The Soapbox: Why I’m OK with ‘missing’ attacks in City of Heroes


The other day in the MassivelyOP work chat, we were talking about City of Heroes. Shocking, I know. But I’ve mentioned before that I never played the game while it was live, and so one of the things I “discovered” about the game as a true newbie is that accuracy actually matters and I had to slot for it starting around level 20.

As a community, we’ve spent a lot of time over the last few weeks talking about why accuracy matters in a game like CoH from a pure gameplay perspective and whether it should. Some people believe missing attacks is annoying and that slotting skills with accuracy to reduce the misses is an unfair burden, especially on newbies, while others point out that the whole game – and several of its archetypes – is balanced around the idea of buffs and debuffs like to-hit, so putting up with misses is fundamental to the classic trinity MMO.

But as our team and commenters have debated, I realized that I have a little bit of a different perspective entirely because… I actually like missing attacks. I think missing attacks in a game like CoH is fun. Let me explain.

In other games, like World of Warcraft, for example, I get bored doing the same rotation over and over with no variation until the inevitable heat-death of the universe. Don’t get me wrong; I do like gameplay with rotations. I like the idea that skills build and have synergy and pack the greatest punch when used in a specific order. But it gets boring if that’s all you ever do. This is why I gravitate toward classes with more reactive gameplay, like support classes and healers, instead of rote execution of the same rotation. I like gameplay with situational reactions that require strategic thinking beyond “hit harder and faster, or bubblehearth.”

Enter the concept of “missing” with an attack.

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What I love about missing an attack, particularly in CoH, is that means that I have to do something different. I have my “perfect world” rotation that I use most of the time, but sometimes I miss, and missing changes what I have to do next. My perfect world rotation suddenly isn’t actually the best thing to do.

Let’s look at an example. I’m a bit of a masochist, so my main in CoH is an Illusionist/Dark Controller. The mechanics of the archetype and powerset mean that I spend a lot of time charming enemies to fight for me or stunning mobs so I can beat on them because I get a damage boost against stunned enemies. In most cases, my opening move is to charm an enemy because it doesn’t pull aggro, then stun the other enemy, and then lightly pew-pew everything down (because direct damage from a Controller is more of a polite suggestion than full-on face melting).

Most of the time, this works great. I don’t beat enemies quickly, but I do beat them reliably. But when I miss, things get interesting and I have to pivot. If I miss a stun, my already meager damage is cut in half, and I have a mob beating on my squishy self. So instead of pew-pew, I will pivot to a debuff strategy — lowering their ability to hit me, making their hits do less damage. This gives time for my stun cooldown to reset, and then I try again. I can also use my inspirations to help get me through – a defense boost, healing, extra damage. My mitigation options to get through a single attack that misses are pretty varied.

These situations work in CoH because I have a toolkit of supporting abilities to help me deal with those situations when they come up. The longer ability cooldown means that just standing there waiting for the cooldown is a good way to end up back in the hospital.

The variation and the reactivity are what’s fun for me. The majority of the time my rotation works fine. But every once in and while, I get a little spice that pulls me in and requires me to do something different than the same faceroll every time.

But there is an upper limit to finding this enjoyable. Missing on every pack of mobs I pull is frustrating and not fun. Missing and feeling like I’m completely hosed isn’t fun either.

I know some players have voiced strong opinions about how silly missing can be in some cases – such as missing when trying to hit large, inanimate objects. I have two thoughts on this.

First, you are playing a game in which you are a superhero who can fly around, bend the laws of physics to your will, and lob literal fireballs at your enemies. But missing an attack against a wall is where you draw the line of suspension of disbelief? Really?

Second, I reframe it in my headcanon. For example, if I try to hit a wall and “miss,” maybe I actually connected but didn’t do any actual damage. Maybe my form was bad on my attack and I completely whiffed. Part of this reframing comes from actual experiences; I study martial arts in real life, and I’ve been training for 12 years, coming up on my Nidan (second-degree black belt). In my martial arts career, I have thrown tens of thousands of kicks and punches, and you know what? I still miss sometimes against unmoving targets.

The thing with higher-level martial arts is control: You strive to hit the exact target on a person with the exact amount of force you intend. No wasted movement, no wasted energy, moving as fast as you can. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve missed connecting on an attack because I was less than a half-inch off-target. But I was in a position to miss there because of my skill, not the lack of it. (Of course, missing an attack in martial arts is still bad, and I get shamed every time it happens, in case you were wondering.)

I think that experience changed the way I view missing in video games as well. It seems less ridiculous to me to miss hitting a wall thinking about it like that. It wasn’t a big dramatic Three Stooges whammy; it was a miss of centimeters born of expertise, skill, and ability instead of the lack of those things.

I wouldn’t say that I love missing in CoH. But I like it. It changes things up, adds variety, and makes me adapt strategically to the situation. In chat, MOP’s Bree described missing in CoH as something that she tolerated for the sake of broad combat design, something that she found value in but could take or leave. MOP’s Chris described my perspective as missing being part of the Great Dance, and I loved that description.

So who wants to dance with me?

Everyone has opinions, and The Soapbox is how we indulge ours. Join the Massively OP writers as we take turns atop our very own soapbox to deliver unfettered editorials a bit outside our normal purviews (and not necessarily shared across the staff). Think we’re spot on — or out of our minds? Let us know in the comments!
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