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'Hero System' online


Panpiper

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I was very excited when I learned that Champions Online existed. I have had a love affair with the Hero System since the very first few months from the first publication of the 1st edition (I still have the books.) I left tabletop gaming fifteen years ago but my interest in the Hero System was rekindled by the thought of being able to play my beloved system online. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that not one iota of the 'Hero System' exists in Champions Online. Instead it seems to be a Diablo variant writ super hero.

 

This post is a muse and a wonder. Does anyone think, or like me hope, that there will someday be the opportunity to play the 'Hero System' online?

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Re: 'Hero System' online

 

You might want to check out Hero Central, which is a custom built play by post for the HERO System put together by Dan Simon, the creator of the Hero Designer software.

 

 

If play by post is too slow for you, some folks have been pioneering real time play over the internet using various "tabletop" emulators. I'm not very well versed in this area but if you have interest, there are those who are amongst our fellow forum-ites.

 

 

As an aside, I too wish the mechanics of CO were more HERO-ish, but I'm still enjoying the Champions Universe content which I hope will prove to enrich my next Champions game should I ever get a chance to run one again. I did a lot of things in my variant of the CU several years ago and really enjoyed the 5e version of the setting (see below for a summary of my version of the CU), so I find it cool to bump into characters from the books or see references in the flavor text. I'm actually pretty impressed with how many little things the creative team at Cryptic was able to cage out of the CU materials and get into the game.

 

 

Setting is a separate Dimension

For reference purposes, the Champions Universe setting as run by me can be referred to as CU5-KS1; by the book Champions Universe can be referred to as CU5. The official Champions Universes of today and yesteryear can be thought of as alternate dimensions in classic Comic Book style (CU4, CU3, etc).

 

A few key deviations between CU5 and the CU5-KS1 dimension:

1. Magic is not the seed of all superpowers.

2. The Champions went missing a year ago. No one seems to know where they went. This isn't necessarily a campaign plot point, I just wanted them out of the way so that the PC's can have the stage. Their base and other accoutrements are in the care of Dr. Silverback in the meantime.

3. The smart chips used in MC are not generally known about by anyone, even most cops.

4. Terran Empire and Galactic Champions are not in the same timeline. This is largely due to not accepting the "magic" rationale for the ebbing and flowing of superpowers.

5. Campaign morality is a little darker than CU proper. Not Iron Age dark, but just a little grittier. People do get killed, and Killing attacks are used from time to time. Killing people as a hero will result in legal action and/or issues with other non-lethal heroes.

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Re: 'Hero System' online

 

I was very excited when I learned that Champions Online existed. I have had a love affair with the Hero System since the very first few months from the first publication of the 1st edition (I still have the books.) I left tabletop gaming fifteen years ago but my interest in the Hero System was rekindled by the thought of being able to play my beloved system online. Imagine my disappointment when I discovered that not one iota of the 'Hero System' exists in Champions Online. Instead it seems to be a Diablo variant writ super hero.

 

This post is a muse and a wonder. Does anyone think, or like me hope, that there will someday be the opportunity to play the 'Hero System' online?

 

In fairness to Champions Online, the nature of MMORPG gaming requires most systems to be fairly similar or people get very upset.

 

It is not Diablo-like at all, by the way. It is still an RPG, though perhaps an RPG-lite. But it isn't much of an action game.

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...the nature of MMORPG gaming requires most systems to be fairly similar or people get very upset.

I am quite perplexed. People would get 'upset' if an online game used some system other than a class/level system with distinct set of predefined abilities? Why would they get 'upset'? They might not play due to increased complexity, but 'upset'?

 

I mean this respectfully. I just utterly fail to understand.

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In fairness, CO is a Level system, but not a class and level. The powersets are open to all, and though there are some prereq's that reward someone focusing on a given set (they can get the better powers of the set a little earlier than mix-and-matchers), over all its pretty mild. By late mid level any power in the game is available to any character.

 

Instead of the standard MMO classes, CO has roles allowing any given character to attempt to fill any particular role (personally I just stay in the "balanced" mode all the time).

