Champions Online Review Part 2

By Shamus
on Jan 11, 2010
Filed under:
Game Reviews
Reminder: The gameplay comments in this review are based on the game as it existed in early December. Since then I’ve played very little and it’s possible that some of these concerns were addressed in one of the patches.

Not likely, but possible.

Powers

The powers in the game are woefully out of balance. I’m not talking about PvP balance, I’m talking about general fighting bad guys balance. Note that I’m not a stickler for balance, either. I don’t mind playing a character who is 15% less effective than the same-level guy with the same-quality gear right next to me. As long as the combat remains fun and the pace is the same, it’s all good.

But in Champs that power sets are so far out of balance that some sets are simply not used. I’ve bumped into hundreds of electricity and fire based heroes, but I have seen exactly three characters using claws. And all of them were in the tutorial zones. In all my hours with this game, I have never seen claws used above level ten. Never.

It’s easy to see why. You can see what’s wrong with the class in about two minutes. Just compare its combat performance to anything else in the game. It’s not even remotely close. The claw attacks put all these debuffs on foes. By the time you’ve hit a bad guy a few times he’s going to be more susceptible to damage and deal less damage. Maybe he’ll even be slowed down. But who cares? In that same interval, the fire-based character will have killed this entire group of foes, and the next one.

Archery is another broken power set. “Archers” generally open a battle with sonic arrow and then enter the fray and use the other power sets to get the job done. At what point do we stop calling these people archers? You can tell from their costumes that the players want to be archers, but the game just doesn’t provide rewarding powers for doing so.

I can’t really make sense of the system they have. One power will do decent damage for a reasonable expenditure of energy. Another power from another set will do less damage, cost more energy, and have a ten-second cooldown timer as if it was some battle-ending trump card that needed to be carefully rationed.

Also problematic is the “charging” mechanic. Some attacks can be charged by holding down the button before unleashing the blow. Now, this is a great idea, but it doesn’t seem to work the way it should. On my might-based character I can fully charge a haymaker attack for almost exactly half of my energy. When I pop the bad guy in the nose, he’ll take about 1,000 damage. If I don’t charge the haymaker but just tap it, then half my energy will give me about 5 hits for 300 each. So, the same energy use = 50% more damage by not charging the attack? Keep in mind that when you spend several seconds charging up an attack, you’re taking a gamble. The bad guy could take one step backwards (to the game’s credit, the AI is smart enough to do this) and the entire attack could miss and the energy go to waste. You could also be interrupted or held and lose the time you invested into the attack. Right now there is simply no reason to take that gamble. (Well, there’s knockback, but you only need to charge it a tiny bit to knock a foe away.)

This is just one example of dozens of things in the game that make no sense or are counter-intuitive. The forums are full of similar complaints about other powers and mechanics. It’s possible that a majority of the people simply don’t “get” how the game is supposed to work or are misunderstanding the numbers, but then the duty falls to the game designer to clearly communicate with the player so the world doesn’t feel unfair and arbitrary.

The shame is, I love the variety they offer in the power sets. The game doesn’t pigeon-hole you the way City of Heroes does, in that you can make whatever sort of class you like. If the power sets were each useful, this system would be a tremendous success and a breakthrough. It would still be possible to balance them, but doing so would probably incite cataclysmic rage. They have nerfed a lot of powers and some of the players who were there at launch day are sore about how their characters were “ruined” by this process. I can’t speak for them or judge if their characters really did need to be nerfed or not, but I know lots and lots of radical changes will upset the player base and frustrate everyone who is happy with their power set.

Travel Powers

Traveling around is fun. Swing like Spiderman. Fly like superman. Leap like the Hulk. Teleport like Nightcrawler. Zip along like The Flash. Jump and spin like Damien Walters. Tunnel like… Bugs Bunny.

It’s all good until you run into the game’s lame-brained topography. (I know I’ve been over this before, but I want to mention it here in the review, just for completeness.) Millennium city is supposedly Detroit, but there is a massive two hundred foot cliff that cuts they city in half. Some people have accused me of wanting the gameworld to be “flatland”. This is not true. Some nice, rolling hills would be really welcome and would make this place a lot more interesting. But the city is perfectly flat aside from the arbitrary and nonsensical wall that makes life difficult for acrobats and speed runners.

(Note to fanboys: A disadvantage that can be overcome with training, patience, knowledge, and practice is still a disadvantage.)

I’d accept this if it made the world more fun / dramatic / realistic, but something which punishes some players and makes no sense is a thing which has no upside.

