The one million account figure I reported in the previous post is for all people with registered Cryptic accounts, not Star Trek Online alone. This may or may not include people who don’t play either Champions Online or Star Trek Online (details are still fuzzy).
While the exact figure hasn’t been published, there’s little doubt in the minds of most industry observers that this is far and away the most successful launch since WoW, surpassing all expectations, and I believe that the bottom line will reveal that it was double or triple the numbers of the World of Warcraft launch.
If (and this is a big if) they keep the content flowing freely and expand the game frequently and aggressively, they have the capability to steal the crown from WoW. On the other hand, if they drag their feet on expanding the main game while diverting too many resources to premium content or get bogged down in the quagmire of PvP balance, well, the race is theirs to lose.
I’m tired of predictable games.
I logged into Champions Online the other night with one of my low-level alts, and stood atop a building and considered my mission log. I could go fight one of the Millenium City gangs for bandanas… but I’ve done that with my other characters, the gangsters always spawn in the same spots and once you’ve learned the standard powers of the four or five thug types in each gang, there are few surprises. I could go confront Foxbat over his theft of a shipment of ping-pong balls… but again, I know that when I get to the warehouse where he’s stored his stash, all I’ll find is a few of his robotic henchmen and I won’t confront the zany supervillain himself until the battle at the television station where the same lame Network jokes will play out in sequence. All of my missions were the same old rides.
So I logged off and went and played Second Life instead.
I’m not bashing the Cryptic development team. This is an industry-wide issue. Once you complete a quest, there may be some replayability in doing it with another character with a different set of abilities… but in general, once you’ve got the patterns memorized it’s just a rote grind.
What I would love to see is more randomness. Unpredictable spawn points. Henchmen with a wide range of possible configurations. Quests that offer mutally-exclusive branches. Crafting systems where the same recipe can render hundreds or thousands of permutations of the same item, depending on luck, skill and player choices. Infinite diversity in infinite combinations.
I don’t want quests to go away. I like the roller-coaster. But a roller-coaster that rebuilds itself continuously so it’s never the same ride twice? Now THAT would be cool.
It’s been over 20 years since I first encounted the “Champions” RPG on a hobby store shelf and decided to make it my own. It wasn’t my first encounter with a superhero RPG — that was the unlamented “Villains and Vigilantes“. But Champions gained my undying affection. It was one of the first “classless” RPGs — unlike “Dungeons and Dragons”, your character could be created and grow in most any direction you could imagine. Want to be The Little Teapot, blasting your foes with jets of scalding water? Go for it!
Fast forward to last week, when Cryptic finally released Champions Online. I’ve been waiting for this one with bated breath ever since it was announced. I ran out, installed it, cursed at it while it patched (a tradition for me), and set out to explore the Champions universe.
And I was… underwhelmed.