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We present City of Titans, a spiritual successor for the superhero MMORPG City of Heroes, being developed by Missing Worlds Media.
5,003 backers pledged $678,189 to help bring this project to life.

Location, Location, Location: More About Instances

Posted by Missing Worlds Media (Creator)

The last time we discussed instances (in Update #3), we told you some of our ideas for the kinds of content you might see inside, the many ways you might end up in an instance in the first place, and the role instances are meant to play in your journey through the game. Today, we’d like to tell you some more about our philosophy of map building: how we want instances to look and feel. We’re hoping to move away from the bad aspects of older MMO’s map designs (while retaining the good ones, of course!) and introduce some new features to make instances more lively, believable, and filled with options for different styles of play.

As always, it is far too early to make promises: the game is years from completion. But here is what we WANT. This is what we intend.

No More Monotony

Does this sound familiar? You’re out on patrol with your friends, kicking butt like nobody’s business, when you manage to track down a group of nefarious whatchamacallits to an office in the suburbs. You go in, bust down the door, and drive them all out.

Then you go to a different (yet identical) office downtown, and you do it again! And again.

We call this “map monotony”, and it’s something we really want to avoid. You shouldn’t be forced to go to the same place over and over again. Even places with similar functions, like office buildings or warehouses, should at least be visually distinct from one another. With enough resources or time, we will be able to have both logical ‘randomized’ maps generated through the procedural generator that can make your fourth office raid in a day new and different, while also freeing our techs and artists to have unique locations you can use those memorization skills on. 

No More Nonsense 

The economy of Titan City is dependent on workers being able to find their offices, which would be rather difficult if they were hidden behind twenty random flights of stairs. Also, studies show that elevators that only connect to single floors tend to be wildly inefficient. It was as if every building should look like this on the outside:

What I’m trying to say is that the offices in City of Titans are going to have a bit of a more realistic feel than what you may have seen in previous games. The same goes for our warehouses, secret laboratories, and other locations. Not every instance has to be an enemy infested maze! That’s not to say we won’t have fanciful interiors, of course; those can be fun. But a building can have a practical layout and also be an enemy infested maze. 

No More Frustration 

Back in the good old days (you know what I mean), I always used to dread a particular map that my friends and I called “The Layer Cake.” It was a long, narrow map that my eight foot tall character could barely squeeze into. The last room was this massive, elaborate cave system with big holes in the ground and plenty of nooks and crannies. It was a beautiful map, but… inevitably, I would be forced to crawl around it for hours at a time trying to locate the single enemy that escaped my sight. It felt less like I was an epic superhero, and more like I was just really bad at hide and seek. That’s something we’re hoping to avoid in City of Titans. 

This does not mean we’re going to go easy on you, of course. There are still plenty of tricky maps out there for your heroes and villains to explore, but we’re going to try to keep things less frustrating and more interesting. We cannot promise anything at this point, but we hope that things like dynamic events that change the map (does that cave wall look weak to you?), lighting effects and physics will give you more options for exploring as well as give us more ways to surprise and challenge you. 

Way More Awesome 

Although we are not building a twitch game or a platform game, that does not mean the terrain is just a matter of how far you are standing from an enemy and whether they can jump up to where you are. With your help we can implement wind, variable visibility (perhaps countered by superhuman senses or even special skills) and maybe even a certain location with gravity ⅙ that of earth ideal for some form of Gigantic Death Ray and have this for a view: 

Even after you beat down all of the enemies in a villainous lair, using Parkour to reach the switch that deactivates (or activates) that Gigantic Death Ray can be a stimulating challenge. (Of course, if you’re a more lumbering type of super-character, you might choose a different option to deal with said Gigantic Death Ray!) Even more important, such things and how you choose to deal with them may make the difference between rescuing a hostage now and seeing her swept into a pipe by a torrent of water to a distant location where you may face new challenges in order to save her. 

In the old days, instanced maps were mostly just backdrops to combat. We here at Missing Worlds Media believe that instances should be more than just a delivery method for sacks of experience. They’re a vital part of the game’s story.

Brian Tru, VashNKnives, and 111 more people like this update.


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    1. Sean Malloy of Phoenix Rising

      It's not just that the one door would lead to several different maps that caused the cognitive dissonance; it's that the one door into a two-story building would lead to (in one play session, nine consecutive missions at a single door interrupted by a single sewer entrance mission, followed by six more consecutive missions at the first door) several different 'suites' that had more floors and were both deeper and wider than the building the door was in.

