Cryptic’s Stephen D’Angelo on City of Heroes’ lessons, Star Trek Online’s booming revenues

    
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Cryptic’s Stephen D’Angelo on City of Heroes’ lessons, Star Trek Online’s booming revenues

It’s been a wild year for PWE’s Cryptic Studios, as it’s been busy maintaining its core MMORPGs but also working on Magic Legends, which began life as an MMO and has since shifted gears – and delayed significantly. That’s the takeaway from a new interview on VentureBeat with Cryptic boss Stephen D’Angelo, who covers a ton of ground on the company’s early history with City of Heroes through Champions Online and Star Trek Online. (Apparently a future piece will cover the company’s modern position.)

City of Heroes pioneered some gameplay ideas and some technology ideas that — a lot of them have permeated the whole industry since,” D’Angelo says. “People today, anybody who’s played City of Heroes has stories about the world that were important to them. That’s probably the biggest lesson Cryptic picked up about making online game experiences. You have to start by making the world a place people want to visit. […] But there are a lot of technology ideas in there too. The other important one for us that came out of City of Heroes was, they did something called sidekicking, which allowed anybody to play with anybody else. A high level player could bring a low level player to their level and go play content together. We tried to keep that model in all of our games. It makes it far more inclusive for people to play with their friends.”

Indeed, those principles carried through into Champions Online, which – let’s admit – is often the butt of jokes in the MMORPG genre as folks suspects it’s one of the tiniest MMOs kept alive. D’Angelo says the company figured it’d build for five years, maybe seven if the game was great. But Champions is still trucking along, as is Star Trek Online.

“Star Trek Online is a great example. We’re partway through the 10th year. This year we’ll probably have revenues five percent worse than the best year ever. The worst year ever was only 20 percent below the best year. This is not an industry where you spike big, get your big sales, then everyone bleeds away in 18 months, if you keep adapting your games to your customers. That’s the lesson that is the heart of what makes Cryptic and its games successful. We’re constantly figuring out, from our community, what they want. We’re constantly trying to reinvent the game for them. They’re there because they love the world. You can see that in City of Heroes as well. How many people still will hop on a City of Heroes server — there are pirate servers out there — because they love the world? But the trick is to not let that world get stale, to let it keep growing with the people playing it. As long as we’ve been doing that, we’ve been keeping players. Thousands of people played Star Trek in its opening week who are still playing today.”

Source: VentureBeat

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Utakata

Disclaimer: That’s not my character for the header pic. I chose the one with the thin pigtails instead….in case anyone was wondering. >.<

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Franklin Adams

And some of us who were playing the first week and survived the drought of content for a year and a half via the Foundry quit playing after last April. Every time new content (not a reskinned STF, erm I mean TFO, with the same bugs as the original) drops I play it once then don’t come back until there’s more actual content, so maybe 3 hours every 6 months or so.

Used to be I played every day for at least 90 minutes and spent far too much a year on STO and for the Foundry. Now my time goes somewhere else, as does my money.

Foundry folks may be a minority but we were probably their most ardent supporters who they neglected, left to wither and rot, and then abandoned. It sucks, I miss it but without the UGC there’s no depth, there’s no exploration, there’s barely any science, it’s kill Species X in Timeline Y for Reason Z rinse and repeat 50 times for some item the whales just pay for plus lootbox lottery for nearly everything worthwhile.

Oh well, it is what it is, I’m well aware that what I miss is never coming back and what I didn’t like has metastasized to be the core of the game.

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PanagiotisLial1

A high level player could bring a low level player to their level and go play content together. We tried to keep that model in all of our games. It makes it far more inclusive for people to play with their friends

Is it why its complicated to impossible to team up on doing storyline episodes? And to explain all episodes are replayable which would had make it easier to help a newbie for example or team up to do one with anyone for fun

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Hikari Kenzaki

In Star Trek Online? I, as a max level player, team with lowbie MJ all the time. Constantly.

Some missions are solo only (nothing to do with level) as almost every MMO feels the need to include, though I don’t know why.

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Hikari Kenzaki

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PanagiotisLial1

That is exactly what I meant – a lot of the content is solo only

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Hikari Kenzaki

Eh, not really more than any other MMO does. I don’t like it, but most MMOs have some missions that you must solo.
The majority of the content I’ve done as a duo with Natalyia and you can join the mission owner on most missions. It’s usually just the first mission of the story arc or special missions like the Ambassador unlock.

Though, they did solo only on several of the Burnham episodes as well, for no apparent reason.

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PanagiotisLial1

I happen to have started mmos early and I was used to the freedom of going anywhere with friends. I think Cryptic games are a bit more restrictive on it than average, yet I do like their games. I checked on and off STO since PWE first promoted it to PWI players but i started playing it “seriously” only on 2016 and after and i remember a lot people couldnt join the early missions when I was a new player back them, including but not limited to old dominion arc missions(the one they removed for polishing and never came back). Nowadays I got 9 chars of which 7 are maxed but I play it as a secondary game. Its still fun but it could had been lots better

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Bruno Brito

Considering that Homecoming has more support than CO, i feel like they didn’t really learned many lessons all around.

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IronSalamander8 .

I have to agree with this. I’ve played both on and off since CoH’s first year and CO has never captured that spark that made CoH my main MMO for so long. Homecoming even has more updates than CO has!

