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Questions about missions, contacts, and teaming

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TheInternetJanitor
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Questions about missions, contacts, and teaming

I looked for a bit and didn't see this answered, many apologies if it has been addressed before. Here goes.

One of the things I noticed that I had forgotten about after returning to the city lately was the CoX both made it very easy and very difficult to do missions with teams. Let me explain that sentence. It was very easy to team and do missions, more so than basically any mmo previously and to this day still stands out for making it so easy to play with your friends. Because of the way the mission and contacts and story arc system was created, though, it didn't let you really share progress with your team mates. You could all do the same mission, but it was the leader's version of that mission and only gave that leader story progress. This made it easy for players to play together but made it harder for stories to have any kind of impact since players would skip around getting pieces of stories here and there. This makes it harder for players to have memorable moments from content since they have a harder time following a coherent narrative, identifying with characters, etc. Everything becomes a beat-em-up of faceless mooks.

This isn't to say CoX had bad writing or the content was lacking. I recently stuck my toe into praetorian and the content and writing there really stands out, especially compared to stuff from earlier in the game's development. It still suffers from the same issues when grouping though as players will get it rushed (groups tend not to be happy about one person stopping to read dialogue) and in pieces. This doesn't even take into account the moral choices and story paths that the leader can choose in praetorian stories that the others in the group have no say in.

I know CoT devs have chimed in with ideas on how story choices will be handled in groups before, but I don't remember hearing anything about how stories themselves will be handled. Some games like WoW would allow players to share quests and complete them together, but they would need to have certain requirements done in order to do that, be it certain faction reputation or having done other quests or gathered items first. Basically it just let them skip talking to the quest NPC. CoX let everyone play but only in the leader's version of the quest, it wouldn't introduce the relevant contacts to the rest of the group or move their reputation or anything like that. It still usually gave everyone any special rewards like temporary powers related to completing the quest though, so you only really lost out on the story itself.

I think the way CoX handled story arcs and grouping was good, but could use a little work in order to make the characters and story come to life. CoX actually had amazing writing and a great setting but a lot of players I've spoken with couldn't say much about the setting and characters as they never really experienced it firsthand through the game due to this. Sure, there is a ton of amazing fluff in the wiki and elsewhere but when you just team up with your buddy and punch 500 mooks in a warehouse none of that writing and flavor gets to that player.

Later content helped with that a bit by putting in little cutscenes and some dialogue. Perhaps the best answer is simply more cutscenes, staged encounters, puzzles, dialogue, and other ways players can directly experience the story? Perhaps a focus on making individual missions be relatively self contained episodes that, while being part of a larger narrative, make sense and have an interesting arc by themselves? This could especially help players that are not able to commit large chunks of time to a game in one go.

Perhaps another way to help would simply be moving more of the story into the missions themselves rather than talking to a quest NPC. That is related to the point above. Because the story is shown during the mission, everyone on the mission sees it firsthand even if they never spoke to any contact outside.

I got the impression CoT was aiming for more handcrafted story content with branching story paths, but all that work wouldn't mean much if people only see episode 1, 7, and 56 of the story because they jump around with friends and outlevel it. Especially if those episodes are just "beat up 10 guys in this warehouse".

I'm curious as to everyone's thoughts on this. I love having it be easy to group with friends and would hate to sacrifice that for ease of grouping, but in this day and age it would be nice not to sacrifice having a memorable player experience to do so, which CoX does to some extent.

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Somewhat related to this, the

Somewhat related to this, the recent sea of thieves expansion does a great job of using somewhat randomized puzzles. The story is the same each time you do each of the "tall tale" quests, and the general gist of the quests are the same, but the actual puzzles and goals vary. I'm sure this is basically just a pool of X similar quests and you pull 2 or so each time you do a particular story, but it really helps make it feel unique.

So you could have a scavenger hunt with different clues each time and different end goals, or a variety of riddles to solve, etc. They even manage to make similar activities feel distinct in each quest by putting different twists on them. While you may have several quests that are essentially "find a buried thing and dig it up" or "fight some baddies" the clues to point you to the locations and means of figuring them out can be very different.

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I've passed your questions on

I've passed your questions on. I'm hoping to get the right department(s) to respond. May take a bit to get a definite reply but we aren't ignoring you.

