Archive for August, 2009

Heroic Healing – beta impressions

August 31, 2009 Leave a comment

I had no doubt that when I started playing a superhero I would want to knock enemies around and send them flying in all directions. And it is great fun. I may not be strong enough yet to knock people into orbit, but one day… During CO’s Open Beta I joined several player vs. player cage matches and playing as mainly Might was still fun. I had taken a ranged energy builder, so when I came close to someone I would often have a full energy bar to unload.

I noticed two things during those matches: some people were really squishy, while others were really difficult to damage and the lack of healers. The first issue was quickly explained: without passive defenses like Invulnerability, Personal Force Field and Regeneration, people die fast. I did not understand the second, so I made a healing character myself.

Movement powers make it a challenge to keep in range of everyone

Movement powers make it a challenge to keep in range of everyone

Where’s my heal button?

CO does not have as many healing abilities as fantasy MMO’s. I chose several Psionic abilities with the help of the excellent Champion Builder tool.

  • Empathic Healing did not impress me too much. It’s a relatively cheap channeled heal, but easily interrupted and it has a short range of only 50 feet.
  • Psionic Healing on the other hand turned out the be awesome. This charged heal had a range of 100 feet and it heals quicker than EH.

Games like WoW and Warhammer taught me that healers get focused, so I took Regeneration to keep myself alive and Teleport. Both are great on their own, but together they made me incredibly difficult to stop. If I got damaged, I could simply teleport away while regeneration restored my health. And as an added bonus: Psionic Healing can be charged while in the teleport. So the moment I would reappear, I would also be at full health again. I had hoped that Ego Blast would keep attackers away from me, but Condemn (from Supernatural) proved much more effective. It’s Hold lasts longer than EB’s and it’s AOE. I added the self-heal Resurgance later on to keep me alive during Holds. It heals so much that there is no reason for anyone not to take it. Playing as a healer made me feel so powerful that I will dedicate a future post to strategies on how to counter healers.


Healing does cost a serious amount of energy, but there was basically always someone in range of my Psi Lash energy builder. A few shots and I would be back in action. Often I would have energy to spare and I could help finish an opponent off. This made the healing game great fun for me. I have never enjoyed playing a pure healer for long, but if I can help keep pressure on the opposing team, then I’m having a blast. I do hope a friendly target will be added in the future, so you can keep both an opponent and an ally targetted, because quickly tab-targetting will often get a droid/pet instead of a player.

On a final note, travel powers are great to get away… from healers. People often do not seem to notice yet that they’re being healed and they run away when they start getting low on health. If there’s a healer on your team: check where they are, because they will be healing you and while you’re at it: keep the opponents away from them.


End of Beta event

August 25, 2009 2 comments

In an attempt to stop Champions Online from ever launching, Dr. Destroyer unleashed an army of robots as well as the lag-monster. A friendly NPC leveled everyone to 40 so noone was excluded. It was pretty fun to see so many people working together.


Fighting robots is even better than fighting aliens.


Everyone who participated in killing one of the big ones should receive a mini-pet at the start of retail.

Playing the metagame

August 24, 2009 Leave a comment

Champions Online has no classes at all. Instead one can choose between different frameworks (like Fire, Martial Arts, Telepathy) that have some synergy together. However, it is perfectly possible to get powers from other frameworks as well. The only difference is that people who stick to a framework get higher level powers in their framework sooner. At high player level anyone can have any power.arenafloor

How can this possibly be balanced for Player vs. Player? Games like World of Warcraft and Warhammer Online did not try for individual balance, but for balance in team vs team. In practice, buffs and nerfs turned classes from over- to underpowered and vice versa. The amount of variables is huge even in a rigid class setting, so it will be even more difficult to create balance in Champions Online. At least, for the developers.

Like Magic

I used to play Magic: the Gathering (the first and most famous collectible cardgame). Players used a pool of thousands of cards to create a deck of 60 with which they dueled. Some cards were obviously overpowered, others only in a certain combination. Players in the tournament scene had to play the metagame in order to stay competetive. For example:

Deck A is very powerful and it will win against almost any deck.

The first time Deck A is played, it will sweep the tournament and, as a result, many players will pick it up for the next tournament. Enter deck B.

Deck B is gimmicky and the only deck it can always defeat, is Deck A.

A tournament will contain a mix of Decks A, B and O: other decks. The only way for Deck B to win the tournament is if Deck A takes care of all other decks and if Deck A players do not know about Deck B. A cycle will start with Deck A dominating, Deck B taking over, then Deck A will be played by less people and Deck O will take over again until a new powerful deck sweeps the majority. The situation is more complex in reality, but the mechanics remain the same.

Metagame in Champions Online

In M:TG the players themselves are able to balance the tournaments themselves. The developers only have to take the really overpowered cards out that slipped through Quality Assurance. If the powers in Champions Online are diverse enough, we may see a similar development and that would keep PvP in the game fresh for a very long time.

Champions Online Open Beta

August 23, 2009 1 comment

cometgirl01The Open Beta for Champions Online finally started last Monday. Like every MMO publisher before them, Cryptic grossly underestimated how many people would be trying to download and play the client. The results were slow download speeds and random disconnects. However, it only took a day before the download became stable. I really had not expected to be able to play at day #1. Personally, I have experienced a steady framerate and no lag yet.

Some random first impressions

The character creator is a true gem and almost a game in itself. However, you don’t have to spend ages in it before starting to play: you can completely change your costume after the tutorial mission by visiting a tailor (which does cost some in-game currency, though). My first costume still took a long time and even then I missed a few drop down menus. I would have liked even more options, but I guess everyone has their own personal details they want implemented. You can save the costume and it will create a savefile and a little comicbook style picture on your harddisc. So you can keep your costume even though all characters will be deleted at the end of the Open Beta.

The tutorial shows you the ropes. You get to kill ten rats, of course, but it is carefully wrapped in the setting of an alien invasion. It’s fun, not too long and by the time you have finished, you’ll be level 5 and you get your travel power. Walking is now a thing of the past. I do hope an option to skip this tutorial will be added in the future. Then it’s off to Canada (filled with ice zombies) or the Southern Desert (filled with radioactive mutants) to deal with the next crisis.

So far, I can recommend everyone to give it a try if you’re looking for a new MMO or just some variation. It’s not World of Warcraft, it’s not City of Heroes 2 (even though it is the same development team). Instead it feels like a game that’s trying to create a fun experience for the current MMO-player.