Of CO and stupidity…

Okay, as some of you may know, I landed over in Champions Online.

It’s not a bad game.  It’s not CoH (and I’d drop it in a heartbeat if CoH returned), but it’s a decent game in its own right, and some of the subsystems there are, arguably, superior to CoH.

But other things are just BLINDINGLY stupid.

The game’s main problem comes from all the bungling Cryptic and Atari did when they first released the game, incomplete and way too early.  Then trying to soak their subscribers for more money almost immediately for the fixes to their earlier screwups.

This absolutely DESTROYED their player base and the game’s population is a fraction of what it should have been.  As such, it’s the bastard stepchild of Cryptic/PWE’s games now.  They actually yanked most of the devs off the game to work on Cryptics NEXT title, Neverwinter, leaving the game on life support and unable to fix months-old, game-breaking bugs.

On top of that, are some of the game mechanics.

One of the mechanics that comes in later on is boss fight lockouts.  Basically, you die and hit “Revive” you respawn outside the boss fight and can’t get back in until EVERYONE on your team is defeated.  Which ALSO completely resets the fight.

No.  Seriously!  Their answer to their already shoddy teaming mechanics is to basically castrate the team if a boss gets a lucky shot in.  And some of the bosses, like Gravitar, tend to aggro on characters that can self-rez, killing them as they stand up again and are essentially helpless.

Way to make a player fucking HATE your game!

Yeah, yeah.  Someone’s gonna start bleating about “challenge” and “skill”.  I play the game to just beat face.  That means, on occasion, I die.  Hit shappens.  What I do NOT want to do is stand around with my thumb up my ass until my teammates decide that they should all just die so we can start a 30 minute fight all over again!  That’s not “fun”.  Hell, that’s the very antithesis of “fun”!

Their most major problem is the way they’ve gated their content.

Most of the game happens in zone instances, rather than mission instances.  The problem is, these zone instances are subdivided into normal zones and crisis zones.  And it isn’t always obvious which mission paths progress the zone arc and which are gateway missions to later arcs.

So, if you burn your way through the zone arc missions, simply to complete a single contact, you run the risk of being ejected from the crisis zone BEFORE running the rest of the arcs in it.  Leaving you unable to access later mission content, and curetting down available “appropriate for your level” missions later on.

What’s worse is the way they handle contacts.  Some of the CONTACTS are instanced as well.  Like “Astral Dr. Ka”.  Basically it’s a timed “get to this place” objective followed by a “defeat waves of ambushes while protecting the NPC”.  It’s at the end of a long LONG string of missions where each of the previous missions is REQUIRED before going on to the next mission.  And, if you drop it (such as if you want to team to do the mission), it’s damn near IMPOSSIBLE to get Astral Dr. Ka to show up again someplace.

Now I’ve basically burned through all four or five of the available standard contacts in Vibora Bay and am left with NOTHING to do there but repeatable missions if I can’t get the Astra Ka mission.

This game could be so much more.  Unfortunately, all the mistakes Cryptic and it’s various owners have made have screwed it over bigtime.  It doesn’t have the massive built-in fanbase of Star Trek nor the name recognition.  While the gaming industry is pretty pervasive, not everyone recognizes the Champions property.  And the people who’ll participate in the MMO are just a fraction of that player base.

Moreover, those who go for a superhero genre MMO are not necessarily going to like the “tongue in cheek” (nice way of saying dopey) atmosphere and all the homages to bigger, more pervasive comic book and cultural properties.  Not to mention the art style.


So…what’s the answer?

In short, I’m not sure.  For starters, though, it’s going to take a group of devs on the game that aren’t being peeled off for other projects.  And it’s going to take a lot (and I mean *A LOT!*) of time spent going after bugs and bad mechanics in the game.  And, I’m not sure if PWE and Cryptic are going to be willing to invest that kind of time (and money) in a three year old game that they’ve already crashed and burned.

And if CO goes, the only superhero property even CLOSE to being called a Superhero MMO is DC Universe Online.  And THAT game is an even BIGGER mess than CO is.  By several HUNDRED orders of magnitude.

At this point, if CO doesn’t see some loving fairly soon, I’m probably done with computer gaming.