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An Optimal 20+: Bloody Bay and Sister Psyche

What are days off for? Binge playing MMORPGs, of course, and so it was into City of Heroes for me for the day. It's only mid-afternoon now, and what a productive day it was! In about 7 hours of play, I started at early level 20 and ended at early-to-mid level 24.

But how is this possible? If I were soloing, I bet it'd take me 3-5 hours just to get a single level. I'd say a lot of my success today had to do with three Factors: A Brute, Bloody Bay, and Sister Psyche.

Brutes don't normally get along with us heroes very well because Brutes are villains that aren't allowed in the same zone as heroes unless it's to fight. However, this guy apparently spawned in Outbreak through some bug introduced when he rolled his character. The player has been busy grabbing as much Paragon related swag as possible in the meanwhile. Who can blame him? It's not very often you're handed an opportunity to play a villain on the hero side of the game.

Normally, my exploit sensors would be going off like mad over the idea of people transgressing the intended boundries of the game. However, supposedly the Heroes and Villains in CoX are balanced, so I shouldn't have a real big advantage to playing with a Brute versus a Scrapper or Tank. Still, I list him as a major contributing factor to me leveling so quickly today because the player was good enough to make mincemeat out of the challenges we were presented with. He was our primary damage doer the whole time, and mostly ran around with 400% "Rage" Brute damage boost because we were able to assure he had very little down time. I hope Cryptic doesn't decide this was an unfair advantage and roll back my progress... we'll see. As I said, with Villains and Heroes supposedly balanced, it's not what I'd call an exploit.

The first thing my newly assembled team did was tackle Bloody Bay. We did the Shiva meteor retrieval without too much difficulty. It was my first time, and me and some other guys had some difficulty figuring out the retrival device, but this was a minor snag at best. The greatest threat was when a Stalker (another Villainous archetype) appeared out of nowhere tried to assassinate me. It seems us Controllers are a Stalker's favorite targets as, in the two times I've been attacked in Bloody Bay, it was with one circumventing attacking any other members of the group to get to me. As before, however, the first attack wasn't fatal and I was able to evade further attack from there. This stalker regretted it, as he was chased him down and blundered into some mobs which put an end to him. I didn't hear from him for the rest of the Bloody Bay Shivan Meteor quest... which succeeded! I've now a Elite Boss pet I can pull out if I need to up to 5 times before needing to this quest again: very cool! We then moved on to doing a hero attack-boosting mission to offset a damage penalty that had been placed over the zone.

I don't know why Bloody Bay isn't more popular than it is. The experience points are very lucrative - there's about a +25% experience point bonus on everything. If I had to guess why Bloody Bay's popularity was as poor as it is, I'd say it was due to the risk of getting PK'd. However, it's a catch 22: the zone has to be popular for there to be much of a risk of getting PK'd. Besides, most of the activities you can do there are indoors missions where the rival side can't attack you. I'm going to have to start more Bloody Bay teams sometime (or maybe move on to Warburg), but because you're modified to level 25 regardless of your level one can pretty much do it at any point in their heroic of villainous careers.

After Bloody Bay we did the Sister Psyche task force. I've never done this Task Force before, I've only done Positron (12-14) and Synapse (15-20) task forces before (at least three times each, in fact). So, discovering that Sister Psyches was a level 20-25 mission should prove a great boon to my future characters. Because two of our members were level 25 (the limit of the mission) they essentially power leveled the rest of us (who were down around the level 20-22 range). This is where I made most of my levels. The task force was completed without much difficulty, even though (being a task force) it took several hours. Clamor was an easier fight than the Clockwork King, in my opinion, and she dropped a usable level 28 Single Origin enhancement which made two when combined with the task force completion reward. I've got to gain a level before I can use these enhancements, but they're slottable in my powers for an optimal boost.

So, there's the factors of a Brute, Bloody Bay, and Sister Psyche that lead to my making usually fast progress today. However, there's another factor that may have been even more influential than any of those three: I assembled my own team. Not that this is impossible for anyone to do, but I usually shy away from that because it's a pain in the arse having to scour player lists to assemble a team, half of which may fall apart before getting anywhere.

I'm actually a pretty good leader in City of Heroes and even wrote up a guide for it that is now no longer available since Gamergod went down. All you need to know is this:
  1. Try to establish a group with a good mixture of offensive and defensive capacity. If you go all defense, your progress will be slowgoing and boring. If you go all offense, your group will wipe out without anyone capable of bearing the brunt of the damage. Defenders, Controllers, and Tanks are Defense on the hero side. Blasters, Scrappers, and Kheldian are offense. (It's a little more complicated than that, as specific power sets will work differently. Typically, you want a meat shield to take the damage and somebody to keep them healed, but with sufficient debuffs and control it may be possible to render your foes unable to pose a threat.)
  2. Make sure your highest level members are also the most numerous, as they're going to determine the experience gain for the rest of the group so need to be the core. Inviting one guy 2+ levels higher than any other group member just screws everybody over and possibly lands your group in an uncompletable mission. Have him exemptor down if he wants to tag along. [Actually, this may no longer be true. I shouldn't have been making much xp today with 2 level 25 players above me when I was level 21, but I did. I suspect Cryptic may have changed their experience formula to no longer have this apply. Still, careful if you invite a higher level player and do their mission, as it will prove extremely difficult for lower level members to do because it's neigh impossible to hit a mob more than 3 levels higher than you.]
  3. The levels of foes are determined by the level of the member who holds the mission when they picked it up, modified by difficulty setting. Greater number of members means way more mobs encountered, so more players isn't always better.
  4. Don't leave the poor bastards sitting around doing nothing while you're assembling your team. Put them to work on a mission right away so boredom doesn't set in. Just don't send them into a suicide mission, either (see #3 above). Either mistake will cause your group to crumble.
So, way back at the beginning of this, I had started soloing and, upon being contacted to form a duo, I decided to shoulder the burden of playing with the /search interface and inviting others. This massive experience gain was the fruit of that labor. I get the feeling that all I really need for a climb to 50 as quick as it was today is just the impetus to be willing to do that every time. I'll probably do that again later today after a little break.

So, what does one do for a break if they've just been sitting on the computer playing? Get active. I'm going to jump on a real life treadmill. I'm not a health nut, but I do know this: Sitting around in one place for 7 hours makes me feel ill and weakens the focus. These factors and others make it tough to properly enjoy a game. Taking a break, doing a bit of quality exercise, grabbing a bite, and perhaps engaging in a focusing technique (such as meditation) before jumping back on the computer should result in a lot more mileage out of my free time.
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