City of Heroes: Honor System Fails

scout-oathLet’s follow this recent train of events (it’s a train, not a chain, because trains can derail and passengers die a bloody death, where as chains just sit around linking all day) that’s been going on in City of Heroes:

  1. City of Heroes comes out with their new Mission Architect system, a feature that lets all players craft their own missions with custom enemies to fight.
  2. It is widely hailed as a great feature implemented into an aging MMO and rockets City of Heroes to the top of the news cycle for a while.
  3. Player-created content outstrips dev-created content in about a day.
  4. Most of it is pure crap, because, let’s face it, most players aren’t writers, designers or original thinkers.
  5. Some players realize that Cryptic’s given them the ingredients for grade-A powerleveling and go to town on sculpting missions with the specific intention of speedy leveling for characters.
  6. So much so that some players report up to 19 levels gained in a single mission.
  7. NCSoft goes “Guh?  Players aren’t being completely honorable and are trying to use whatever they can to benefit themselves?  THIS CANNOT STAND!”
  8. And then NCSoft declares war on its customers.

It’s awesome.  It’s a movie of the week waiting to happen.  It’s one of those blindingly stupid events that can only be foreseen by anyone who’s ever worked with live human beings.  You don’t hand kids the keys to the car and tell them to “drive nice” without showing them the local driving laws and making them take an exam — why?  Because 16-year-olds don’t start driving with anyone else in mind other than themselves (and, by the look of traffic in the greater Detroit area, this hasn’t changed for 40-year-olds either).  You gotta set boundaries and keep an eye on them.

Did the City of Heroes team not anticipate this?  They claim they did:

While we have accomplished some of those goals with the initial launch of Mission Architect, some have found ways to abuse the system we put in place. We are not blind to this happening, nor did we not expect it.

You didn’t not expect it, Matt?  Well, hate to say it, but the onus is on you and your team, and I have no pity here.  I still praise the Architect system, it’s a terrific idea and from most reports well-done, but if you couldn’t spent ten minutes with your team and go, “Now, how could this be abused?” and take steps to head that off, then you deserve to be panicking and running around in full reactionary mode, looking as though you’re trying to assert control of the H.M.S.  Bounty after the crew’s run amok.  Yes, it’s far easier for me to criticize than you to deal with the situation, but this is plain stupidity.  If you were expecting it, why not hold the content from release until you figured out a way to solve this problem before the fact?

At least I’m not alone in wagging my head at the silliness of others.

11 thoughts on “City of Heroes: Honor System Fails

  1. Crimson Starfire May 5, 2009 / 10:01 pm

    Hey Syp, I totally agree with you on this one. The devs of Paragon Studios are now threatening the banhammer to anyone caught abusing the MA system?? What a lame solution to a problem which they supposedly saw coming!! They know they messed up, and their solution is to blame their paying customers!! Seriously WTF???

    If I was them, I’d start designing ways to limit abuse into the MA system and roll the updates out fast. The banhammer is a joke!

    I’m a hair’s breath from unsubscribing to CoX.

  2. [G] May 5, 2009 / 10:06 pm

    On one hand, I am glad that they are finally doing something about this. The spamming for AE farming groups was ridiculous, people didn’t even play the actual game anymore.

    But on the other hand, they really should have set this up before the released the content. You can’t just start punishing people for laws that you create after the fact.

    Wouldn’t the simple solution be to lower the amount of XP given from AE missions? Or maybe they give very little XP, until the mission is rated higher by other players who think it’s well done.

  3. Crimson Starfire May 6, 2009 / 1:29 am

    I agree, why don’t they just give AE missions a max XP limit so that they can’t be used for farming purposes? Seems like a much more diplomatic solution than waving the banhammer around.

  4. Longasc May 6, 2009 / 2:17 am

    The mission architect was a bad idea to begin with.

    I want to get quality content, and not create quality content myself. I also put some trust in the developer to create engaging and fun content. This is what I pay for, after all.

