Experience Points: Champions Online – Part 9: Community and Communication
The goal of this series was to give an overview of the state of the game from a player perspective, as balanced as possible and taking most things into account. At whom was it directed? Well, old players who dropped the game some time ago, potential players wondering about the game, current players to remind them of things they already know, and the developers.
Now, before reading on further, if you’ve had experience with other MMOs or just other games, think about the last group I mentioned, because that might be a big factor in how you read the rest of this article. Did you roll your eyes? If I had no idea about Champions Online, in all honesty, I would have. What official game forums I’ve been a part of, I’ve never got the impression of having communication with the Devs, or at least having relevant communication.
With Cryptic, I’m pretty sure most developers will read these articles if it touches upon their field of work, and maybe even take into account what’s been said.
But before I try talking to the Devs, I’m sure old and potential players are wondering about the state of the community in Champions Online. After all, it is an MMO. Unless you’re an MMO Goth that solos everything and likes the dynamic and living world around them, you’ll probably be interested in whom you’ll be spending your time with.
As someone who has stopped playing even smaller scale FPSs because of the communities, I can say that CO’s is quite alright. Sure, it has its share of knuckleheads, and not everyone gets along, but for most part, it’s a good community. People are very helpful and the division that might exist between various groups like PvErs, PvPers, RPers, farmers and so on is, for the most part, highly unwarranted.
Maybe I was just lucky with my later encounters, but initially, when I started playing, it was just PvE. I didn’t like PvP or PvPers. I didn’t care for RPers, I thought farmers were selfish, and generally just stayed in my solo comfort zone. Then I opened up… without intending to. I do play pen and paper RPGs, but was never into it in MMOs. But when you make a drunk Soviet bear wrestler, it gets too tempting to play a stereotypical Russki Comrade. Jumping into that part of the game made all the content interesting again. I was still reluctant to have any dealings with PvPers, mostly for reasons I criticized in my last article. But I’ve had contact with a lot of them the past few months, and really, they’ve been very helpful folk once you understand how PvP works.
The farmers are what caught me off-guard. I made a thread on the official forums asking Cryptic to fix Cosmics because they were getting spawn-camped (a complaint also found in my “Endgame” article of this series). I didn’t want the drops or whatever, I just wanted a chance to, you know, PLAY the content. Next day, two people who regularly farm one of the Cosmics contacted me and offered me to tag along. I have never talked to any of them before that, ingame or on the forums.
So, wait, what exactly was my problem with people in this game? This is not to say that all people are awesome. You’ll find rotten players without a doubt, but there are proportionally far less of them from my experience. Each group has players who give them a bad name, but the good people often band together, and you are just one forum post away from finding them.
Here’s another example of a very pleasant surprise. I was farming a certain mob for crafting materials, and the spot I was using happened to spawn them very fast. Of course, I wasn’t the only person who knew about it. I didn’t mind, content belongs to everyone after all. However, I had only one AoE on my character. So, I pull mobs… and the other person kills them with their AoE which was vastly superior, getting all the drops (CO mobs drop items based on damage, not who tagged them). I poke the person and tell them I don’t mind them farming the same spot as me, but ask them to not kill my mobs. Their response was “I can’t pay attention to who I target”. He does this for 15 minutes, and, being the nerd that I am, I complain in my Super Group chat. Just complain, mind you. 5 minutes later, 10 people from my Super Group show up and we start stealing the other person’s mobs. The guy gave up after a while and went away. Now, a guild is a guild, it’s people that are usually there for you, so something like this shouldn’t come as a surprise. However, I knew the Super Group the guy stealing my mobs was from, so I contacted one of the officers. “Hey, dude, I know you guys are for most part ok folk, so I don’t think you want players like this giving you a bad reputation.” They took it very well and said they’d look into. Obviously, I have no idea what the aftermath was, but this all went so smooth, so maturely, it really surprised me.
There are also a lot of player-run events, like costume contests or just social get-togethers. These range from improvised events with 20 or so people, to carefully planned-out happenings with the number attendees easily reaching a full instance (100 players). I’ve dropped a lot of games because of the community, this is the first game which I’ve played for as long as I did, in part, because of the community.
But where do the Devs fit in all of this? How is Developer communication? It’s a mixed bag, but leaning towards more positive than negative. There is a Public Test Server (PTS) where test builds go before they hit the Live servers. It’s open to subscribers and there’s a separate sub-forum for player feedback. The response there is usually amazing. A lot of input is taken into account, a lot of input is integrated into the game. If there is something most players will think is gamebreaking and they support their arguments, it’s going to get changed.
There are exceptions and WTF moments. Sometimes things that are obviously broken make it to the Live server for whatever reason. I can’t say why because I have no insight in the inner workings of the Champions Team, but when looking at the power selection screen, I can easily see which powers were there because of player feedback.
After things get to the Live server, everything slows down. Bugs, unless they are utterly game-breaking, can exist for months. Issues like targeting have existed for months. Fixes and communication take a real dive.
However, there is still communication. There are plenty of Dev posts, be it serious or joking. Some issues get addressed right away, but some things get radio silence for quite a long time. Of course, you can’t tell the players everything. That’s not very smart. But it’s the job of the Community Rep to calm people down and make them feel like there is stuff being done. Obviously, calming down nerd rage is a job I wish upon no person (and which I’ve just condemned myself to do at some point in the future thanks to Murphy), but when a forum thread reaches 10 pages or more of complaining, you need to say something. Fudge it, whatever. Make people feel relevant.
The Bug tickets also don’t seem to work. I’ve seen quite a few situations where dozens of people claim to have reported a bug, and then a Dev comes over, sees a random forum post and learns of the issue that has existed for quite a while.
A lot of these communication issues are also due to skewed perception. Many successful games have zero developer-player communication. Cryptic Developers post enough to make players want them to post “a bit more”. People are used to Developer presence and then when it is lacking, rage ensues. I can’t call the current communication “enough” or “not enough.” Like I said, I lack insight in Cryptic’s workings. However, from a player perspective, I can only call it random. This is something many feel and there are employees whose job it is to ensure that customers don’t feel like that.
Lately, though, a lot of player suggestions have made it into the game, or are currently in the works. The next Weapon Pack will have items suggested by a vocal part of the community. The concert for the 2nd Anniversary was a player suggestion as well. It is a straight-out lie to say that Cryptic doesn’t listen.
So, this was the part dedicated to you, the player, old, current, or future. The community is good, just stay away from Zone chat unless you were a fan of Barrens chat in WoW. The developers listen, although sometimes it is bafflingly random.
Champions Online team, for what it’s worth, here are things I’ve picked up from other players:
-Some people enjoyed the Adventure Packs, some people found them horrid, but most agree that they would like a new zone soon;
-There is often radio silence over some more serious issues, like chat not working. One “we’re discussing this internally, but can’t give an ETA at the moment” can make a world of difference. Frankly, I wouldn’t like more than one sentence as I want people working on those issues rather than spending time calming raging masses;
-A lot of people who are currently Gold are feeling like they aren’t getting their money’s worth. That freeform isn’t enough at the moment. Give Gold players some Gold-only stuff for a change;
-Have the powers team PvP now and then on the Live servers with actual players, on Dev or regular accounts. Try all tiers and see what’s right and wrong with PvP at the moment. It has the potential to be great;
-The Bug Report system needs some work if the Developers aren’t aware of some issues that have been ingame since forever;
-Give us more Nemesis stuff!
You have a game with a lot of potential here; many players agree with that. But that “potential” can only keep people hooked for so long. I am hoping that a lot of the issues I have with it are addressed now that you’re part of Perfect World International.
That’s the series, folks. I’ve tried covering every aspect I thought was worth covering. After nine parts, I feel silly having to say whether I recommend the game or not, but I am sure there are plenty of “too long, didn’t read” folk out there. Yes, it’s worth another try at this point. I cannot guarantee you will like it, but if you do, there is enough to keep you busy for a while. I will, however, point out that after you’ve done what’s to be done, whether you stay or not depends on what you dabble in. If you dabble in RP, you might stay as a Silver player. If you dabble in PvP, you might stay as a Gold player. If you’re PvE-only, you’ll run out of things to do eventually and I don’t think you’ll stay. But hey, at the moment, it’s free, and I can recommend to anyone going Gold for one month at least.
Experience Points is where we get to talk a bit more in-depth on games we are much more knowledgeable of through extensive playing. It’s not as much of a review as it’s our experience with the game in question