 

In the MMO community this is considered to be pretty revolutionary and "experimental".

 

 

I guess the best way I can say this, and with no hauteur intended, is that the online gaming community at large is still a couple decades behind the pen n paper community as to the level of sophistication / complexity they are able or willing to adapt to.

 

You have to consider the audience; we as PnP players with a lot of experience with different rules and mechanical concepts are not the norm for MMO's. The great majority of MMO players are the same players as every other MMO. Though an individual might have one or two favorites they revisit or go back to, in general they go from game to game. They are from all levels of society and intellect, from highly intelligent gamer geeks at one extreme to barely literate basement dwellers at the other and just about anything in between.

 

The industry has settled on a tier somewhere above least common denominator...but not that far above it.

 

These games cost millions to create, and no one is willing to risk getting to far ahead of the commonly accepted norms for the industry. But it is evolving; in another 5 or 10 years there might be a market for a "radically different" game like a pure point system mechanic. IMO it will take either an established company that can bank on their established credibility to get players and investors to take it seriously, or an upstart coming out of nowhere with a start-up mentality and a willingness to take on risk. We'll see...

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I guess the best way I can say this' date=' and with no hauteur intended, is that the online gaming community at large is still a couple decades behind the pen n paper community as to the level of sophistication / complexity they are able or willing to adapt to.[/quote']

It has less to do with that than with the fact that online games don't have a GM, and GMs have an essential role in balancing PnP games. "Buy anything you want, as long as it's within the point budget" doesn't work very well in a tabletop game unless the character creation system is considerably more rigid than Hero, but it's the only method available to MMOs.

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It has less to do with that than with the fact that online games don't have a GM' date=' and GMs have an essential role in balancing PnP games. "Buy anything you want, as long as it's within the point budget" doesn't work very well in a tabletop game unless the character creation system is considerably more rigid than Hero, but it's the only method available to MMOs.[/quote']

 

I don't agree with that. Any arbitrary system of adjudication can be coded for; the "human touch" just allows for more wiggle room and "organic" solutions.

 

As to MMO's and GM's, the balancing factor is good guesses up front, solid beta testing before go-live, and data mining driven adjustments; which is an analogue to a GM riding herd, formalized and writ large.

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Re: 'Hero System' online

 

This post is a muse and a wonder. Does anyone think, or like me hope, that there will someday be the opportunity to play the 'Hero System' online?

 

I hope so. What I am really looking for are the tools that will allow us to Ref online. Its not hard to imagine a world where something like Google maps could give us access to 3D New York or London. :D

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I am quite perplexed. People would get 'upset' if an online game used some system other than a class/level system with distinct set of predefined abilities? Why would they get 'upset'? They might not play due to increased complexity, but 'upset'?

 

I mean this respectfully. I just utterly fail to understand.

 

Its strange but true.

 

I played City of Heroes for a long time and also spent far too long on their forum ;) You might have been surprised by the number of "MMO vs Genre" arguments that would develop. CoH had a great many players that played the game because it was a MMORPG. CO will be the same. The fact that its genre is "super heroes" was irrelevant to them. They view MMOPRG as a genre in itself.

 

Suggestions/arguments would be made that "in the comics" things are done this way and the rebuttle would always be "this is a MMO not a comic". People that like MMOs as a genre will typically ask for "loot", "rares", "special costumes" and for levels, gated content and stuff that only the "hard core" can access because these are the kinds of things MMOs do or because thats what WoW does.

 

I think Cryptic were quite brave with CoH. They were one of the first to let you design your character as you wished. They had no loot for most of the game (have to say I hate the idea of Heroes looting corpses :idjit: ) and what they have is still very gentle. I believe they very nearly went with a class-less system but got dissuaded by Richarh Garriott. Shame.

 

With CO I Feel they were brave in other areas. Within the boundaries of an MMO it feels more conservative, more "mainstream", more WoW. I hope they can maintain their audience, add more content and open up the console market and maybe push the boundaries again :)

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MMO's will always be about combat, leveling up, and items/equipment management.

