[City of Villains] Following the success of the world’s first widely accepted comic based MMO; City of Heroes, the brains at NCsoft began design on a companion product to allow roles of a more malicious nature. The surprise regarding this obvious progression of the universe is concerning the independent nature of the product. City of Villains is designed and marketed as an autonomous entity, free of all dependences to its predecessor.
While the above statement is true it is also an expected assumption of players in both games to assume it is a shared world, through parallel style, game play, design, account fees, and all around structure. It would not be too much to say it is simply a modified template positioned atop a singular foundation.
That the nature of the intellectual property allows for a companion product to survive at all is a grand achievement, but this interracial love is not as concrete as you may believe. The problem is simple yet unresolved. The allowance of the game character’s ability to interact across these two products is limited to one in-game zone. There is no other character interaction made available to the player.
Some would label this as expected or even mandatory, calling the situation a win-win for both sides as it enables each game to operate independently while still sharing a moderate connection. There are beliefs that due to role playing concerns; heroes and villains should not be allowed to team up or socialize. Or that allowing crossovers in-game would present too much difficulty with design mechanics.
Each game however shares the same foundational content. This is proven by the fact that there is no separate installation required for those who already own City of Heroes. A purchased game key simply unlocks the City of Villains content which is already installed; confirming that the games are already one unit before a player even purchases the second product.
Too many times in this industry do the all powerful game designers decide to cut valuable mechanics from a game and decimate core role-playing significance from the environment. It is virtually impossible to remove something from an MMO product and blame it on role-playing concerns with any validity. Let us consider for an example the reoccurring tales which involve two enemies who must work together to survive; is role-playing this situation not a valid player option?
If design mechanics are a concern then such a group of designers should seriously reevaluate their profession. Resolving mechanic conflicts in relation to the mixing of good and evil archetypes is rarely a serious problem and I challenge anyone to prove to me otherwise.
Such a great lack in consideration was likely due to a number of problems including development cycles, rush to market, and arch type balancing; all elements of the process which should never be a concern of the player. However, how many box sales has NCsoft abandoned simply because current City of Heroes subscribers could not play with their friends if they moved their interests to the new product?
The solution is to provide the ability for each side to interact with each other beyond the one mixed environment currently available. Thus allowing mingled teams, social environments and PvP on a wider scale. Good and Evil should be a strict role-playing addendum, not a forced social caste system.
If concern arises about over-crowding and dilution of each side a simple solution is to provide a line of missions which serve as a throttle for either the amount of crossovers or basic level restrictions. With such speed bumps in place those who do make it to the other side will arrive with a greater sense of achievement and honor.
With such crossovers possible; entirely new lines of missions and goals are made available through paths like sabotage, other malicious acts and crimes, and defections. These types of game play environments only work to strengthen the emersion level of the world and provide a greater enjoyment for the populace.
We see huge oversights like this on a regular basis with one game after another. The things which make us want to shake the designers and ask what the hell is wrong with them. Perhaps they really are just that caught up in their own egos and overlook things like this discussion and assume no one will notice or care. Perhaps the industry is really just that jacked up.
Or perhaps it is not as obvious during the design process as we think. Perhaps a lot of “obvious” design is actually hindsight in 20/20.
But probably not.