There’s been a considerable amount of controversy in the MMO blogging community about City of Heroes’ mission architect system.  Some bloggers (two distinct links there) feel that mission architect has given players the tools to create grind-intensive farming missions that destroy the spirit of the game.  Until recently, I hadn’t experienced one of these farming missions.  I played around with mission architect when it first launched and loved it.  I’m a writer, so naturally I made a story-based mission right away, complete with custom enemies, a rescue arc, and an underlying love story (between two ladies in a motorcycle gang, I’ll add).  When I read that other players were “abusing” the system to create missions for the sole purpose of gaining experience and tickets, I had mixed feelings.  I didn’t want to judge, though, until I had actually played through one of these missions.  Now that I have, I feel comfortable giving my opinion about this new development: I still have mixed feelings.

On one hand, I think about the existential questions of MMO gaming.  Is an immersive story less important than achievements?  Do players even bother with reading quest text or other story devices?  Are farm missions ruining the game experience for those who prefer a story-driven game to an achievement-based game?  Part of me worries that they are, that interesting, story-based missions are going to go unplayed while Massive Rikti Farm #4257 will have teams going through it by the thousands.  I also worry that massive farming missions cause players to level too quickly.  My defender went from 31 to 37 in about two hours, highly unusual considering I typically gain one to two levels per play session.  I also earned 10,000 tickets in that time, ten times the amount of tickets I had earned in two weeks of playing with the mission architect system.

On the other hand, I can’t help but see the farming missions as a helpful device for casual players.  Never been to max level in a game before?  Want to see what your tanker is like at level 50?  Just look around for an “AE farm,” sit back, and watch your level rise.  There are plenty of players who would rather power through content than read story.  Usually I’m one of those players who avoids reading long quest text, and I’m an avid reader and writer; I’d assume gamers who don’t enjoy reading or writing would be even less inclined to read quest text.  If players want to create a grind-intensive experience and power through levels, why should I or other bloggers or Paragon Studios try to stop them?

As for my personal experience with the farming missions, I am of two minds (again…you’d think, as a blogger, I could formulate a single opinion).  I enjoyed power leveling a blaster yesterday, as I had always wanted to experiment with one but hadn’t really had the chance before.  I also hope to power level a controller, another class that I have trouble getting into during earlier levels but might enjoy later on.  It’s nice to have the opportunity to sample classes that seem appealing but have always been out of reach for one reason or another.  It’s also great to have a steady stream of architect tickets, as they can be used to purchase high level enhancements, meaning I can use my influence for silly things like different costumes or adding wings to every alt I make.

There is this teeny, tiny problem I have with the farming missions, though.  As I said above, I wonder if I am going through the content too quickly.  Imagine making a level one human in World of Warcraft, then three hours later you’re level 30 and you still haven’t left the starting zone.  That’s sort of what farming missions are like for newer characters.  My blaster is level 17 and she has only left Atlas Park to visit my supergroup base.  Ordinarily she would have seen at least three zones by now.  I wonder if I’m missing out on some part of the game experience by powering through the levels so quickly.  After all, I don’t know what exists in City of Heroes at the “endgame.”  As far as I know, there really isn’t one.  If I power level my healer to 50, will I be disappointed when I get there?  Will I feel like it was all for nothing?

That’s the interesting question, though.  If the endgame of City of Heroes is as limited as I’ve heard, is it better for a player to have spent lots of time working to get there, or to have gone from 1 to 50 in a few days with little effort expended?  A long leveling experience could mean the player feels she had an enjoyable time playing the game even if her endgame experience is lackluster, or it could mean that the player feels her time spent in the game was wasted, that she spent months getting a character to the level cap and ultimately received nothing for the effort.  If it only took the player a couple of days to reach level cap, would it be more or less disappointing if the endgame experience has nothing to offer?  More disappointing because the player rushed to see an endgame and found nothing, or less disappointing because the player didn’t have to spend a lot of extra time trying to reach a non-existent endgame?

