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Behind the Mask

Behind the Mask: The real state of the game

Super-hero, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Although Champions Online's most recent State of the Game has been out for a while, I sort of avoided talking about it in previous editions of Behind the Mask. The main reason was because I really wanted to cover the new powersets. However, that doesn't mean I don't have any comments on it.

If you look at the history of the State of the Game and Ask Cryptic entries, they fluctuate quite a bit between good information and annoying PR. The January SOTG was full of annoying PR, and it bothered me greatly. It felt dishonest. I saw a lot of hype on little things that no one wanted and very little on what people really wanted.

This week, I'm going to talk about the real state of the game: where CO is and where it needs to go. I'll also talk about some of the future stuff that Robobo mentioned in the SOTG. Is it good or bad? We'll see!

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Behind the Mask: Throwing stones at their glass houses

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

This week on Behind the Mask, we're going to take an in-depth look at Champions Online's new Earth powerset. It took me quite a while to review Wind, and Earth is relatively new. Why the time disparity?

The real answer is that I looked at Wind long before last week, but I didn't really find anything fun or exciting at a first look. Earth is a lot different. Earth has a lot of potential for combining powers between the set; it can Stagger enemies and then exploit that Stagger for damage or bonus effects. Because a lot of the Earth tricks eat your Stagger stacks, you have to choose between keeping Stagger on your targets for the debuff or eating it for the bonus power effects. On top of that, it has the first viable Brick archetype heal, making the Mountain the second reliable Archetype tank. Earth is a lot of fun.

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Behind the Mask: Scarlet Weather Rhapsody

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Champions Online released two powersets recently, and I finally got time to sit down and crunch numbers on the new Wind powers. Wind has been live for a few weeks now, and the Squall archetype uses its powers to push enemies around the battlefield and rock the damage charts.

Wind has been one of the most frequently requested powersets since Heavy Weapons hit the game, and I was excited to play around with the set. Does the Wind powerset meet the expectations players had for it? This week on Behind the Mask, I set out to find the answer to that question.

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Behind the Mask: The dangers of roleplaying as an outlet

Super-hero, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Recently, I've run into some troubling developments while roleplaying in Champions Online. I've encountered quite a few "troll characters" who seem designed soley to irritate and annoy other people. The characters in question are often played by otherwise-good roleplayers, which makes me wonder: Why would someone do this?

This is as much a topic for Storyboard as it is for Behind the Mask, but because it is very common among Champions Online roleplayers, I feel it deserves extra consideration. This article isn't going to finger-point at bad roleplayers and say why they're wrong. Rather, the point of this column is to inform good roleplayers about elements of RP that can quickly ruin people's fun.

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Behind the Mask: Angels and Devils

Super-hero, Lore, Free-to-Play, Roleplaying, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Last week on Behind the Mask, we talked about the basic dimensional structure of the Champions universe and its parallels with the Kabballah. This week, we take you a bit deeper into the mythos of Champions Online. We'll take a look at the Astral Plane, or Yetzirah, and the key places that exist there. I'll be focusing heavily on the Quaternion -- a series of four planar zones within the Lower Astral Plane that embody most fantasy elements critical to the Champions Universe.

If you have ever wondered about demons and angels, this is a must-read. The Vibora Bay story arc paints a very unusual picture about the nature of these planes, and we'll be covering just what Heaven and Hell are in respect to that story. We'll also be covering faeries, elves, dwarves, and other popular fantasy elements. If you're planning on creating a roleplaying character who fits into a fantasy subtype, travels through dimensions, or just uses magic, this information will be critical to you!

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Behind the Mask: Between this world and the next

Super-hero, Lore, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

One of the exciting things about writing about Champions Online is that there is a huge amount of lore and backstory behind the game. Although Behind the Mask has a definite focus on concrete game information (that's just how I roll), the lore is always something I'm excited to cover. It offers a look into Champions that can't be experienced with just the online game.

This week we're going to look at alternate dimensions in the Champions universe. I was going to take a more indepth look at the background behind the war between Heaven and Hell, but unfortunately there is so much information that paints necessary frameworks for those story elements. It's unfortunate, but the information I have to go over this week is pretty crazy stuff.

Before you go through this, you may want to check out some of my other lore articles, including my magic lore article and my general lore primer. I do restate all the necessary stuff here, but having a broader understanding of what's going on can do nothing but help. A lot of the information here is from The Mystic World sourcebook, but there's also a fair bit of stuff cobbled together from ingame lore and some other sourcebooks. Definitely check them out if you want more information on these subjects.

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Behind the Mask: The Force Unleashed

Super-hero, Classes, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Hands-On, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Now that The Old Republic has hit the shelves, it seems like everyone has something to say about it. Cryptic seems to acknowledge it in its own unusual way: by lampshading it.

Enter the Unleashed, Champions Online's newest free archetype. No, you're not misreading me here; the Unleashed is not a gold archetype. If you make an account right now, you can play the Unleashed from the moment you enter the character select screen, without spending a dime. Since it's the ninth free archetype, you'd think that he'd be a stable, bread-and-butter class. However, the Unleashed is nothing but. His wackiness approaches the Impulse, but where the Impulse is kind of ineffectual, the Unleashed is deadly efficient.

Interested in a sword-wielding knight who slings force blasts? Hit the jump and we'll see what Cryptic's take on a Jedi can do.

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Behind the Mask: A way to improve microtransaction consumables

Super-hero, Economy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

A couple of weeks ago, I lamented the existence of grab bags in Champions Online and how they could be made more worthwhile. Although I made quite a few suggestions on what could be changed, the main concern was that the consumables placed in the grab bags were simply not worth anything.