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TheInternetJanitor
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Oh wow, I meant to pick

Oh wow, I meant to pick brains, probably have a lot of people say they liked the way X game did stuff. I didn't expect a dev response. Cool!

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TheInternetJanitor wrote:
TheInternetJanitor wrote:

Oh wow, I meant to pick brains, probably have a lot of people say they liked the way X game did stuff. I didn't expect a dev response. Cool!

Well that’s what you get for posting on a forum for a game with awesome devs.

mehebah
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Having the CoX experience

Having the CoX experience recently refreshed, I can echo most of what TheInternetJanitor had mentioned above.

To contribute some...
Not everybody who is playing will have the same origin/arc so requiring players to meet certain Contact criteria in order to join/get credit for the mission would limit teaming. The fix: Team Leader (or team vote) to set that flag Only If desired. Additional Thought: For those who do not have that particular contact/arc, could this perhaps create the opportunity to Add this contact to that players options, opening another path (or alternate mini arc for those who do not share that path)

I also appreciate the extra Sea of Thieves info and would expect that a random(within random?) encounter would add variety and a unique experience each time you create a similar alt. This idea could perhaps be a game changer in every single encounter, I’m just wary that the pool may be so small that each mission along the arc will start to look/feel repetitive due to similar Randomly picked encounters. BIG POOL! (or several smaller pools as arcs progress)

Another item to reconsider when referencing CoX is creating Multiple Arcs based on ?? Origin/Archetype/Primary or Secondary Power selections/RNG/etc... akin to how CoH had a specific starting queue of contacts/missions based on Origin...but they were ALWAYS the Exact Same (CoV set the bar super low by having only one set for Villains...) I’ll be the first to poke a hole here...This requires WRITING each additional arc (or possibly randomly pairing certain contacts in certain orders making writing a teensy bit easier, but still necessary)

Great conversation to start TIJ, thank you!

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I, too, always found(/find!)

I, too, always found(/find!) it difficult to follow any sort of story when teamed. However, I think we approach a catch-22 here, because I expect anything added to mishs to provide a sort of slow-down-and-sync point (such as cutscenes, puzzles, etc) will produce objections from the players not so interested in story. I remember in the old game when they first started adding cutscenes in TFs, the first thing the playerbase did was ask for a way to skip them. And even when not being skipped, many of the iTrial cutscenes were ruined for me story-wise because some players found a way to 'stand in the camera shot' and emote dumb stuff.

I agree with the sentiment that story is important, but I think this is a tricky thing to solve, especially given that not all players value the same elements of the game. For me, I tend to go with 'Get story when soloing; get badges/rewards when teaming.'

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I don't even read dialogue

I don't even read dialogue for quests, most of the time. I just want to go and fight the badguys. But what bugs me is if you're teaming with someone and they get mission clear xp (or story clear xp, or whatever) and you don't.

Xp discrepancies make it harder to team, if you're teamed for a mission shared or not everyone on the team should get completion xp.

"Let the past die. Kill it if you have to."

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A few things as far as

A few things as far as gameplay is concerned, and keep in mind things may change:

Story Paths are for your character and they are intended to scale with your character’s level so you can’t put level your Path content.

Missions are keyed to the mission holder. We have discussed allowing auto-completion of content if a group member has the same content but we aren’t there yet to ensure it will work right with any decision points made in the mission.

Early on one of our Comp leads requested that we have a mission journal that allows everyone in the group or at least the group leader to read all the dialogue within the mission. We knew we could do it for the mission owner but not for everyone and either way it remained to be seen if this would be in at launch.

Because content is keyed off the holder, group members won’t benefit from new contacts earned. This is especially true for Paths content. There maybe ways around this for other forms of content that is can think of, but we’re too far off to say anything definitive at this point.

Yes, there is a downside of out-leveling content because a player decided to run content with friends. This may also be circumvented if day you could reduce so earned. And here I there are some plans I can’t disclose yet related to this.

Eventually we do want to provide a way to go over old / missed content in our own version of a flash-back system. But this is also something that would be for post-launch.


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I do get people's eagerness

I do get people's eagerness to jump straight to beating up bad guys, and I admit I find it hilarious when people find ways to do silly things with in game cutscenes ( I loved this in dead rising co-op).

I think it is potentially possible to have some good middle ground though that doesn't just force everyone to read walls of text or skip all stories forever.