      The problem I had with missions where the door and the mission map were horribly disjoint -- bank missions behind a cave door on Primeva in northern Nerva, _working_ office maps in Boomtown or Perez Park, cave or 5th Column maps behind a warehouse door -- and it was just dropped in your lap as if it was nothing significant. I only recall _one_ mission that ever gave any explanation for the disconnect -- a mission that sent you to a warehouse, and when you entered, you got a message like "In the basement of this warehouse you find a concealed entrance to a 5th Column base" -- rather than just 'walk into this office building, and you're in Oranbega', have the mission-entry text tell you _why_ you're in an Oranbega map connected to an office building -- perhaps you spotted a Circle of Thorns minion ducking down a stairway and followed him, for example. Or, with the different ways to enter missions that are being planned, make that part of getting into the mission -- you enter the office building, and you actually _do_ see a Circle minion ducking into a staircase, so you follow him and either let him lead you to the entrance to the Oranbega map or subdue him and make him tell you where the entrance is.

    2. Michael O. on

      @Red Warlock: I'm with you on Perez Park. When I first started running through there, the maze was a pain. But after a couple years (!!) I could fly through the maze at full speed and not get lost! I loved running my alts through there for the badges and just to keep the maze fresh, especially once I could take an early travel power ^_^

    3. Kurt Knippel on

      with regards to the same door different map issue...maybe its just one of transition.

      I always felt like the "door" was not so much an actual door that opened and let you into the foyer, but a transition that skipped the foyer and lobby and actually took you to the right suite of offices. So really it never bothered I understand that in many cases it was simple random chance...out of the X actual doors in the zone.

      What did bother me was that the office layouts did not actually look much like offices...but rather caves that had office textures on them.

    4. WesFoxx on

      Did you say... layer cake?

      Layer cake?
      Layer cake?!?
      LAYER CAKE!?!
      *Foaming-at-the-mouth rage*

    5. Missing avatar

      Kevin Winston on

      I've said it before and will say it again - varied instances are great but I know I loved (and I know I'm not alone in this) just walking into an office building set to +4x8 and going to town - so while breaking that up would be good, some people play MMOs because we like the feeling of practicing and getting progressively better at those kinds of challenges.

    6. Missing avatar

      MrCaptainMan - Phoenix Rising on

      I love instances too, so awesome to read this update. But no thanks to COs irritating Block mechanism.

    7. ET3D on

      I agree with NJGR. It's hard to reconcile non-monotone with no-nonsense. Real world architecture tends to be monotone. It would be interesting to learn how you plan to make things less nonsensical yet still interesting to navigate. I wouldn't want to go to an office building and actually have to go floor by floor, office by office to find enemies. Also most real world buildings have a pretty low ceiling, which an eight foot character would find hard to go through. So like NJGR said, there's need for a middle ground.

      And frankly the main problem with “The Layer Cake” was mainly the "defeat all enemies" requirement, which was a problem for pretty much every other map. It's simply not a fun goal, IMO.

    8. NJGR - Bard of Phoenix Rising

      Interesting update. When it comes to instanced missions, however, I'm a little less interested in true architectural realism and a little more focused on a fun or interesting level to navigate. My main issue with the old caves in CoH was ease of navigation. I didn't care much about how realistic elevator placement was, for instance. The COH offices were a little silly for vators, for instance, but it was better than running around on a floor and needing to go back to the elevator bank because there was a hostage on a different floor, etc.

      I'm sure there's a happy medium, or close to it. Just my two cents. :p

    9. DeathSentry on

      Yeah I think if thetr is some way to achieve a faster pace while preserving the ease of use that would be great

    10. Izzy on

      I played CO for 2 weeks... hated hoding down a button to block most of the time.

    11. DeathSentry on

      Not sure this is the right place but how will combat b handled? In coh it was hero throw punch then enemy. Not sure about dcuo but I think dcuo and co allow for u to block to enable a faster pace. Hope cot will b similar

    12. Missing avatar

      Joel Aelwyn on

      We do intend to have at least some attempt to relate the mission setting to the door type (barring, of course, cases where there is a deliberate misdirection involved, but those should then be fairly clear due to the fact that they *should* be a bit mentally disconcerting, and would tie into the mission).

      Since most enemy groups tend to favor one or two types of place (well, usually...) this should help reduce the chances of stepping out of a sewer grate only to turn around and go right back in after some totally implausible group. Though I believe part of the problem with this was actually an unintended consequence of trying to bias for doors that were closer to the player group, to avoid making them go back and forth across the map endlessly between missions. Just a theory on that, though.

    13. Missing avatar

      Ken from Chicago on

      The MOON! Yes! I always wanted an adventure on the Moon!

      Yes, the one CITY OF HEROES map I hated were CAVE maps. At least the ones with multiple levels. Invariably a Defeat All mission would have one dude hiding out someone in the pocket in the upper / lower level that you can't see from a distance or even know exists without physically flying into it--and heaven forbid you didn't have flight travel power with these kinds of missions.

      Fred, nope, didn't have a problem with an entrance leading to different kind of map. I chalked it up to camoflage.

