City of Heroes Architect Edition Interview

Recently I got the news on the pending City of Heroes Architect Edition from Joe Morrissey, Senior Designer. I want to thank Joe and Halycone for setting up this interview for us at Skewed and Reviewed.
GVK: How did this new feature come about?

Architect was initially designed to be an improvement to our internal development tools. At the time, we were a relatively small team trying to support a large subscriber base. Making great content easier and faster to create was the primary goal of the original internal Architect system. The problem we faced was a lack of bandwidth and development time to implement the feature. Thankfully, when NCsoft fully acquired City of Heroes they were willing to invest the time and resources needed to bring this to life. It was during that time we decided to actually open the tool up to the players as a full blown feature.

GVK: Roughly how long will it take players to craft a mission?

You can put together a simple, playable mission in about fifteen minutes. However, to truly craft a full story, filling out all five missions, creating your own enemy groups, heroes and villains and setting up all the mission goals, you could spend weeks working on it. We tried to design the system so the players who really wanted to roll up their sleeves and dive in would get just as rewarding an experience as the players who just wanted to experiment with the tool.

GVK: How much design experience will a player need to make a level and can you tell the readers about how the design tools work?

No experience required! Our tool acts like a ‘story wizard’ that walks the player through each step of the creation process. We offer helpful tooltips on each and every option. We also tell you when you’ve created a mission that has errors and with a single click take you to those errors and tell you what you need to fix them. Once the story’s created, we allow players to test their mission out to see how it plays. They can easily go back to the editor and make any changes they want since it’s all in game. The turn around time from making a change and seeing that change in the mission is very quick.

GVK: What locales and enemies will players be able to use to make their missions?

We give players access to all the enemies and areas that are already in our game. If a player has seen an enemy group or been to an area in our game, odds are they’ll find it in Mission Architect. We’re talking dozens and dozens of enemy groups and characters along with over a thousand existing maps. Players can also create their own characters and complete hero and villain groups for their missions, if our existing characters and groups aren’t enough for them.

GVK: How do you balance custom missions with the games continuing storylines?

When in Mission Architect, players earn equivalent rewards as they would in the ‘real world’ of the game. The only major change we’ve implemented is that as opposed to having random reward drops, we give the players ‘Tickets’ for defeating enemies and completing missions. These tickets can later be redeemed at an Architect Ticket vendor for in game rewards such as, Enhancements, Salvage, Recipes, Random Reward rolls and Architect specific Unlockable content. This ticket system allows for us to keep a tighter control on our reward system as a whole inside Architect.

GVK: Will players be able to adjust XP earned in a custom area?

Players will be able to control the difficulty of the mission from the overall enemy group all the way down to an individual character. The harder an enemy is to fight, the more XP and rewards the players will earn. So, if a player wants to give out a lot of XP in their mission, they can crank up the difficulty.

GVK: Will players be able to make PVP custom campaigns?

At present that feature isn’t supported within Mission Architect, but it’s been talked about and its one of the many ideas we’re looking at for future additions to the system.

GVK: Will C.O.V. players be able to craft missions eventually?

CoV (City of Villains) players can craft missions NOW. We have a Mission Architect building, the location where players create their own stories, in almost every Villain zone in the game. They can make content and set the alignment to Villainous and use all existing Villain maps, characters and enemy groups. I actually made a villain character a couple days ago and I’m playing exclusively Villainous content within Mission Architect. My goal is to level my character to 50 from only playing Villain stories made by other players in Architect. So far, I’m level 7 and loving it.

GVK: How will players be able to locate custom missions and can anyone access them or do they need to be invited?

As I mentioned above, we allow players to gain access to Mission Architect in game. The story behind it is that there’s a company called Architect Entertainment that offers a virtual world experience for the heroes and villains of our game. This company has opened up numerous facilities where players can go to create their own stories or play the adventures of others. As soon as a character logs into the game, they can walk over to the nearest Architect Entertainment building and get started. There are no restrictions on playing or making content.

GVK: How is the currency to create custom missions earned?

It’s completely free to play or create content in Mission Architect. Any character on an active paying account can create missions without requiring any in-game currency.