Improving the value of C-Store consumables won't appease the vocal minority whose sense of entitlement tells them that they deserve the ultra-rare grab bag items. These people only see the grab bags as chances for costume unlocks, so making the consumables worth the 80 CP ($1 US) won't matter to them. For the general public, though, making the consumables worth the gamble makes the grab bag items much more desirable.

This week on Behind the Mask, we'll look at the C-Store consumables and weigh in on whether they're worth the money. If they're not, we'll look at what could be done to fix it!

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Behind the Mask: What does unbalanced even mean?

Super-hero, PvP, PvE, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

One of the major criticisms of Champions Online is a lack of game balance. People claim that the phrase "your own hero, your own story" doesn't cover the fact that your hero might be a gimp compared to someone else's. Although archetypes have their own balance issues (even among themselves), this complaint most commonly leveled at the freeform game where there are millions of possible characters.

However, I think that most armchair game theorists have a terrible understanding of what "balance" even means. Decades of competitive gaming (yeah, I'm that old) have given me a comprehensive understanding of what the term means, and I think it's worth looking at how CO stacks up.

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Behind the Mask: Are grab bags a scam?

Super-hero, Economy, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Everyone's heard of the "gift box" phenomenon. It's a common theme in F2P MMOs to release an item that doesn't have guaranteed contents and instead has a random selection from a pool of items. Sometimes there are rare bonus items inside; other times there are things the buyer didn't really want. Champions Online has taken its second foray into this territory with the Service and Cursed Grab Bags, a pair of C-Store items that grant a chance at a variety of tradable goodies.

Gift box items sell to a variety of people. Some find the idea of chance more fun, and others absolutely must have the rare items and will spend lots of money trying to get them. Are the grab bags a scam, though? After the jump, we'll look at just why that is and hopefully give you enough information to come to your own conclusion.

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Behind the Mask: Charging to maximum

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, PvP, PvE, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Once upon a time before the Champions Online beta, I was introduced to the idea of charged attacks. The concept seemed pretty cool; you had your basic attack, and charging the attack would do something neat and special. Unfortunately, CO kind of fell short on my expectations. Energy is used for all attacks, rather than just special or charged attacks, and it builds much too quickly. The choice to charge an attack is not as much of a tactical decision and mostly hinges on how much health the enemy has left.

This week on Behind the Mask, we're going to cover charge powers. Although some of this may seem obvious or simple, there is a lot of nuance to be understood. I won't treat you guys like noobs or idiots when it comes to these mechanics; we're going to look at the in-depth reasons why charging powers isn't the best idea in CO.

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Behind the Mask: Comparing the archetype bruisers

Super-hero, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

A lot of people seem to get the wrong idea about Champions Online's Gold archetypes. For the most part, the Gold archetypes are simply different options to play with. As I mentioned previously, the Master is kind of an exception, since it's the only dedicated archetype tank. However, this does not mean that the Master is the beat-all-end-all or that Gold archetypes are outright superior to Silver ones. For the most part, the Silver archetypes are better at their focused roles than the comparable Gold archetypes.

This week, we're going to look at the damage-soaking tanky archetypes and compare them. I'll also give a quick comparison between these bruisers and a comparable freeform hero. There's quite a few to cover, so let's get to it!

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Behind the Mask: How tanking got easier

Super-hero, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask, Guides

I've mused for a long time about the problems with tanking in Champions Online, since it's my preferred PvE role. Gold members can build freeform characters with everything one would need for a tank, leaving only skill as a requirement. On the other hand, Silver members have been left out in the cold. It's unfortunate, but there has simply been no decent archetype tank.

This all changed with the launch of the Master, a martial arts-themed melee fighter with everything needed to compete in the toughest lairs. Although he isn't a perfect tanking package, he is completely functional and does his job well. He's the Mind of tanking archetypes: He soaks damage, he owns face, and he isn't reliant on a healer for sustainability. I think I'm in love.

Although he is not a free archetype, unlocking the Master is a one-time purchase. If you're into the tank playstyle but you're not into a subscription, this archetype is for you.

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Behind the Mask: How freeforms work

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

This week on Behind the Mask, we'll be looking at freeform characters and how they work. This is more of a primer for players who are interested in the Gold subscription and would like to know more about how freeform characters differ from archetypes. I'm also spotlighting it to show just how archetypes are built poorly and some ways they could be improved.

Freeform characters differ dramatically from archetypes. However, they follow a concrete set of rules on how they must be built. A hero can't just select Gigabolt, Ego Storm, or other high-level powers right from the start; there's a list of power restrictions that must be selected first. The power restrictions basically correlate to level restrictions, although there are some ways around that too.

While this may be familiar to Gold players, it will serve as a primer for those who are not experts at maneuvering around the power selection process.

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Behind the Mask: The choice of team support

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, Behind the Mask

Champions Online screenshot
Last week's Behind the Mask covered Champions Online's super team support solo monster, the Mind, but I thought it would be prudent to cover the other ways a player can support a team. Some of this will tread existing ground, as I've already talked about the Mind and Grimoire archetypes in previous editions, and both have one of the four team support options.

I'll be covering the Mind's passive in more detail, taking a brief look again at the Grimoire's passive as well as covering the other two options, Seraphim and Medical Nanites. While we don't have a Celestial archetype just yet, it is only a matter of time before Cryptic adds one, so this will give a bit of a preview for what a Celestial healer plays like.

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