Changes due for City of Heroes, Villains

Massively multiplayer superhero game to make sweeping changes to crafting and trade. Lead designer Matt Miller reveals exclusive details here.

2004's City of Heroes from Calfornia-based developer Cryptic Studios and publisher NCsoft made a number of bold changes to what has become a formula for massively multiplayer games. Rather than taking place in a high-fantasy world where players played as struggling adventurers grinding away at an in-game economy, scraping together virtual coins to purchase a rusty broadsword, City of Heroes took place in a comic-book metropolis where players played as superheroes with special powers who, rather than joining in-game "guilds," instead formed "supergroups," complete with a base of operation.

The game also had no real inventory items or item crafting to speak of beyond "enhancement" items, which improved players' superhuman abilities. City of Heroes then expanded with the 2005 sequel, City of Villains, which added superpowered villain characters. Both games focused on combat and character development.

Both games are now set to expand with an all-new "invention" system in the upcoming "issue 9" update that introduces item crafting to the game, as well as a new in-game sales house. Lead designer Matt Miller (also known in the City of Heroes community as "Positron") gave GameSpot the details in this exclusive interview.

GameSpot: Could you give us a brief overview of the invention system in City of Heroes/Villains? How does it work, and what can players make?

Matt Miller: We designed the invention system to create a whole new level of activities for players who are looking to do things like collect, craft, buy, and sell. But we didn't want to require our existing players to change the way that they play City of Heroes or City of Villains. Many of our players love the uncomplicated and straightforward systems of the current game. We wanted to add to that, expanding what people can do. We feel that the invention system satisfies both of these needs.

So, players will be able to craft enhancements, as well as costume pieces and temporary powers. Players collect the "salvage" needed to make these items through normal gameplay. Then, they use the salvage as ingredients to make these items. This invention process is done by players at the tool centers in the "universities" in the game, or by setting up the tools necessary for inventing in their supergroup's base.

Of course, not everything that can be made is readily apparent. A wide array of things can be invented from the knowledge available at universities. But there are also recipes that can only be found by defeating enemies or accomplishing missions. These recipes are used to make powerful enhancements that can improve your character in ways beyond just the norm.

GS: How will the invention system be different than other crafting systems that have appeared in other online games? How will it be better?

MM: For one, our system concentrates on the collecting aspect of the game; most everything about it is a collectable of one sort or another. We already have a very popular collection system in the game with "badges." We don't restrict crafting to certain skills or professions either. Everyone can craft if they want to invest the time into it. We also don't force players to "skill up" their inventing skill to make specific enhancements they might want. You can just make it as long as you have all the ingredients.

We feel that this is better than trying to retrofit other games' crafting systems into our game. For one, adding the system in after initial product launch means that everyone starts off on an equal footing. The fact that nothing is level restricted or skill restricted means that no one should feel that they should have been "skilling up" their entire career.

GS: The invention system seems like a fundamental shift in focus for City of Heroes--a game that took the bold step of getting rid of inventory management for characters by basically getting rid of inventories for characters beyond "enhancement" items for special powers. Why the change? What does it mean for the game longer-term?

MM: We wanted to provide additional ways for players to grow and develop their characters. The game's current system of adding enhancements to a character's powers is a fairly basic way to improve character performance. "Power gamers" or "min-maxers" might end up slotting their characters in one "ideal" way, and that would be that. We wanted a system that truly diversified how players slotted their enhancements. This meant coming up with a slew of new enhancements that added things other than what the basic enhancements could offer. This is the promise that enhancements crafted through the invention system hold.

We feel that this change will make players more excited about developing their characters and making them more powerful. For the long term, we want to make it so that the more time you invest in your character, the better rewarded you are in terms of out-of-the-ordinary bonuses.

But, in all of this, please keep in mind one of our other design decisions. If you completely ignore the system, you can continue to play the game just as you always have. While the new invented enhancements are nice, they are not so much more powerful over existing enhancements that players without them cannot compete. Sure, if you don't care for inventions, you'll be getting rewards like recipes and salvage that you have no intention of using, but they can always be sold to a store, or to other players via the auction house for influence or infamy.

GS: We understand that the new update will also usher in an auction house feature that will let players buy and sell items automatically? How will it compare against auction systems we've seen in other online games? What distinguishing features will it have?

MM: Well, it's more of a consignment house really. Players will be able to pick a selling price of how much they are willing to take for whatever they are selling. Buyers and sellers have a sell history of each item to help them gauge the market value of what they want to buy or sell. Buyers don't get to see the price the seller is wanting for the item, though. They simply locate what they want to buy, and make an offer. If what they offer is equal to or greater than what the seller wants for it, then the transaction goes through and the seller receives what the buyer offered (minus the appropriate fees, of course). This means that sellers who don't know the value of what they have have a greater chance of getting what they deserve for the item, no matter how low they personally value it.

