Users asked to design their own MMO levels make up really easy games

City of Heroes, a multiplayer superhero game, decided to allow its users to design their own levels. While some users created some fun and imaginative levels, the majority produced incredibly easy treasure-hauls, the sort of quest we used to call "Monty Haul dungeons" in the D&D era.

There's something weird and paternalistic about the relationship between gamers and game-designers. It goes like this: "I will deny you reward until you complete some arbitrary tasks of my devising, because I know that this will make you happier than simply giving you the rewards right away" (what's more, the designer is generally right about this).

This authority and arbitrariness is simpler to navigate when you're playing D&D with some friends around a table -- the GM is a pal of yours in whom you've put your trust for a few hours, and if she doesn't deliver the promised fun, she can be ousted and replaced. The GM doesn't even have to stick to the rules: if she thinks that the game's fun will go up if she ignores the outcome of a dice-roll behind her screen, she can make up an epic save or fail.

But it's different when the "GM" is a bunch of rules programmed into a computer by an engineer working at a multinational. In that universe, if the rules are bent for the sake of fun, it's cheating. And the social contract that comfortably defines the relationship between friends stretches and tears when it's applied to the relationship between customers and corporations.

When City of Heroes released its user-created mission generator, it was mere hours before highly exploitative missions existed. Players quickly found the way to min-max the system, and started making quests that gave huge rewards for little effort. These are by far the most popular missions. Actually, from what I can tell, they are nearly the only missions that get used. Aside from a few "developer's favorite" quests, it's very hard to find the "fun but not exploitative" missions, because they get rated poorly by users and disappear into the miasma of mediocrity.

This was not what the designers hoped for. Somehow they had convinced themselves that the number of exploiters would be relatively low -- certainly not the vast majority of the users. But they were wrong, and now they're stuck between a rock and a hard place. They feel they must counteract these abusive quests, "for the sake of balance". But how? Well the first step is to ban people who make cheaty content. But what's cheaty? Do they explicitly list every possible exploit condition? What if they miss one? Nah, then the problem would start all over again. Instead, how about if they just issue blanket threats that they'll ban missions that seem "exploitative", without actually explaining what is and isn't "exploitative"? They went with the latter.

User Generated Quests and the Ruby Slippers


  1. That reminds me of people creating Little Big Planet levels primarily to get trophies for the PS3. A great example is the trophy that requires you to get millions of scores (done by popping bubbles), so users created levels where tons of bubbles would just drop onto the player and pretty quickly you’d get the score and the trophy. That amount of score is otherwise very hard to get in a game made by the developers.

  2. Hardly surprising – MMOs are barely games to begin with, and their most serious aficionados appear to have a damaged perception of reward influencing their behavior.

  3. It might be interesting try this with all sorts of different games. Is the instawin temptation more or less universal, or does the mentality vary between the player bases of different games or types of games?

  4. The irony here is of course that people tend to forget the actual mechanics of why a game is fun, in favor of a short-term “reward”. In an RPG-style game, people should know that pleasure comes from consuming the content and accomplishing something (whatever that may mean). If they don’t understand that they’re just guys who spend large amounts of time watching a number go up on a screen with no real enjoyment behind it.

    XP are usually a reward mechanism because they stand for something, not because high integers are inherently cool. Thus I argue that PVP-oriented players are actually more susceptible to this kind of temptation, since they are by nature competitive and, for them at least, XP and loot are often linked to their sense of self worth.

    I realized this when I watched people play a little text adventure I created on Facebook. The most tricked-out characters tend to be
    A) people who love the game and spend lots of time playing it
    B) competitive PVP-types who don’t care about content or any form of entertainment that isn’t linked to besting others

    In this example, I noticed the A group consistently participates meaningfully in the message boards and even alerted me to bugs and exploits that when fixed meant making the game harder to play. Group B typically consumes about 25% of the content, spends most of their time dueling other players and tend to exploit any bug shamelessly.