 

I don't know how Champions/Hero games go, but my M&M superhero games have maybe 1-2 fights per 4 hour session, almost no leveling up, and no looting and item management at all.

 

PnP is just very different and I don't think a good PnP system will ever translate over into an MMO very easily.

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Personally, I'd love to see someone license the HERO System for an MMO... which naturally would have to include a big, fat consulting contract for me, me, me. I have absolutely no doubt that it could be turned into a kick-ass MMO rules base. Some hard-coded restrictions would have to be necessary due to the lack of a GM, but it could still come pretty close to true.

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I don't agree with that. Any arbitrary system of adjudication can be coded for; the "human touch" just allows for more wiggle room and "organic" solutions.

Have you ever actually attempted to work on an online game? I have (old-school MUD), and I assure you, creating balanced rules is exponentially harder without a GM. Certainly, the Hero System as written would not work, though you could certainly come closer than CO does.

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Have you ever actually attempted to work on an online game? I have (old-school MUD)' date=' and I assure you, creating balanced rules is exponentially harder without a GM. Certainly, the Hero System [i']as written[/i] would not work, though you could certainly come closer than CO does.

 

Yes, actually I have -- though definitely at the hobby level. I'm also an experienced professional software developer with a lot of work in the arena of rules engines and arbitrary logic behind me. It wouldn't be easy, and there would be comprises on the more extreme abilities (EDM, for instance) but a reasonable proximity could be achieved.

 

Whether it would attract and retain players and be profitable is another question.

 

You can feel free to disagree, of course.

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Have you ever actually attempted to work on an online game? I have (old-school MUD)' date=' and I assure you, creating balanced rules is exponentially harder without a GM. Certainly, the Hero System as written would not work, though you could certainly come closer than CO does.[/quote']

 

I really don't see it as being as hard as some make it out to be. Yes, there would be a few extra restrictions and likely a few extra reward options as well to keep it all orderly, but I can easily imagine ways to approach it. For example:

 

Create a series of easy to understand and apply package deals, so as to make the game easy to jump into for the casual player that doesn't want to delve too deeply into the system. They can spend their points to buy the packages they want. If they have any odd points left over they can 'push' one of more of their abilities. Players who do know the rules can build their character normally, though with perhaps a few extra restrictions on what sort of powers and advantages are allowed.

 

So as to maintain balance without the presence of a GM a couple of new things get introduced into the system. First and foremost is the idea of not just stat maximums for normals, but stat and power maximums for everything. However these are customizable to some degree. A player when creating a new character defines a single primary power/stat, two secondary, three tertiary and four quaternary. The primary can have a total of 60 Active Points, secondary 50 AP, tertiary 40 AP and quaternary 30 AP. All other powers/stats/abilities are restricted to the normal maxima. Package deals will auto-reconfigure to adjust to these limits. Limitations reduce point costs, they do not increase APs. (These maxima would be in addition to starting stats, so strength as a primary would be somewhat stronger than an energy blast.)

 

Experience is handled without recourse to levels. Experience is character points just like in the Hero System. They would be awarded fractionally for doing the sorts of things players do in online games, on the order of one point per two hours of play average (my suggestion). Experience can be used to buy up stats/powers etc. in a normal fashion up to the limits defined by the primary/secondary/tertiary etc. allocations. Points may be spent on things that have reached their maxima, but the first five AP exceeding the maxima will cost double, the next triple, the next quadruple, etc.. Players will quickly find it more practical to diversify their expenditures than to keep pushing one ability. That or buy off limitations, pick up abilities they did not have but would like, etc.

 

If two hours of game time translated to one character point, this system could keep people playing the same character for a very long time without breaking the game. And it would still allow people to get a fair bit tougher than when they started.

 

Other things could be added like roleplaying kudos. Each player gains a kudos medal every few hours that they can award to any player who has impressed them with their story flair, their roleplaying. People with the most kudos awarded to them attract the notice of GMs, who can also 'do things' with them. That could be giving them special quests and whatnot. But it could also be things like a tribunal audience, where the player can submit a custom designed character to a tribunal of three GMs. If all three GMs in that tribunal sign off on the character, it is allowed into play, perhaps even in contravention of the rules that normally apply for character balance. However if any of the GMs do 'not' sign off, there is no reapplying a redesign, until the player has perhaps been awarded another tribunal audience through good roleplaying. So a player has good cause to not 'try' to break the spirit of the game.