The Roper Factor

The last game I played with writing this bad was Hellgate: London. The similarities of the two games are worth noting:

  1. Taking an existing formula and making it more action-y.
  2. Lots of good ideas and a willingness to take risks and break conventions.
  3. Terrible class / powers balance.
  4. Horrifyingly bad writing and plotting. Both games treated the setting as a joke at the player’s expense.
  5. Bill Roper

The faults of the two games are so similar that it is tempting to lay these problems at Roper’s feet. I don’t know that it’s fair to do so, but if we do then we also have to give him credit for the things which worked. I think if Roper could send some ninjas to kidnap just one writer from Bioware and one of the game-balance analysts from Blizzard, he would probably be able to take over the world. But instead…

State of the game

The population of Champions Online has fallen dramatically. The chorus of chanting has followed the standard and sadly predictable arc, which began at launch:

  1. The game is perfect. You’re just looking for things to complain about.
  2. The game isn’t perfect, but at least it doesn’t [something that WoW does].
  3. ALL MMO’s lose some subscribers after launch. You’re making a big deal out of nothing.
  4. Okay, the world is empty but that’s because of the lack of marketing. This game is still awesome.
  5. Bah. People just don’t know what’s good. They can all go back to playing WoW.

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20206Feeling chatty? There are 46 comments.

From the Archives:

  1. HeroOfHyla says:

    This was a great read. At the beginning of the let’s play, I was wishing I could afford a subscription to the game. Now I’m glad I never bothered.

  2. Artillery_MKV says:

    I can’t disagree with most of your comments. Shamus, but I think if CoX were reviewed this thoroughly at issue 1 that, barring the writing *sigh,* would have been just as savaged on the power balance.

    The ability to totally customize even the powers of my character is what keeps me coming back to CO.

    I hope that Cryptic revises the game and keeps working to Balance. I know they’ve hired new writers to write new storylines, so there’s some hope . . . .*crosses fingers*

  3. tremor3258 says:

    That’s a good point versus CoX issue 1 (a far, far different game than now exists, and there’s been some heady screaming at times from changes to powers since then) – in their defense, the storylines hung together better, and the classes were specificially out of balance since the game is designed around group play; which may have given some leeway Champions doesn’t have.

    For instance, I can’t think of many other games with something like Controllers; which are specifically noted as having the combat and soloing ability of a wet paper bag, but if you hold with them long enough, hellllo pets!

  4. Henebry says:

    How difficult is it to balance power sets? I’m betting that it’s the sort of thing that looks easy but turns out to be tough to get right. Of course the problems you’re citing here strike me as stuff that should have been easy to catch—this isn’t a question of 133t players coming up with exploits.

    One way to fix the problem without having to nerf existing power sets would be for the game publisher to present certain power sets as “beginner sets”, others as “intermediate” and a few really poor ones as “advanced”. Sure you can get to level 30 with fire powers, but can you do it with a claw?

  5. John Lopez says:

    Balancing power sets is actually easier than people think, as long as your software does data collection.

    Heck, even back in the days of text based muds we would log average damage per minute, rate of kills, XP gain, mana use, adoption rate, etc.

    If you the statistics on tap you can see the outliers pretty easily and either nerf or power up as necessary. This doesn’t mean that perhaps someone won’t surprise you with a new *combination* of powers from time to time, but again the logging should be picking up a character who suddenly is doing vastly better or worse than expected.

    Which isn’t to say you don’t leave a few sets more powerful or less powerful than others, especially when you are looking at things like “proper” combinations (a tank, nuker, healer and buff working together *should* show up in the logs as better off than a bunch of the same class).

    I suspect often the problem is the lack of instrumentation (data gathering) and a lack of statistical savvy (it is easy to chase ghosts if you don’t understand how to use statistical analysis). On the other hand, some companies get it right and higher an economist to do the math.

  6. TA says:

    They do datamining at Cryptic. Part of the problem, John, is that when they had City of Heroes, and through the Champions beta and since launch, the datamining is their only source of balance. If a particular combination of powers can level 5 times as fast as anything else, that’s obviously unbalanced, but they won’t trust their analysis of it doing that or the players’ analysis of it doing that. That power combination won’t get nerfed unless it’s happening often enough to cause significant skew in the overall leveling rate. Cryptic doesn’t understand the math that they balance their games around.

