Making the Content: Episodes, Tips and More
Hello, City of Titans fans. You’ve heard a great deal from the Composition Department over the last several years about the lore of the game, but we know you’re also interested in learning how you’ll see our department’s work in-game. Therefore, today, I want to introduce you to our quest system.
In addition to generating a vast amount of backstory, Composition has also been busily drafting adventures for PCs to undertake. Even the most elaborate story begins with an individual chunk of content, an objective or succession of objectives that the PC needs to accomplish. These chunks, often referred to in other games as “missions,” are usually but not always instanced. Keeping our comics heritage in mind, we refer to them as “Episodes.” Similarly, a string of Episodes telling a connected story arc forms a “Series,” and multiple, successive arcs with recurring plot elements are known as “Sagas.”
In terms of what we can have a PC accomplish in an Episode, our capabilities are extremely robust. Every gamer is familiar with entering an instance and wiping out all the enemies it contains. Rest assured, there will be plenty of opportunities for combat in City of Titans. However, we will offer you much more.
As this example shows, we’ve designed some of our content with lore-loving players in mind. We understand that many roleplayers and story fans want to engage with the content and affect it just as much as it affects their characters. On the other hand, some days, you don’t want to think about the intricacies of story at all. You just want to mash some buttons and zap your enemies with cosmic rays.
Thus, we’re creating several different kinds of quest-type content for different kinds of players and different moods. Three sorts we’re planning to have for you are at launch include:
Tips: short, self-contained, one-off adventures
Paths: game-spanning Sagas with elaborate stories that let you explore and define your character while meeting and battling a variety of highly detailed NPCs
District Stories: Series that focus on the lore related to a particular part of the city and usually featuring prominent NPCs, special gameplay mechanics, or both
We’ll tell you more about Paths, District Stories, and perhaps some other things we have in mind in future Updates. Today, though, I want to introduce you to Tips.
Tips are self-contained, single-Episode stories. While we strive to make them engaging, we’ve also designed them to be straightforward to begin and to play. They are ideal for those times when you simply want to log into the game for half an hour and play something simple, or for when you can’t be bothered to click through a lot of dialogue boxes and just want to get into battle.
Creating even content as simple as Tips is an elaborate process. We began by determining how many Tips we think we’ll need for each level band and where each Tip would take place.
Then we combed the Composition Department for story suggestions for short, heroic or villainous adventures. Because our writers are familiar with the game’s lore bible, this meant that we got plenty of suggestions that involved each city district’s major factions, landmarks, and historical events. Thus, while Tips aren’t designed to require any special knowledge of the game’s lore, lore-focused players will still find them interesting. Here are a few examples:
-An Arcane Sentinel Mage was mugged by some Rooks and lost a fireball wand. He needs help getting it back.
-The mayor is hosting a charity event at the Holt Collection that Anarchy Red has vowed to crash. Security for the event has asked for hero support.
-A mystic enthusiast made a deal with the Regency that he didn’t follow through with. He’ll be at the Symphony Hall tonight, but his date is a hero. He’s meeting up with some Arcane Sentinel buddies there for a similar deal. Crash the date and the deal.
-A TIAS student has swiped a bunch of gadgets and started calling himself "Captain Epic," but ePunks captured him on his first foray into crimefighting. Rescue him before they reverse-engineer the devices and dispose of 'Captain Epic!'
Meanwhile, our team of Staff Writers came up with an array of Tip contacts to provide these Episodes to PCs. Some other kinds of content feature novel ways to receive tasks, but we wanted to keep Tips simple. Thus, we stuck with the classic “contact/mission” setup familiar to players from other MMORPGs. (Don’t worry; we won’t make you spend all your time running back and forth to the contact.)
We drew the cast of Tip contacts from throughout the game’s lore bible, so you’ll see some faces familiar from previous Lore Updates in this role—members of teams and factions ranging from the Paragons to the Pyrebrands and independent NPCs we’ve already introduced to you. (Fans of Tales from the TCPD/Tales from the Underworld will be happy [I hope] to hear that Kathleen Aurelia will be providing Tips to heroes in Alexandria, and Frank Castilucci will be Tipping off villains on the city’s south side.) We also created a variety of new NPCs to act as Tip contacts, from a reformed Rook and his not-so-reformed twin brother to a jogger in Rhinehart Park, a nosy old lady in suburban Aurora, and even a tsukumogami teapot in Lotus Hills.
Once we had everything arrayed, we began assigning Tips to writers, usually members of our indefatigable Bullpen team. The assigned writer receives the tweet-summary and uses it, along with the lore bible entries for the Tip contact, any other characters, the faction(s) involved in the Tip, the district where it takes place, and anything else relevant to create the Tip’s Short Pitch. This informs the writer of the Episode’s general plot, any major, named NPCs it features, and its role in a larger Series or Saga, if any. Once the Short Pitch is approved, the writer drafts the Tip’s Full Pitch, which goes through a second round of review. The Full Pitch includes an explanation of what map or maps the Episode will use, spawning instructions for NPCs, all the dialogue spoken in the mission (including branching dialogues that can be affected by player choices) and more. It is Composition’s way of communicating clearly with the technical departments that will create the in-game content. It prevents enemies from spawning in the wrong place or dialogue from failing to trigger—we don’t want a story to take place in the wrong building or for an important enemy to despawn before he coughs out a last clue. Once the Full Pitch is complete, it passes to one of the Composition Department’s Staff Writers for review, to a copyeditor for a grammatical check, then to our Continuity Department to ensure that it fits the existing, approved content and tone of the game. As this description should imply, writing for an MMO is as much about learning and following rules and implementing other people’s ideas as about raw creativity.
You may hear more about writing and review in a future Update, but for now, I want to take this opportunity to thank our Bullpen Writers for all their work on drafting, our copyeditors for diligently hunting out errors, Staff Writer Stephanie “Conundrum of Furballs” Smith for handling internal Composition review of all Tips for both content and format, and Cy “Aquashock” Coughlin, Continuity Lead, for keeping our content consistent and on-tone.
Once all this work is done, we have a completed Tip, ready to be entered into the game’s technical quest system and, eventually, played by all of you. We hope you enjoy them!
If all this sounds like something you’d enjoy doing, here’s a final word from Robin Strickland, Composition Lead, that you might find intriguing:
“Hello! This is Robin, lead of the Composition department, here with an annual reminder that we are currently looking for new writers! In fact, we never stop looking for new writers, because we never stop needing writers. For more details, see https://cityoftitans.com/forum/composition-recruiting.”
See you next time!
By Jack 'O'lantern' Snyder
A personal note from Warcabbit:
Five years ago. Five years ago today was Shutdown.
I will not celebrate that day. But I will remember it.
It just makes me more determined.
Thank you all for bearing with us.