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City of Heroes will always be close to my heart when it comes to MMOs that didn't follow the typical MMO formula. It had great ambitions with it's release of City of Villains, but those ambitions waned. Then they brought people back with Mission Architect, and then later removed most people's motivations for using it. They then released going Rogue, but there was very little rogue about it and it's only been further downhill from there.
In the 0% chance that this topic will have any impact in the direction of this great franchise, I have summed up what NCsoft can do to breathe new life into their game.
1. Bring back Base Raiding. This was a great feature, even in it's buggiest state. However there are a few things that need modifying in order for it to see widespread adoption and bring people to it's bountiful table. The first is to tweak how pylons can be used. A huge base is not necessarily a well-equipped one. If this was always the case, pylons would be the great equalizer. Instead, the more expensive the plot, the fewer pylons should be required for capture. I imagine this should start at something like 20 pylons for the lowest plots, and it would be absurd to even attempt that as a win condition when the other conditions are easier to achieve against weaker plots. This can be adjusted as time goes on for balance.
The other tweak needed is to limit the invading force based on how many of the other SG is online at the time. A full 8 should be the minimum allowed, and only if the defenders have 4 or more people online. Other invaders should be allowed to queue and would be admitted to the defending base as room allows.
In-hand with the above, defenders with 4 players online would not be able to decline a challenge, but would have 30 minutes from the time the challenge is issued to when the invasion can begin. Further, even if you have an IOP, damage to the base would not require repair. No one wants to be drained of resources constantly. After being invaded, defenders would not have to accept (though can if they wish) new challenges for 24 hours. Similarly SGs cannot invade another base for two hours. This is only to keep the pool of invadable bases available for other SGs.
Winning an invasion should give some sort of new currency that allows members of the SG to have minor PvP benefits they can buy, depending on how many defenders there were, time to completion, and other factors. Combine all this with an easy to use interface for invading, and you have an exciting system that adds a dimension to CoH gameplay that CoV hinted at but could never deliver.
2. Remove the current blanket PvP power changes introduced in (I think) i14. It wasn't that these were all bad changes, it's just they ruined a lot of builds, caused other imbalances, and made it very hard to theorycraft your PvP effectiveness. I'm not saying to give up on the idea of separate PvP balance, but the changes were only required in the first place because of factional imbalances, not individual class imbalances. When one faction can get certain powers and enhancements the other side cannot, then it's just a hurdle set too high. Most of that is fixed with Going Rogue, and it's perfectly OK for pvp balance changes to affect PvE. PvE is easy and non-competitive. I think NCsoft horribly overestimated how offended a few people would be at PvE nerfs due to PvP issues.
3. Remove the boundaries of the two cities. It's time for CoH to convert itself to something more similar to other two-faction games. I think there's a LOT of great potential in spicing things up by opening up Paragon to villains and The Isles to heroes. Further, villains and heroes should be allowed to group and start out neutral to each other outside of the established PvP zones. Players should be allowed to roll any class on either side starting out, even if not in Praetoria. They should also be allowed to switch allegience with no fuss. A cooldown timer of 48 hours could be put on that character, to prevent any possible abuse. The blackmarkets need to merge as well, as both sides simply are not equal when it comes to pricing and availability of important recipes.
4. Merge all servers and allow variant instancing. They've talked about a serverless architecture for a while, and even since it's initial release, CoH has been capable of supporting any number of players due to it's unique instancing system. Each zone can open multiple instances when a certain player threshold is reached. I don't believe the current population on some servers really supports a good play experience. To keep names, they could turn the server names into a kind of patron loyalty system that distinguishes one character with the same name from another. I wouldn't be against just tagging a server name onto the end of everyone's names, but I know some would understand such an unsophisticated approach, and something more elegant can probably be done with little stress on the development team.
Variant Instancing - This is my name for special server types in a game that only has one server. Since CoH already does instancing flawlessly, there are a few great options that can go along with this. The first is to allow invisible instancing. That means when zoning to a zone with multiple instances, it picks one for you, based on where your friends or SG members are, or what would be optimal population-wise. This helps those who appreciate immersion. Another option would be special instance types similar to server types. For example, players would opt into joining only instances flagged as RP, PvP, PvP+RP, or normal. There could be other variants added as well, the sky is truly the limit, and it can give flexibility to appease all player types. Even FFA PvP for total chaos! It doesn't force anyone to a playstyle they don't like, and if they tire of the ganking and leetspeak, they can retire to a different instance type with ease.
5. Tweak the PvP zones. These dedicated PvP zones need real rewards, such as a second path to rare recipes, but they also need factional balancing. It's no fun to get overwhelmed by 20 adversaries. They do have player limits before a new instance is opened, but these restrictions need to be tighter and faction based (which it may be). With the ability to easily faction change, the availability of other PvP instances without special rewards, I would hope this does not cause one side to always be locked out. Add in a queue to enter, and I think we could see some competitive rewarding faction vs faction pvp in these zones again. And take it from someone who was in CoV since the beginning, there's a lot of potential here.
You may note that almost all changes are PvP based. This is the segment of the community that CoV temporarily brought in, and then lost. It's got a wealth of endgame and features for everyone but them, and yet it's got a great foundation laid, and a lot of potential waiting to be realized. I think the time is now, and I think that these steps can bring this game to greatness and great subscription dollars without alienating too many people, nor do I believe these steps to be beyond the abilities of the developers (even though it's quite amazing how they could not manage to get IOP raids right).