For instance, perhaps missions could be designed to fit general gameplay themes like "faceroll minion beat em up" "dramatic boss encounter" or "stealth, puzzles, and dialogue". If the mission genre is made obvious to the player before they chose the mission and perhaps even in the UI while it is selected, players can pick what flavor of experience they are in the mood for. This could be even taken a step further and be something that players were informed of when choosing to start a story path or talk to a contact. I'm sure stories and contacts can already have flags based on themes like dark, heroic, moral choices, etc. Or at least that seems like a decent idea. But telling the player what mechanical gameplay they'll have the chance to see in there would be helpful too.

That would of course require some mission variety for players to be able to choose between a few options for mission in a story, which could put a great deal of pressure on content creation devs. It doesn't have to be as dire as it sounds, though. The bulk of the dialogue and cutscenes that would be planned for a standard mission get moved to the plot oriented choice. The combat focused choice gets a little summary upon start and completion of the mission, maybe a little chatter from enemies during the mission that don't slow down players, basically exactly what 99% of CoX content has.

Both combat and noncombat focused missions can utilize a good amount of procedural content generation. While CoX had hand made maps (I think?) they heavily reused assets and the actual enemy placements was done dynamically, which was great because it allowed them to scale so well. The only real complaint there was the "defeat all baddies" missions where one guy was hiding behind a rock or in a closet. Ugh. Please, for the love of all that is holy, never have a mission that is purely "defeat every last guy" even if it is combat focused for that reason.

To look at ways to reuse assets and stretch development resources further for puzzles and noncombat content, the recent tall tales stuff from sea of thieves that I mentioned really is a great example. The same basic puzzles are cleverly rehashed with different flavors and gimmicks in such a way that not only does each quest feel totally unique, but even repeating the same quest feels fresh. For instance, two quests might both be a scavenger hunt. They both use randomized pools of goals and clues for the player. One might require the player to solve a simple cipher (with the legend easily available in the quest) to get the clues, while another might have the player navigate with the constellations in the sky, or reading adorable diaries entries of a little kid drawn in crayon. these are all actual things the devs put in. Ultimately they are all the same scavenger hunt quest but the experience is totally different. Since each quest uses a pool of different content that the player only sees a small piece of, even repeating the same quest feels fresh too. Players are even encouraged to repeat the quests as there are additional unique cosmetic rewards for doing so. On top of that, they leverage existing content for nearly all of this. They only made one new island for this entire expansion and you only see it at the end of a long chain of stories as a dramatic final encounter. All of this still feels like a whole new experience to the player, though, because players are approaching it in an entirely different way. Players are forced to do things they never would have thought of before, like trying to shoot themselves out of cannons to land on top of otherwise unreachable areas that would normally have nothing there. Finally, they made clever use of phasing and spawning so that certain enemies or goodies only exist if you are on a specific quest looking for them. This allows devs to take existing location assets and use them for scavenger hunts, boss battles, you name it. Of course this is made much easier by simply using instances, but SoT is an open world game with full PvP so the devs had to take that into account.

For dramatic boss encounters I'm not sure if there is any way around having some hand crafted love to make them feel good as content. With games like WoW and more recently final fantasy setting the bar for boss fights they really need arenas designed for the encounter with attention given to the whole experience. Perhaps the best way to make this easier and have more impact with players is simply to borrow an idea WoW eventually came up with: make them all available. WoW eventually put in "heroic" versions of dungeons that were all max level so that players could pick and choose what they wanted to experience. It wasn't a perfect system but the basic concept has merit. Have those big expensive to make hand crafted dungeon and boss fights set apart from story and contact requirements so that players can experience them at will. This doesn't mean they can't be linked to a story, just have some way for people to experience them outside that. Perhaps after doing content once it unlocks it to be repeated at any time, and any players invited to someone else's boss fight would also earn that unlock? This would prevent a situation where a lot of devs pour hours of work into an impressive encounter and 0.0001% of the players ever see it because you had to talk to one guy in a dark corner at exactly level 5 while wearing a red hat on a Tuesday or it was locked out forever. That sounds like hyperbole but just look at any game's achievement stats on steam to see how many players saw things that were even a little off the beaten path in a game.

Content players don't see is content wasted and MWM can probably use all the help available to make every penny stretch.

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Cinnder wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

For me, I tend to go with 'Get story when soloing; get badges/rewards when teaming.'

