Who among our readers played City of Heroes and remembers the cottage rule? The idea was that developers were reluctant to change the fundamentals of specific powers once players were accustomed to them. According to the Paragon Wiki, the term was unwittingly coined by Paragon Studios developer Floyd “Castle” Grubb in the middle of a discussion about why the devs didn’t want to make dramatic changes to powers.
“Seriously, it is a good policy — it provides structure within which to do things. Without structure, there’s chaos. How would you like it if tomorrow you logged in and, say, Build Up now built a small cottage at your chosen location, instead of adding to your damage? It’s a silly example, admittedly, but it’s to prevent such wholesale changes from happening. I could overturn it, in specific cases, if it were truly needed, but in the case being discussed here, it is not truly needed. There are MANY options that have been discussed that do not involve changing the core use of the power.”
I have never been a big fan of the so-called cottage rule. It seemed to me that Paragon, a studio I dearly loved, nevertheless employed it arbitrarily; the team changed powers significantly all the time, but then used the rule when it didn’t want to change something at all.
And City of Heroes was far from the only game to play this little trick. Remember how for a few years in the Draenor/Legion era whenever Blizzard didn’t want to do something in World of Warcraft, it fell back on “class fantasy” to blow it off? As a design catechism it’s so irritating, and I sometimes wonder whether it annoys the developers as much as it grates on my nerves.
How do you feel about ideas like the cottage rule and class fantasy in MMO design?