City of Heroes Dev Diary: Balancing story and combat in Bloody Bay
PC Gamer routinely features Developer Diaries: tales of what goes on behind-the-scenes in the development studios making your favorite games. In this entry, City of Heroes' World Designer Cord “Think Tank” Carney talks about their design goals of the Drowning in Blood trial, and how they tried to balance story and combat inside. Let us know what you’d like to see developers discuss in future diaries in the comments.
One of the new trials being introduced in the Issue 22:Death Incarnate update for City of Heroes is a new level 15-30 trial called Drowning in Blood. Taking place in Bloody Bay, a small island town torn apart by decades of warfare, this trial is designed to be fun, quick content for players level 15 and above. In addition to more tangible rewards, players who finish the trial also get some answers to questions recently risen in the ongoing game lore, such as hints at what "The Coming Storm," a major catastrophe that has been predicted to come, will be.
Drowning in Blood prominently features the Shivans, a faction that CoH will be familiar with, who are remnants of meteorites that crashed to Earth over twenty years ago. Players first encountered these extraterrestrial menaces when City of Villains launched in 2005. When we launched City of Heroes Freedom, we introduced a second faction of the Shivans, who have a different visual appearance. These new Shivan have fallen under sway of Battalion, a mysterious intergalactic threat seemingly intent on conquering Earth. Drowning in Blood tells the story of these two distinct factions of Shivans and defines their roles in The Coming Storm.
For those familiar with our first introductory trial, Death From Below, the format of Drowning in Blood will be comfortably similar. Death From Below helped shape of the Freedom experience for many new and returning players, and has definitely influenced our design for Drowning in Blood. Players can use the Team Up Teleporter to group up and enter the trial automatically. Once inside, we want the experience to be fast-paced and forgiving as you're threaded through the old landscape of Bloody Bay, fighting Shivans, deranged Freakshow, and the mystical Circle of Thorns. We felt that Death From Below was an overwhelming success in that it engaged players as soon as they got into the game and allowed them to experience the group dynamics that make City of Heroes so enjoyable. We built Drowning in Blood to be the next step in that experience.
Although Drowning in Blood takes place in Bloody Bay, a PvP zone, it's neither a co-op nor a PvP experience. Heroes and Villains each have their own, separate versions of the Trial, each with their own unique characters and story interactions. Players will be greeted by either Arachnos or Longbow and can choose how they wish to proceed in taking back the island. They'll be given opportunities to genuinely help the people who still call Bloody Bay home, or betray those who trust you. Although many of the objectives are the same between the two versions, the tone is very different, and the characters you meet and how you can interact with them is distinct. We hope to see players want to experience both versions of the event.
Story-wise, we definitely have a lot to tell about The Coming Storm in the game overall and we couldn’t pass up this opportunity to further the storyline. At the same time, we felt it was important that the players enjoy a fast-paced combat experience, and we didn't want story to interrupt the action. Throughout the event, players will encounter a variety of characters, each with unique perspectives on events and interesting information concerning the Shivans. Players are encouraged, but not required, to take the time to stop and chat so that they get the full scope of the story. For the speedsters, most of the characters will show up again at the very end of the trial to give you another opportunity to hear their stories.
And now to the rewards: players who successfully complete Drowning in Blood will be rewarded with a variety of useful buffs to damage, health, accuracy or defense. These buffs will stick with you until level 30, making you more powerful as you level. We hope you enjoy Drowning in Blood. It's a continuance of the stories and experiences that we kicked off with Freedom and the destruction of Galaxy City, and it foreshadows much of what is to come in future issues.