In WoW, it can be difficult to get the full story solo, as they make completing conent that is nearly impossible to complete without a full team critical to progress critical to progressing in the story. I hope CoT can avoid that.

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Foradain wrote:
Foradain wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

For me, I tend to go with 'Get story when soloing; get badges/rewards when teaming.'

In WoW, it can be difficult to get the full story solo, as they make completing conent that is nearly impossible to complete without a full team critical to progress critical to progressing in the story. I hope CoT can avoid that.

I think that's just a side effect of MMO's in general. I happen to be someone who enjoys the story so that means I end up playing solo or with very small teams more often than not. This does mean that I tend to miss out on 'high end' content because it requires large groups. I guess I've just gotten used to not seeing the payoff of long plotlines.

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JWBullfrog wrote:
JWBullfrog wrote:
Foradain wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

For me, I tend to go with 'Get story when soloing; get badges/rewards when teaming.'

In WoW, it can be difficult to get the full story solo, as they make completing conent that is nearly impossible to complete without a full team critical to progress critical to progressing in the story. I hope CoT can avoid that.

I think that's just a side effect of MMO's in general. I happen to be someone who enjoys the story so that means I end up playing solo or with very small teams more often than not. This does mean that I tend to miss out on 'high end' content because it requires large groups. I guess I've just gotten used to not seeing the payoff of long plotlines.

This is something CoX did pretty well though since you could do content with small groups or even solo if you built up your character. I think Hamidon was pretty much the only thing no one ever solod? Maybe someone even managed to do that, I'm not sure.

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TheInternetJanitor wrote:
TheInternetJanitor wrote:

I think Hamidon was pretty much the only thing no one ever solod? Maybe someone even managed to do that, I'm not sure.

I actually heard stories/rumors very early on (like before ED and the Issue 9 changes to the Hami raid) that supposedly someone had actually managed to solo Hami. I'm not sure if there was ever any "tangible proof" of the accomplishment and it was likely just one of those fun "myths" that people started spreading around. Still, based on how pre-Issue 9 Hami worked I could actually see how it might have been "theoretically" possible. ;)

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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I think in FF14 they have

I think in FF14 they have solo versions of their dungeons and such. I think that might be a good idea even for like, high end raids and the like.

Those who want just the story can do a solo version. Those who also want better rewards can find a team and do the team version.

Also a solo version of a raid or the like could be used to help a player learn boss mechanics and such without having to feel like they're a burden on the team.

"Let the past die. Kill it if you have to."

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Project_Hero wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

I think in FF14 they have solo versions of their dungeons and such. I think that might be a good idea even for like, high end raids and the like.

Those who want just the story can do a solo version. Those who also want better rewards can find a team and do the team version.

Also a solo version of a raid or the like could be used to help a player learn boss mechanics and such without having to feel like they're a burden on the team.

The main problem with letting anyone solo "any" content (even the biggest end-game raids) is that you'd probably encourage farming just a bit "too" much. I understand your intention here may be mainly to help people concentrate on story elements but ultimately I don't think that's a good enough reason to let any/all content designed exclusively to be tackled by a team become soloable. Imagine how farmable a soloable Hami raid would be?

CoH (and hopefully CoT) already provided for a fairly detailed set of "difficultly" settings which allowed people to solo a huge percentage of the game if desired already. Even some of the lower-end trials (that did not have minimum team sizes) were soloable this way. People can use that to "learn boss mechanics" or otherwise follow story elements at their own pace.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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JWBullfrog wrote:
JWBullfrog wrote:
Foradain wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

For me, I tend to go with 'Get story when soloing; get badges/rewards when teaming.'

In WoW, it can be difficult to get the full story solo, as they make completing conent that is nearly impossible to complete without a full team critical to progress critical to progressing in the story. I hope CoT can avoid that.

I think that's just a side effect of MMO's in general. I happen to be someone who enjoys the story so that means I end up playing solo or with very small teams more often than not. This does mean that I tend to miss out on 'high end' content because it requires large groups. I guess I've just gotten used to not seeing the payoff of long plotlines.

I tend to roll a lot of Alts, so I often experience missions multiple times. The first time or two I experience content I tend to read it all, but after a while I already know the story - so I tend to skim the text and get to the action. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a little in Column A and a little in Column B.

