Updated Thu, Dec 17, 2009 by JoBildo
When I first began playing MMOGs in the early 21st century I entered Everquest without a single clue as to what I was doing or what I was supposed to be doing. I spent about three hours killing skeletons and snakes outside of the Dwarven city, and dying repeatedly because I couldn’t grasp why I had to stay close to that area and not go venturing out on my own. I was a “noob” for the lack of a better term. Heck by most accounts, I would probably still be a noob today. But I had fun then, even with my lack of knowledge.
As time went on, I learned more and more about game mechanics in Everquest, and especially with World of Warcraft, my first true love of the genre. I learned what stats boosted what skills, and what gear I needed to achieve the highest amount of damage against the dastardly trolls in Stranglethorn Vale. The game became less about just playing, and more about playing well… about using my character to his fullest potential.
I’ve been both types of player this editorial seeks to address. I’ve been the Conceptual Creator, leveling a character and designing his skills and gear based on my imagination with little regard to what is “best”. My hunter in WoW (yep, a noob hunter) used a staff as his melee weapon for the longest time. I’ve also been the Min-Maxer with three different sets of gear in my bags for different combat situations. I’ve written out my desired stats and used search engines to find the best gear possible for that outcome. But is there a “better way to play”? Does it really matter if you have the optimal build if you’re having fun whatever way you play?
In Champions Online, this disparity between play-styles seems more pronounced than in most games on the market today. The reasoning behind this is pretty simple: the character creator in Champions allows you to do precisely whatever you want. You can be a werewolf clown with the powers of fire, ice, and giant laser-beams coming out of your eyeballs if you feel like that’s the way you want to play.
But there are folks who would see such a way of playing as folly. They would advise you to stick to one or two power sets at the most, and to pick this advantage or this super-stat because they lead to having the most reliable damage output in the game. They’ll tell you that picking a super-stat that doesn’t coincide with your main power-set is crazy talk… and while that it may be, it doesn’t mean that there’s only one way to do things.
Fair enough, in CO those players that focus on doing what’s optimum will generally have an easier time in their fights, but the same could be said of any game. Those players who focus on getting the “right” gear and the right skills are always going to have it easier than those who are reaching towards a certain build concept. But those players that prefer to use their imagination and creativity in the creation of their heroes will be plenty viable as well. Now, I’m not advising anyone to overdo it and pick one power from every set. In that case, there is no real concept and certainly no min-maxing. But I think it’s worth mentioning that I currently have a Supernatural/Strength hero with a Super Dexterity and Super Constitution that’s doing just fine and I’m really only building on the concept of a werewolf with some vampire-like powers.
I even defeated Foxbat in the news studio just fine the other day… with thanks to Resurgence (healing powers are smart no matter who you are). There is no real wrong way to play Champions Online. Before the now infamous launch day patch, I’m sure it was much easier to just make your character in any old way you wanted without much forethought. Now the game’s gotten a bit more difficult, but Wolfenstein (that’s me) is proof that you can build on a concept and still succeed in kicking bad guy butt.
The moral of the story is simple. If you want to build your character in the most efficient way possible, go for it. If you want to make your hero a hybrid of three different power sets based on an idea you had in the 3rd grade for a comic book, then do it. And heck, you might even find some synergies between sets that make such a character a joy to play. Don’t listen to anyone telling you how to play your hero. The choice is yours, and there is no wrong choice.