Existential questions aside, I’ve come to the conclusion that I don’t have a problem with farming missions.  It’s nice to have the option to participate in these missions if I want to, but ultimately their existence won’t affect me negatively should I decide not to participate.  I think it’s highly possible that The Powers That Be will do something to halt the increase of farming missions — it’s probably not in Paragon Studios’ best interest to let players power through content in two days when it should have taken closer to two months.  In the meantime I’m totally in favor of letting players do what they want with mission architect.  Whether that means creating grind-intensive farming missions or writing a mission that involves fighting off big-breasted, airheaded “Playtime Bunny” girls (thanks, “Easter Basket” mission), I’m fine with it.  The purpose of mission architect is to allow players to create the kind of experience they want to play.  If farming missions are what the players want, then let the players have them.


8 Responses to Farmerman

  1. I think in games that have become mature it’s not always such a bad thing to have “quick” methods of advancing. The question being, what is there to do at 50 with your characters in CoX? Is it indeed about the journey as you suggest? I have no clue seeing as I have a whole two characters of levels five and three.

    On the subject of bunnies, my Natural Scrapper is named Sakura Shade and dresses in a black and white schoolgirl outfit while cutting people up with a katana . . . no issues here, noooooo. 😉

  2. spinks says:

    I think it’s kind of cool that some people use the mission architect to focus on storytelling and others use it to do interesting things with game mechanics. I mean, even though that means instances optimised for speed levelling.

  3. iridar says:

    I love the mission architect and also make story-driven arcs (Arc ID 118818 “The Exorcism of Penny Preston” and Arc ID 2948 “Down the Rabbit Hole”). I have no problem with people making farming missions, I just find farming boring and don’t enjoy it.

    Anything that gives more choices to players I see as a good thing. No one is forcing people to run farm arcs, so I don’t see the harm in it. Why anyone would want to race to 50 is beyond me, but hey, everyone should be free to play the game the way they want to, IMO.

  4. When I posted about the Mission Architect farming woes, the update had only been out for two days. I’ve since come to the same conclusion as yourself. If players want to use the mission architect to power level, then I say let them. I’ve recently got my fire/fire brute to level 42 with farming missions and I’m having a blast. The only problem is, I feel that I’ve missed a bunch of really cool content. The highest level I had attained before the farming was level 26. Now that I’m level 42 I have no idea where I should be going, or if there was something awesome I’ve already missed. You also made this point in your post, and I feel that it may end up causing the game to lose it’s ‘fun’. Sure I can have ten level 50 toons with awesome powers, but what do I do with them now? Should I create another character and power level it to 50 just to play with the powers? What happens when I get bored with that…? It has me a little concerned, but at the same time I think Mission Architect is a big step in the right direction for the future of MMOs.

    Great post, and I’m glad I found your blog 😉

  5. Jennifer says:

    It looks like we’re all pretty much in agreement: that the mission architect system is excellent and a brilliant development for MMOs. Thanks for weighing in (those of you who followed me from Twitter or the other blog), and glad to see some new faces around here, Crimson.

  6. Bregel says:

    I used to be Anti-Farming. And initially, I had similar concerns about skipping content and levelling too fast. Then I remembered something:

    Flashback missions.

    Levelling 1-50 in two days(or whatever) doesn’t mean you skip content. It just means you open all the choices in the game as quickly as possible.

    Once you step out of Farming Entertainment at level 50, you can hit an O-Portal and still experience the content at any level, or if you’ve got friends who want to, you can run the LRSF/STF/ITF/LGTF, etc.

    It just means you’ve got more choices than you did doing it the old way. You no longer have to say “I’d love to go with you guys next weekend, but I’m only lvl 34.” Now you can say, “Oh. Need a Controller next weekend? No problem. I’ll have someone ready in 2 days.”

    Given the combination of the two features, AE and Flashback, I don’t think the devs could have created a better system to encourage moving to level 50 ASAP, short of a “Level to 50” button.

  7. […] this time to clarify his previous post with a Q&A about the topic.  I predicted — in a previous post in which I discussed farming missions — that City of Heroes developers would eventually do something to prevent players from […]

  8. Betsey says:

    In case your funds are lower, anyone won’t be able to take
    full advantage of the best offers.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: