Jeromai had a good comment that deserves a post in response. After listing all the stuff that City of Heroes has added in the past year, he asks: “Does ‘content’ just equal progress of story, or does it include all of the above?” I leaked terms. I started the post by discussing “gameplay,” then switched to calling it “content” at the end. It all goes back to sphexishness:
The actual content is what is new. “Kill ten rats” and “bring me ten rat tails” only add content to the extent that the quest text is novel. If you add an “orc shaman leader” that also has a freezing spell, that is new for the seconds that it takes me to work out “orc shaman + purple tint + second fireball with less damage and a slow effect.” City of Villains has endless newspaper missions, but really it is the same mission with a narrow range of variation.
The storyline is frequently the smallest addition because there is so little of it. A big update will have 10-15 minutes worth of reading, spread out across a number of quests and contacts. You read it once and you’re set. A new enemy group is added; most of them will have 2-3 powers, and the interesting ones will probably be using existing powers.
Take Issue 9’s Statesman Task Force. This is good stuff, and it probably took a long time to make. It is also 5-10 minutes of reading, 3-4 novel fights, and 2-3 hours of fighting the same Arachnos enemies that were already around. Take Issue 9’s revamped Hamidon fight. This is almost entirely new gameplay, with new things to learn and do. It is one of the purest gameplay additions City of Heroes has had. But that is one raid encounter.
I am not an especially visual person, so graphic upgrades don’t mean a lot to me. Issue 11 added dozens of new hairstyles and weapon appearances. You see them once, done. Issues 10 and 12 added new tilesets for missions. You learn the half-dozen new rooms and hallways, done.
A wolf is a rat with different numbers and graphics, maybe a different ability. The fundamental is the same. A goblin is a bipedal wolf, an orc shaman is a goblin with a fireball spell, and a dragon is a flying shaman. Almost everything in the game can be understood as fiddling with variables on a fairly simple template.
Most new content is a way of fiddling with the existing variables, possibly with new decorative touches. Hours of padding and repetition hide the fact that the “new” is only a few minutes long. Some of these are really great, but we are still killing ten rats. Really exciting new things go beyond the template.