May 9th, 2006


Not Dead, Just Busy

How can somebody who's retired be too busy to write to LiveJournal? Well, I have been, since last Tuesday afternoon. You see, the next major release of City of Heroes/City of Villains, "issue 7," hit the test server then. Since then, I've been beating on it 8 to 14 hours a day. When I've had all of that I can stand, I'm too sick of sitting at the computer to do any writing.

What's got me grinding away 14 hours a day? Well, there are a couple of very new character types. One of them isn't very much like anything they've ever done before, and it looked interesting to me, anyway. So, like a lot of people, I jumped onto the test server as fast as possible and started leveling up a Thugs mastermind. But not for the same reason other people do it, and that's why it's so important for me to get it up to at least level 32, and preferably at least to level 38, while there's still time for them to make changes to the code. Which is a ridiculously tight schedule, because odds are they're going to try to take it to the live servers on the 25th, barely more than 3 weeks after it hit test. Level 1 to 38, solo, in 2 weeks or so? Inconceivable. But I'm level 26 already. Between knowing the game inside and out, and being willing to put in the hours, I'm pretty confident I'll at least hit 32. That'll be high enough to have all six Thugs (2 gang bangers, 1 arsonist, 2 enforcers, and 1 bruiser) recruited and fully equipped (both the level 1 and the level 2 buffs to them). I will also, by that time, obviously have run them through an awful lot of missions. If I do so with at least a week to spare, I may be able to warn them of any critical problems in time to get them fixed before launch.

(Test-server-only character name: Auric Goldfarmer. Minions are named Sean, George, Roger, Pierce, Timothy, and Peter. I have an even worse pun planned for the live servers. Hopefully I won't run afoul of the Center for Crimes against MMO's.)

The reason why it's so important to me, the reason that I don't trust enough other people to have, is that I'm looking for any part of it that's too good, massively or even perceptibly more powerful than similar powersets. As someone who's run both Mercenaries and Robots all the way to level 39 or 40, I've got a pretty good idea how powerful they intend masterminds to be. Nearly everybody else, I suspect, is testing to look primarily for things that aren't powerful enough to suit them. So am I, but I know lots of people are doing that so that's not my first priority. No, what worries me is that it'll go live with some gaping exploit or some massively overpowered power. That leads to "flavor of the month" syndrome, which leads to massive outcry against it, which leads to organized campaigns to persuade the developers to tune it down, which in games like this always, always, always leads to overcompensation and hurt feelings all around.

I think it's the_geoffrey who's fond of saying that there aren't very many fun things he wants to do 8 to 10 hours a day? This is getting to that point. But it has its moments that make it sustainable. The new Mayhem Missions, where we get to go back to Paragon City and literally tear the place up, are more fun than the law allows. I keep finding old mission maps, especially those that were owned by the primary bad guy faction Arachnos, that have had massive graphical overhauls and upgrades, some of which are just draw-droppingly beautiful. (In particular, there's one reactor room/pumping station at the end of one mission that's like something out of one of my worst nightmares. Just amazing.) But even when it's fun, it's exhausting. So don't expect to hear a lot from me online for at least another week, maybe two. (Unless you're in the Training Room test server, in which case my global handle is still @InfamousBrad. Or just tune in to the Training Room's server-wide Help channel, which we testers are practically using as a chat channel.)