June 15, 2007

Player Character

Recently, City of Heroes introduced some new game elements. Your hero can confiscate stuff from the bad guys you arrest. Sometimes it's debris, sometimes it's recipes for converting debris into (mildly) useful stuff to improve your superpowers. There's a chain of auction houses that let you buy and sell the stuff.

It's all a game mechanics correction: there's a lot of money influence sitting around in the game with nothing to spend it on, so the developers are trying to find ways to get the economy going.

But that doesn't stop people from working hard to create stories that explain these mechanical changes in terms of the story world. Not the developers, but the players.

For example, one player pointed out that the whole idea of spending influence to buy power enhancements is silly. (In D&D you get gold pieces, in City of Heroes you get influence. Everyone knows that influence is gold, painted silver.) Why do you need to spend anything? Isn't it like exercise: you do good things, you get better at what you do.

"Not at all!" another player explained. "You find a recipe for improving your x-ray vision. It takes some weird stuff that you can get because you're a superhero. It probably also takes a bunch of other stuff that you spend all day running around to hardware stores and whatnot to pull together. That's why you have to hunt for, or buy, all this salvage. And then, when you do all this work and get even better super powers, what happens? You're even more superheroic, and that means you're a little bit less human. All those people who love you because you Protect The City from the bad guys are going to look at you again and see again how strange and scary you are."

And that's why buying better power enhancements costs influence.

This kind of storytelling is, I think, a new thing. You could always speculate about the past or future of a fictional world. You could always say, "I think Little Nell is going to get well." But here, the players are explaining the story to the authors and to the other players.