      John, if the hero knows what floor the bomb's on, then yeah, the hero should tell the 'vator to go directly to the level. If not, then it's time for a slow, tedious, floor-by-floor sweep--or maybe one of the thugs reveals exactly where the bomb is, or at least narrows down the search. Supes, Bats and WW could SNEAK into the building until they CONFIRM where the weapon is. That'd explain why they took the elevator.

      Daniel, it'd be nice if some alternate map entrances were based on alignment. Villains might be welcomed into a trap guarded by thugs, while rogues might bribe their way in but heroes have to sneak or fight their way thru the thugs.

      Robert, I don't think they've gotten to player housing / superbases in detail.

    14. Missing Worlds Media Creator on

      @Matthew - what makes you think that is the moon?

    15. Missing avatar

      MattZ - Firefly of Phoenix Rising on

      I have one serious concern with the information in his update: How in the universe did the moon end up over the South Pole?

    16. Missing avatar

      Kenneth Kestner on

      Another thing I hope you can address is the "random door" pattern in CoH. In most MMORPGs, each location has its own group of mobs. You know "that cave" contains enemy group X, for example. In CoH, I cant tell you how many times you finish a radio mission, then the the next radio mission points you to the same door - which of course leads you to a completely different interior and new enemy group.
      Also, I had other missions where the door was totally inappropriate to the mission. For example, I entered a mine shaft door on a remote island to be taken to a Bank map.
      Each door in a zone should not be random, it should be tied to a specific map.

    17. Missing avatar

      Philip Moyer on

      Be careful when trying to design 'realistic' building maps, though. The creators of "Oni" (Bungie Studios) used architects when designing the levels for the game, and for many of the players, real buildings — in which every floor is the same, and most rooms are just cuboids with a single door — made boring and repetitive levels. :/

    18. Fred Cody on

      My next gripe, after the cramped cave maps, is when the procedurally generated maps were given a random entrance so that you'd enter a cave door and walk into an office, or enter an office and end up in the sewer. At least if you knew up front you were going into a cave you could either prepare yourself mentally or pick another mission.

    19. John Barefield on

      I always thought that if the elevator connected only 2-3 floors, then it was because those were the floors I was interested in. Consider: My enemy is on the 75th floor. Should I go first to the 2nd floor, then to the third, then to the fourth, scrupulously cleaning each one, or should I simply take it straight to the 75th floor? If there IS an elevator, I should simply click on it to go to the next level, where I would see a sigh that read "75th floor."

      Yet all this leads to the question: Why would a superhero take the elevator anyway? Imagine a tale like the following. The Justice League get wind of a secret weapon in a Gotham City office building. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman walk in the main entrance and begin beating up bad guys, a pitched battle to reach the elevator. They finally file inside, and shuffle their feet nervously as people will do in elevators. Just try to imagine the conversation:

      "Your bra is looking especially shiny today, Diana."
      "Thanks, I switched to Turtlewax. And isn't your boyish forelock a but twistier than usual, Clark?"
      "Yep. Finally rigged a curling iron that goes up to 6000 degrees."

      Taking the elevator up is not very heroic. Why didn't they all just fly/swing up? You mentioned the possibility of multiple entrances, accessible via different powers. Skylight? Window?

      That brings me to another issue, the monorail. It was kind of a funny method of locomotion for the world's mightiest. Again I could just imagine Supes taking the train in costume, "hurrying" to his next urgent super fight. I would have to imagine that there would be a more super way of getting around.

    20. Missing avatar

      Daniel Cockburn on

      For some maps, it would be nice if we could have alternate routes with them, and maybe the choices have some small effect on our alignment. For example, you're in an office map filled with powerful enemies, and naturally they're between you and your objective. You can either fight through them, or you can blow through the walls or floors to avoid them completely! Of course, such damage needs to be repaired, and knocking down the walls of an office building will make people see you in a different light.

      But on that note, knocking down walls is FUN, and being penalized for it all the time is kind of a drag. So you should be able to do it (when appropriate to the map or mission) in places like abandoned warehouses or secret lairs without any negative side effects. So I guess the point of this would be that you'd need to keep in mind how visible to the public your actions are, and decide what to do based off of that (in other words, the same actions could have different effects on your alignment depending on what sort of map you're on).

    21. Missing avatar

      Robert Hughes on

      Speaking of architecture, have Super Group bases been discussed yet? I used to spend HOURS stacking stuff to create a home/hangout. Next to costume design, this is what I did when I wanted to 'game' but didn't feel up to doing missions or whatever. I created up to three levels within our SG base using desks as the flooring and other pieces for stairs. IMO, it looked freakin' awesome. ;o)

    22. Kelly Creighton on

      Thank you for realistic building designs. As someone who enjoys designing floor plans, the CoH interiors were disappointing. Also, second worst room after the layer cake: the blue pool room on 5th/council maps. Same principle: layered room with difficult to navigate stairs. I don't mind a challenge, but it's not like any part of either room is supposed to be secret or hard to find. They're just hard to navigate. So I'm glad you'll be avoiding those types of design, thank you!

