On the 5th of July, almost 2 months after starting City of Heroes, I
deactivated my account. The following expresses my thoughts on the
I never expected City of Heroes to be a long-term diversion. At $15
per month (rates are lower when you buy longer blocks of time), that's
$180 per year (ignoring the initial $50 to buy the game). While just a
minor part of the household budget, that's still a good amount of money
I could spend on other things (like upgrading my slow-ass 933MHz CPU).
Anyway, even for the money I spent, around $65, I got quite a lot of
gameplay out of City of Heroes. The last figure I remember being quoted
from the game was 90 hours, and that was well before I ended my
subscription. For a modern computer game, that's a really good value.
Even if I do a conservative end estimate of 100 hours, that's still only
65 cents per hour. Contrast that with a typical $50 first-person
shooter game with around 10 hours of gameplay. That's 5 dollars per
hour of play.
But of course, what it comes down to is whether or not each hour of
play is worth what you're paying for it. And that's what's at issue
I didn't join the game right at launch, but a little while after it.
As far as I could tell, the game was very well implemented. It had a
very polished feel to it. The interface was slick and fairly easy to
use. Yes, I have encountered bugs (mainly opponents getting stuck in
walls, though once I was attacked by through walls by enemies who had
not even seen me). Still, they were exceptionally rare.
I think the reason that everything went so smoothly was because the
game itself doesn't try to do a lot. It is quite simply a combat game.
You go in and beat the tar out of a bunch of computer-controlled bad
guys. And there's nothing wrong with that. My library is replete with
games that consist of fighting and nothing else. And that's good... for
a while. Eventually you're going to get tired of it. Most other
MMORPG's have a bit more depth to them, economy and crafting being the
two major aspects.
Also, they tend to have a bigger sense of community. It could just
be me, though. By nature I'm more of a solitary person. In City of
Heroes, most of my time was spent solo. I did join in groups from time
to time. The problem is, the way I tend to play is sporadic. I'll play
while watching TV or eating, and so my attention to the game can vary
from minute to minute. This is the way I prefer. Going solo allows me
to play at my own pace. In a group, I have to keep up with the rest of
the team or fall behind. When I decided I needed a rapid infusion of
XP, I'd seek out some teammates and focus on the game. I can't play
like that all the time though. It's not how I have the most fun. And
while the type of character I played most often can go out and fight on
his own, it's repetitive and advancement is slow.
Since I was rarely in a team, the only sense of community came from
the chat system. City of Heroes has a, in my opinion, fairly
rudimentary communication setup. There are two general "channels" to
use: Broadcast and Request. Messages sent to either one will be shown
to all players in your current district, excepting those players who
have chosen to mute them. There's also a Local chat, which means that
only players near your character's physical location will hear what you
say. The Tell command lets you communicate directly with any player on
the same server, no matter where they are in the city. Team and
Supergroup chats let you send messages only to members of your current
team and supergroup respectively. Since teams come and go, team chat is
mainly for coordinating your current combat without messages getting
lost in Local space. Supergroup chat is for communicating with everyone
in whatever Supergroup you have decided to join. The final option is
Friends, a command that sends a message to every player that you have
marked as a "friend". For me, this was both the most useful and most
poorly designed option.
The problem is this: let's say I send a message to my Friends list.
My friends read it and reply. However, their message, if they use the
Friends option, goes to everyone on their Friends list, not my
list. So their reply isn't seen by everyone who read my original
message. On the other hand, it will go to some people who never
saw what I originally wrote.
That's it for communication. It's nice if all your friends are in
the same supergroup. But if they aren't, good luck coordinating
messages. There's no system of channel creation, like IRC. So with
these severe communication limitations, I felt a lack of community in
the game. With MMORPG's, the pitch is almost universally, "Come for the
fun, stay for the community!" Well, City of Heroes had good initial
fun, but little staying power with its rather shallow gameplay. And the
community aspect feels a bit weak. Possibly things would have been
different if I'd joined an active supergroup. Possibly.
As it is, City of Heroes was a good temporary diversion. It was a
good value for the amount of time I invested into it. And eventually it
had to end. The gameplay descended into the same thing: scour an area
of my approximate power level, find a group I think I can handle, and
then follow my tried-and-true routine of double-buff, snipe, power
blast, power thrust, etc. etc. etc. Uncovering new blaster powers as I
progressed was wonderful. Unfortunately, they were harder and harder to
come by as my level went up. Playing other character types let me try
out new powers too. The problem there was that the blaster is the most
solo-able type there is, so the other character types progressed even
slower when I tried to follow my preferred model of play.
It was a good two months, but as they say, all good things must come
to an end.
(Updated Tuesday, July 20, 2004 12:53 PM)