New City of Heroes / City of Villains Q&A

February 12, 2008

New City of Heroes / City of Villains Q&A

NCsoft has released a new Q&A for their superhero
MMORPG, City of Heroes. The Q&A with programmer CW Bennett can be read in its
entirety below.

City of Heroes / City of Villains
“Real Numbers” Q&A with Programmer CW Bennett

Q: Can you tell us about yourself and what you
on the COH dev team?

A: My name is CW and I’m a programmer on the City
of Heroes/City of Villains development team. I’ve been working on (or near) the
team for the last five years. I implemented most of the U.I. and I’m currently a
general gameplay programmer.

Q: Please give us an overview of this new
feature.

A: Well, we basically integrated some “tools”
into the in-game U.I. which display the numbers behind the game’s combats
systems. The Combat Attributes Window lists all the important attributes of the
player and shows their current value. It also shows the source and contribution
of buffs. The Combat Monitor Window is a lightweight window that can
unobtrusively be left up all the time (unlike the Combat Attributes Window), so
you can watch selected buffs change during combat. Additionally, more
information can be found through buff icons that show their actual effects on
the player, and in the combat log where hit rolls have been added.

Q: Can you take us into the process of
implementing this? What were your goals? What steps did you have to take to get
to the final version?

A: Originally all of the power descriptions and
combat numbers were obfuscated and hidden away because we assumed that the
details would be confusing to players and we were trying to make a game that you
could just play without reading the manual. However, we eventually realized that
in other games, comparing weapons/armor items was made easier (not harder) if
they showed the actual combat numbers. In addition, there is enough data exposed
that everything else could eventually be determined by persistent players. The
existing “easy to use” references are still there in game – if you don’t want
all this extra detail, you don’t have to be bothered with it. But, for those who
yearn for all the nitty gritty details, it’s all there for you! Hopefully
exposing the numbers will help give players additional information they can use
to make combat and power decisions.

When I started working on the numbers, I decided
I’d approach things from the order of easiest to hardest to implement. All
players have a list of final calculated combat attributes on them already so
exposing that was an obvious first step. Next step was looking over all the
buff/debuffs and back calculating them. In doing this, I realized that the
information could be displayed on the buff icons in the status window, and
incorporated that feature as an unexpected extra.

Adding the hit rolls to the combat window
happened because Back Alley Brawler (another dev) saw the attribute monitor and
wanted something that would tell him what his chance to hit any target was going
to be. Unfortunately, your final chance to hit involves not only all the player
buffs and all the target buffs, but is also different for every power. Each
power has its own accuracy modifier and additionally could be slotted
differently. Since the game can’t predict what power a player will end up
choosing, I added the next best thing and showed what the actual chance to hit
was.

Q: What aspect of this will make players most
excited and how can they take advantage of this feature?

A: It helps level the playing field a bit for
players that don’t go to out of game tools like City of Data or Mid’s Hero
Designer. It makes it easy to see the cumulative effect of various set bonuses.
It can help players make power and slotting choices because they can better
understand just what those powers or enhancement slot choices are actually
doing. Just the other day, I was playing a low level Warshade and used the
Combat Attribute window to help me decide how to slot Dark Nova.

Also, for us here on the Development Team, it
gives us an elegant in-game tool to double check powers and the changes that we
make to them. If they are behaving unexpectedly the tool makes it much easier to
find bugs.

Q: Some players are happy with the game the
way it is. Does this force players to play the game any differently?

A: Not at all, if you are interested in the
numbers they are now available, but they are not forced on to you.

Q: Does this feature make City of Heroes any
more or less like the other MMP’s out there?

A: This adds functionality that is more like
other MMO’s, which have traditionally been heavily number based. But like I
said, the great thing about this feature is that players who want this type of
information have it now, others may just want to keep playing as they always
have.

Q: Is there anything else that you want to say
about this feature?

A: There is more to come!