    It is a lazy way to make users work for free, this was their basic idea. Let users stretch content and provide themselves with content.

    The sheer naivety, actually it is quite dumb, NOT to expect this or … pardon, they DID expect his, and still did it? This does not make sense.

    This reminds me almost of Guild Wars, also part of the NCSoft family: Great ideas, extremely bad implementation.

    I guess this describes NCSoft and their design studios best.

    I dare to say: Remove the XP, and NOBODY will bother with the Mission Architect anymore at all.

    This hints at a much more deeper design problem. People play the game for the “rewards”, not so much because the game per se is fun.

    I actually think this is the core issue: CoH gets quickly boring. And this cannot be changed by a mission architect.

  5. Ventris May 6, 2009 / 8:56 am

    Syp, I’mg going out on a limb here and will play the Devil’s Advocate. In the interest of full disclosure I’m pretty neutral on the whole issue.

    Any system can be exploited. MA had already been pushed back an issue. They (the Devs, but more likely NCSoft) wanted to get this puppy out the door. I didn’t read the post as reactionary at all – more like a warning shot across the bow. No one is forcing players to create this abusive content. In fact no one is forcing players to use MA at all. At least CoX players got the warning shot and not willy-nilly banning ala Blizzard. The EULA you sign every time you click the ‘Next’ button basically says don’t be a douche or you can get banned. They aren’t punishing players – they are simply stating that they are going to start enforcing what the players agreed upon when they logged into the game. It’s pretty amazing that people still get inflamed over voluntary content like this.

    BTW – Things really didn’t work out for the Bounty crew after their mutiny.

  6. moxie May 6, 2009 / 9:33 am

    I have to agree with Ventris’ point. I don’t see what is so horrible about CoH’s policy… they’re just letting people know that power-leveling through the MA is a bannable offense, which, quite frankly, should be obvious. Exploiting is against the EULA/TOS, so I see it more like a parent warning their kid, “if you take one cookie out of that jar, you’ll get no cookies for a week”. People had the choice to make missions that are effectively cheating the system. Now they have the choice to remove those missions before they get banhammered.

    Now, should they have looked the MA closer before they released it and removed the ability to make those types of missions? Sure. I don’t know why they didn’t. Perhaps it affected the functionality or flexibility of the MA, and they didn’t want to let a few bad apples (the exploiters) spoil the system for everybody else. Who knows? At any rate, it IS interesting to watch.

  7. foolsage May 6, 2009 / 11:02 am

    This is a design failure. Plain and simple.

    It’s clear that the consequences weren’t thought through properly, as it’s evident to everyone involved that players would do precisely what they have done. I’m disappointed in Cryptic for failing to prevent the abuses, then patching on the banhammer threat as a half-assed band-aid. Using the EULA to police player activity with player-created content is frankly asinine, when better design could have prevented the abuse in the first place.

    Seriously disappointing.

  8. Tesh May 6, 2009 / 9:06 pm

    “people didn’t even play the actual game anymore”

    If that’s the case, and players would rather farm… it suggests to me that there’s more going on than a few nutters looking for exploits.

  9. Electric I June 20, 2009 / 8:18 pm

    Positron really doesn’t have a valid point on this. Why delete player made farms and leave developer created farms in place? Ever heard of “Save Television”? It’s a dev-created farm people have been using for PLs for years.

    If people were getting tired of spam they had the option of TURNING OFF GLOBAL.

    NCSoft shot themselves in the foot with Architect, plain and simple. Banning players for creating farms is stupid, and deleting our chars or resetting us to low levels is asking for trouble.

    I got tired of playing the same dev-created missions 50+ times and getting stomped because my char had no enhancements. After 3 years of playing I started to use farms to pump my newb chars up a bit to get a ton of cash, buy enhancements, then use Ourobouros to go back in time and do those tired-ass missions with a bit of muscle.

    If NCSoft deletes a single char of mine, or reduces em in level, both myself and my gf will cancel our accounts, as I am sure many others will.

    Nice work, Positron…you are clearly a forward thinker.

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