    Shamus, you talk about the variety of choice Champions has in terms of powers, compared to a game like CoH that “pigeonholes” you. But I think you’ve seen what that sort of freedom of choice leads to, without restraint or an eye for combinations. I’m gonna quote entirely a particularly good post from the City of Heroes boards, on the topic of class systems and how Champions did it:

    “I don’t think you can make a game where you have multiple classes and each class is equally good at soloing and equally good at teaming, and have sufficiently meaningful classes. You’re likely to have a classless system, like CO. And CO shows the danger in that: when people are allowed to choose what to be, they basically tend to choose to be ranged scrappers with a team toggle. CO looks like it is classless with a lot of options, but its actually a game with one class: ranged scrappers. There isn’t a melee class, there are only players that decide to voluntarily give up range – and get nothing back for that conceptual choice. There are players that decide to voluntarily give up personal defense – and get back nearly nothing for that you can’t get through other means. And then there are players that decide to never take team assist powers, even in the end game where they are overflowing with power choices. But they are all ranged scrappers as a class: they can voluntarily be less than that, but not more than that in any respect. You can’t be a significantly better tank than a ranged scrapper. You can’t be a significantly better offensive specialist than a ranged scrapper. The limitations on team buffs mean you can’t have very many more of them than a ranged scrapper can. Eventually, and this is my opinion, all roads lead to a ranged scrapper with a couple team buffs.”

  7. J Greely says:

    Archery was completely redone a while back, but The Great Melee Fix is still “coming soon”. Given how many new bugs they create when they try to fix something, I don’t have a lot of hope for it.

    Ordinarily, I’d say that a few months of polish would improve the game considerably, but it really does look like the Cryptic dev and QA teams will be focused on Star Trek for the foreseeable future. If they can’t fix something as trivial as the NoName bug in six weeks, they’re either stretched too thin or not interested.

    -j

  8. Pickly says:

    On your Roper list:

    List items 1 and 3 apply to Diablo 2 (At least, I think the actiony part applies, it definitely had, and still has, bad balance issues), and there wasn’t much writing at all in D2 to be bad, so you may be on to something. (I don’t know about the breaking conventions, part, though. With RPG’s in general, sure, but with that type I’m not as such.)

  9. HeadHunter says:

    The last paragraph seems to be most historically accurate for nearly every MMO that failed to live up to its great promise.

    I’ve been in the beta for several of them, and when we pointed out problems during Beta, we’d get shouted down by fanboys who cried “It’s still Beta!”, heedless of the idea that Beta is the pahse where these problems are supposed to be fixed.

    When the problems persisted past launch, selfsame fanboys would excuse it with “Give them a break, the game just came out!” (see above).

    People who complained about persistent issues were told “Go back to WoW”, which they did. Which is why WoW has over 11 million subscribers and so many of its “competitors” have folded.

    Progress has never been the result of saying “everything’s fine, keep doing what you’re doing.” I wonder how many of these fools realize they are abetting the demise of their favorite games by defending the flaws – instead of voting with their wallets.

  10. krellen says:

    Balancing things like damage per second, damage per energy, and other purely numerical issues should be a simple matter of making sure the averages of all such powers come out even. So if claw attacks don’t do much damage, then they should be quick and cheap, while fire can have higher damage for equally higher cost.

    The problem is when you consider the “debuff” factor, which I believe every developer ever has always overvalued. Damage is worth far far more than debuffs in 99.99% of cases, but having something apply a debuff always seems to overly punish the damage aspect of the power.

    They do this, of course, because while one person applying a debuff isn’t particularly useful, eight people (or whatever the group limit in said game is) is quite powerful, but you have to have content that takes eight people to tackle before you even start considering this sort of thing.

  11. Pickly says:

    @headhunter:

    I can see somewhat where the “It’s only beta” mentality comes from, though, considering how nutty computer game forums often are. I agree that, if there is a problem, it should be fixed, but depending on how nutty the forum is, sorting out the overblown complaints from the stuff that really does need ot be fixed could be pretty difficult.

    There’s also the issue, that if people react to quickly leaving in beta, that they won’t see the fixed problems later on.

    (Overall, though, it does seem that a lot of MMOs are screwing up quite badly in release, from what I’ve heard at least.)

  12. Robyrt says:

    Different companies also treat beta very differently. For some games, the beta is basically “The game is done, except for load balancing and obscure bugs”. For others, the beta starts at pre-alpha and goes through major overhauls based on test results.

    One game I was a beta tester for fell into the second category. More than 50% of the content and game systems were added after the initial beta build, with the result that “It’s still beta!” was totally valid and came up often. Balance complaints in particular can safely be ignored when you know there’s a new stamina system coming out next month.

  13. Robyrt says:

    @krellen: This is a typical problem but not an insoluble one. Check out Dragon Age for a good example of properly handled debuffs, almost all of which combine with other useful abilities for a 1-2 punch of additional damage. In the most extreme case, the Two-Handed Warrior’s debuffs are faster than auto-attacking, so the AI will use them even when set to maximum damage output.

  14. Heron says:

    @TA (6): Totally agreed.

    I love my sword-based hero in Champs Online. But he sucks – he dies far more often than my ranged life-draining darkness-throwing Silhouette ever did.

    And even the two sword-based powersets are horrifically unbalanced – dual-sword-wielding heroes are far better off than single-sword-wielding heroes, even though the powers are very similar, because dual-sword powers often affect multiple foes, where single-sword powers *never* do.

    The other reason ranged heroes have a significant advantage is that melee heroes have to wade in to enemy mobs to get the job done – where ranged heroes can aggro one or two at a time at their leisure.

    Sure, that’s not very realistic – if the guy next to you gets picked off, you’re not going to shrug and continue your patrol route just because the hero is one meter outside your magic “field of view” – but it sure makes the game easier.

  15. Passerby says:

    I agree with the views quoted by TA, and Shamus’ post, of course. My toons’ builds are almost predictable:
    1) Get the compulsory energy builder
    2) Get a single target ranged attack (it does not pay to be melee)
    3) Get a passive (often defensive, like Regen, but Shadow Form is good too)
    4) Get a ranged AOE power
    5) Get a shield (Force for ranged toons, get the one from Powered Armour if melee)
    6) Get an active defense, often Resurgence

    After the above powers are covered, subsequent power picks are irrelevant.

    All my often-played toons are ranged and resemble one another except for their costumes.

    I just don’t get the feeling that I have variety in power picks at all.

  16. timmins says:

    I think it’s funny that Wow is being hailed as an example of GOOD balance. Having leveled half a dozen characters past 60 with it, and a couple to 80, I never found that to be the case. All of them really felt like they were significantly better or worse than the next nearest counterparts, and the distance between the really strong ones, like paladin/hunter, and the well below average ones, like early and mid game priest, mage, and warrior. I felt I played my mage far better than any other class in terms of how much thought I put into it and how much skill I showed, I couldn’t hope to kill stuff even close to as quickly as my Paladin, and it was a LOT more risky too, as the safety net just wasn’t there like it is for a pet class or a class with self healing and awesome cooldowns.

    Wow may have good organized pvp and endgame instancing balance, but there is a MASSIVE amount of imbalance for leveling, world pvp, and questing. Sad to see how low the bar is apparently set for balance in MMO’s when it’s held up as the gold standard.

  17. ngthagg says:

    timmins: To be fair to Blizzard, I wouldn’t judge them on balance at levels other than max, because for a while (since the expansions, at least) the focus has been on endgame content. I’d wait until Cataclysm has had some playtime (ie, 4.1 or 4.2) and see how Blizzard does with balancing the lower levels then.

  18. jdhays says:

    It’s funny but alot of the criticisms that Shamus has about CO today, I had about City of Heroes when I left it five years ago. I wouldn’t expect CO to copy other MMO’s but you think they would learn something from five years of game deveopment.

    I know it’s not cool to praise WoW but they kept a eye on what and how people are playing. WoW wasn’t originally supposed to be a race to 80. You were supposed to get your rocks off playing in their big world on the way to 60. But that’s not what people wanted. They want end game raiding and PvP.

    In the new content you won’t find the annoyingly long quest chains that require mutiple dungeon dives. They keep adding ways to make it quicker to level. Blizzard is going to bust up the old world in the next expansion. I’m sure it’s not going to be the old level grind when that happens.

    As for class balance, yeah it’s going to take you longer to solo a priest to 80 than a hunter. But each class, and each talent build, brings something unique to a raid or PvP. Blizzard notices if a certain class or talent trees are under-represented in PvE or PvP. Then they take the time to fix it right. When I logged into CoH, I didn’t know if my character was going to be a stud or a dud that week. Except for my Controller, she was always a dud.

  19. Sheer_Falacy says:

    And also to be fair to blizzard, lists of best levelers vary. Hunter is pretty much always a really strong leveler, but Paladin? Seriously? Before level 40 you have one damaging ability.

  20. Matt Klausmeier says:

    Isn’t it just possible that the power sets are like classes in other games? It takes a healer longer to kill something than a tank, who takes longer than a striker…

  21. Bryan says:

    @#18:

    Not everyone goes for the PVP/endgame in WoW. I admit I’m new to the game, and MMOs in general, but I’m not the PVP type. I’d rather work with others than to fight them. The ‘big world’ appeals to me. My opinion may change over time, but for now I’d rather just play the game. I guess I’m a dying breed.

    I have a slew of characters I made so that I could decide for myself which I like best. I’m in no hurry to reach 80. I want to see what the game has to offer before I deal with any of the PVP.

  22. jdhays says:

    @#21
    Oh I quite enjoyed the trip to 80. It took me a year to reach 60 originally. But that’s not what most people want. My point is that Blizzard looks at what works but CO appartently didn’t.

    Don’t worry though. It’s still good stuff. I could enjoy leveling another character now, if I wanted to. I expect the new expansion to trim out the lame content and keep the good stuff. There’s too much content for one character to see it all. I’m looking forward to leveling a new character in Cataclysm.

  23. Mengtzu says:

    Levelling efficiency via questing in WoW (and probably most similar MMOs) is about optimising travel time. Killing things faster or being able to solo elites is all well and good but having a well-planned route beats the crap out of class power. At least it was before 3.3, for all I know people level by chain-dungeoning the whole way up now, given the vastly improved LFG system.

    In terms of grouping WoW is pretty well balanced. I don’t like to be missing any class in a 25 man, and a good spread of specs is usually an advantage. Outliers (like ICC Mut rogues wtf) tend to enjoy a brief day in the sun before being brought back into line. There’s enough encounter variety that different specs are favoured at different times.

    However while I think that’s pretty good, I don’t play any other MMOs at a high enough level to comment on their balance, and even if I did I’d have to be playing them at the same time for my knowledge to be current >_< It's not an easy thing to have an informed opinion about.

  24. Ergonomic Cat says:

    @krellen: Have you seen the groups that do 8 rad stackers in CoH? It’s horrific. CoH does Debuffing right, I think. It’s entirely viable to play a debuffer pure, or you can get a lot of little powers that have a minor debuff, but aren’t focused on it.

    I really think *every* power should have a debuff. DA does that – ice freezes, electric drains stamina, fire has a DoT, stone sucks. Err.

  25. Polecat says:

    As a CO player, the biggest powerset imbalance is one CO hasn’t been able to quite figure out how to balance yet: Ranged vs. Melee. I don’t know the solution either, by the numbers they’re doing even amounts of damage, but melee is nigh unusable in it’s current state….

    – Polecat

  26. Adam says:

    @Polecat

    I agree, my main is pure melee and I do struggle, but I’m stubborn.

    Funnily enough, before the game was even released, the question between balance of melee and ranged came up every time. People were rightly worried that heroes flying and shooting would destroy a ground based melee character. Bill Roper declared that this won’t be a problem because a melee character will be able to throw something to knock them down and then do massive amounts of damage quickly.

    Obviously that hasn’t nearly been rectified – I’ve given up on PVP (which I usually totally enjoy). I don’t really understand why melee can’t just pump out heaps more damage than ranged. Seems fair to me. More inconvenience (of getting close) for the bigger hits.

  27. Passerby says:

    In games that have classes, damage and defense come as a package. For example, in WoW terms, a tanking warrior will have much higher defenses and lower damage, while a DPS warrior will have lower defense than a tank’s but higher damage. A rogue will have high damage but low defense, but can escape more easily. This package makes it easier to balance.

    Also, ranged characters tend to have lower defenses but use their ranged attacks to compensate as well as auxiliary powers like those that root enemies.

    In CO’s classless system, damage and defenses are powers that are taken separately, so that when powers are compared on paper, melee and ranged powers might seem to do similar levels of damage, but do not make sense when played because melee attacks require a higher defense than using ranged. And yet, in this classless system, a ranged toon is free to grab a tank’s defenses, making melee rather pointless.

  28. silver Harloe says:

    @Passeryby: there’s “possibly” a way to balance that, but it’s hard.

