Melissa "War Witch" Bianco,
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Level
Designer for City
of Heroes
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">  style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">

Hello there. I’m Melissa Bianco, Level Designer on the style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
team, and some of you may know me as War Witch. Having worked on style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes for
over five years, I can tell you that we know a lot more now that we did
at the beginning and zone design is a good example of that. The Hollows
has been one of those zones that I've wanted to take some time and
revisit. In the past, there have been several common complaints about
it: The content is repetitive and not all that interesting, framerate
is poor, enemies are too hard, players can’t solo it, and
they’re forced to go there to get missions!

So I wanted to go in and make some spawn changes, and make us all a lot
happier with the zone. Going in, there was little in the way of outside
resources (Art and Tech were heavily booked with the Issue 11 material)
available to rework the zone, and I had a small window of opportunity
to get the work done in. In the end I just jumped in with both feet and
started reworking the zone. I started by gutting every spawn in the
Hollows and starting from scratch.

Spawns Changes

This is what I did (by neighborhood):

Cherry Hills

This is the first neighborhood players encounter when they enter the
zone from Atlas Park. The spawns for this neighborhood are now like
City zone spawns, not Hazard. So they're based on 1 - 3 players. The
level range is now 5 - 7 only.

I wanted to make the transition from City zone to Hazard zone less
painful, especially since new players are 'forced' to go there by a
Contact. I made this neighborhood a standard 'city' spawn zone. What
this means is that I made the spawns “do-able” by
solo players up to groups of three, which is pretty standard for a city
zone. I also kept the roads free of bad guys so that, within reason,
players could get around Cherry Hills without massive difficulty.

I added some fresh blood (er...meat?) to The Hollows. There were piles
and piles of Outcasts and Trolls and Trolls and Outcasts. Both villain
types are kind of tough, so I wanted to add some flavor and some
variety! So I added Skulls, Hellions, and Lost to the mix. Also, you
may run into Paragon Police or Longbow, but since they're allies,
they'll help you out. The heroic presence (Longbow and Paragon Police)
is small, so that they don't kill steal too much. However, gone are the
canned animations of the Paragon Police. If you drag a villain back to
them, now you'll definitely get a reaction, if the Police Drones don't
get them first.

Four Seasons

This neighborhood is also a "city" sized spawn neighborhood. The level
range for this neighborhood is now 8 to 10 only. I've also brought in
Hellions, Skulls, and Lost to the mix here.

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War Witch took some
time to revisit The Hollows zone and redoing all the spawns from

Red River

This neighborhood was pretty much vacant of spawns entirely. Not
anymore. Now there are Hydra, Coralax, and some Trolls wandering
around. The Trolls seem to be paying special attention to the dam. The
spawns here are also for 1 - 3 players so they shouldn't be too
difficult to solo or for small groups. The level range of this
neighborhood is 8 - 10 only.

Eastgate Park

There weren't too many changes to this zone other than to make them
more standard in terms of spawning 'rules'. No piggy backing of spawns
near other spawns so that the place is lagged down and it's a blanket
of bad guys. Players should have some room to breathe again as they
make their way through this neighborhood. This neighborhood is level 10
- 12 only. The spawns range anywhere from 1 to 5 players. It's not a
consistent city-sized spawn, there are hazard elements, but there is a
'possibility' of a small spawn for the solo players. Also, I always
throw spawns into EVERY neighborhood that are three villains maximum so
players should be able to find something to kill as a solo player.

Vahzilok have moved into the neighborhood, but usually only at night
and in a very specific location. The Legacy Chain have a presence there
too, a heroic group of mystical heroes who are there to help, not hurt
the heroes of Paragon City. They want to get to the bottom of the
Circle of Thorns threat as we do. There might another reason, too, but
they won't even give that up to Longbow. PPD have a small presence at
the entrance from Skyway City so they're pretty much watching the door.

