City of Heroes Senior Designer Joe Morrissey on the Conception and Philosophy Behind the Architect System

The MMO Gamer: Another concern you must have had beforehand is the signal to noise ratio. Before Architect, you knew everything in the game was quality, because you made it yourself. So, pretty much the players were doing what you wanted them to.

Joe Morrissey: And now they’re doing what they want to do.

The MMO Gamer: How do you even begin to try and ensure that it is not all just “hi LOL, go bad guy, kill, REWARD!”?

Joe Morrissey: That sounds like the LOLBAT arc, actually. [laughs]

To some extent you can’t. You want to give players the freedom to create stories they want to create.

So you are going to end up with some stuff that isn’t that good.

But the real thing that you need to do just like any other medium, where you have a lot of entries into, like if you look at the music industry or if you look at the movie industry, there is a lot of noise.

So how does the good stuff get to the top? It gets to the top by people saying, “Hey I really like that song,” or “I really like that book,” or “I recommend that you play this.”

We have a whole rating system in place where you rate things from one to five stars. We also have a keyword system that you can go in and say, “This is a great in-canon story, that is a mystery, that is solo-friendly.”

And so people when they want to play content can search for those specific keywords that they are looking for. If you only want to play Clockwork, or you only wanna play through Hellions.

And that is what is kind of helping us parse through the noise. There is going to be a lot of stuff that isn’t great in there. There is going to be a lot of stuff that isn’t bad, and there is going to be a lot of stuff that is really, really good that you haven’t seen it before.

We also have a hall of fame system, where the stuff has been played a lot gets pushed to the top, as well. And that primarily is about filtering the content to what the player wants to get access to. And if somebody wants access to stuff that really isn’t creative, you just have to look for it.

The MMO Gamer: Keeping on that subject, we’re both writers, and storytelling in MMOs is one of those big personal fetishes that I have. I like to harp on people a lot about it when I interview them.

So, how have you been finding Architect as a storytelling medium? Are the players, by and large, using it to tell stories or are they using it to just generate experience-content to play through?

Joe Morrissey: It’s a bit of both.

I mean, there are definitely player types that they make builds, that they want to see what they can take on. They want to make a gauntlet that they can run through. I mean, we have one arc called the Scrappers’ Challenge that is just a series of attacks that you get as you go through it.

People will try and build whole new characters just to survive that challenge.

And I get that, I get that somebody would want to do that to see if they can make that best spec character. So, you get a decent amount of that in Architect.

But, I’m also seeing stories in Architect that I never thought would be able to be told that I could never tell in my job as having a say within canon, within Mission Architect.

We have one guy that did a whole story arc entirely in second person that was from within the mind of a villain.

You go up and you talk to the contact guy, but it’s your own id that is talking to you about the evil that you must do. I couldn’t come from that angle as a CoH storyteller.

One other guy did a whole Space Marine arc. Every mission is you’re assaulting this ship, and you’re going through and fighting all these mech. It makes you want to make a mech character, you kind of wanted to reroll just to get like an assault rifle guy to go in there and you see something that’s really cool.

We had one guy that actually consistently put out a new arc each week, and it had this whole through line of the story, with different characters that came in and came out, even what felt like you were making a choice at the end of it.

Because there’d a time mission that it’d be like, “I need you to really help save this guy, or you can choose not to.”

If you choose not to, then the next mission after that carries on to that whole storyline carries on with that whole storyline.

There’s been some pretty cool stuff in it, and really the challenge that we have now is getting that stuff more in the player’s face so they see that that stuff’s there and can get more exposure, too.

We have some stuff in place, you know, we’ve got the Guest Authors, we’re going to be doing more Dev Choicing. We’re going to continue to support it.

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Comments

  1. Most important question wasn't asked…

    "Don't you think that because of all this instancing, where people don't have to move around because it's all conviently in one spot, kills off your own game and gameworld?

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    City of Heroes Senior Designer Joe Morrissey on the Conception and Philosophy Behind the Architect System:
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