    Game design can compensate for this behavior, but it also means shifting the demographics of the audience. For example, in my case the turning point came when I made PVP combat completely risk-free for the character who gets attacked. Any risk or reward is with the attacker only, meaning that they can’t take away your money, items or health. This was a non-obvious step for me, but a certain type of people who wanted others to “hurt” when they prevailed over them left the game. Since then, a more peaceful and enjoyable crowd has formed.

    Now that’s just an example, and it couldn’t fix CoH even if it was an economically viable measure (which it isn’t for a commercial developer). So pretty much the only thing left for them is to make their user-generated content more “App Store”-y: that means a GM approval process for the missions. My understanding is that those missions are pretty much static once they’re finished so GMs could approve or reject them once and any chance to smuggle in exploits would be minimized. Couple that with some reputation system and the option to vote and report on content, that should do the trick.

  5. Seems like what might actually be happening is that while users trust game designers enough to try difficult levels built by professionals, they don’t by default trust other players in the same way. Maybe user created levels that are challenging are rated poorly because there’s no social capital system in CoH that would let players quickly distinguish a difficult-by-good-design level from a difficult-by-incompetent-design level.

    A simple rating system won’t necessarily act as an indicator of social capital for a skill as specialized as level design–since players decide in the first minutes of play whether to continue levels not built by people they trust, the rating system trends toward lowest common denominator, instant gratification missions.

    I think CoH might have done better with a phased release process, slowly bringing selected players into a community of level builders, reviewing levels, and only releasing well designed levels to the broader player base. Pushing out designer reviewed, high quality levels a few at a time would have infused player generated content with the trust that players put in the company, which could have led to a more vibrant level building group.

  6. As a seasoned “City of” player, I was initially excited by the idea of player-created missions. In fact, I am currently adapting pieces of fiction that I have developed into (what I hope are) compelling snippets of storytelling. The fact that so much hard work put in by *actual* creators will go completely unnoticed saddens me.
    Surprising? No, not one bit… but it certainly saddens.

  7. It sounds like they have quite a “vibrant” level building group, in the sense of “lively” – lots of people are doing it. They’re just doing it “badly” in the rarified, gameist sense.

    It’s interesting that the rating system suggests that they’re doing it “well” according to the players, though.

    I’m a tabletop game master and player as well as an MM0 player, and I totally know the angst of “level design” (adventure design in the RPG context). From reading both free content published on the internet by other GMs, and published content from companies big and basement, I totally agree that some sort of gateway system or at least an editorial pass is needed to keep quality up.

    The last edition of Dungeons and Dragons suffered from having no gateway at all, and got flooded with lots of badly written, unedited adventures and supplements produced by “independent publishers” who were for the most part one guy with PDF-generating software or living near a Kinkos. That really hurt the brand name – most of the consumers have trouble really distinguishing third party products from “official” products.

    Lots of gems came out in the flood as well, but you had to sift them out of the muck, and not everyone has the time or inclination to do that.

  8. I’ve been a player of CoH since beta. Was this outcome surprising?

    Not at all. In fact, many predicted this happening. Like most MMO’s, I guess, the devs in CoX have spent the better portion of their time closing the ever creative powerleveling loopholes.

    I remember running Warwolf missions before the aggro cap and the AoE target cap. A tank would herd an entire maps worth of warwolves. Move behind a large rock and the team blaster would nova them to oblivion. Viola instant levels!

    In my opinion things have gotten worse since an economy/market system was introduced.

    My main concern for the this time type of content at the time they were discussing it was whether it was going to be filtered (which it is not). Many long time board members were adamant that if the content was not filtered then it was solely going to be used as an xp spring board. Sadly, it seems those fears were warranted.

