A response to Ticket 20432, giving detail to my criticisms.
First, it's important to recognize a few things.
I never played CoH when it was a supported, retail game. I am unfamiliar with the game as it was, and am making all commentary from the perspective of someone who experiences it as new. I have a very dear friend who has expressed some of the differences, but it is possible I do not know the difference between Homecoming changes and the original game. The changes implemented since I started playing are what I know to be different.
I do not know or understand the hierarchy and roles of the development team (including GM's). I'm sure I could rectify this rather easily, but I haven't had the desire to do so. I don't know who is in charge of what, or what's involved--labor-wise--in what the Homecoming team does.
CoH is a 50%/50% proposition at best. The original developers were mad geniuses that implemented some amazing things and insanely stupid things. They seem to have been highly gifted and clueless. Had I experienced the game while it was retail, I would have quit playing. It's not worth a premium subscription rate.
The Homecoming team is doing something amazing that should be celebrated. They have revived a dead game that was beloved by millions! From what I have read, the only reason this game died was corporate greed. It was profitable, when they pulled the plug. It just wasn't making the millions of dollars that MOBA's were. Now the game is reverse-engineered, running legally, and the millions of fans can enjoy it again. The Homecoming team keeps it running smoothly, even though they don't have the backing of a large corporation and the resources to staff employees to do so.
I recognize their hard work. I have enjoyed playing this game. They deserve applause and adulation.
However, adulation leads to complacency and hubris. They need criticism and feedback. They're just not any good at new content, and they won't get better if someone doesn't tell them.
My ticket was motivated by the I27 patch, so that's where I'll start.
The Graveyard Shift is terrible.
I think I understand the intention and can see what the story is trying to achieve. I like the idea of expanding on the events of the world and exploring what happens when Dr. Vahzilok is taken down. There's a lot of potential here, and I truly support what you're trying to do. Unfortunately, its execution is sorely lacking. As of this writing, I have not finished it, and I won't play The Freakish Lab of Dr. Vahzilok, because it's not enjoyable. I don't feel committed enough to this critique to endure the whole mission chain.
The missions are wildly unbalanced. I started The Graveyard Shift with a Radiation Blast/Energy Aura Sentinel at level 23. The character was fully enhanced with level 20, Common IO's. She was putting out 25 points on average, against equal level mobs, without inspirations or Build Up. The first mission was fine. The second got a little chewy. I got the Defense, Offense, and Survival Amplifiers from P2W and used the Tier III Empowerment Station in my base to load up on resistances and other buffs. The overload of mobs in Crash the Unholy Masquerave is...stupid. It lacks any sense. I quit the mission chain at that point. I switched to my Veteran level 80 Invulnerability/Super Strength Tanker to test it out. This character is fully enhanced with set IO's and 90% of those are attuned. All of his Incarnate powers are T4 and I regularly run him through high level content. At normal difficulty, he walked through the first two missions like a stroll in the park. Exemplared to 29, he puts out 100+ points of damage on average (without Rage) and his KO Blow does 269 while Raging. He didn't struggle in the Masquerave, until the final boss. I needed inspirations and had a difficult fight there.
You've combined yellow and orange Vahzilok with Freakshow in a mid-range mission, and crowded the sewers with mobs. To state the obvious, that's too many high level targets, they use endurance drain and toxic damage (the least resisted damage type in the game), and this mission is during the stage in character development when endurance management is a problem and resistance is low. On top of that, both of these enemy groups revive, but you've already overpopulated the map. It is clear you do not understand game balance. If anything, it seems this mission chain is balanced for Incarnate players with fully customized and enhanced characters. That's bad design. Make it playable by the average player for that level range. If you're going to make "End Game" content, then make it an ITrial. EDIT: After hearing from Piecemeal, the overwhelming odds in Masquerave were not by design. I think there's room for improvement in the balance of this mission chain, but truth and credit where due. I have redacted a somewhat harsh statement and a first impression. I won't delete them, because this post has gotten long in the tooth.
The Zoombies are senseless. They're not fast enough to be surprising. They don't do enough damage to be scary. They can't be avoided. They can't be damaged down before they arrive and explode. There's no story or tactical value to them. They're just, "Here. Have some damage!" They would be an effective addition to the Vahzilok forces if they created a tactical stake for the players. Put them on a timer: if I can kite them long enough, they explode. Give them a damage threshold: if I can do [insert damage amount] in a single attack, they explode. Do both, so players have options for dealing with them. This is a strong example of how the Homecoming team doesn't get game design.
