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Hardcore Satisfaction

My entire weekend went quickly to City of Heroes. I don't think Thich Nhat Hahn would be impressed with my frittering away my life in such a way, but the inner gamer is thrilled: In this age of casual gamer cash grabs, it's hard for an advanced gamer to find a game that can consume a weekend so effectively.

Dual Blade's "Vengeful Slice" is a work of art.

Yet, in City of Heroes is a game I already invested 800 hours in. How can I find any enjoyment in it at all? I owe it all to three things: First, I'd taken a vacation from it for a month. Second, the new Dual Blades power set. Third, dumb luck allowed me to strike it rich.

Speed. That's pretty much the thing that impresses me about playing my character who wields Dual Blades and has Super Reflexes as his secondary power set. The Dual Blade power set itself is the best twitch action set in the game thanks to fluid animations, short recycle/animation times, and combo system unique from any other power set. However, the Super Reflexes secondary power set bolsters this yet further, adding a Quickness power (boosts my already quick rate of attack by an additional 20%) while being completely hands-off in its execution, thereby allowing me to focus entirely on setting up rapid offensive attacks and combinations. A third aspect in which this works is that three powers enhance my base run speed, allowing my character to cover ground quickly even without a travel power.

Now, in an amazing demonstration to just how viscerally quick this character is, I'm going to say that I'm having trouble keeping his endurance expenditure under control. This is at level 22, with both fully enhanced Stamina and a super-rare (60,000,000 influence on the auction house) "Miracle: +Recovery" enhancement. According to Mid's Hero Designer, this is a total of 164% of my base recovery rare, and I'm still able to drain my character's endurance in protracted fighting. Take it from me, a guy who has played dozens of alternate characters: that's pretty unusual.

Suffice to say, the "awesome" is back in City of Heroes. Not only because I'm playing such a visceral hero, but also because my lucky drop from the Synapse Task Force, that "Miracle: +Recovery" enhancement, made me him the 60,000,000 influence point man. To put it in scale, a real money trade organization I just looked up sells City of Heroes influence for $25 per 10M. So I'm paying $15/mo to play a character who has $150 worth of enhancements on him. I know that its really just a piece on a gameboard in terms of real life significance, and I detest RMT, but it makes the game seem more significant regardless.

Interesting game design observation: when it comes to trying to develop entertaining play, there's the matter of introducing adequate substance, the fuel in which "flow" runs. Prior to the introduction of the Dual Blade/Super Reflex combination, the gameplay felt a little slow to me, and to to entertain myself I instead I sought this mystery substance in the depth of available powers in City of Heroes. However, after taking a Illusion/Storm Control Controller to maximum level and satiating myself on dozens of heroes, I found that there simply wasn't anything left in terms of depth. With the Dual Blade/Super Reflex combination, I'm instead am finding satisfaction in the "twitch", or high rate of execution.

The interesting thing about this is that these are both a kind of substance to master: "depth of power variety" and "depth of twitch action". Also, there's a problem with mixing defensive power management and attacks: Usually, I'd prefer a more interactive secondary than Super Reflexes, but in this case I'm content managing the depth of setting up attacks and combinations quickly. Something more complicated, like Dark Armor, would feel extraneous. So, it seems there's a certain balance involved, possibly one subjective to me, and it happens that Dual Blade/Super Reflex was in the right range of complexity and speed.

Looking forward, once I get my Dual Blade/Super Reflex Scrapper to level 50 (assuming the fun lasts that long) I wonder else I can find this "substance"? If not in yet another City of Heroes archetype, then perhaps elsewhere. Maybe seeking this "substance" first should be the goal of a hardcore gamer like myself, as I often have trouble qualifying exactly what it is that disappoints me about the games I play. In doing so, I could quickly cure alt-a-holicism (as I would now have a single best criteria: finding that "substance") as well as understand what it is, exactly, certain games lack. Master a knack for that, and I'll be better at gaming than 95% of professional game designers.
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