Into the Super-verse: Missing in City of Heroes is part of what makes it hit


It seems like we’re never going to be done talking about City of Heroes at this point, and clearly I am here for this. (Bree isn’t making me write these columns, after all; I’m choosing to.) But I was reminded this week about the “missing” discussion we had a while back because Andy wrote a piece about why he’s actually pretty happy with it.

Now, I’m not going to speak to Andy’s personal experiences or preferences, for a number of reasons. That number is “one” because the reason is I am not Andy, and I both agree and disagree with some of his viewpoints. But it was a good piece, and if you haven’t read it, you should. However, my purpose here is not to argue the same case he argued.

Instead, my purpose here is to point out that even if you don’t like missing, you should probably be happy it’s there. Because every miss you get is a sign of why CoH is the game that it is, with the design that it has and the roles it does. Especially since this week just brought new power sets for two archetypes that wouldn’t exist if you couldn’t miss.

Let’s start with something that should be an entirely uncontroversial statement: You can modify only the parts of a game that actually exist. If an item in a modern military FPS increases your curse resistance by 50%, that item is useless if the game does not actually have any curses. This is, in fact, what “the exception proves the rule” actually means. If you come across an item that says “removes the Curse of Bears from your character,” you can be confident that the Curse of Bears is a thing that exists in the game. Simple!

What does this have to do with missing? Well, CoH has a lot of power sets in the defensive category that do not actually increase your damage resistance or pump you full of healing or whatever. They just increase your dodge chance. Defense, as a stat, refers purely to your odds of just not taking damage from a given attack. Which means that if you assume enemies start with a 100% chance to hit, a 30% defense takes that down to 70%.

Because this is a part of the game, of course, it’s something that can be further developed. Some buffing sets are all about boosting your defense. Some debuffing sets are all about debuffing enemy accuracy. You can, in fact, build characters and teams that are mostly built around being difficult to hit at all. Which is really cool!

hit me

The thing is, though, that you can also see how this would unbalance the game if it were one-sided. For example, if it were equally easy to hit 50% Defense or 50% Resistance, the former is kind of way more powerful on a whole. So you need to have a counterweight, not in the sense of being equally vulnerable to everything but simply because you don’t want Defense to be better in every way than Resistance.

That means you need enemies who can actually increase their Defense, too, so that powers to boost your ability to hit are valuable. And you need enemies boosting their hit chance, and debuffing your chance to hit, and so on and so forth. Because that makes sets that buff you valuable without providing direct healing… because theoretically stuff now dies that much faster and it’s helpful. You want those buffs.

An entire aspect of the game exists only because the developers were willing to lean into the idea that sometimes you are going to miss. It creates space for items that increase your accuracy to be valuable instead of just take up space, and it means that you have to actually think about the choices you make and what you value. It means that there is actually a choice between “do I want to hit more but deal less damage” or “hit harder but miss more” and that choice is in your hands, depends on your build, and so forth.

Do you have to find that fun? Well, no; not everyone is going to. But the two things are linked clauses. You cannot simultaneously have archetypes that are built entirely around the concept of “make it easier to hit the enemy and make it harder for them to hit you” unless you also embrace the idea that enemies might not just be an automatic hit all of the time. The one presupposes the others. I might tease people for playing Controllers, mostly because Bree and I have been friends for years and she likes playing Controllers, but the fact is that what makes them work is that “control” is an option.

Being subjected to control isn’t fun, definitely. Nobody likes “aw, no, I’m stunned and can’t act” as a state. But that’s why you can also build to avoid being stunned and powers that let you just say “lol, no” to a hold are valuable instead of complete dead space. They’re actual picks instead of traps.


My point here is not that you should like missing. Missing is still a case wherein you are not getting what you want. I did not press the button to Punch You With Fire because I did not wish to punch you with fire. But I also accept that a lot of the parts of the game I really like are predicated on the concept that sometimes, I will miss. So I can bring my friends who let me punch more accurately and make you slower and less able to dodge, and I feel their benefits instead of just having more friends equal more punches with fire.

If you don’t want to miss? There are games like that! A lot of them! And I’m not even sitting here and saying you shouldn’t play them, when you consider that my own favorite MMORPG does not actually make me slot for accuracy. If that’s what you prefer, it is a valid way to play, and it allows you to experience a different sort of mechanical design. I do not recommend one over the other in this case.

However, wanting to never miss in a game built around potentially dodging is not some sort of design flaw or a mistake. It is not somehow an oversight that if you just pump all your stats into “hit harder,” you will miss a bunch, nor does the game surprise you with it. And there are so many other things in CoH I adore that rely entirely upon the idea that sometime, I will go to punch mobs with fire and they will dodge.

And losing out on that means also losing out on a whole bunch of other game elements that I really like, including the fact that the same enemy I just missed against can wind up for a big two-handed jumping slam that also misses. Swings and roundabouts.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.
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