Tuesday, October 03, 2006

City of Heroes/Villains: Veteran Rewards

So Cryptic has announced that there will be in-game rewards for players who have been playing a long time, in multiples of 3 months. Recently they started detailing what those rewards exactly are.

See, the rewards are mostly costume options. Kilts. Wings. Baby-doll shirts. Greek letter insignias. Trenchcoats. Although there are other rewards, such as respecs.

Now, don't get me wrong. The rewards themselves are worthy additions to the game. In my opinion, however, outside of things like Respecs these are the sort of content that should just be the sort of thing that Cryptic has been regularly adding to the game as normal (IE, previous costume option additions, Capes, Auras, etc). The caliber of most of the rewards is such that I am, frankly, underwhelmed that these are somehow supposed to go up in value simply because you have to keep paying and playing (well, ok, just paying, really) to get them.

It's not even that you have to jump through a hoop to get them. That wouldn't bother me. The fact that you have to get to level 20 and do a special mission to get a cape never struck me as anything but appropriate, for instance. I believe that wings would be an excellent addition as a level 40 mission reward, though you can name most any level and I'd have an easier time agreeing with you. But no, the hoop through which you must jump to put wings on one of your characters is not one of skill but of glacial patience. Word on the forum is they are the reward for fifteen months of loyalty.

Naturally, the reactions to this method of delivering standard content at premium price falls neatly into two camps: Those who are already veterans, and as such will have the rewards the instant they go live, are completely happy and in agreement with the method by which the content is delivered because the barrier to the content is already removed for them. The other camp is my camp... the folks who just bought the game a few months ago and frankly are rather nonplussed that our 15 bucks a month aren't as good to Cryptic/NCSoft as the veterans, so we'll get to piddle around wingless and un-greek for months (if not years), watching the elitist veterans flap around and wondering if maybe we (and our money) would be more appreciated by Blizzard, Mythic or Sony.

You see, a lot of "veterans" of these games find it very easy to forget that it is not their money alone that keeps their favorite game afloat. It requires a constant influx of new blood to the ranks to keep the expansions and support coming. If a MMO company consistently makes design decisions that pander to the already-addicted whilst alienating the fresh meat,
then the pool of newcomers slowly dries up and in a few years the Veterans will be standing around their largely empty playservers wondering why there are no newbies for their fantastic game, and why the will and wherewithal to produce expansion content seems to have dried up at the company's headquarters.

For a long time, I was surprised CoX wasn't a runaway success like Everquest or World of Warcraft. It's a well-programmed game (something many MMOs more financially successful than CoX can't claim), the concept is solid, and it's the only comic/superhero bent MMO in existance. Now that I've played for a few months, I can see why they are doing "ok" instead of "swimming in cash." It is because of things like this.

Of course, when I voiced my opinion on the official forum, the veterans promptly channeled Marie Antoinette. Of course, because I'm not a veteran, I must just be a fickle, fair-weather, faithless, disloyal peon who can be dismissed with an airy wave of the hand when I point out this isn't the best way to keep new players coming into a game.

God forbid new players should be enticed to play. Oh, no, we've got to give loyalty rewards to old-timers who probably wouldn't close their accounts if a Cryptic dev showed up in person at their house to sodomize them with a crowbar.