City of Heroes launched the game's first series of large-scale raids, called Incarnate Trials, just two weeks ago . We sat down with Nate Birkholz, City of Heroes' Lead Producer at Paragon Studios to talk about what the dev team has learned so far, what's worked well and what hasn't, and how the players have responded to the new addition.
PCG: What was your experience like on day one? Were most players ready to go with full groups, or were they skeptical?
Nate Birkholz: Players were more than ready to go as soon as the servers came up. I hopped onto Virtue, my home server, and immediately started using the Team Up Teleporter to run Incarnate Trials. I spent much of the day playing along with pick-up groups (PUGs) and enjoying the enthusiasm that people displayed for tackling the challenges. I also defeated a couple of Behavioral Adjustment Facility runs back-to-back late in the day, which was very satisfying as a player as well as a developer.
PCG: What size groups have been the most popular in Incarnate Trials so far?
NB: No particular size seems to be more popular [than the others right now]. The Behavioral Adjustment Facility requires a League of 12-24 players, and Lambda Sector requires 8-16 players, [so it's all within those ranges].
PCG: Are you happy with how the difficulty scaling has worked so far? Is one extreme of group size seeming to have an easier or more difficult time than the other?
NB: We've been very happy. The numbers, as well as our personal experiences in the game, indicate that the scaling is working very well. In fact, both the smallest groups and the largest groups have been able to earn the “Master of..” badges that we award for completing the Incarnate Trials as close to perfect as possible.
PCG: What's your personal preference for raid size?
NB: I like about sixteen players. I feel like that size gives a great cross-section of archetypes and gives a lot of tactical flexibility. Fortunately, the endgame scaling is working well, as I noted, so it's fun with any number of players, but that size just feels right to me.
PCG: What boss encounter design do you think has been the most successful so far? Are there any encounters that you feel need to be tweaked?
NB: Players were regularly defeating the Siege and Nightstar battle first, but we expected to see that. The Marauder battle is more integrated into how successful you are with the rest of the Lambda Sector Incarnate Trial, so we knew it would take a bit longer to get into the groove of his fight. We are seeing players defeat Marauder now that more and more people are familiar with how the event works.
PCG: What are the most popular Incarnate Powers so far?
NB: The Judgment and Lore powers are very visual, and players are really digging them a lot.
PCG: What are your personal favorite Incarnate Powers?
NB: As a tank, I really dig the Interface powers. The debuff proc I have been using reduces enemies' chance to hit, and that quickly adds up to some real survivability for me and my team.
PCG: Looking back at the first week of the new endgame, what lessons have you learned already?
NB: We have had the Incarnate Trials in beta since last Autumn, so a lot of the really big lessons are well behind us. One lesson we learned during beta is that players are very determined to defeat any encounter, no matter how big the challenge. They will keep trying to win even after the tide of battle has clearly turned against them and they're no longer making headway. Players underestimate their power and skill at times, but that doesn't affect their spirit.
PCG: How are you going to apply that lesson to future content?
NB: We learned that every stage of an Incarnate Trial has to have a way of ending [good or bad], or players will just keep going--until server maintenance if they have to.
PCG: If you could summarize the average player's feedback on the patch so far, what would it be?
NB: “We want more Incarnate Trials!”
What do you think, heroes and villains: Is everything peachy in the Incarnate Trials, or what would you like to see changed?