 

I could go on. There are lots of things that could be done to create an insanely good game using the Hero System in my opinion. The above was just off the top of my head. Give Steve Long a year to work on it, and I am quite certain he would trump this by a long shot.

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Personally, I'd love to see someone license the HERO System for an MMO... which naturally would have to include a big, fat consulting contract for me, me, me. I have absolutely no doubt that it could be turned into a kick-ass MMO rules base. Some hard-coded restrictions would have to be necessary due to the lack of a GM, but it could still come pretty close to true.

 

It would be an awesome project, for sure. The trouble lies in that HERO is such an open-ended system and there would have to be a character approval process that would necessitate a lot of staff.

 

I think that the system, as is, would be an impossible task to manage - it would take some major house-ruling in order to make it work. For example, hard starting caps on characteristics and powers based on archetype, and then soft caps as you play that would stage up XP costs to buy the things you wanted as you passed the initial hard caps.

 

There'd be other limitations, such as anything that you build which must use a STOP sign power or Advantage would have to be approved beforehand, for example. Yield-sign powers and Advantages would also get flagged, and would probably result in there being a check on those kinds of powers to make sure that there's no abuse going on.

 

And also? No PvP. With the system as it is, balancing a game like HERO for PvP would prove to be completely impossible and would only result in heartache and epic levels of forum whining.

 

So it'd be hard...but doable.

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I think the hardest thing would be to create a game where players had a reason to spend points on non-combat abilities. Your Ref can find ways to make those points you spent on archeology have value. Much harder for a computer to do. Which is why CoH and CO, as nice as they are, are mainly about hitting things.

 

 

The Hero System is very nicely balanced and well tested. So in balancing a Hero System MMO I think issues will be in the "house rules" that say you can only spend x on defense and having OCV/DC balance and DCV/PD&ED balance.

 

OCV - Max DC (Active Pts)

07 - 12 (60)

08 - 11 (55)

09 - 10 (50)

10 - 09 (45)

11 - 08 (40)

DCV - Max PD/ED

06 - 30

07 - 27

08 - 23

09 - 19

10 - 15

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Re: 'Hero System' online

 

The trouble lies in that HERO is such an open-ended system and there would have to be a character approval process that would necessitate a lot of staff.

 

I disagree with this entirely. What it would require is hard-coding in a lot of game element interactions, and that would probably mean flat-out restricting some things. AFAIK there never has been an MMO that requires character approvals, and I doubt there ever will be; it's not in any way practical or profitable.

 

As for PvP whining -- I could give a damn. ;) If it were up to me, I'd put PvP in with a big, bright disclaimer, and then totally ignore most PvPer comments. In my experience, relying on PvPers for input on how an MMO should work only worsens the MMO... unless the MMO is about nothing but PvP.

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Trevor Walker and I have spent nearly ten years building a GM tool to help run your combats and test your characters in combat. Until you actually try to write the code, you can't really see the type of complex modules and constructions you have to create to deal with all the features and options built in the Hero System through version 5E.

 

It would be cool if we would finish it before a new version of Hero came out. :(

 

Pete

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(fair warning, long post)

 

I disagree with this entirely. What it would require is hard-coding in a lot of game element interactions' date=' and that would probably mean flat-out restricting some things. AFAIK there never has been an MMO that requires character approvals, and I doubt there ever will be; it's not in any way practical or profitable.[/quote']

 

I agree that it wouldn't be practical or profitable, but that's exactly what you would need to run a game that operated on the HERO System and still have it be true to its roots. Changes like what you propose would largely neuter the system's most attractive asset: its customizability. Would it be the closest thing we've had yet to a truly open-form MMO? Yes, it would, but it would still be a far cry from what I would call "HERO Online".

