City of Heroes: Architect Edition Review
City of Heroes: Architect Edition box art
System: PC Review Rating Legend
Dev: Paragon Studios 1.0 - 1.9 = Avoid 4.0 - 4.4 = Great
Pub: NCSoft 2.0 - 2.4 = Poor 4.5 - 4.9 = Must Buy
Release: Apr. 13, 2009 2.5 - 2.9 = Average 5.0 = The Best
Players: MMO 3.0 - 3.4 = Fair
ESRB Rating: Teen 3.5 - 3.9 = Good
Player-Created Paragon City
by Derek Hidey

Video games have evolved quite a bit since the humble beginnings of 8-bit consoles. In today's industry, video games are changing and being improved upon at a scary rate. Frankly, it's difficult to keep up with everything and stay on top, even with how quickly information flows. Nevertheless, developers are constantly trying to extend the shelf-life of their games by including robust multiplayer experiences, developing downloadable content, and providing social networking features. But how exactly does a developer with a game around five years old keep people playing?

City of Heroes: Architect Edition screenshot

The people over at Paragon Studios and NCSoft think they may have just the solution: player-created content. City of Heroes: Architect Edition hopes to provide players with the tools they need to keep this enormous and old MMO afloat. Considering that City of Heroes has enjoyed steady content updates and a huge expansion in the form of City of Villains over its tenure, the idea to bring player-created content seems like the logical next step.

Architect Edition is, essentially, the latest version of City of Heroes, but with some minor additions. There are some content updates that got thrown into the mix, but most of that content can only be found in and around the Mission Architect system.

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Players will notice that there is now a building in the major player hubs that houses the Mission Architect system. The system is added to the world under the guise of being a type of mission simulator for heroes and villains. Everything that happens within the system is not permanent, i.e. things like death, and is explained rather mundanely by some strategically placed NPCs that inhabit the new area.

While the system is explained as being separate from the "real world" of the game, players will be delighted to know that what they do and create does have an impact on their character's progression. Players do earn experience points exactly the same way they do outside of the architect system and, while there are no traditional loot drops from fallen enemies, the system is designed to reward players another way.

City of Heroes: Architect Edition screenshot

Collecting items by playing missions in the architect system is a lot like spending time at an arcade, minus having to wipe down the DDR machines after the guy with the gym bag and sweatbands had been on it. Completing missions and defeating enemies will earn players tickets. These tickets can then be exchanged for rewards at vendors that hang around in the mission architect building. Examples of such rewards include costume packs, enemy sets, map sets, and character enhancements, all of which are tied to the mission architect. This system makes sense, in theory, because it keeps the mission creators from determining what items drop during their missions, which could be exploited. However, it also limits the usefulness of such awards, making players wonder whether it is even worth the time spent.

The mission architect designer tools are rather flexible considering the limitations and age of the game. A player's characters can be any level and still have access to creating their own missions, which is great for newcomers to City of Heroes who are excited about accessing the latest content available. To begin creating, players simply walk up to one of the many computer consoles in the architect building and start making decisions.

City of Heroes: Architect Edition screenshot

At first, the mission designer screens can seem a little intimidating, especially to those unfamiliar with the ins and outs of City of Heroes. However, the tool is presented in about as simple of a way as it can be without reducing its flexibility. Players will have complete control over the types of maps that are used, the groups of enemies that are encountered, and perhaps the most enticing of all, the direction and dialogue of the story as it unfolds. Essentially, players are given the opportunity to create their own comic book stories and then play through them.

This isn't to say that the mission architect tools aren't without their faults, however. More advanced programmers and map designers will find that the mission architect system lacks the customization they are hoping for. You won't find any custom code editors or starting-from-scratch map editors. Instead, the tool is geared more toward the less code and design savvy users, making it accessible and easy-to-use, while simultaneously limiting its capability. For example, rather than being able to completely write the code for a particular scenario or encounter, the player is presented with "basic" and "advanced" scenarios to choose from like "Escort Mission," "Fight a Boss," "Collect an Object," and "Add a Battle." Once chosen, the scenario can be further defined and customized, but only within the parameters of what is available.

Screenshots / Images
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