    Let’s take your examples, and put them on an simplified scale:

    “in WoW terms, a tanking warrior will have much higher defenses and lower damage”

    we have a “high defense” skill
    and a “low damage” skill

    “a DPS warrior will have lower defense than a tank’s but higher damage.”

    we have a “low defense” skill
    and a “high damage” skill

    “A rogue will have high damage but low defense, but can escape more easily”

    we have a “high damage” skill
    and an “escape” skill
    and a “really low defense” skill or perhaps an absence of defense skill – we’ll go with absence

    “ranged characters tend to have lower defenses but use their ranged attacks to compensate”

    we have a “low”, “really low” or absence of defense skills, and a “ranged attack” skill

    —-
    so:

    high (melee) damage skill — 3
    low (melee) damage skill — 2
    high defense skill — 3
    low defense skill — 2
    escape skill — 2
    ranged damage skill — 3

    give a character 5 points and they literally can’t choose the “ranged attack + tank’s defenses”. at best they get
    “ranged attack + rogue’s escape” or else “ranged attack + low defense”.

    it gets harder with multiple dimensions and skills at intermediate levels from the above, but it is “theoretically” possible. either that or the “ranged attack + tank’s defense” has to sacrifice a dimension that everyone else takes as a given (regen, buff, or debuff for example)

  29. DKellis says:

    I think I’ve seen that post TA quoted in comment number 6, although I can’t remember if it was Sam Tow or Arcanaville (or someone else) who said it. I do know the issue is still being debated in that thread; I stopped reading it because it devolved into name-calling after a while.

    I’ve found that for debuffs to be seen as worthwhile over damage, the debuff has to be significant enough to make a clear difference, and the enemy has to last long enough for the debuff to count.

    Also, for balance concerns, I highly suspect that Cryptic is not taking into account the effects of Block. Unlike fighting games (or many other action games), CO does not actually punish you (most of the time) in PvE for turtling, especially if you have Regeneration, which makes holding Block beneficial, rather than delaying the inevitable. It is true that the ability to Block provides more tactical options, but it is also true that one of the more popular options is to turtle.

  30. Incidence says:

    From what I’ve seen (getting multiple toons of different powersets up to low 20s) most of the balance problems with melee/ranged could be solved by giving all melee powers a 50-60% damage increase, nerfing all AOE powers 10-20% and giving all melee powersets a low damage ranged attack that kills travel powers for 8-10 seconds.

    Another place they could go to try and fix some of the imbalances is to remove the +damage from superstats and instead tie different power sets to specific stats. This would let them tie more powerful sets to less useful stats.

    I would also like to see them adjust the increased energy costs from having travel powers on, so if I have something like fire and flight I’m paying more for the privilege then someone with might and acrobatics.

  31. Andrew B says:

    It sounds, (based entirely on the comments and articles here), that CO might be balanced IF you treated the power sets as classes in total AND were looking to build a team based game. But that’s not how most people are playing.

    Like it or not, the majority of MMO levelling tends to be done solo and is dependent on killing ability. (Even if XP is highly baised to quest completion, completing quests inevitably requires killing.) So if you stay with fixed classes, but want them to balance during the majority of the game, then they must have a similar Mooks Per Minute (MPM) rate.

    Note MPM, not DPS. I can see a situation where you could have a class that validly completes quests by avoidance, not combat, as a primary ability. (Of course, you’d have to get basically 0 XP for killing, and you couldn’t have “Go kill 10 boars” quests.) It then doesn’t matter HOW you get your MPM, AOE, single target, outlasting twenty at once, whatever. But this means that each classes should level roughly similarly. (It also means you don’t really have a DPS class as such in teaming. Every class brings the MPM.)

    But that’s not how most MMOs are set up at the moment. CO could be, if the powers were balanced in MPM, but it doesn’t sound like they are. Thus everyone ends up using the powers that are most effective for soloing and you have just a homogenous mass, because who’s going to take a power that gimps you for 90% of the game?

  32. Instinct says:

    The real shame, to my view, is that when creating a character in CO you have no real control over what the starting characteristics are for your character, nor can you buff up certain areas such as your defenses or your strength (if you are wanting a brick character).

    The game would be much, much better if it followed along more closely with the pen and paper version. You start with a base number of points to spend as you will between powers and stats. You earn points that you can then use to either buy more powers or develop the ones you have.

    It ticked me off every time I would level and have to buy some new power instead of just developing the ones I had.

    Also, the whole skills thing is a joke. I’m there to bust heads, not craft some piece of junk that was no more effective than what I was already getting from doing quests or finding on dead Viper agents.

  33. Amarsir says:

    I fear balance is a perennial Cryptic problem. When creating City of Heroes they had no concept of DPS. I mean it literally didn’t occur to them that it would matter how long a power took to activate. They “balanced” the powers and then let the animation team decide how long each power would take.

    This, naturally, took years of effort to unwind for the developers who inherited it. Champions will have to do the same thing. Doesn’t bode well for Star Trek.