 

The reality of it is that the HERO System requires a GM for it to function properly, because you literally can build anything. This is also the HERO System's biggest selling point; the simple fact that you aren't restricted to classes, archetypes, or builds that would otherwise restrict your concept to say "you can't get there from here". One of the other realities of the HERO System is that characters are not inherently balanced; depending on your character's concept and your GM's sensibilities, it's perfectly legal to build a character who's absurdly out of balance and even have it be playable. This flies in the face of current offerings in the genre - I've never known an MMO that doesn't strive for game balance.

 

Despite this, I still think that while Cryptic took things in the right direction with Champions Online, I think they didn't go far enough. One of the things that I wish Cryptic had done with its system was to separate SFX from powers and simply use core mechanics (like "ranged damage, melee damage, buff, debuff, heal, drain, summon, etc.) to define how a power works rather than trying to construct a whole bunch of prefab powers and offer them up as "frameworks". I even went so far as to start writing out how it would all work; even allowing for a way to overlay SFX over the top and have each SFX type provide some kind of very small in-game benefit.

 

As for PvP whining -- I could give a damn. ;) If it were up to me' date=' I'd put PvP in with a big, bright disclaimer, and then totally ignore most PvPer comments. In my experience, relying on PvPers for input on how an MMO should work only worsens the MMO... unless the MMO is about nothing but PvP.[/quote']

 

While I agree with your motivation and agree with your sentiment about PvP, you can't do this. Not when money is involved. The moment you start charging for admission, people's viewpoints will change. They will immediately begin to feel "vested" even if they're really not. Witness what goes on with the CO forums right now. The CO forums is populated by some of the biggest whiners I've ever seen, and while the actual game itself consists of (mostly) good people, the forums are rife with people screaming bloody murder every time the game goes down for a patch, or to whine about how Swallowtail Cut is overpowered, or what the current flavor-of-the-month PvP build is and how it's broken, or what have you. It's all because they're paying money for the game, and they believe that gives them the right to issue a fiat to the devs to make the game the way they want it to.

 

Allowing something like that will automatically create bad blood between the devs and the players, and when the players are paying, they are going to feel like "my opinion matters over everyone else's" because they're spending their money on the game. Doesn't make it right, because others are spending their money on the game, too, but that's the mentality you'll have. It basically is the mentality people have on CO at the moment, and is one of the reasons that every little slip-up on Cryptic's part has been magnified dramatically out of proportion. People are watching Cryptic for any sign of mistakes or even perceived slights against their characters' concepts, and the moment anything endangers their "vision" for the character there is automatic nerdrage.

 

Anyway. There's my bit on the matter. That and 0.75 will get you a cup of coffee down at the local diner. ;)

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I disagree with this entirely. What it would require is hard-coding in a lot of game element interactions, and that would probably mean flat-out restricting some things. AFAIK there never has been an MMO that requires character approvals, and I doubt there ever will be; it's not in any way practical or profitable.

 

As for PvP whining -- I could give a damn. ;) If it were up to me, I'd put PvP in with a big, bright disclaimer, and then totally ignore most PvPer comments. In my experience, relying on PvPers for input on how an MMO should work only worsens the MMO... unless the MMO is about nothing but PvP.

 

:jawdrop:

 

:rockon:

 

:hail:

 

I love you! :love:

 

:cheers:

 

Seriously though, if ever you are involved in putting together a team of folks to work on a HERO System MMORPG, I want to be on that team! All the nay-sayers can ROT! :D

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The moment you start charging for admission' date=' people's viewpoints will change. [/quote']

 

Actually I think the problems start when you change something and admit you are doing it for "balance". You will then be hit be a deluge of spreadsheets explaining exactly why UpperThump is overpowered compared to DoubleHack etc etc.

 

The biggest mistake any developer makes IMO is pandering to the hardcore. They are the ones that push the edges of the system (and its the edges where things are most likely to be broken) but are also the ones the eat through the content and leave the quickest. Unfortunately they make the most noise and so often grab all the attention.

 

No, don't panda to the hardcore, give them two black eyes instead! :D

 

Oh, I'm so funny.

 

*cough*

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