bold="">Designing the New Missions style="font-size: 15pt;" ;="" font-weight=""
bold=""> in Issue 13: Power and Responsibility

Readers get a
behind-the-scenes look at how the new missions were designed in the
latest issue of City of Heroes.

by Senior Game Designer Bruce Harlick

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 200px;"

href=""> src="/image/view/47532/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;">

Ghost Sibyl
will be your new villain contact in the Cimerora arcs.

One of the things our players are most interested in is how we go about
the process of designing the missions and story arcs they play through
so much. It’s not just an easy process of throwing together
some pre-created maps, plopping down some enemies to get rid of, and
setting up the appropriate rewards. We carefully consider the plot of
the missions or story arcs and their flow in the gameplay sense, what
resources we can (or can’t) use to achieve our goals,
carefully balance difficulty with rewards, and how to creatively get
the best out of what we are typically able to use to make the entire
encounter much more interesting. You can best get a sense of how we do
this, from the bottom up, with the new Cimerora and Midnight Squad
story arcs.

The Cimerora arcs came about as a way to help me learn the mission
writing tools shortly after I started working on style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes/City of Villains.
Joe Morrissey, the Lead Mission Writer, provided the core of the idea
for the first hero and villain arcs and asked me to run with it, to
step me through the development process. I was given the mandate of no
new assets or code for these arcs. We spent some time kicking the idea
around. The idea of using Daedalus as a new hero contact came pretty
naturally; he’s a neat character and would be the kind of guy
who’d ask a hero to help him get out of a tough situation.
Joe mentioned that Jay Doherty had done up a version of Ghost Widow as
a Sibyl, and that was the genesis for a new villain contact, the
“Ghost Sibyl.”

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: left; width: 200px;"

href=""> src="/image/view/47533/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;">

Is Sister
Airlia simply angry with Daedelus?

The villain story arc was intended to be a mirror of the hero story
arc. Since I was playing with time travel, it was fairly easy to
justify either side of the story “winning.” But as
I began to create the Ghost Sibyl contact and write the villain
missions, I began to wonder at her motivations for these actions. Was
she just mad at Daedalus? Or did she have some deeper motivations? I
had discussions with Joe, Matt Miller, and other lore keepers as I went
to flesh out her back story, which led me to the connection between
this outcast Sibyl and Ghost Widow. Thus was Sister Airlia born.
(Airlia comes from the Greek and means “ethereal,”
which I thought was appropriate for her character.)

Creating these two story arcs in our mission tool taught me a lot about
the system and went very quickly. I completely overlooked the fact that
both of the arcs sent the teams out of Cimerora, which would have bad
repercussions on any co-op teams on these arcs. Teams traveling to the
Rikti War Zone (the initial destination of the second mission of the
arcs) would break when they left Cimerora and have to reform upon
arriving in RWZ. So these missions became faction-limited, even though
they were given out in a co-op zone. That, of course, required some
technical magic from programmer Vince D’Amelio. So much for
the “no new assets or code” thing.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: right; width: 200px;"

href=""> src="/image/view/47534/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;">

Like writing
a novel, mission arcs in CoX constantly evolve and spawn even more arcs.

Once the missions became hero- or villain-only missions, there was no
real need to send the characters to a place as far away as the RWZ. So
I relocated them to zones a little more appropriate for characters on
the lower end of the allowed level range. As a side note, writing
missions for a large level spread, such as the 35 to 50 range of these
two, is fairly challenging. You have to make sure you are using groups
and bosses that will scale properly over that range, and you also have
to make sure that the zone content is challenging but do-able for a
wide level range. And, in the end, you err on the side of making sure
that the bottom of the range can complete all of the mission tasks,
even if it makes it a bit easier for the characters at the top end of
the range.

I finished the first draft of these arcs before we had our kick-off
meeting to discuss implementing them, so I went to work on doing
another arc with Sister Airlia, to dig a little deeper into her story.
I also wanted to do something else with Daedalus. I discussed the ideas
with Joe and Matt, made some modifications and wrote them up. This
time, I wanted to get a little more ambitious in what I was attempting
to do. I also wanted to get a couple of outdoor mission maps for
Cimerora. Ken, our art director, had encouraged me to ask if I wanted
to try to get new art assets and I took him at his word, requesting two
IOMs (Instanced Outdoor Maps) pulled from areas we were using in the
Imperious Task Force. Ken was awesome and got the requests on the
schedule and I had a larger playing field to use in Cimerora.

style="margin: 10px; border-collapse: collapse; float: left; width: 200px;"

href=""> src="/image/view/47535/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;">

A SWAT team
in Rome? Awesome!

The second Sister Airlia arc went a little more into her background and
had her using the players to help her set up a political power base in
Cimerora, to try to circumvent her mysterious curse. The first mission
has the player bringing someone back from the future and helping that
NPC to infiltrate the Sibyls. During the kickoff meeting, Vince and I
discussed how to get the character from the future to change into
Cimeroran-appropriate garb, and he came up with the concept of the
“Sibyl hut.” It took a little code wizardry and a
lot of me banging my head on AI behavior, but we ended up with I think
is a pretty neat sequence there. The third mission let me use Darren
Wade; it’s always fun to visit established characters and
write stuff for them. You need to get your head into their character
voice and attitude, and Wade’s just a fun guy to write. I
wanted to get some kind of visual effect for the last part of the last
mission in the arc, but since this was really supposed to be a tutorial
for me to learn the system, we didn’t have the art or code
bandwidth to do it. In the end I think the mission still works without

Since Daedalus is the Cimeroran version of Positron and the greatest
craftsman of his age, I wanted his second arc to feature some sort of
crafting or item creation. So the first act has the hero investigating
a threat, the second act sends the hero to create a device to help
protect Cimerora from the threat, and the final act lets the hero
protect Cimerora while Daedalus employs the device to prevent the
threat from reoccurring. In the second mission, the “crafting
mission,” I delved deeper into our dialog tree system and had
a lot of fun writing the Crey Energy Fabricator Mk I. Although it is
only a machine, I could hear its voice and get a sense for its
personality as I wrote its dialog. I think the sequence there works
better than a “get the salvage and go to an invention
table” type of crafting mission.

All four of the arcs went through changes and got tighter during the
team Playtest and the closed beta test period. I think they became much
more focused and better as a result of all of the feedback. It was a
pleasure to be able to contribute to the rich background of style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes/City of Villains
and I’m looking forward exploring the connection between
Ghost Widow and Sister Airlia in future story arcs. Until then, I hope
you all enjoy the new Cimerora content. 

style="width: 640px; height: 100px; text-align: left; margin-left: auto; margin-right: auto;"
href=""> src="/image/view/47536/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;"> href=""> src="/image/view/47537/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;"> href=""> src="/image/view/47538/preview"
style="border: 2px solid ; width: 200px;">

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our City of Villains Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016