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Interdictor wrote:
Interdictor wrote:
JWBullfrog wrote:
Foradain wrote:
Cinnder wrote:

For me, I tend to go with 'Get story when soloing; get badges/rewards when teaming.'

In WoW, it can be difficult to get the full story solo, as they make completing conent that is nearly impossible to complete without a full team critical to progress critical to progressing in the story. I hope CoT can avoid that.

I think that's just a side effect of MMO's in general. I happen to be someone who enjoys the story so that means I end up playing solo or with very small teams more often than not. This does mean that I tend to miss out on 'high end' content because it requires large groups. I guess I've just gotten used to not seeing the payoff of long plotlines.

I tend to roll a lot of Alts, so I often experience missions multiple times. The first time or two I experience content I tend to read it all, but after a while I already know the story - so I tend to skim the text and get to the action. So I guess what I'm saying is that I'm a little in Column A and a little in Column B.

As a player who was big into badging I ended up doing pretty much every trial/TF in the game dozens of times. Like the player whose big into rolling Alts you end up learning all the "lore" parts of these things after the first few runs. After that you just focus on the actual gameplay. It ends up being the "best" of both worlds as far as both experiencing the story and playing the game.

CoH player from April 25, 2004 to November 30, 2012

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I’ll try to address a couple

I’ll try to address a couple of things brought up recently.

The majority of content is combat centric. How you complete those may be able to yield different achievement bonuses. For example, using stealth to complete objectives can be a bonus.

When it comes to soloing all forms of content, I honestly think that is unrealistic. What I mean is that when designing content intended for multiple groups of people, you can only scale that down so much. Your starting point can’t be 1 person. If you design content for say 2-4 groups your starting point may be 1 group but that still require the completion of multiple actions or objectives and it won’t be possible to dynamically scale that content down to one person - again the content is intended for multiple groups which has a different set of expectations, a higher standard if you will.

To create the content that scales dynamically downward from multiple group content to a single character requires a different basis for design, one that inherently limits what is possible for multiple groups. I’d rather not shoe-horn such content if / when we get to designing it.

That being said. I would like to have single group, higher base difficulty content such as task-force like content to be possible to solo, but the base difficulty would be higher than normal.

There are no promises in this course, but what I’d like to see possible.


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I was another player big into

I was another player big into badging and exploration. My main was a martial arts regen scrapper. I tended to solo almost all the time. An amusing element of this was that during the lesson on setting difficulty I cranked it to the max and forgot to set it back for years. My progression was ... interesting. I did do task forces though. I was the character usually right behind the tanks.

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Lothic wrote:
Lothic wrote:
Project_Hero wrote:

I think in FF14 they have solo versions of their dungeons and such. I think that might be a good idea even for like, high end raids and the like.

Those who want just the story can do a solo version. Those who also want better rewards can find a team and do the team version.

Also a solo version of a raid or the like could be used to help a player learn boss mechanics and such without having to feel like they're a burden on the team.

The main problem with letting anyone solo "any" content (even the biggest end-game raids) is that you'd probably encourage farming just a bit "too" much. I understand your intention here may be mainly to help people concentrate on story elements but ultimately I don't think that's a good enough reason to let any/all content designed exclusively to be tackled by a team become soloable. Imagine how farmable a soloable Hami raid would be?

CoH (and hopefully CoT) already provided for a fairly detailed set of "difficultly" settings which allowed people to solo a huge percentage of the game if desired already. Even some of the lower-end trials (that did not have minimum team sizes) were soloable this way. People can use that to "learn boss mechanics" or otherwise follow story elements at their own pace.

On the note of possible farming, that is addressed in my post. "Those who want better rewards can do the team version". My intent would be for a solo version to have a cap on the rewards you could get, as in you wouldn't be able to get any super unique highly powerful drops from the solo version, you could still farm it for IGC and XP I suppose but you can do that with almost anything.

Pretty moot though with one if the devs saying how hard it would be to implement.

Unless, I guess, they made an entirely seperate mission that was a solo/solo group version of a larger raid and incorporating some of the mechanics or paired down versions of... But that's a lot of work to appease a, likely, smaller subset of players.

"Let the past die. Kill it if you have to."

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I remember not getting all of

I remember not getting all of the story content in CoH, until I looked it up on Paragonwiki. Story 'Journal' content is a fine idea! It might be possible to add at least a synopsis drop to the 'completion' loot?

Be Well!
Fireheart