The text is thick, invasive, and unrewarding. When I first read Agent Watkins' description I picked up a hint of bringing the game into the next decade. I see acknowledgment of more modern conventions in a game made before they existed. I can appreciate that, but...I quickly tired of reading anything Watkins said. Not only are his interactions long-winded, they're dense and inconsistent (as if they were written by more than one person). Where most of the other NPC's have some sort of personality, Watkins is dry and unpalatable.
Within the missions, the constant pop-up of Zoombie text is annoying. It does not set the mood. Just play music. Also, Agent Watkins' pop-up text happens at inopportune times. Most of the time that there's pop-up text in the established missions, it happens between fights. That makes it readable. I have no room to read your pop-ups while having my face melted off (refer to point #1). Also, the Vahzilok talk too much *seems like every corpse is whining), detracting from actually playing the mission. Honestly, I've come to ignore the NPC text in most missions, as it is too prolific and banal (one of the problems with the original game).
Way too much errand running. If you took a poll, I think you would find most players hate zone-hopping, errand missions. That has been my experience. It doesn't add to the story or make something interesting. Meaningful action does. Having played some more of this story arc, for the sake of this critique, I can now tell you there's way too much errand running. It's frivolous and uninteresting, and made more problematic by your recent changes to fast travel. It's pointless, mindless filler; especially since I'm still not reading the mountains of text produced at every NPC.
Just nitpicking: The teleport point for Agent Watkins is on top of the generator. Fix it. Also, his mobile headquarters is pretty lame. Consult with some of you more revered base builders to make a better setup. For one, make him more physically accessible.
EDIT Redux: "Mr. Hammond, after careful consideration, I've decided not to endorse your park." I re-ran the missions on the Beta server, to experience the adjusted Masquerave. I stand behind most of my initial critique.
I had a rather long addition to my notes typed out, then someone closed my browser window. I don't have the energy to reproduce it, but...the mission's difficulty is out of whack.
The Good: As previously mentioned, I like the narrative. I like how you've gone a step further with the events and consequences of the world. I like that you've subtly updated the game's awareness of current culture. I like the costume design and names of the unique enemies. I like the writing. I think it's too dense and long-winded, but that's not the same as disliking the writing. I like that you're trying new things and making content.
Your fast travel choices are a mess.
I think the game's variety of travel options need to be addressed. By that I mean that there are too many moving parts to how we move around the game. I think limitations on travel are important. I think that gameplay stagnates when things get too easy. Players miss things if they're popping from one point to another. Slow travel is important, and fast travel needs to be balanced against it. Fast Travel should facilitate gameplay. Slow travel should be gameplay. Sometimes it's nice to fly around the city, leap across rooftops, or speed down the streets and dodge cars. Your recent implementations neither make fast travel better, nor add anything to the gameplay of slow travel. They just make a lot of things obsolete and pointless. They detract from gameplay.
It seems the original game never intended use of the enterbasefrompasscode command line to be prolific. However, it was available to us. Now it's not, and it just creates unnecessarily complicated gameplay. What you've done is made the same kind of half-witted choices the original developers made. They built Fort Trident; a collection of all the TF contacts in one convenient location, inaccessible by base teleporter, tucked away in the side of a lake, and likely completely unused by the player base (then or now). There's a teleport to contact option in the LFG queue screen, so why bother going to Fort Trident? It's a useless chunk of programming.
You've done much the same with base teleporters. While you've added beacons for use with base teleporters, you've all but completely invalidated their use as Travel Hubs. Why go to a base portal location in a zone just to pop into another teleporter? I can just hit the train. Usually they're in the same area, and the train is a single use; much faster. Sure, I can use my Day Job time to get Monitor Duty teleport uses, but my average play session would eat those up. The Rapid Response portal is a ludicrous solution. I guess the only valid Day Job is now Monitor Duty. But wait, none of that matters because one can get the Long Range Teleporter power and just pop anywhere, anytime.
Cut out the useless coding: if someone belongs to a Supergroup, they get the Long Range Teleporter power. If someone wants to earn the accolade without the SG affiliation, they're covered. No more base portals at all. Very little need for those cool base teleporters we like to play with in the base designer. Might as well remove all the beacons except those not reachable by the Long Range Teleporter. Just cut out the inefficient crap. Or, just remove the inefficient crap you added and let us use the enterbasefrompasscode command again. It wasn't broken. Why'd you try to fix it?
I am the only living person in my Supergroup on two servers. I have benefit greatly from SG bases being a fully customizable free-for-all. I don't have enough activity to afford my bases. I say this, anyway: turn on base costs. Make SG affiliation mean something again. Make Supergroups pay for the privilege of fast travel. Make SG bases the best method of fast travel. There's a lot more to be said on the topic, and if anyone on the development team wants to hear me out, I'm happy to oblige.