In addition, we have a feature called a "buy order." This is simply a request to buy something that no one is currently selling. You put in the price you want to pay, and if a seller ever posts that item for that price or less, you immediately buy it, even if you are offline.

Oh, and the consignment houses are all cross-server. This means that someone on the Virtue server could be selling recipes and salvage to someone on the Justice server. This will result in a wealth of items to buy, and a wealth of buyers to sell to.

GS: Are there any other features from other online games that might find their way into City of Heroes/Villains? How do you strike a balance between having a distinctive game with unusual options and having the kind of full-featured game that online game veterans would demand?

MM: We are constantly looking at other MMOs and seeing what they are doing. If there is a great idea out there, we always ask if it would work in the "City of" games. More often than not, the answer is "no," simply because our players have come to expect certain things out of our titles.

Striking that balance between catering to what our players have come to expect and being "full-featured" isn't easy. We very carefully add new systems to the game, while still trying to maintain the same game that our players have come to know and love. The badges system that I mentioned earlier is an excellent example of something we did really well. Other games had "badges," but we went ahead and made a full-featured system out of them. It continues to be a point of pride for our players when they achieve a new badge in game.

GS: Are there any other updates, or broader goals, in the future for City of Heroes/Villains that you'd care to discuss with us at this time?

MM: Well, I don't want to give away too much. The marketing people always get mad at me when I do that. The planning and development for the issue 10 update is moving right along, as is our work on what we will be doing further out. I would like to point out that the tech and effort put into the invention system is going to pay off for us over the long haul. We are very excited about the power of the invention system, and have many plans to use it from this point forward. It will be something we will be adding to for a while.

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Discussion

55 comments
Dualmask
Dualmask

Almost makes me want to fix the problems with my comp so I can run this game again. Almost...

OIB2
OIB2

this game does give out stats. with the coh builder you can make your own character before actually building it in the game. You can put powers enhancers anything you want in it and along with that it gives you ALL the numbers you could possibly want right there in front of you.

Psy236
Psy236

I got this game within the first month it was out and played for a couple months, then had to leave for school so I had to quit playing. I haven' played since because I haven't had money for the monthly fee, but from what I see in the new stuff, when I can afford to pay the $15 a month (along with my other expenses) then I'll most likely start playing. hopefully it'll work better on my new comp than it did on my old 1.

JDCAce55
JDCAce55

Very interesting. It looks like I stopped playing City Of Heroes and City Of Villains at just the wrong time!

Lumenadducere
Lumenadducere

The only problem with these games (besides the grind from 20-40) is the fact that these "free updates" are long and far between. I mean, you really could've combined all these 9 "free" expansions into 3 paid ones and lowered the monthly fee or perhaps gotten rid of it altogether. I did a numbers crunch with a GW player and found that CoH/V is quite overpriced in the long run for the amount of content that's received in comparison to the paid expansions with no monthly fee plan of GW.

arc_salvo
arc_salvo

Well, COH/V does have stats and detailed ones, it's just that they're not shown to the player, who has to guesstimate (often wrongly, and HOW) what powers do what and what enhancements do what to their powers and to what extent. I'm a veteran too, and I cannot stress how unhelpful and unimformative the in-game help is, and how this leads people to go to the forums where players have basically reverse-engineered everything people need to know and inform people of this information, because otherwise you're basically groping in the dark and hoping that the decisions you're making are going to make your character more powerful/effective... but you really won't be, unless you get very lucky. Anyhow, Crafting/new enhancements won't bring me back even though I am a veteran who's been in the game for 2 anniversaries. I was discontent with the constant recycling of the same boring tasks over and over again, the slow and limited advancement, and the lack of interesting music and engaging sound effects and the lack of attention to detail in the little things that matter for a -long- time, and unless they really shake things up and improve -quality- (as opposed to Quantity, which they always give you more of) then I guess I'll just wait until Marvel Universe Online (ironically also developed by Cryptic), and the DC MMORPG come out to get my superhero fix.

-r4z0rbl4d3-
-r4z0rbl4d3-

Gel214th: THANK GOD I say! Stats would totally ruin CoX imo, the simplicity is the key that makes it unique to all the other MMO's. I'm really curious if Cryptic will keep this in mind for Marvel Universe or if they will go for the stats for that game... Anyways, CoX is an awesome game to just log into for a few hours, beat on some bad-guys and chat away with some crazy-looking heroes. I must say that unlike some other MMO's mentioned in here, the people playing CoX are generally really fun-loving people, you always find nice people online to play with.

cosmothehound
cosmothehound

enviroments were so bland. it got boring after a month or two.

