City of Heroes: Power Spectrum and Going Rogue Interview from Comic-Con '09

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If there’s ever a place to talk about super hero themed MMOs, the San Diego Comic-Con would be it. The biggest and brightest of all the “comic book” shows, Comic-Con mixes the geek with the strange with the celebrity, blends it together, and shoots out pure awesome. It was at this star-studded event that Ten Ton Hammer sat down with City of Heroes developers Matt Miller and Joe Morrissey to talk about Issue 16: Power Spectrum and their upcoming expansion, City of Heroes: Going Rogue.

Ten Ton Hammer: What can you tell our readers about Issue 16: Power Spectrum?

Matt Miller: I’ll give you a little bit of the history of this Issue. When NCsoft acquired us, we all went into a back room and asked ourselves, “What do we want to do now that we have all this time and money and people on our hands?”

I knew that we’d always want to do powers customization, but we didn’t do it because we never had enough man power. There’s no real technical limitation, we just need to redo everything that we’ve done already because the colors were always attached to the powers that we used.

This was over a year ago. At that point, we took a couple members of the team aside and said, “You’re working on powers customization. Do what you need to do to make it work.”

So they went off into their own little box, and a couple months ago they came out of that box. They'd gotten it working, and they were ready to show off powers customization.  

Y'know, we took a look at everything - and it was all great - but the original way we did the editor didn't quite work with customizing powers, going back to the custom, switching to different parts, etc. We needed a less linear way to do it, so we built this functionality at the top of the editor where you can jump around to any place in the customization process.  

Customizing the powers is pretty simple. You can select from two different primary colors, and on top of that you can select a variety of different options for the theme of power you want to see. For each power you can choose from three different styles to choose from: the default, bright, and dark. The way the powers are set up is through additive or subtractive color palletes. So if you select bright, all of your color options are going to be bright and if you select dark, they'll all be dark.  

At level one, you'll be able to see every single power in your particular power set and can customize those powers at level one during character creation. This way you get a bit of a preview of what your higher end powers are going to look like. For example, you might get Power Push at level 25, and think, "Wow...that doesn't look very good." So once you get to that level you could either not take the power or you could pick a different power set to play with. Now you can do that without having to level up to 25 and finding out that you don't really like the latest power.  

Ten Ton Hammer: How many power sets have you added since launch? I'm sure there's a ton, but I was just curious...

Matt: Honestly, I can't really remember. With City of Villains, we added a bunch, and we've added a couple here and there ever since. A couple issues ago we also did power set proliferations, where we basically took a bunch of power sets that belonged to different archetypes and made versions to work on alternate archetypes.  

In Issue 16, we're doing another round of that. So there's going to be another ten power sets that players didn't have access to before in different archetypes.  

Ten Ton Hammer: What about animations?

Matt: That's something else that we did in this Issue... we've customized the animations for certain power sets, most specifically martial arts. The players that used martial arts felt that most of the power set just involved kicking and there wasn't enough punching. So now we've changed it so that the different powers in the set can use a secondary animation instead of their primary version.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you leading the players into the power customizer in some way? Something besides just a big news blast?

Matt: We expect that there'll be a pop-up in game saying that players should visit the tailor if they want to go customize their powers. You can have different colors for your character per costume slot, so that way your energy blast will match your costume no matter which costume you're wearing.  

Ten Ton Hammer: How'd you come up with the name of Issue 16: Power Spectrum?  

Matt: I really wanted to do Issue 16: When Pigments Fly, because it played off the saying "When pigs fly." But it was a little too campy for even us.  

The other one we bounced around was Issue 16: Going Rouge, which of course plays off the misspelling of our upcoming expansion. It was just a little too confusing for people-

Ten Ton Hammer: That spell rogue incorrectly.

Matt: Exactly.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there any new content going into Issue 16?

Matt: Not really. There are some things going into the Mission Architect system to enhance some of the elements we've created for that system.  

Joe Morrissey: We wanted to give some more functionality to the authors and the people looking for particular types of content. One of the things we've done is add in more dialogue options for your allies. So for your bosses, there are dialogue options when their health drops down to a certain level, and now we've attached that to your allies as well. So now when they get beat up, they can say things as well.  

We've also added more of what we call "betrayal" options as well. At launch we had this system where you could rescue a guy, bring him back to the mission "door" and he'd turn evil on you. We've put in a bunch more of those, where you can have allies that are with you and then we they enter a particular location, they switch sides.  

We're continually putting in a bunch of stuff, small things that move the whole system along.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is the Mission Architect still popular among the players?

Joe: I think so. Right now there are over 50,000 arcs up on our server. It has definitely leveled off since the beginning, because at some point everyone has made their quota of arcs, since there are only three slots per account. Everyone's pretty much filled up their slots.

We've also opened up the microtransaction portion of this as well, since players can now go in and purchase up to five slots in the architect system for a total of eight.

Ten Ton Hammer: What else are you adjusting in Issue 16?

Matt: One of the other things we're changing is the way the difficulty slider works. Right now you go to a contact and you ask them to increase the difficulty of the mission, but they use all of these weird terms like "being invincible" and our players really didn't know what to make of it.

A lot of our players were playing on the max level difficulty and still blowing stuff out of the water. So we decided to just redesign the whole thing. Now going to that same content will bring up more of a mechanical dialogue box. The contact will ask you what sort of team size you want to be treated as and making that 1-8 selection will adjust the mission accordingly. So now instead of "padding" a group with players to simply raise the difficulty level of your encounter, you can adjust it through a difficulty mechanic.

On top of that, you can also choose the level of the monsters you want to face, from 0 to +4. So if you want to fight a bunch of guys that are four levels higher than you are, you certainly can do that. You can also choose whether you want to fight archvillains or not. I mean, you could run through a mission as a single player treated as an eight-person group with enemies four levels higher than you and have to fight archvillains as well.

A lot of players are very excited about that feature. And it's not just because of those players, but also to cut down on the spam of seeing people trying to pad their groups.  

Joe: It also scales down as well.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are you talking about Going Rogue at all?

Matt: When it's done, it's done. There's going to be a pre-order and a closed beta for the game. We're treating it as a full on release. If you pre-order the game, you'll get into the beta guaranteed.

There will also be a ton of new low level content coming into the game for people that are making new low level characters. We're also working on the "Going Rogue" system, so you can switch sides, and there's going to be brand new level 50 content that is the *hardest* stuff we've ever put into the game.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Will the graphics be revamped?

Matt: I can't officially say anything... but I'm not saying no.   

Ten Ton Hammer: Thanks for taking the time to talk to the City of Heroes fans and Ten Ton Hammer readers!

Matt: Our pleasure.
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