  9. I’m a veteran CoH player, and, sadly, I am not one least little bit surprised. Not that I don’t still have high hopes for the game in general and the Mission Architect system in particular, but I just knew that a) the system would be used to shamelessly farm and b) that the rating system would be abused by people that would game the system to get their crappy missions top-rated.

    I think that one of the warning signs that this would happen was the type of player that you’d see when NCSoft would hold a “double-XP weekend”, when you’d get twice the amount of experience points that you’d usually get for doing missions, task forces, or just going around “arresting” thugs. A lot of people would play, and I think that you even had some people with inactive accounts renewing their subscriptions, but you also increased your chances of bringing in a certain sort of mediocre, generic MMORPG player who has a very limited understanding of the game, a very cookie-cutter approach to tactics (tanker-healer-damage dealer teams), and really just wants to level up a character as fast as possible without caring about some of the finer points of playing. They’re the ones who compulsively list the number of level 50 (the top level in this game) characters that they have in each of their character profiles, insist that each group that they’re in have to have at least one “healer”, and don’t understand why people keep quitting their pick-up groups.

    And now they’re polluting the servers again. Hopefully, this too shall pass.

  10. This is dumb, everyone’s dumb, the developers are dumb and the players are dumb.
    Players are playing dumb pretending they don’t know whats exploitative, well here is an epic yardstick for you- if its too good to be true its an exploit. End of story.
    Except it isn’t the developers are dumb for going about this arse backwards. Instead of just letting people develop a level and then set it out there they should submit it for consideration and then the developers or hell even a jury of peers could judge the level for content, reward and possible exploits and then rate the level accordingly.
    It is so blindingly obvious I can’t see why it isn’t already implemented.

  11. I would get more excited about this, but when I played City Of Vilians for a month or so the variety of possible mission types in City of Villians was so limited and boring that I can’t imagine anyone really being able to come up with a very interesting scenario for a level. The parameters for missions were all “Go to PLACE and kill X ENEMIES” or “Go to PLACE and retrieve the MCGUFFIN”. Even worse, in City of Villians you did exactly the same mission types that the heroes did, just “as a bad guy”. So, you would have to go to a criminal hideout and kill everyone, becasue they were in a different gang. No different than a hero’s mission to go in and beat up all the bad guys. Boring and repetitive. Too bad too, becaseu it seemed like a great idea, but no flexibilty and it was all just grinding. I’ll admit that I gave up around level 20 though, maybe it gets good after that.

    Of course, I tend to find all MMORPGs to be like this – nothing you do ever really changes anything other than your character. That’s one reason I keep hoping that single (or co-op) rpgs won’t die off. I like it when I do something in a game and it changes the world forever. (Misanthropy is the other reason…who wants to play with *people*!?)

  12. I don’t think it’s meaningful to look at game designers “delaying” gratification, because those things that are gratifying, score, treasure, any kind of reward, aren’t so inherently. They’re just content, images and sounds, like everything else. You could make a game where you go around collecting cool treasures and trophies and get to battle monsters as a reward.

    It isn’t that making gamers work for it makes rewards sweeter, but that the work itself defines those rewards.

  13. I guess self-regulated systems just dont work. Be they financial institutions, MPs Rules for expenses or user generated content.

    For shame people, for shame.

  14. Like #7 and #9 comments.

    CoH is the first MMO I got ever played, and the char creation is the still the best I’ve ever seen. It’s a regular freak show just walking around town.

    MMO’s are not for me, because I like variety and I like to beat the game. I like to play gameS, not A game. There’s no end to MMO’s. There’s no satisfaction for me in a game that is impossible to complete with no end in sight.

    I’ve spent way too much time and money on MMO’s just realize they’re all the same, and like a part time job that you pay to do.

    Play Battlestations: Pacific with me, it comes out today and you can actually win!

  15. Did anyone else play those old Steve Jackson/Ian Livingstone Fighting Fantasy books when they were young. Didn’t you ever peek ahead at the result and pretend you really threw that six (critical hit), not one that ended in a horrible death.

  16. Here’s something they could’ve done to minimize risk to the established resources- create a new resource.
    When you open up your game to outsiders, it’s very easy for the outsiders to break the rules, not understand them, or not care. Thus, all of your careful balance gets thrown out of the window.

    If you give people the power to ‘sploit a NEW resource that’s unavailable elsewhere, you keep your old game intact, and the new resource can give players the fun they desire.

  17. Hmm, well, the lesson is that if you’re going to have publicly-submitted levels you need a different mechanic than for closed game design. Duh.

    At its simplest, XP and other points gained need to be assigned by the game system itself, not by the levels. It’s not necessarily trivial to design this meta-game so that it works well, but omitting it altogether leads to predictable results.

  18. In essence this is the same reason the iPhone app store is a walled garden.

    Quality Standards.

  19. Sounds like Wall Street to me; Is there a way we can stick them into an MMO so they can finagle their way to all the ‘gold’ they want, without screwing the real world economy?

  20. Hmmm – well, a quick examination of some of the MMO slang shows how/why this happened. In particular, see “farming” of NPCs, “grinding” missions/levels, etc.

    To a lot of players, NPCs and missions are just a source of income, either for e-peen enlargement, or to fuel their PvP.

    Of course, in Eve Online, this works pretty well – the “real” game is the PvP, be it market competition, official wars, piracy, or the great wars over player-held sovereign space at the edges of the game world. The devs have created a world so rich that it doesn’t matter if people make their cash in completely unintended ways, since there are so many ways of doing this, mostly with some level of risk, and the resulting metagame is really interesting.

  21. Ever describe a creative project to someone you invested your heart and soul in and get a response: “Well, did you make any money off of it?”

    For some people, the work, in of itself, is the reward, for others, the reward is the only reward. To me, playing a game, without following the rules, is pointless. I’m not playing a game, I’m not playing the game, maybe I’m playing my own game, in my head, beating the system in some sorta meta way as one commenter described it, but not the game.

    I’m still glad single player games are made, though, because I would hate to play a game that could always be ruined by someone who never learned to play nice with others.

  22. BTW, re-reading the last comment I made, I am reminded why there is a preview button on this site. I stand by my ideas, if not my poorly developed sentence structure.

  23. It might be an indication of what people are playing the game for. They seem to WANT to cater to the role-players, but I doubt that alone is a significant enough player-base to keep them afloat. If the missions aren’t fun and people slog through for the loot, then this is a likely outcome.

    In addition to fixing the reward system to reduce the arms race of loot pinatas, they could also maybe aim for a sort of Amazon-esque rating system where your rating of missions matches you against what others that liked the same things also liked. The whole majority rule voting system probably doesn’t accomplish what they really want.

  24. It’s called instant gratification. Making yourself feel rewarded (even when the world is not all that rewarding) is a shortcut technique for dealing with stress and satisfaction levels.

  25. User-created levels would work, and would work beautifully in any MMO, as long as the game designers did one simple thing: There should be no risk/reward at all for playing user-created content.

    It would work this way: A snapshot of your character is created before you enter the user-created content. When you emerge, your character is restored to the snapshot. That way the only reason to play user-created content would be for “fun”.

    With this system, the most popular user-created content would be the most creative, or beautiful, or funny, not the most boring (= easy).

    I’m sure most hardcore and casual players would gladly take a half hour out of their grind to discover something new, to play their same beloved character through content that was fresh and new and creative, “just for fun”. It would remind them why they are playing the game in the first place.

    The gold farmers and the joyless bastards would stay out of the user-created content all together.

    If an MMO were to implement this type of user-created content system, I would subscribe to this game in a heartbeat.

  26. As someone who plays a lot of videogames as well as making his own, it makes me sad to see developers talk down to players like this.

    The players in question, those who are making the easy levels which are “exploitatively” rewarding, consider those levels fun! They wouldn’t like difficult but rewarding experiences, when they can get the same reward without the difficulty. Remember, this is an MMO! Most of the playerbase is only in it for the next tier of bling. For them, there isn’t ever any disadvantage to instant gratification. It means they won’t need to spend a week collecting horse penises to trade the NPC for the same reward.

    These guys are not the problem, and there’s no real way to get rid of them barring removing all rewards altogether. The problem is that there’s no way to separate the “actual” levels from the “farming” levels. There’s one rating system and fans of each style vote theirs up and the others down. Phrased this way, the solution is simple: multiple rating systems. If each level had a different rating for “Challenge,” “Roleplay” and “Farming,” it would be trivial for a player to pick well-designed levels that fit his preferred play style. Everyone wins.

  27. Have any of you actually played it? I’ve found a lot of missions that are way tougher than anything the devs have created, and with the datamining that is available, it’s really easy to find out who was running the exploitive content.
    The developers have been very candid and upfront with what they were doing and why, and today they released a major exploit closing patch even.

  28. Maybe it’s possible to set up a separate server for relatively unmoderated user content, and take the walled garden approach with the main server, promoting the “best” content to semi-official status. Just a thought, I haven’t completely thought through the ramifications, but I’m surprised it hasn’t yet been mentioned. Any thoughts on that?

  29. Another “City of” vet here. As noted, anyone who’s been paying attention knew what was going to happen with Mission Architect(MA) missions. Any opportunity for an exploit has been exploited to death, and there have been quite a few over the years. The real surprise is that the devs were apparently completely blindsided by this despite spending a decent chunk of their time cleaning up old exploits.

    Nosehat @25: The joyless bastards make up a decent chunk of the remaining playerbase. As the devs have started to discuss fixes to the system, many of the response posts have been from people who have already decided not to run MA content any more once the fixes are in place.

    Beelzebuddy @26: Part of the issue is one of outside effects. It would be one thing if people who wanted to farm went into the MA building, came out at level 50 and repeated without otherwise having an effect on the game; anyone who really wants a level 50 can get one, this would just make it easier, and a few thousand new level 50s wouldn’t change the overall balance of the game. Trouble is, the main MA building is in the first non-tutorial zone in the game, and the MA players spam the public chat channels endlessly setting up their teams. If you’re looking for anything other than an MA team, you’re pretty much hosed. God help an actual new player who stumbles unprepared into that mess.

  30. I’m a big fan of letting users generate content, why not just give 10% of the experience for non-official content.

    I haven’t played the game, but I expect that any level that gives 10x the rewards should stick out pretty clearly. Maybe popular levels can be upped to 90% of the regular XP if they seem to be honest attempts to make content after the fact, that would limit the amount of vetting necessary).

  31. One fascinating thing about these developer-player conflicts in MMODs is that they recapitulate philosophical debates that arose over the mechanisms of risk and reward in the earliest commercially published role-playing games. Another fascinating thing about these conflicts is that many of them could be resolved by the adoption of the current hot ideas in face-to-face role-playing.

    The inventiveness of table-top RPG design has exploded in the last decade, with games like “My Life with Master”; “Gray Ranks”; “Spirit of the Century”; “Dogs in the Vineyard”; “Sorceror”; “Don’t Rest Your Head”; “Agon”; “Truth and Justice”; “Mortal Coil”; “The Burning Wheel”; and others completely redefining the fundamentals of role-playing. Although it’s impossible to generalize among all these games, a few common elements stand out.

    1. No leveling, at least not in the D&D sense. The characters are all the stars of the show, and the “grind” to get to the good stuff doesn’t happen. Everyone starts with the good stuff. There’s character development and change, but it tends to either be incremental, metaphoric, or not strictly a step up on a ladder or hierarchy.