Gel214th
Gel214th

Meh. CoH/CoV veteran player, but could never get over the fact that you have no stats in the game. They never show you what the numbers for your defence etc. are and imo it makes it hard to properly develop a character. Still a fun game, and thus far I haven't seen anything to beat the fantastic variety of costumes and characters you can create!

_Jayyde_
_Jayyde_

To dryden555: This game never gives solid dates for it's updates. We don't know that we're getting the thing on live until the daily maintenance is over. The only thing we get is a warning-shot-over-the-bow-esque pre-download. The closed beta is going now, though and they only expect that to take a couple weeks I think they said so here's hoping not too long...

zalb
zalb

Will have to pull myself back into the game soon...or as they say on the european forums; Sooooooooooon! (TM!)

dryden555
dryden555

no mention is made when the update will go online and if it were going online soon the developer would have said when. And this sounds like a huge update. I'm suspecting this is coming more than just a few months away -- late summer or fall. The crafting system is a great idea but I wonder if the annoying problem of inflation will occur now that there will be an auction house.

ssj_trunks
ssj_trunks

As soon as Issue #9 hits live, I'll be returning to my many characters. I believe, as others have already said, that this is exactly what the CoX-games were lacking. Incentive to go and do missions. The game may have it's flaws (which the developers are methodically ironing out) but what it does it does incredibly well.

umjackdaniels
umjackdaniels

I've been playing this game a while now, and I like it for a lot of other things besides the simple features, so... This is just some icing on the already nice-if-simple cake. I just love the world they created.

DiscGuru101
DiscGuru101

-This makes me want to log in again, but I still want to see Super Group vs. Super Group PvP (like UO) in ANY zone. --Oh and drop the monthly price.

Slantdeyevision
Slantdeyevision

Cancelling WoW account.........good game but its nothing compared to Coh/CoV especially since you can progress your toons when this drops. IMO the only thing the game lacked.

Foolio1
Foolio1

Sounds cool. They might just get me playing again in the future, lol

dn3datomiced
dn3datomiced

Wow. That sounds cool enough to make me want to reinstall it and play again. That freakin' rules!

Absolutezerr
Absolutezerr

Coh and cov are great games. I gave up on them for a while, but hey, maybe this will bring me back.

vaejas
vaejas

I really enjoyed the simplicity of the game mechanics, and was certainly a badge whore. It never felt like work, which is why I shy away from MMOs in general. No matter your level there's oodles of content, so new alts are always fun. The bases added a fair amount of collection and crafting for those who want to scratch that itch. Anyway, yeah, no time. But I liked it.

Xxann
Xxann

This will be great for city of heroes, since the release of world of warcraft and WoW the burning crusade player #s dropped rapidly. Also it is nearly impossible to find game time cards for coh/cov for those of us who don't use credit cards, maybe the demand for them will increase after this.

UrbanMessiah
UrbanMessiah

Did you guys know that you can get CoH or CoV for free with the purchase of any PC game at EBGames? Looks like now is a good time to jump in...Well, if you can find it these days. Seems like corporate wanted the stores to dump them, and the stores either A) Gave them away for free or B) Destroyed them. -=x

BloodMist
BloodMist

Yeah, this sounds like a good crafting system for CoH/V, i especially like the part where's no retarded crafting skill leveling up, which is one of the more annoying things that makes me hate crafting.If you dont have to pick flowers for hours and hours on end to create what you want, you just use the salvage you get while kickin ass to make whatever you can figure out making, well, that's perfect, frankly.And yeah CoH/V are great games.

Vorador47
Vorador47

not played CoH/CoV in quite awhile. but i may come back after this issue has been released, i always thought the CoX games were great, and still more fun than wow, but there just wasn't quite enough to do. so hopefully this will help. also i still find it Ironic that Cryptic (makers of CoX) are now doing the Marvel MMO, after Marvel tried to sue them them over CoH. but that does make me wonder about the fate of the CoX games, i mean if Cryptic are another Super Hero MMO, thats going to have a negative effect on CoX

chikahiro94
chikahiro94

I'm all for it. Been playing 18 months and counting :) And for the record, I can't get into WOW. Feels too much like work for me, which is a pity - I can tell its a good game, but just not my cup of tea.

Oni
Oni

Sounds nice and everything but it's not enough to bring me back to this game. The City of XXX game is fun but can get boring pretty fast after hitting the max level.

