Incidentally, this was the first summer in a while that didn't have a good superhero film come out. Coincidence? Almost certainly.
Our current month promises to have some shakeups. There's a Kickstarter in the wings for The Phoenix Project, and the other major titles all have patches just over the horizon. But today we're looking at the calm before the storm, known to most people as "August." Even if there weren't many world-shattering revelations, there are still some elements worth discussing.
DC Universe Online brings out another DLC pack
From the outside looking in, DC Universe Online does pretty well with its DLC setup. New packs come out fairly regularly, each one adding a fair amount of content, and you can pick them up without a care if you opt for a regular subscription. It does cut down some of the appeal of large patch days for free players who don't purchase the updates, but nothing's perfect.
At any rate, the game's latest DLC went live last month for early access players and will be releasing tomorrow for everyone else, which seems like a lot of extra work for some new powers and new areas, but the new powers are pretty cool. The new sets that DCUO has introduced usually do a good job of feeling balanced against other options by supporting a different playstyle than others, with Celestial powers taking a much more aggressive approach toward healing in general. It's unusual, but it fits.
I do wonder when and if we'll start really hitting power bloat, though. City of Heroes suffered from a rather cumbersome list of powers toward the end of its lifecycle, with new powers almost constantly rolling out for multiple archetypes. Since you couldn't change your powers after creation, it could often make you want to level characters less, as a more desirable set might be out next week. DCUO has done a slow roll for a while, but some of the different playstyles make sense only in the context of existing power options.
Regardless, the game is still trucking along and looking forward to the next console, so that's all good.
Marvel Heroes iterates, trims, and so forth
We haven't heard much about new content from Marvel Heroes, but we've seen a lot of changes either put into testing or brought live for the game. The defense mechanics are getting reworked, experience gains are being adjusted, and heroes are being tweaked.
Yes, I'm sure everyone expected me to have harsh words for the game, but immediately post-launch, design priorities have to be on system balance because you can't test that fully in beta.
Beta testing is mostly focused on identifying areas that outright do not work, since that's the sort of stuff that's going to sink your game before it even gets to launch. Most of the testers don't yet understand the mechanics of the game in more than the broadest terms. Glitches can be identified and trimmed out, systems that either don't work or aren't fun can be fixed or replaced, and so on.
Once you go live, you finally get an opportunity to see how the game works in the wild, which is very different. People start to learn the system and start noticing when something is overpowered in subtle but notable ways. You get an idea of what the game actually contains and can start designing to trim up weaknesses. And it's the one time in a game's life when most of the content has not already been devoured by players eagerly demanding more.
How fast all of these elements actually get needed fixes will be very important in determining the long-term health of the game. Let's see where we are next month.
This news holds a special place in my heart simply because Champions Online is part of what drove me to Massively in the first place. It's really hard to believe that the game has now been out for four years, especially when it still feels as if it's playing a catch-up game after its launch. Certainly it's never attracted the polish or the star power that Cryptic's other games have enjoyed.
The actual anniversary celebration is more or less standard -- doubled experience and extra money, always good for a game that encourages players to make as many alts as possible. We haven't yet seen the full fruits of having a team dedicated to improving the game, but small content updates do seem to be coming a bit faster now. It's not a fix, but it's a change for the better, something the game has sorely needed for at least the last year of operation.
Again, let's see where we are next month, especially since we know some interesting stuff will be happening in the superhero MMO space. Until then, feel free to leave your comments down in the comment section or send them along to firstname.lastname@example.org. We'll be back in another month for more news that's fit to recap.
By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre spent years in City of Heroes before the world-shattering event that destroyed his home world. But he remains as intrepid as ever, traveling to other superheroic games and dispensing his unique brand of justice... or lack thereof.