    23. Missing avatar

      Jason King on

      I actually didn't mind (generally) the predictability of most of the maps. I DID hate the Layer Cake Cave with a hot, hot hate.

    24. Missing avatar

      VashNKnives on

      Great! Also, don't forget how annoying some of those Arachnos maps were with enemies falling through floors and off catwalks. Frustration also abounded on map door ambushes. Two or three groups of baddies would fill the map entrance and splat anyone who loaded in. Annoying for slow loaders and low levels. Additionally, even though I kind of liked the challenge of the in-map holding cells that you were transported to after defeat instead of the hospital, I know some didn't. Can't wait to see what you all come up with. Oh! I love the idea of destructible and interactive objects and hope you can make it work!

    25. John Mackay on

      Realistic style interiors THANK YOU!

    26. Missing avatar

      Anna Simpson on

      Speaking of architects, I think you should hire this guy as a consultant. He seems to have some great ideas for building design:

    27. Missing Worlds Media Creator on

      @Craig - There might be some kind of... ideas afloat for that.

    28. Craig E Ransom on

      I wonder if a form of "bread crumbs" could be used to let us see where we've been in a map, and to let us backtrack ourselves when necessary.

    29. Thaedrid on

      I admit that the Layer Cake maps can be annoying but i didn't hate them. i like big and / or complicated maps, i think that's one of the things that made the game not too easy. if not i eventually get bored

    30. Red Warlock - Phoenix Rising Ranger on

      Many people seemed to dread the caves. Another thing that seemed to annoy a lot of people in the early days was getting lost in the labyrinth of Perez Park... I think this became such a problem that I noticed the Devs seemed to stop locating mission entrances in Perez Park's labyrinth.

      Personally, I have to say that I absolutely loved the complexity of Perez Park's labyrinth. (And I loved the music as you would enter the swamps... it was one of my favorite places... and I actually loved hunting there with teams - it was the only time I really felt like 'street hunting' was fun). I loved that zone... But I think a lot of people got really annoyed by getting lost there in the labyrinth and it became a much less used area of the game.

      I appreciate that you are trying to strike a balance between complex, dynamic areas to explore, and avoiding unnecessary confusion that is just frustrating. I hope you find a good balance!

    31. JMadden_Phoenix Rising Initiative on

      Groovy update! I really hated the layer cake room/map...I didn't hate caves altoghether, just the ugly old rediculous cave maps that have swirling tunnels to nowhere as if the diggers were high on crack and redbull. Some eye candy like shimmering crystals, a ledge that could be brought down on top of some baddies. skeletons, and mysterious tombs, ya know jazz it up a bit. I liked some of the COT um i mean circle of thorn caves. You hit all the right points on what was goofy about the older map designs...oh im sure you thought of this but just incase you hadn't lets have some vents that can be used to circumvent a room or group of baddies. Also, as always more cowbell. Keep em coming!

    32. Michael O. on

      My "Favorite" part of layer cake caves was when you came to the end, had missed someone, searched the whole area 2-3 times, then FINALLY searched the rest of the cave again before finding the last enemy back in some nook of the layer cave ...

    33. Rick Tacular, Meathead of Phoenix Rising on

      Oh Lord, I remember the Layer Cake Cave. Worst. Cave. Evar.

    34. Missing Worlds Media Creator on

      @Sam - we have three volunteers who trained as Architects, myself included (before I got sucked into computers). While we cannot do 100% this-is-real, we can get it quite close we've found in testing out the procedural system.

      Nate "Doctor Tyche" Downes

    35. Sam Garamy

      My thoughts echo that of Edward - will you be getting an architect to make sure that buildings made for the game would be akin to those in the real world, with things like toilets and janitor closets? Would instances in this be replicable in the real world and be as efficient as real buildings?

    36. Quinch on

      Layer cake was bad.

      Organburglar ramp maps were worse. Especially with a dozen hostages to track down.

    37. DKeith2011 on

      I hated the layer cake map, so of course it was one of the last maps I played on before the end.

    38. Edward Williams on

      This makes me wonder if there's an architect on the team for building said office spaces and what not. Either way, death to Layer Cake maps. I would always end up going AFK during those instances.

    39. Missing avatar

      deleted on

      This user's account has been deleted.

    40. Safehouse - Ranger of the Phoenix Rising on

      Yup. This post triggered Vietnamesque flashbacks regarding the layer cake layout T_T

    41. Chris S. aka Pepsiman

      Layer cake map made me cry.