Thomasskins
Thomasskins

-r4z0rbl4d3- I have to dissagree! I am a 24+ Vet, but i have also tried :- Guild Wars (all 3) play for free so why not hey ;) Matrix Online (load of pants imo). SwG (and all 3 expansions) ok @ 1st then get's repetative imo. Final Fantacy 12 (ok but the most expensive MMORPG). WoW & Burning Crusade (massive game) The player's are not very helpfull (1 good thing you can play soso, but why buy a mmorpg to play solo?? unless your a loner i suppose :-p). Dungeions & Dragons Online (tryed to hard to copy WoW & badly imo). I now Play CoH/CoV (of course ;) & WoW/Burning Crusade) and Guild Wars in spare time coz there are no monthly sub's. "look into my eyes, get Coh?coV combined" :-p

JFreezy02
JFreezy02

I think CoH/CoV are awesome games!! This will only make them that much better!!

zero9167
zero9167

sounds good. it might be just the push i need to buy COH/COV :)

Thomasskins
Thomasskins

HOH/COV, is perfect as it is imo, they are stealing this idea from WoW*couch*. 1st they were never going to bring PvP into the game, now it's here (not that i complain i like PvP) but they did keep it in certain Zones, so if you advoid PvP like the plague, then i suppose they made the right choise there. Maybee & finger's crossed, they will do the same here, so crafting can be a hobbie, rather than a "have to". I am a 24+ Month Veterian on CoH & i really hope they dont spoil the simplicity of the game, thats what seperated this MMORPG from all the othe's, simple & fun. I know allmost 100% of us CoH Veterians WANT! More free slots as upgrades, after playing for a few year 10 Slots are NOT! Enough, especially if you have CoH & CoV. Coz you have to make up your mind, waste a slot on a Hero or a Villian?? (or in my case i delete a low lvl alt coz i have no slotts left). CRYPTIC US VETs DEMAND MORE SLOTT'S PLZ !!! ;)

rokkuman09
rokkuman09

That;s cool. It's good to see that they are keep improving their game for their players. The monthly fee for MMORPGs hurts less when the developers make good content like this.

gamenux
gamenux

I really like COH but it suc up too much of my game money. So I stopped and use the money to pay for my internet bill. If they were free and also on ps3, that would be awesome. Make the game free to pay but charge for some items crafting. Like if you have the ingredients, you should not be able to make items cause you are a superhero, not a smith. So you have to first gather the ingredient, find a smith and then pay them to craft the item for you. They can also charge for special outfits like a santa suit, a halloween suit, a easter bunny, and special limited edition superhero costumes.

comthitnuong
comthitnuong

I've heard good things about City of Heroes/Villains from friends...But it seems they have been outclassed because all my friends are into WoW now. Supergroups sounds nice though.

-r4z0rbl4d3-
-r4z0rbl4d3-

24 months and counting. CoH and CoV may not be the most elaborate MMO out there, but it sure is fun! I just spend a few hours a week in CoH/CoV, which is very healthy for me since I like to play several of the games out there. Spending all my time in one game would make me feel I'm missingout on all the other great titles.

GoreObsessed
GoreObsessed

I actually started playing COV about a week ago and I love it.. It really makes me happy that the game gets so much work put into it.. I'm sure I will stick with the game even after my free month is over.. +1 for COV! :)

bloodyrooster
bloodyrooster

City of Heroes is great, they should think about putting it on platforms. It would probably work better than most mmos, and it's just a badass game.

Lanowar
Lanowar

CoH/CoV were fun for about 5 minutes then it all became the same .go into a office/cave/sewer/ factory and fight the bad guys. It really did drag

Fire_of_Contee
Fire_of_Contee

Azzezino, i used to play CoV (and at a time H) and the controls really wouldn't work with the consoles...... except maybe the DS (if it wasn't for it's graphical suckability) but that's another story for another day....

jrmyecomp
jrmyecomp

i rather wait for Dc and Marvel Universe which are coming out for ps3 and 360 I heard they were also mmo's

azzezino
azzezino

I don't know about others, but I'd like to see City of Heroes on the PS3.

shade1978x
shade1978x

I might actually start playing COH again because of this. I played for a few months years ago and haven't played more than a week since. When I did play WOW, I found myself spending more time looking for gear and going to the auction house than question so this should make COH very playable!

BounceDK
BounceDK

PLEASE join EU and U.S. servers together. There's like 5 people on all the EU servers and it totally blows.

ninjacat11
ninjacat11

I wish CoV was working on my compy again.

ksathra
ksathra

Well they do have free trials for this game so my best suggestion is to check it out to see what you think. I did the same with WoW and I just couldn't get into it at all same applies to Final Fantasy 11. Maybe it's time we see a Starcraft MMO.