Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Epic Fail!

Oh, not for me. The "fail" comes for Cryptic Studios and their launch of Champions Online. As far as I can tell, the game launched yesterday, and then promptly smashed the game with the nerf bat. Now a majority of the players are up in arms, and I already know how Cryptic will handle it. "Sorry, but did you not see how we handled City of Heroes? If you didn't, that's just too bad, because this is how we roll."

I spent only a half hour or so reading their forums, but as far as I can tell, a minority of people said that the game was too easy. The developers then said, "Hey! They're right! Let's lower player defenses and damage capacity, and raise the power of baddies." Thus, they applied a patch without warning to the players, and suddenly the superheroes weren't feeling so super. They're getting the stuffing beat out of them by henchmen, and running away when they see more coming at them. It's that, or die. HENCHMEN! These are supposed to be the cannon fodder heroes pound on with their free time, not flee from.

Oh, I am so tempted to join their forums if only to say, "Hi, folks! Now you know why we weren't sorry to see Cryptic leave City of Heroes behind. It seems the moment they were gone, 'Paragon Studios' immediately started working on new ideas to bring the 'super' back to the superheroes."

Really...On and off, since I bought this now "ancient" computer, I've been playing CoX. (That's what we players commonly call City of Heroes/Villains.) The first thing that happened that threw players off was a serious reduction of player defense. But that was okay, because the game gives you slots for your character that you place during leveling, and then you fill those slots with enhancements to boost the character's powers. Along with the initial slot all powers have, you could then add five more for a maximum of six, then fill those slots with enhancements, and you could have up to...oh, I'm going to guess here, but I'll say around a 150% boost to your defenses. Different enhancements have different maximums, so damage could be boosted as high as 200% or better. It was still awesome.

Then came the idea that people were placing only one kind of enhancement in all six slots, thereby becoming, in the devs' eyes, as too powerful. So they hit us with what is commonly known as "ED," or "Enhancement Diversity." What was suddenly happening was that players were meeting up with diminished returns for their enhancements, and that diminishing factor was HIGH! Let's say a damage enhancement was initially worth 33%. If you slotted four of them, you'd have over 130% boost to the strength of your attacks before ED. But after ED, the enhancements went 33% for the first one, 32% for the next, 29% for the next, and then, BLAMMO!...1% for the fourth. Getting past 100% was impossible.

The lead developer, Jack Emmert, then TOLD the players that this was fun. He didn't ask anyone who was paying into the game what they thought would be fun...he just decided for us, and then gave a boost to damage to baddies in the game, while handing out another nerf to player defenses.

I was one of the many who railed against the idea of being told what I thought was fun. The concept was absurd. It's like telling me a superbly bad movie is good, and that I must like it. Ummm...No. It's still bad, and no matter how many times you explain it to me, it will remain bad. And this was the response of the majority of CoX players. We went to the forums and screamed about the utter stupidity of being told what was fun, when we were already having fun, and that trying to convince us we were now having fun, despite the fact that we weren't, wasn't helping matters. Cryptic's response? "Oh...well, that's tough. We have your money, and you have little in the way of recourse to get it back. Have a nice day, suckers."

With every major patch, commonly called "issues," (just like a comic book), Cryptic nerfed one thing or another. And what was really starting to get on the nerves of players was that there were no fixes to the growing list of bugs that came with each patch. Like the mission marker that's supposed to lead you to an instance door...Well, sometimes you have to enter a building to get to that door. So you walk into the building, only to discover the arrow is now trying to lead you out of the building. Step outside, and the arrow pointed back in again It was never leading you to where the actual instance was. This bug was there for TWO YEARS!

Thankfully, Cryptic moved on to develop Champions Online, leaving behind a dedicated team of devs that formed the company knows as Paragon Studios, with the sole purpose of focusing on the denizens of Paragon City (where the game takes place).

Enter Invention Origin enhancements, or IOs. There are basic ones, such as damage, accuracy, and defense. But they also created "IO sets," and adding these to various powers gave secondary bonuses. Different sets can do different things, like adding increased accuracy to ALL powers, or boost your travel speed, or make you resistant to a variety of damage types.

Jack Emmert told us that "challenging is fun, whether you like it or not." Well, Paragon Studios is taking a different view with their upcoming issue. Now you can tell the game, "I want to fight bad guys that are four levels higher than me in all instances, and I want you to treat me as a team of eight people when I run solo." (Eight is the maximum you can have on a team.) The message with this part of the update, which also includes finally allowing players to change the colors of their powers, is, "You want challenging? Then YOU decide what's challenging, and best of luck to you." Now that is awesome!

Oh...but poor Champions Online...They're stuck with Cryptic Studios and their poor attitude for the paying masses. What's worse for the clients is that some of them paid $200 for a lifetime subscription into a game that is now fated to fail. Yes, all MMOs go through a tweaking phase, where the devs work to bring balance to the game. But they've beaten the game senseless with the nerf bat on its first day, and those who paid for a lifetime subscription...well, it was offered with a "no refund policy." The masses were suckered by what is apparently a "bait and switch" tactic. I mean, Cryptic took all that money, and on the first day they radically altered the game. Their forums are filled with people screaming for refunds and about leaving the game. This is on DAY ONE! Yeah, Cryptic may have made some money off those who paid for lifetime or six-month subscriptions, but within six months, it seems they'll be lucky to have any clients still playing their instantly worthless game.

Kudos, Cryptic! This truly was EPIC FAIL!

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