    However, they did get over their early instinct that if you don’t tell players the numbers, they just won’t care. Your time in CoH didn’t occur in the early days where attacks were labeled as “light” or “medium” damage and that’s it. (And not consistently labeled, either.) Early responses to players echoed this attitude, not-so-subtly telling the “power gamers” to quiet down and not worry about it.

    (It of course led to a situation where players did their own measurements and then knew far more about the game than the developers did, while creating a knowledge gap between those who did research and those who trusted the game.)

    You make an interesting point with Bill Roper but I think the buck has to stop with Jack Emmert: a history major who thinks math is icky and builds the game he wants while disregarding the customers. He is however a creative guy who I would like to have as an ideas man on a project. I just wouldn’t put him in charge.

  34. Artillery_MKV says:

    @32: You know you can choose any of the stat blocks you want, right? Including the generic ‘hero’ template that has flat stats that lets you customize as you want with crafted/dropped equipment?

    OK, on to balancing melee vs range: CoX balanced this by giving the melee Taunt power a special ability that debuffed the opponent’s range so they had to close in on the meleer.

    The reason this isn’t a simple fix for CO, is that if I’m a flying ranged sniper I can still take whatever they’d use for Taunt and debuff the target’s range, fly away and plunk them to death.

    The same problem with making Melee powers higher damage. If I’m a min/max weenie then I’ll simply take all the high damage attacks I can. Generally after your first shot most enemies close to melee, so having a few melee attacks would be no problem if you want to max your DPS.

    It’s exactly the level of customization that the fans asked for that has made truly balancing so hard.

    I’d like to see some sort of inherent bonus for only taking powers from one framework. Then if you build your Might character he’s be tougher in some ways that the guy with some Might attacks, Regeneration and a bunch of ranged attacks from, say Dark. But I don’t know how that’d work out, either.

  35. luagha says:

    I don’t know – does Defiance work yet?

  36. Mephane says:

    The same problem with making Melee powers higher damage. If I’m a min/max weenie then I’ll simply take all the high damage attacks I can. Generally after your first shot most enemies close to melee, so having a few melee attacks would be no problem if you want to max your DPS.

    It’s exactly the level of customization that the fans asked for that has made truly balancing so hard.

    While that’s true, melee doesn’t even do the same amount of damage than ranged; ironically, two of the better melee powers are actually supplemental skills in ranged power sets (Gauntlet Chainsaw and Laser Sword). It would help the game A LOT if melee toons at least were as effective in terms of dps as ranged ones.

    Oh, and charge melee attacks, while being unable to move during charge-up, are just stupid. That’s why the better melee powers all are either instant (Laser Sword) or already good when just quickly tapping them (Haymaker).

    Personally, I still love the games power system, since in combination with customization of character appearance being totally seperated from character stats, allows for a variety and diversity I have never before seen in any MMO. And when it comes to a question between concept and performance, I tend to pick concept first. My main char has Eye Beam as of his powers (for those who don’t play the game: Eye Beam is so weak that energy builders, i.e. your weak auto-attack, usually does more damage…).

  37. Psychoceramics says:

    I guess I should play a ranged powerset next time I get the chance. The only character I’ve leveled to any degree is a Martial Artist and I had no issues related to my powerset leveling. I had a concept and cherry-picked powers to fit it, and I do quite well.

    Or at least, I thought I did well, until I saw the vid of some power armor guy aggroing an entire base of Viper (30+ mobs) and killing them all easily.

    On charge powers:
    Mine had extra effects if I charged them to full. I had a cone aoe kick that at full charge would stun Villains. And a single target punch that would leave a DoT at full charge. It was pretty much always worth it to full charge. Heck, I used the kick just for the stun on Villains. That is also stunned or one-shot the mooks around him was a bonus.

  38. tremor3258 says:

    Noting on the ‘buff local damage’ doesn’t CoX actually do that? Different damage output multipliers for ranged versus melee damage on character types, so like, say, the fire sword’s damage is set higher than say a ranged gout of flame?

    Was that after Jack left?

  39. Chargone says:

    I’ve always found that the advantage of melee attacks tends to be that they don’t need ammo.

    Even energy based ranged attacks suck a LOT more energy than just punching something in the face for the same damage.

    Surprises me that more games don’t do it that way. of course, having limited ammunition is an annoyance to most, so i guess i understand to some extent.