Grendel's Gulch

Now we're getting to the pain. Admittedly, the spawns in this
neighborhood were entirely too difficult. They were even too difficult
for a 'hazard' zone (3 - 5 players). They have been seriously toned
back and the groups shouldn't be so close to each other so that if you
trigger one, you don't trigger the one next to it, too. These have been
made a bit differently. They spawn anywhere from 1 to 5 players. What
this means is, you MIGHT get a big group of Igneous or you MIGHT get a
do-able solo spawn size. It depends on your team size and the luck of
the draw, really. Also, except for some surprises, you should see the
Igneous well before they ever see you.

In the guts of the Gulch, the spawn levels are 13 - 15. However, around
the perimeter (to accommodate the Talshak mission), there are a set of
spawns that are 11 - 12 only. These guys are clearly defined as they
are the only spawns in the entire Gulch that are face down in the
ground taking a dirt nap. If players want to drop down and go deeper
into the Gulch, they do so at their own risk.

The Trolls are brave (or dumb) enough to move into the Gulch. They
either haven't noticed that the rocks are deadly or they don't care.
There's also a very small presence of Devouring Earth, in the form of
some Bees, but they're so minor and easy to kill it's barely worth

The Vahzilok have also crept into the Gulch, but they tend to keep
their distance from the interior of the Gulch and hang back near the
perimeter, where the dirt is soft and shovels are plentiful.

I made no changes to the Caverns.

Eastgate Heights

This is another combo city/hazard neighborhood. The spawns are for 1 -
5 players. The level range is also 13 to 15.

Originally, this area was fully dedicated to Circle of Thorns, but I
brought in Skulls, Hellions, and Trolls who tend to flesh out the edges
of the zone, but as you get closer to the tops of the peaks, it's all
Circle all the time. There are also some Tsoo but they're sneaky, and
you never know when they're going to drop in. Since there is such a
large Circle presence, there is also a Legacy Chain presence to thwart

Missions Changes

Mission Doors

I pulled every single mission door from the zone and reassigned it to a
specific contact AND that contact's neighborhood. What this means is;
no longer will players have to fly across the deadly Grendel's Gulch at
Level 5 for their Frostfire mission at the other end of the zone,
dodging spawns that can make mincemeat of them in a few short hits.

I've added mission doors to Grendel's Gulch (caves), Eastage Park
(manhole covers), and Eastgate Heights (caves, CoT) so that players
continue to remain within their own neighborhoods in which their
contact is located. The exception is Meg Mason, who is located in
Cherry Hills and will send players across the zone, depending on their

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A new contact - Meg
Mason - is now in the zone.

Repeatable Missions

I added a new contact to the zone, an undercover operative named Meg
Mason, who has the skinny on all the gangs in the area. She hands out
repeatable missions for each neighborhood. Meg Mason is located in
Cherry Hills by the abandoned water tower on the hill where the
Supergroup Teleport exit point is.


Since I gutted the entire zone's spawns, when I went back in to
populate the zone, I made a very wide path to the contacts. A very wide
path. I also added Meg Mason, as I mentioned above, to Cherry Hills.

Parting Words:

Although I began this diary by listing a lot of common complaints,
I’ve always felt that the zone had promise. It just
wasn’t being realized! So my goal was to simplify, streamline
and liven it up. Now that the Hollows is a bit of a hybrid zone (some
city spawns, some hazard), I think it’ll be a lot more
welcoming.  And even though I think players will miss putting
their Hero on Hover while they go for coffee and wait to get to the
Frostfire entrance, they’ll be happier that he’s
much easier to access now.  The Hollows now fits the style of
Striga, Faultline, et al in that the missions the contact gives are now
in line with the neighborhood difficulty.  Plus, Meg Mason is
a breath of fresh air for people who just want to get out and do
one-off missions. Once you’ve had a chance to try it out,
I’d love to hear your feedback in the game or on the boards!

Has anyone seen all of
the new changes in City of Heroes? What do you think? href="">Let
us know on
the forums!

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Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016