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Armsman

Right…because CO is Cryptic’s only MMO they’ve ever made; and they don’t have any other successful MMOs ATM…oh, wait…

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Bruno Brito

Your concept of successful is…? Because i don’t see 3 whatever MMOs, 2 which have mediocre support and one into quasi-maintenance mode as “success”.

I also don’t see where them having more than one MMO changes what i’ve said, because where they can say that they learned lessons, i can say they didn’t, because their games lack some features that CoH had for instance: CO lacks villain side ( and lacks a non-streamlined questing experience ). Neverwinter has the same problem. STO is a bit better on that camp, but if i well recall, after a while, you just converge the 3 storylines into one.

But cool, they were able to get the sidekick system working. Wow. Amazing. That will make their games less mediocre. I’m speechless. All hail the genius that are Cryptic games.

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PanagiotisLial1

Its not CO, its just that tickets are first answered by PWE employees that give generic answers and havent played any of Cryptic games. Their task is to check which are the serious ones to forward to each substudio of PWE.

To give you an idea few years ago I ticketed because most of my away team members were getting stuck in an STO mission(if you have played it, its the old dominion war arc the mission you have to visit the founders lake along a vorta) making it quite hard to play. Their first responce was to tell my away team members(npc AI controlled remember) to send them a support ticket if they continue having problems. I responded in joking way telling the npcs havent been programmed to send support tickets and then they realised the mistake and apologised. They arent offensive, they are polite employees who try to help but they arent knowing any of the games well enough to have any meaningful impact on helping. Probably its a cost reducing thing that PWE doesnt allow a support team per game but keeps a small generic team to minimize cost

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Bruno Brito

I’m not debating their education. I’m saying that CoH Homecoming finds more support from a ragtag team of unpaid developers than CO has support from a million dollar company.

And i’m still waiting people to prove me wrong. Because one F2P freeform slot ( which came too late ) and some smallscale events are NOT support nor are they content that matter.

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PanagiotisLial1

Like I said they dont have an actual support team(its PWE global team – not even Cryptic global), which explains why

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Kickstarter Donor
Legend Of Vinny T

For years, I’ve believed that Cryptic’s plan for CO was to shut down or go into a real maintenance mode to make room for Neverwinter’s launch, but CoH getting murked and the influx of refugees trying CO forced them to change plans. Reading D’Angelo’s talk of expected lifespans and admitting they botched CO’s F2P transition isn’t doing much to disprove that.

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Armsman

Well I think the issue is Cryptic OWNS now the Hero Games/Champions IP and they actually now license it back (for a fee) to the people still doing the pencil & paper tabletop RPG materials. I’ll bet there is a clause in the original IP sales agreement that if Cryptic the Champions Online MMO (or don’t have another MMO making use of Champions/Hero Games IP) – the rights revert to the IP’s original creator(s).

Ergo – Champions Online will never die as long as Cryptic Studios exist.

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PanagiotisLial1

https://steamcharts.com/app/9880

my guess is the players online are at least 3x the steam charts when both downloadable client and steam are accounted which still makes it a small game but probably it is enough to keep the server up and make a bit profit

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Bruno Brito

I’m highly sure that a while back, a Massively thread showcased someone from Cryptic mentioning that CO was just cheap to keep running without much heavy support.

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Franklin Adams

Bruno, I don’t agree with you much but on this one we’re 100% aligned. I’d go so far to say they don’t learn anything nor do they ever fix anything. Or they do but it introduces 100 regressions for the single (usually minor) fix

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Anthony Clark

Bring back COH!!!!!!

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Kickstarter Donor
Montjoy Onew

They neither own CoX or had anything to do with it’s closure.
That is 100% on NCSoft

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Bruno Brito

You can play it. O_O

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PanagiotisLial1

Having tried CoH and CO now, I can tell that mostly its nostalgia. CoH isnt a better game without that making CO great. Its just a barely acceptable(CoH) and an OK game(CO) for someone who doesnt have any nostalgia ties to it

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Roger Christie

Since there’s barely any resemblance between the two games other than theme I seriously doubt you ‘tried’ them both.

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PanagiotisLial1

Have I said they are the same game?

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Roger Christie

You said ” CoH isnt a better game without that making CO great.” In fact, CoH IS great, and CO is a heaping pile. Because they lost virtually everything that made CoH great other than t
he character creator. BUt you know that, because you tried them both.

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PanagiotisLial1

I dont find it even to “good” level – nor I find CO being “good” level either. We are talking on acceptable to mediocre games

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Roger Christie

No. You have an OPINION. That it is not shared by a great many people is demonstrated by Homecoming’s success. I’ve tried countless MMOs since CoH, all newer. I find them all to be invariably crap. That’s my OPINION. See how that works?

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Bruno Brito

I wasn’t a CoH player in the slightest and i didn’t had the nostalgia:

CoH is leagues ahead from CO. It’s not even funny. What CoH lacks in customization ( both powers and costumes ), it has in spades in freedom of how you play, your archetypes, your questing progress and such. It has a WAAAY better PvP than Ebon Ruin Spam Online.

I like CO, but denying it’s a barebones MMO with cool stuff in it is being naive. CoH has years of content. CO has years of negligence and a better character creation. That’s all.