Monday, August 31, 2009

Life in the City

If you've ever played City of Heroes, you've likely been around Paragon a bit. Even so there are entire zones you may have missed on your characters journey from 1-50. Maybe because they're older and you didn't want to. Maybe because the contacts you selected from Radio missions just didn't send you there or maybe you just stuck to the Radio missions.

In the Rogue Isles, the City of Villains, things are quite a bit smaller. Mercy leads to Port Oakes, Port Oakes to Cap and so on and so forth. Every time you're in a level band that opens a pvp zone, you get a mission to at least talk to the zone liasion. The Isles are a small and interlinked place. That isn't to say there's not things to see. My friends and I have a Widow team whose entire raison d'ĂȘtre is to work their way through each and every contact they can, turning off xp to make sure that we see it the first time through rather than using the Oroboros flashback system to relive it.

The Rogue Isles came after Paragon City and are a good example of what to do. Each island is meant for a different level range and there's always travel involved when you get sent back to an area later in your career. That retracing almost always is done properly.

Paragon City however is suffering due to its metropolitan sprawl. There are so many far flung corners of the city, people just don't see them all unless they make an effort to do so.
Partially this is due to some content being newer and better done than other bits. Partially it's because some places are just easier to deal with.

Take Faultline. Old Faultline was a horrible place full of zombies and Clockwork and Circle of Thorns. It had pitfalls a plenty and if you were a superspeeder, watch your feet. Before missions got a boost and you could as easily street sweep to 50 as mission, an old friend and I used to sweep Faultline, rarely was there competition. Why? Because Faultline was crap. It was desolate, it had no missions attached to it, no contacts. The nearest Hospital in Skyway was on the other end of that zone.
Issue 8 revamped Faultline and brought life to the area. Contacts were introduced with a level range of 15-20 and 20-25. There were more badges, including the out of the way Easter egg room, and there was more to see. Travel was made easier and Faultline was made the place to go for the mid levels. Pocket D even got an exit in Faultline to help with traffic.

New Faultline gives you it all, it has well written and interlinked arcs. Four contacts, four-ish missions each. Three or four of the characters you meet during the run come back later on in the game. There are Archvillains earlier than ever, Yin-O enhancements and all sorts of interesting things to get up to.

New Faultline has spoiled me.

Instead of working my way through all it has to offer on my blaster, I have gone to Striga instead. Introduced in Issue 3 if memory serves, Striga is the stronghold of the Council. It also has a string of four contacts, leading up to an unlocked task force contact. Striga however is tougher. It's better than the earliest zones (Boomtown) but it is by no means a quick run through.

Striga for all its worth, for all the fun toys you get (Holy Shotgun!) and for the two taskforces it contains gets passed up in favour of other faster flashier places.

This is how places we live are. Either it's small and you know everyone and every corner or it is built up and the slightest change to one area can draw people from miles away, leaving other places to stagnate.

This is all building up to something though. World of Warcraft : Cataclysm is going back and rocking the old world of Azeroth. That patch of grass you used to kill ten bunnies in? Steaming lake of lava now. I don't know myself, not being a player, but I can imagine revamping all the geography is also going to need a pass through on the quests. Will they be brought up to whatever the current population considers standard? I couldn't say.

In City of Heroes, the places you've likely never been are going to become more accessible first and then more irrelevant. Issue 16 brings supersidekicking and removes most zone entry restrictions. Never been to Striga because you were too low a level when it was interesting? From I16 on, you can go there as a level one and if you're supersidekicked, not worry about mentor range and getting turned into paste the moment you lag behind the group.

Going Rogue however promises to bring new zones to an already overburdened city. With the coming dimensional travel, I think it's time to say goodbye to some of the Hazard areas that never got the Faultline treatment and may never. It's time to close those giant zone gates and block out parts of the City, for the good of the City.

Personally I would love to hear that with the newest expansion, there will be work done on all the other zones. Updating and bringing new life and new contacts to all the corners of Paragon. If not though, I think we should pay our respects to the likes of Dark Astoria and Boomtown. Wave goodbye to the deepest regions of the Shadow Shard and Creys Folly. Supersidekicking promises to make the city more open than before, but it can't guide people to places of little interest or old tired content. It'll make the world smaller for a while as everyone can suddenly play on the same level, but the world is going to get larger once again, with the ability to play in Praetoria and switch sides.

Look upon the maps of that world of Superheroes. What would you change in the City of Tomorrow?

1 comment:

Ysharros said...

Great post. I don't really know (or remember) enough about CoX to have a meaningful opinion -- though I'll grant you that's never stopped me before -- but on a general level, reviewing old, obsolete or poorly-designed zones should be a must.

Sadly, I suspect it's one of those things that requires a lot of resources (time, money, skill) and that is considered lower-yield in terms of bang-for-development-buck than simply designing a few new areas. (Even if those new areas are "done right" by building on the lessons learned from the old ones -- that's good, but doesn't help the old zones.)