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 City Of Heroes 's Mission Architect Births 20,000 Arcs In First Week
City Of Heroes's Mission Architect Births 20,000 Arcs In First Week
April 17, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

April 17, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

PC subscription MMO City of Heroes' new user-generated Mission Architect system "has exceeded any expectation we have set for it," says Matt Miller, lead designer on the project at the NCSoft-owned Paragon Studios.

The Architect update, which lets players design and populate their own mission arcs within the game, has been a success among current players -- and also encouraged lapsed users to return, says Miller, although he declined to specify numbers.

According to Miller, users had built 360 mission arcs, each containing 5 missions, for other City of Heroes users within the feature's first 60 minutes of availability.

"By midnight on day one, we had over 2600 arcs, and exactly 24 hours after launch we were already at 3800 arcs," says Miller.

"We did some data mining of our own, and 3,800 surpasses the amount of content that we, the developers, have made for all of City of Heroes and City of Villains combined. In just one day our users did more than we could in almost five years."

One week following Mission Architect's launch, Miller says there are 20,000 arcs published and playable -- 6259 of them "heroic" and 2240 of them "villainous." Of these, users have awarded five-star ratings to 2,860 total arcs.

Gamasutra is currently running a series of articles written by Paragon Studios' Joe Morrissey discussing the Mission Architect's policing system, with the second in the series to debut on the site in the near future.

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Teri Thom
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Way To Go!!!

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This looks interesting. I have never played COH, but I'd give it a chance if there wasn't a limit on the # of story arcs an account could create.

Richard Cody
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It's a fantastic idea and I hope Paragon and NCSoft really see benefits for being the first in the genre.

Bart Stewart
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I've been nagging for a feature like this for some time now (
tml). So I'm delighted to see it realized by Paragon Studios, and I hope it continues to be as successful for them as it appears to be so far.

In discussions I've had with others on this subject, the following points have been brought up:

1. Since you have to have a mission creation system anyway, extending it to players has a much lower development cost than creating an entirely new gameplay system for them.

2. Developers of new games should consider this a "must-have" feature for launch. Letting players have access to your mission creation system in beta would have two rather useful benefits:

a. It would stress-test your mission creation system, improving your ability to catch exploits and bugs in mission content before the game goes live.

b. It would insure (like the Creature Creator for Spore) that you have far more mission content available on Day One than you could have if you created all missions yourself.

3. Increasing the amount of handcrafted content reduces the need to rely on randomly-generated content, which is usually too simple not to be boring.

4. Artistic competition: the best missions created by players will inspire developers to make their own missions even better, and vice-versa, to everyone's benefit.

5. Under what conditions should successfully completing an entire mission provide an in-game reward to the character? To what extent should a mission creation system be integrated with a game's internal economy, and what design changes might be necessary to support that aspect of play (including changes to prevent farming)?

The objections most commonly asserted are:

1. Most player-created content is subject to Sturgeon's Law. There won't be enough good player-created missions to justify the development costs of exposing the mission creation system to players.

2. Even a very low frequency of players running what they perceive to have been "bad" player-created missions will cause them to reject the entire system of mission-based gameplay.

3. Missions with rewards will be farmed.


I'm looking forward to seeing how Paragon Studios and other developers handle observations like these as they explore this brave new world of user-generated content in massively multiplayer online games.

Jon Boon
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It's about time there has been something new and unique in this genre actually be implemented in such a way to give fantastic results. Hopefully this will cause other developers to try and make their MMO experiences a little more unique. However I sense a great deal of copy-catness in store. It'll be interesting to see Blizzard take this into account and incorporate it into their game, as that is inevitable.

Go NCSoft. Hopefully they can flesh this idea for Guild Wars 2, or they have other equally innovative ideas in store...

Teri Thom
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COH and COV have some of the best character control, camera control and team combat and fx of anything out there.

Eric Hardman
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@ BN

You can "level up" the number of missions you can have live by getting good ratings. So, if you put 3 live and they are well rated, you will unlock additional slots. Also, you can have any number of missions not-live but in development. I saw the quest designer talk at GDC and was impressed not only by the tools, but the social engineering that went into creating a superstructure around the tools.

I have not played CoH either, but it's on my list now. Don't let the mission cap hold you back!

Cas Asby
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Maybe a real life story of how flawed the censorship system is will be interesting to you.

I'm a badge-hunter in City of Villains. A pretty dedicated one. Badges are awarded for doing all sorts of sideline things in the game (some of which take weeks or months to accomplish), and with this MA system came a lot of new ones. A subset of them are for getting good ratings (1-5 out of 5 "stars") form other players concerning the stories you create.

Two days ago a badge hunting rival on my server informed me that they were going to ensure that I never got the higher stars badges (the ones for earning 1,000 and 2,000 stars form other players). Becuase I currently have the most badges on my server, the person in question wanted to hurt me.

To fulfill their goal, they got together with a couple of friends and petitioned/complained that my short arc was inappropriate. The two complaints appeared on the story's listing.

With over 260 positive reviews of the arc (it had 4 stars average from players), I didn't feel particularly worried. The mission did start off as a quick badge farm but when a GM suspended the arc and told me to change it, I did and the arc was re-published without the borderline-farm content.

A GM even manually gave me the second stars badge because it is bugged, when I pointed out how many ratings the mission had.

Today I have logged on to find the arc has been outright deleted.

The irony is that there are arcs all over the place out-and-out NAMED "farm", "badge farm", "do this for badges" whereas a lot of silly fun thought went into my mission (it was full of all the cutest enemies in the game and some custom ones, plus the contact's dialogue was written for lulz).

I appear to have now lost all the stars and positive ratings, due to the determined effort of a couple of people who wanted to destroy my chance at getting the silver and gold stars badges.

Whatever you heard form the Developers about the suspension and appeal system, or how you get three tries to re-publish an arc before it automatically goes to a GM for vetting - none of that appears ot have applied to me. My story is just plain gone, and all my ratings and reviews and work has gone with it. No appeal, no warning.