City of Heroes – an almost numbers free MMO

I’m a gamer. Perhaps you’ve picked up on that if you know me in real life, have read my meaningless posts for long, or been in some of the forums where I post. When people ask me what games I play, my answer for well over two years has been City of Heroes (and along with it, City of Villains, although I’m not much for playing the bad guy). I like the super-hero theme, I have a lot of folks I know in game now that I enjoy teaming with, I find that I can have fun playing solo or teamed, I don’t feel obligated to join 120-person raids (something folks in World of Warcraft, and I believe Everquest, know all too well), and I can sit and play with my kids since it isn’t a bloody and excessively violent game. If you aren’t a City of Heroes/Villains player and you’ve made it before, you’ll probably want to skip the rest, as it only applies to folks playing those games.

While reading my most recent issue of Games for Windows magazine I found an interesting article in their Extend section about (this month) City of Heroes. The author writes about how much he loves and hates City of Heroes. Some of the things he dislikes I can agree with (travel suppression being the big one). Additionally, some things I think he overlooks or doesn’t properly explain (being stuck with power-selections is not a real issue with the respecification task forces available as well as the number and frequency of free and veteran reward respecifications given out). The biggie he keys in on I completely agree with and wish the developers would change, though, is the lack of in-game numbers for powers.

Let me just get out here now that City of Data seems to be the community-agreed-upon definitive numbers resource for the game. If you want numbers and don’t know them, go there and read up on everything, then go back to the official forums and ask questions if you don’t understand what the numbers mean.

In the past, you had to test powers an insane amount of time or visit the forum and ask others to get the numbers behind the powers. There is nowhere in game that this information is given out for the finding. Long ago, the devs told us they were working on getting the numbers in the game. There has been some progress on this front, with the effects of enhancements now displaying on the powers screen (no current screenshot of this, but I’ll work on that). But knowing that you get a 66% recharge improvement for a power doesn’t help a lot unless you already know that power takes 60 second normally to recharge as well as the recharge formula that tells you ultimately you’ll be recharge in roughly 36 seconds with that slotting. World of Warcraft has this information in game. Guild Wars has this information in game. Guild Wars even tells you exactly what investing skill points in a power will do to the effectiveness of every aspect of that power.

And thus (finally), we get to the thrust of the Extend column:

It’s not just the endless grind…it’s the grind plus not having any way to tell the good choices from the bad before you make them, and not having an easy way to fix a mistake under those circumstances User-friendliness:sadly, not one of the game’s strong suits.

So, I’m wondering out loud how to fix the in-game number display and how to improve the user-experience in case of a not-so-fun power or slotting selection. I remember Statesman long ago saying that he had changed his mind on this topic, and wanted to work on getting more numbers in the game now. He said the big show-stopper on this front was an effective way in-game to show the numbers without those numbers being confusing (the user-interface). Associated with that is the issue of coding any decided upon changes. I’m starting to apply my massive brain to this issue, and hopefully I can bring some suggestions out on this that will help move this along. I love this game so much, and can’t understand why more people don’t play. I think a small number of the people who tried and didn’t stay left because of the lack on numbers. I’m hoping to come up with something to help draw them back. When I get time to work on this and throw out some screen mock-ups, I’ll put up new posts of possibly a separate page on my site. In the meantime, I welcome any suggestions from other gamers who might have insight into a solution.

[tags]Solving City of Heroes’ lack of numbers, Getting the numbers you want in CoH/CoV[/tags]