  40. Jarenth says:

    I find it amusing that people are complaining about melee in CO. I play a Telekinesis character, who mainly relies on energy swords to kill things (the same set Star of Chest started with, if you recall), and so far I can pretty effortlessly murder anything. I just run up to groups of enemies and hold down my wirly-sword-death button until everything stops twitching.

    Guess that shows you that even the unbalanced power sets aren’t consistently broken.

    And on topic, while CoX might sort of pigeonhole you into your powers at character creation, it did give your character a kind of internal consistency. The whole CO ‘at-level-X-you-can-pick-any-power-you-want’ leaves a bad taste in my mouth, for some reason.

  41. J Greely says:

    Jarenth, telekinesis has a ranged energy builder; that’s a huge advantage over swords, claws, and might. I’ve soloed the Lemurian Crisis twice now, once with telekinesis, once with munitions, and I dread the thought of taking my pure-might character through it. And not because of the infamous final stage!

    -j

  42. MechaCrash says:

    @ luagha (35)

    In a manner of speaking, yes. They threw out the “as your HP goes down your damage goes up” system because it was a terrible system that never really did what it was meant to do (that being “keep blasters from dying horribly”).

    The new Defiance gives you a small but stacking damage buff each time you attack, and you can use your tier 1 and 2 powers even when mezzed.

  43. someguy says:

    Despite all this and Star On Chest’s adventures in Sillyworld… I finally gave in and tried the demo – and have to say me and this guy called Mr. have quite some fun.
    Mind you, I basically only read what’s left after skipping all texts, i.e. mission objectives on the right. So the main thing that I experience is “Fights are mobile, diverse, and occasionally spectacular. Thrown cars, breakable scenery, flying ragdolls, explosions, backflips, and particle effects.
    (Plus: if you spend some time hanging around the starting rubble watching new heroes emerge, the game’s total lack of seriousness makes perfect sense..)

  44. Sorain says:

    at the end of the day, champions ranged vs melee issue stems from this.

    Developer: “But melee does the same dps as ranged for the same cost!”
    Melee players: “And mobs deal 2-12 times as much dps in melee, ranged mobs shoot you on your way in, and can side step our high damage charged attacks.”

    The same logic failure applys on single target vs multi target sets.

    Dev:”But single target does the same dps for the same cost!”
    Player:”Yes, and the multi target attack does said dps TO EACH TARGET.”

    The same logic failure applys on stright damage vs DoT.

    Dev: “But once you factor in the damage over time, at the end of the 10 seconds (I am not exagurating that) its the same damage for the same cost.”
    Player: “Ten seconds during which said enemy is killing me.”

    The same logic failure applys on melee vs ranged energy builders.

    Dev:”But melee builds energy faster and does more damage!”
    Player:”But I need to get into range, and stay in range, and 20% of 5 is equal to nothing in a fight.”

    Single Blade vs Munitions is my classic example of this. I had a concept charicter based on a 40k Inquistor type, longsword and a pistol, with a little support via magic.

    Munitions has multi target ranged attacks, that lack debuffs or DoT, doing damage instead, and features (ok the games worst ranged.) a ranged energy builder.
    Single Blade has single target melee attacks, that derive 50% of their damage from a 10 second non stacking bleed, and naturally features a melee energy builder. (the games second worst melee builder.)

    Clearly, one of these sets works great, the other is worse then useless. The fact Melee and Ranged are ranked in seprate teirs for energy builders, along with everything else, is a sign that there is a problem. The balence team for CO desprately needs to understand the idea of trade offs correctly. I traded all the advantages of Munitions (not being in the enemys melee range, not needing to persue, not charging energy until I reach melee, not being able to choose my battleground, and not attacking multiple targets.) for Single Blade. Single Blade needs to be able to sneer at the DPS of Munitions to make up for that. Some people will take a mix of both, which is perfictly fine, because the balence for that is (meant to be) a focused person gets the cool toys sooner.

    This is what every interview and responce has said keeps the munchkin ‘screw theme I have power’ types honist. As it stands now, it does not, at all.

  45. JoshR says:

    I only took a character to level 10 on a free weekend but i’ll still add my opinion.
    I got myself up with a fairly decent ranged attack, a decent root and a decent mp based ranged attack (lash?)
    then i added a chargeable aoe nuke.
    which was barrels of fun to return to lower areas and just supernuke those guys, but in pvp terms, the value of a supernuke (getting their health low then nuking while they tried to heal) didn’t really work along with having to attack them for a bit a little before to build up endurance.
    just a little annoying.

    I may go back and get CO when I have more time, but for now i’m more interested in other games.

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