    2. Strong identification of game mechanics with game themes. For example, exhaustion in “Don’t Rest Your Head” is both the source of a character’s power, and the inexorable force that hangs over the character like the sword of Damocles. In “Agon,” the player emulates his or her bronze-age hero by holding the dice that represent the hero’s weapon in one hand, and the dice representing the shield in the other when casting them.

    3. Player-defined narration of success or failure. Many of the above-mentioned “new wave” RPGs dramatically increase the responsibility of the players to collectively define how their actions change the game universe. In the excellent “Gray Ranks,” the players must narrate the how, why, and when of their conscious, intentional abandonment of their most cherished hope or love in order to get a boost to their chance of surviving in WWII Warsaw.

    4. Game referee as “first among equals.” Another element of many new games is either a game system that completely removes the role of a game referee, or compels the players to negotiate the game’s direction and tone with a referee.

    Now, some of these elements can’t be shoehorned into an MMOD. But with rare exceptions, it seems as though the MMOD industry is ignorant of the structural solutions to content creation, PvP, risk-reward balance, min-maxing, etc. that are out there in the world of games right now.

  32. Create a market.

    Multiply all rewards in a given level by a scaling factor inversely related to the number of times a level is played. The more popular a level is, the less it’s worth. As players naturally seek the greatest reward for the least risk, they’ll be reducing that same reward.

    Catch-22, you greedy sons-of-bitches.

    Of course, this will also penalize levels that are popular because they’re genuinely challenging. So offer level designers an incentive too: The higher the % of players who are defeated in the level, the slower the rewards degrade. The more risk your level poses, the more reward you can dispense to players.

    After a while, you’ll have some pretty good numbers on just how much risk players are willing to accept for a particular reward. You can even use that information when designing official levels.

  33. The inverse scaling by popularity is clever. The problem comes if the authors pull the level and republish once it’s no longer worth very much.

    The % defeat won’t work, alas. There will simply be a designated “dier” to keep number of defeats high.

  34. There are some truly excellent ideas in this thread. Game designers please take note. =D

    @#32: “So offer level designers an incentive too: The higher the % of players who are defeated in the level, the slower the rewards degrade.”

    Bravo! But offer them even more incentive: a small cut of the in-world cash/xp/etc that their users make. That way there is an incentive for creative user content design from the start.

    MMO developers have been looking for the WoW-killer, the “next big thing” for quite a long time now.

    A game that offered a meticulously balanced risk/reward system for user-created content, along with a powerfully motivating reward system for the best content-creators, along with a very robust and flexible set of user-accessible quest/mob/NPC/dungeon development tools …. this game could indeed be the next big thing. This game might just kill WoW.

    It would combine the best features of WoW with the best features of Second Life. For the normal user it would be a stable, balanced, easily playable world with ever expanding content. It would have huge replayability as the number of quests would constantly increase and the world would quickly grow MUCH larger than anything else on the market. For the advanced, creative player, it would offer lots of bonus XP/in-game cash for creating popular, fun content (quests, instanced dungeons, etc).

    The best part of this is, the designers/publishers only need to focus on making good, flexible world-building tools, and good reward formulas. This takes a substantial amount of brain-power up front, but not a huge amount of capital since you won’t be hiring people to create a ton of content. The developers build a basic, skeleton world, and let it loose. They then sit back and rake in the profit as thousands of creative minds build game content, which is paid for in in-game currency.

    This is a win/win/win situation. I would be delighted to participate in such an MMO at any of these levels (simple player, creative content developing player, designer/publisher). If someone can balance it right, this will be the next evolution of MMOs. Why hasn’t it happened already?

  35. Gentlemen, are BoingBoing Comments *always* this intelligent? Comparing this to the other threads about the whole debate, I feel like I simply must share with you a bit more into the whole fiasco, or as I began to call it: The Great Comm Officer Invasion of ’09.

    First, let’s go over *why* this worked so well:

    It turns out that a certain member of the Alien Invader Enemy Group (Communication Officers) were bugged to one level lower in terms of HP, but not in terms of XP/Money given. So the simplest and easiest-to-follow maps were used and an astronomical number were placed into the map.
    Any of you can see where this would go from here ;)
    But it gets better.
    It turns out that any mission created in MA auto levels you to the lowest minimum level needed to hit the Officers. For example, level 20 Enemies would bring anyone below 20 to 17-ish. But if someone hopped on their level *50* character and set the mission…I think we all can see the potential this had.

    Now the thing I want to clarify, is that while everyone most definitly did this (alot, usually. On multiple characters). This was not *all* that was being done. CoH generally has a problem of not being very low-level friendly. It only gets worse the longer you’ve had to deal with the same low-level content. So most veterans I know were simply using it to get a new hero to say…21, when the game really starts to expand out, and then do whatever from there. The MA *can* help that problem when people make their own low-level content, but because the system came right off the shelf there’s no accurate way to filter a search for anything than the broadest of parameters.

    So while some of the ideas in this are remarkable in their own right, and should not be disregarded, it’s not really addressing what the problem in CoH actually *is*. Which is what people who made these missions was attempting to fix in the first place.

    But it’s far later than I thought it was, and I have a feeling it’s too “in-game” of a topic for most of you to be interested in.

  36. The article strongly and wrongly implies that the game levels are granting something to players, and imbalancing CoH. No. The characters earn no experience.

    All that’s happened is that a blanket “Rate it 1-5” system has been subverted by a sort of meta-game played by the level-creators which is, “CAN I GET MY NAME ON THE HIGH SCORE LIST” (of most-popular missions).

    More than anything, this is just a “communications” issue between CoH and players. A redo of the rating system would fix it.

    Players should be instructed to rate three areas: “Art” , “Coherence”, and “Ease”.

    Ratings for Art (NPC costuming) need to be clearly defined as a 1-5 scale. 1=ugly/boring/dull. 2=could use more work 3=effort at the same level as the GM-created missions has been achieved. 4=even better than the GM-created content; all characters custom 5=WOW. Made me laugh/cry; made my jaw drop; made my eyes pop out. Had to stop and show my S.O.

    Coherence (Does the story make sense? was it entertaining?) is also a 1-5. 1=eww! kill it before it breeds. 2=had a few fixable weak points and bugs. 3=as good as the GM-created missions. 4=even BETTER than the GM-created missions! 5=AMAZING; wish comic books and movies had stuff like this; writer, QUIT YOUR DAY JOB, NOW!!!

    Ease is also a 1-5 scale but the ideal here is a 3. 1=couldn’t lose. 3=juuust right. 5=too deadly, and took too long.

    Frankly, it’s EASY to catch and punish Monty Haul-ism. Tell players to do it, and they will. With a nasty vigorous vengeance you’ll be sorry you ever encouraged.

    –Talzhemir, a.k.a. Cat-Scan @CoV, Victory

  37. On the level design market:
    What if you set up the level designer as a villain for the players to defeat? The level designer would take on the role of the evil lich, plotting the world’s demise from his skeleton-filled lair.

    You could reward players for advancing through the level, reward the level designers for killing players and punish the level designer for players advancing through his level. (Heroes break stuff)

    This way there is competition between level designers where making your level too easy would get you and your paid-by-the-death minions killed a lot. Making it too hard would scare players away from your level. (And stop bringing you an enless supply of magic wands, potions and armour to sell.)

    Additionally, a hard unpopular level could get better rewards for the players as time goes by. (Since you obviously have to stash all of the loot you plunder from the countryside in your dungeon)

    Heaven forbid that some sort of balance is eventually reached and actual fun had to be implemented to attract players to your equally difficult dungeon.
    (Level 45 bosses for hire: Xena: Warrior Princess and Glob, the bug-eyed tentacle monster. Who would those adventurers most like te be killed by?)

  38. @ #35: The MA system gives content creators ‘tickets’ that can be exchanged for other kinds of rewards. You have to achieve certain ratings though in order to earn those tickets.

    @ #37: I’m 99% sure that you do earn XP when playing through an MA mission, as well as influence / infamy (the in-game currency). You don’t get other in-game rewards – invention recipes, salvage, etc – if the mission hasn’t yet made it into the Dev’s Choice (and maybe Hall of Fame?) ranking.

    Players were exploiting both sidekicking (the ability to team up with higher level players and be ‘auto-levelled’ up to their level with your current powers) and the XP rewards given by certain opponents in order to level up characters extremely quickly. Level.

  39. The following ideas are bad ideas and if you posted any of them you don’t know what you’re talking about I expect you to feel bad.

    *It’s impossible to balance rewards for user-created content.

    CoH already generates and scales missions procedurally, and user-created mobs are substantially stronger than the game’s usual mobs. So there are only really two ways to farm: Spawn a map full of mobs you are strong against (which you could do anyway by taking radio missions with those mobs, no need to use MA) and spawn mobs who have broken XP rewards. MA launched with a minion, the Rikti Comms Officer, giving Lieutenant XP. That was exploited heavily.

    *Farmers are terrible players whom the game would be better off without.

    Yessss, give in to your anger! Let the hate flow through you!

    All the people spamming for farm teams were annoying but there’s no need to imagine they’re some sort of underclass. Some of them are idiots, some of them just like to see the levels fly by, some of them just hate levelling from 1-20 and powerlevelled through a patch of the game they didn’t like. There are as many reasons for doing it as there are people, and it makes no sense to demonise them even if their approach is a sad waste of the potential of the MA system.

    This goes double if you felt the need to blame PVPers. This has nothing to do with PVP.

    *GMs should vet missions before they can be published.

    Do you have any conception of how many player-created missions there are on the AE? Tens of thousands. The whole idea is laughable.

    The vast majority of missions are legitimate ones and not farms; however only a handful of legitimate missions are getting more than a few plays each.

    This isn’t because everyone wants to farm; it’s because the mission search function sucks. There are hundreds upon hundreds of pages of missions, and there’s no way to search by level, so you can’t narrow it down to missions you can actually do, and there’s no way to search by phrase or tell the search to ignore results with certain words (“-farm”). They are working on improving it but I don’t think they realised the sheer amount of data it would have to sort through.

    *Player missions shouldn’t provide any rewards.

    Player missions should be equal to the missions put in by the devs, because many of them are going to be better, and why should people be forced to play content they don’t want in order to gain levels when better content is available?

    The MA means the game never runs out of content no matter how many times you play through from 1-50. Take away XP for MA missions and people will level their characters up to 50 and treat MA as an end-game activity, if they play it at all. That means every time they make a new character they’ll have to play through the same old content and each time increase their chances of burning out.

    *Player missions can’t be more interesting than “Go to PLACE and kill X ENEMIES” anyway.

    I’ve played an arc in which you face a Riddler-type villain who forces you to track down the answers to his riddles to complete the mission (ID 1396), an arc where you fight in a gladiatorial arena, learning the stories of your fellow gladiators and eventually being forced into a battle you really don’t want to win (ID 144447), and a gay romantic comedy (ID 87912).

    And here’s what the devs should do:

    *Fix the exploits (which they’ve started to do)
    *Implement a hard cap on number of levels gained per day to handle the next exploit they introduce without realising it
    *Improve the search system, ideally make the database web searchable, even have an API for it.
    *Improve the ratings system. Make it take into account varying tastes. Make votes of 3-4 not harmful to an arc. (Currently voting anything less than a five hurts a mission’s chances of getting an extra slot, which is the only truly meaningful reward for making a mission.)
    *Give more slots to people who maybe aren’t the best of the best, but who do decent work, and are willing to graft away producing good content for other players to play.

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