The changes to the Teleportation Pool are good.
I haven't used Combat Teleport yet, but I like the concept. This pool now seems to be useful in a tactical way, and not just a power slot sink. Team Teleport should function like Assemble the Team. It makes more sense than the power as it exists.
Your homebrew power sets are bad.
Sonic Manipulation, "lets you control sonic forces to manipulate your foes, inflict damage and protect yourself." Except that it doesn't. One ranged hold, one absorb and resist, a debuff, and a cone stun/knockback are not protection or manipulation for a Blaster. It's a potpourri of power types that add up to very little. Four of nine powers are melee attacks that put the squishy Blaster in harm's way. Someone already pointed out that the Blaster secondaries are chock full of melee. They shouldn't be. You should be improving the game. Make a sonic secondary with some real teeth to it, that allows for some defense. We don't need a sonic copy of the same old power pools. Why not make something truly new and interesting: a Blaster secondary that fits the character theme and actually provides some defense? If you're going to make new content, do it and get it right.
EDIT: I've seen a few misguided responses to this one. Just because that's the way it is and was, doesn't mean it ever should have been or needs to be. There was a time when the internet was a bunch of servers with less computing power than your phone, beeping at each other at 300 bps, and transferring nothing but text. Aren't you glad someone had the vision to try something new? Why does a blaster have to be a glass canon? Why do you want your glass canon in melee range? Your points are conflicting. I didn't say Blasters need to become tanks. I'm merely expressing that we don't need a sonic skin on the same powers we already have. If the developers are going to make new content, they should make new content. They should be expanding the dynamic of the game and keeping it fresh.
Experimentation looked good on paper. I created a Mad Scientist type, just to take experimentation and try out Jaunt. My enthusiasm immediately became disappointment. I deleted the character and started over, because I didn't want to wait for a free respec. My biggest gripe is the aesthetics and poor writing of the powers' descriptions. I can understand an initial eye roll over that statement, but in such a highly customizable game, where the visual elements are so important, it matters. The development team has spent a ton of time unlocking asymmetrical costumes, so I think they should understand that. The Speed of Sound power has a Minimal FX option. Put one on the rest of the powers, so I don't have to watch my robotic character sloppily inject himself with slime from Nickelodeon, or watch the clumsily grafted animations of Adrenal Booster. The animations for this power pool are cartoonish, and not in line with the majority of the game. Visuals matter for this game. Also, get someone to carefully check and edit your text before uploading. Not only is it poorly written, there are blatant errors.
However, aesthetics are not my only gripe with this power pool. The mechanics of it have been discussed pretty thoroughly in the forums. It's not advantageous and it's not the worst power pool choice. Overall, it's pretty bland and banal. The one place it has clear advantage, and the power that fails hardest, is Jaunt. I notice it's reviled by some in PvP because it has become a meta-gaming power. I also don't see it commonly used in PvE, and notice a lot of complaints about it being unwieldy. It is unwieldy. It almost requires a custom keybind or macro to use effectively. Keybinds and macros are part of the game, but not integral. That is, they exist but are not taught, don't have a special GUI, and do not have a wizard. They are not required, to play. They are undocumented within the game itself and unknown to some except as a concept. Many players do not use and/or do not want to use them. They remain the tools of advanced players. When creating any facet of the game, it should be designed with the largest possible number of players in mind. That's where Jaunt fails. The power should be a straight line teleport.
Electrical Affinity looked inane when it was announced (based on naming convention, concept, and descriptive text), and I was not swayed by using it. While I initially hated it for its name and descriptions, I quickly noticed a flaw in the mechanics and hated it for being highly unbalanced. Static is always building. Only the Galvanic Sentinel consumes it. The power just keeps growing and growing. This has to be one of the more overpowered sets in the game; more evidence that the team does not understand game balance. It outperforms two top Defender pools, simultaneously, and has no interesting mechanic. I started to detail my thoughts on how to do this well and it got long. The short version: attack powers drain targets and create Static; support powers drain Static to empower effects; Amp Up turns a friendly target into an energy drain conduit that creates Static; Galvanic Sentinel goes away. Make the Defender manage their "Electrical Affinity" bonuses, rather than just making them more powerful than Empathy and Force Field combined. Your homebrew power set is a prime example of poor game balance. It's also "noisy". Playing with Electrical Affinity players is almost worse than having to wade through hordes of Mastermind pets. There are too many obnoxious effects.