cov[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.


13 thoughts on “Segregation”

  1. Just to be clear:
    – Heroes and villains interact in 4 zones right now, with one more planned for next issue. 3 of these are the PvP zones, with the last being the non-combat Pocket D.
    – At present, heroes and villains can only team in the Pocket D.
    – The trial run for hero/villain combination teams was done in the Valentine’s event, with an extremely limited set of missions available for that.
    – The overlapping badges have different names for hero and villain characters. The alternate names exist for many badges that are impossible for the other side to get just now, such as the CoH task forces.
    – There is a long-run intention for heroes and villains to be able to switch sides.
    – All of these suggest to me that we will see more hero+villain content in the future, but there is a design intention (at present at least) to keep the heroes and villains separate.

    There is an RP reason to keep the characters separate, but there are fewer mechanical reasons to keep the archetypes exclusive to each side, except the desire to keep the two as somewhat differing game experiences.

    With the rapid fall of CoV box prices, we may quickly see more shared options as the business model facilitates having the games merge more fully.

  2. Remember that if it isn’t in the “master plan” it won’t happen. You are not allowed to play CoH how you want to play, you must conform to Jack’s plan.

  3. One word: Competition.

    At some point, someone will design a comic style heroes and villans MMO to improve on CoH and CoV. Of course, as soon as someone pitches this, the dumb publishers will say “but there is already a super hero MMO and it isnt as huge as WoW, so its not worth doing”. Dumb arguement really. Otherwise, why has anyone bothered to create any new Tolkein-esque MMO…there are bunches of them already.

    Someone will learn from Cryptic Studio’s design shortfalls and one up them. I can’t wait.

  4. Uhm, actually, if you wanted to be technical about it, the Valentine’s Day event was a cleverly disguised pay-for-beta which attempted to make a small number of CoH missions resolve along CoV rules. It was intermittently successful.

    See, CoV isn’t just CoH with a black mask on. There’s a new mission system which contains features CoH has been wanting for a long time – namely, shared mission completion and features that work like it. Run a paper mission for anybody on your team and you’re one step closer to a heist. Run a heist for anybody on your team when you have a full broker bar and you get a new contact. Run a mission that somebody else has and they get the option to have it marked complete with full rewards.

    So if you had a mission that CoV and CoH characters could both do, the codebase would get all schizophrenic about it, and the Valentine’s event viewed through a cynical lens was _really_ a test of the new system, with mixed results.


  5. Well I understand the technical and mechanic concerns. The issue I see is the fact that Cryptic should have worked out these issues before launch. This is another example of critical pieces of a product getting left for a patch because they were rushing to market.

  6. Clarification: you must run the same heist, not just any heist, to get the new contact. That is, you must have the same broker, and for all I know there could be other limitations on “same heist.”

    I never checked whether destroying a teammate’s lockbox would complete your own lockbox mission.

  7. …uh, unless they slipped a bug in a past patch, no. I’ve had Boris the Russian and teamed with a VGmate who had Desdemona the Glint.

    It’s not ‘both go to your broker and get the heist’, btw, it’s ‘one teammate gets the heist’ and everybody with a full broker bar for the zone will have it cleared and the broker will offer a new contact.

    CoH is going to incorporate CoV’s mission structure, the questions are ‘when’ and ‘how’, and since it’s obviously taking more than 6 months to resolve I much prefer the state of affairs where I can actually play CoV, instead of the one where a completely functioning game is held up in development waiting for interoperability issues to be resolved.


    For the record, I never had a lockbox/cauldron mission successfully shared-complete.

  8. I completed the cauldron mission, if that’s the one that gives you the Nectar temporary power.

    The hero-villain teamup missions were a lot of fun; I hope they get brought back as soon as possible.

  9. Zubon, four zones or one zone it doesn’t really matter. Not to mention that PvP zones do not really lay claim to what I am speaking of here.

    If they move to implement team missions all over the place that would be wonderful, but I still have beef with the fact that it was not launched with this implemented.

    At this point I own CoH but only had the trial of CoV and will not be buying it (even though my favorite char is in CoV) because I will not be able to play with my good friends.

  10. Glazius, I understand that there are a few changes with CoV, but any publisher like NCS which will tell me that this did not get fixed with launch due to minor quest system changes when they were already mixing all the new assets and code with the current installation is going to make me laugh horribly.

    How about that for a run-on sentence? :)

  11. Spot: Well, here’s the thing to consider.

    You have four features, which will take about four months each. Launchdate is in a year, and there’s very little crossover between the features.

    – the new game’s mission system will not work with the old game
    – the new game’s graphics engine will not work with the old game
    – the new game’s avatar customization system will not work with the old game
    – the new game’s powers will not work with the old game

    Which of these is the least important in a game where the two sides are expected to meet regularly?


  12. The changes to the mission system are trivial in the big picture. There is virtually no art assets and no audio work to be done. It is all code and not that much of it.

    The graphic engine is a concern I agree, but it did not change in any extreme way.

    The avatar customization differences are laughable at best. The customization system is an engine anyway. It is engineered to handle dynamic assets. The modifications to this would not remotely take four months. Try a few weeks at the longest.

    The new powers wont work? What exactly do you mean? The particle scripts, or the mechanics code which is already written? This is the weakest one of all man.

    The point is that it may have delayed them another month (with the exception of the graphic engine concerns I agree). But do not forget that most of the things you list here have ALREADY been resolved simply from shared missions in Pocket D. The system is already handling content from both sides, and avatars from both sides, and powers from both sides.

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