time. You’re not -catering- to them, you’re simply offering different things to different people with different interests within the common framework of one game. Just because grind may be at the core of your game doesn’t mean you can’t add other things, or that you must remain constantly in that core, design-wise.

    If players who don’t like grinding (the majority of any cross-section of gamers you might think of) play a grindy game and still remain, then you must be doing something right for them at the expense of nothing. Otherwise, they would have left and they’d be in a better position than you; each of them would have $15 you don’t have anymore.

  14. I think the badge change is good for Mission Architect, but they should really have thought that through from the start.

    Most likely there was not much thought at all given, or someone a bit oblivious to human nature was in charge of the badge design choices.

    – How do we encourage people to team together in test mode testing the stories?

    – I know! If they need to kill lots of enemies to get a badge then they will surely team up and test en masse!

    – Sounds good. How many should they kill?

    – Hmm, among the old badges we have for example ‘Kill Skuls’ where they need to kill 500 Skulls. But there can literally be hundreds of different enemies in MA, including custom ones.

    – How about we multiply that with 100 then? Should fit in fine. And then stick in a few partial goals in there with a bit lower numbers.

    – Great! Then we have sorted out that part. What is next on the agenda?

  15. fact is CoH/CoV has just commited suicide. they put the rewards in and now they are taking them out, just because people have earned them?
    including myself, loads have or are leaving for that reason alone. i did both the grind and the content. you cannot get certain rewards without doing the content and to get those the grind is often the way, hell thats why they put the earn no XP otption there, isn’t it?
    not only are people leaving – those who are staying with the game are becoming very aggressive in the forum. bad case of brown nosing i think, and not one of them is innocent of farming as when MA was released it was the only way to join a team.
    now Paragon Studios threatens to ban any builds that have done the grind in MA to obtain the rewards they put up.
    its just so confusing and not a pleasure to be there anymore, which is a shame. but principle rules over self gratification.

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