Thursday, September 6, 2012

Features All MMO's Should Have - Sidekicking from City of Heroes

Before I begin, I'd like to say I whole-hardheartedly  support the groups trying to save City of Heroes. I don't know if they can do it, and I'm not keeping my hopes up, but this would lift the spirits of many of the people who are down because of the game closing. I truly feel like we aren't losing a game, we are losing a home.

With that, I will begin another series, entitled "Features All MMO's Should Have". These are features that I believe all MMO's should launch with or at least make a priority during their development. Innovations comes in leaps and bounds in this industry, as we all may be aware of the huge contrast in playstyles between Guild Wars 2 and Mists of Pandaria. Similar, yes, but a vastly different experience. Therefore, I feel there are certain features that most of the industry should have by now, but for some reason they don't.

The first of these is the Sidekicking system found in both City of Heroes and Guild Wars 2. GW2 uses it in a more seamless fashion, but both titles will do just fine as an example. This system is meant to address a major flaw in the leveling system, and that is its nature to keep people from playing together.

This story may elaborate my point. My first experience with WoW was during Burning Crusade, where myself and a friend leveled up a Rogue and Hunter together. We played largely during the same times, so keeping together was never really a problem. We stayed roughly the same level. However, as the school year switched into a new semester, our availabilities shifted with them. Suddenly I was able to play much less than he was.

Due to this, his new Paladin got far ahead of my new Mage, and I ended up abandoning the character. Why bother when my partner was level 49 and I was 25? It was too far of a gap to cross. I couldn't do his content and doing my content was a waste of time for him. Our other options would be to force each other to only play those characters while we were playing together, which only served to restrain us, or for me to play catch up with his character alone while he didn't have time to play. I played those character to play with him, not to go around by myself.

The sidekicking system allows higher level players to play and receive reasonable rewards for content lower than them. This allows players to level at their own pace, and no matter what level you are you can find something to do with your friend. Furthermore, it expands the content a single player can do. If you have multiple areas with the same level range, one player can do all of them without having to worry about slowing down their progression. They don't have to worry about the most efficient way to do things, only the best way to have fun.

Online games shouldn't have to be about level anymore. They should be about playing with your friends and having fun. It's about time all games provide that.

Sunday, September 2, 2012

I'm Tired of Saying Goodbye

This post is gonna get a little personal.

City of Heroes is closing down. This is coming at a time in my life where, as the title implies, I'm tired of saying goodbye to things in my life. You see, these past two years have been pretty rough for my family. Starting two years ago, my Oma (dutch for Grandmother) passed away. Then six months later, my Abuelita. Then my Opa. Less than a month ago, I found out my Abuelito is dying from cancer, and has six months to live.

I'm not comparing the shutting down of a video game to these personal tragedies, not at all. I would gladly give up every game I own for the chance to see them again, twice over. But online games have always been a refuge for me. When I don't want to worry about money, I figure out which WoW class I want to level next, or a concept for a City of Heroes character. It's been a constant in my life, a place where I can go to socialize with people who share a common interest, are nerdy like me and I don't have to worry about things going on in my personal life.

These past five years, City of Heroes has been a reliable place I can go. In Paragon City, I could fly around, run at super speeds or leap tall buildings while beating up the various (and sometimes ridiculous) villains of the universe. Or be a cheesy, dastardly villain who steals P.L.O.T. devices. I knew Paragon City, and I fit in there.

This post is delayed because I didn't know how to respond to the announcement. I read it on Twitter and thought it was a joke. City of Heroes had endured through many of the ups and downs of the industry, surely they wouldn't shut it down out of nowhere. But they did, and I felt kicked in the gut. Now, as this is sinking in I find myself in the predicament of trying to figure out how to say goodbye. There is so much I have never experienced. I have never had a max level character. I have never gone on a Hami Raid, or defeated Statesman or Lord Recluse.

I could try to do these things, to flesh out my experience in the game before I leave. Or I could sit and remember the times we had. The many Frostfire runs, the ridiculous adventures of myself and my friend, The Boogie Knight, and the times I spent with the Jerks Super Group started by Scott Sharkey. Words cannot express the quality of the community and the Roleplay I experienced in this game as well.

I find myself groping for another game to fill the void before this one leaves me, and I'm coming up empty. I bought Guild Wars 2 today, a decision many may disagree with due to NCSoft being the one who shut down the game. I don't blame them, I've seen the quarter call earnings. Aion brought in twice as much money as City of Heroes, and nobody I know has heard of anything from that game in months. I hope it will fill the void but I truly don't know. Even World of Warcraft cannot provide me the experience I found in that game. I doubt anything ever will.

What I am left with is a profound sense that no part of my life is sacred from the feeling of loss. Online games used to be my refuge, and now I am acutely aware that this ground is not safe either. It is difficult for me to trust to begin with, and investing myself in a new game will be significantly harder. You never do trust as easily as you do the first time.