City of Heroes / City of Villains: Redesigning the "Hamidon"
By Christopher Bruce, Cryptic Developer
The Hamidon was once a zealous scientist named Hamidon Pasilima. Using hideous dark magic and his own genetic genius, he transformed himself into the god-like monster that would spawn the Devouring Earth and threaten the entire world. Time and again, hundreds of heroes from Paragon City have banded together to defeat the Hamidon whenever it arises.
When we first created Hamidon, we started by making a trial that was, for all intents and purposes, impossible, save for one strategy designed by Geko, our lead powers and critters designer. Because the Hamidon would spawn a Mitochondria bodyguard for every character in the cytoplasm when reduced to 50% (and 25%) health, Geko"s plan involved the players coordinating their tactics so only a minimum number of characters were actually inside the cytoplasm, effectively reducing the re-spawn to a manageable level. Also, since the Mitos were immobile, characters could perform a multi-pronged assault so that when the Mito re-spawn occurred, they could force the Mitos to spawn on one side of the Hamidon, leaving one side undefended.
Of course, no plan survives first contact with the enemy, and in this case the players never tried (or succeeded anyway) with the above strategy. Instead they found a different way to take down the Hamidon, and soon entire "Hamidon Guides" were available on the Strategy Guide forum, allowing all servers to replicate the optimal strategy involved in taking down the Devouring Earth"s greatest threat.
The New Hamidon
While we were scoping out the features we wanted to work on for Issue 9, "Hamidon Revamps" showed up on the list. Hamidon has had a long history of buff after buff to close exploits or loopholes that made raids too easy to do, and it"s evolved well outside of the bounds of its original design. We weren"t really concerned that players had figured out a way to beat Hamidon beyond what was originally designed, but their methods required many fixes on our end to try to balance the risk of the raid to the reward that could be gained. As Hamidon evolved, the player"s strategy evolved with it, becoming leaner, more effective, and at the same time easier. By this point Hamidon raids had become something that players could do by rote. Most servers were using the same strategy, which utilized a very effective combination of powers and a very small number of teams who did the majority of the work. Everyone else was pretty much just along for the ride and the free Hamidon Origin Enhancements (or HOs). Hamidon was long overdue for a revamp.
Most of the players we talked with in game generally said the same things about Hamidon raids. We used those common gripes about Hamidon to compile a list of top issues we wanted to address.
- Hamidon raids are repetitive and tedious
- Hamidon raids are laggy and very taxing on systems (low FPS)
- Hamidon and Mitos often disappear during the end phase of a raid
- Hamidon raids are a hotspot for griefing
- Hamidon raids reward Leeching
- Certain AT/Powerset combinations were viewed as critical while others felt they had no real purpose
- Hamidon raids take too long and the reward is often viewed as not being worth the time/effort
- There's no ability to choose reward
- There's no way to recover from a mito spawn (if it happens, its game over!)
- Hamidon raids are only available to heroes
This list gave us a good starting point to start thinking about ways to directly address those common complaints. We created a design document that outlined several different ideas for revamping Hamidon. They all shared a similar core of things we knew we had to fix, but otherwise ranged from not really changing the encounter much to completely redoing everything. We finally agreed on the middle ground solution. This design gives Hamidon raids a new spin without drastically changing the core of what a Hamidon raid is today. There were obviously some good qualities to Hamidon raids if players were doing them on a daily basis.
We wanted to address as many of the common complaints as we could, and also wanted Hamidon raids to be much more dynamic and require a lot more coordination. The Hamidon should represent the pinnacle challenge in the game. We"ve designed the Hamidon raid around one general strategy, but there should be many different ways to accomplish it. We want everyone involved in a Hamidon raid to be fully participating and not on auto-pilot, following another player around with a power on auto-cast.
The first change we made was negating the effectiveness of holding Hamidon. We originally planned for Hamidon to be immune to being held, but this was impossible to implement based on the way the engine worked. By the time we had the tech needed to achieve this, Hamidon had gone through numerous buffs to counter that very strategy. We couldn"t implement this change without redoing everything else to maintain the balance. During our revamp, this was one of the first changes we made. Holding Hamidon is still possible, but it won"t render him completely defenseless as it has in the past. We"ve also changed the way Hamidon spawns Mitochondria to protect himself as he"s damaged. This change will prevent a raid from ever reaching the dreaded sea of orange names or "yellow dawn," which also greatly reduces the impact of rogue players attempting to grief a Hamidon raid.
We also wanted to open Hamidon raids to villain players, so that we would have a true parity between CoH and CoV. Since we were adding Statesman"s Task Force for CoH, as a direct counter to Recluse"s Strike Force, it only made sense to allow villains a shot at Hamidon. We briefly considered just creating another instance of The Hive that villains would access via an Arachnos Flier, but we decided that it would be much cooler if CoV received an entirely new, exclusive zone exclusive. The Abyss was created to house Hamidon in the Rogue Isles.
The second big change was to ensure that every player would feel like they have a meaningful role. We have 3 types of Mitochondria and 1 Hamidon to play with, so we"ve redesigned their powers to better synergize with each other. They each have a particular strength against certain ATs as well as a particular weakness to other ATs. These vulnerabilities are partially negated by the other Mitos in the Cytoplasm. We"ve attempted to balance these in such a way that there is no particular powerset or single power that is absolutely required to defeat Hamidon. Since Hamidon can also now be raided by villains, we had to make sure that these same strengths and vulnerabilities also applied to the various Villain ATs and powersets. Once players discover what these weaknesses are, and how best to exploit them, they will have unlocked the secret to raiding Hamidon.
The Devouring Earth monsters that roam in The Hive and The Abyss need to be defeated in order for Hamidon to spawn. This is the only limitation on Hamidon spawning, so once he"s defeated, he can be immediately respawned at any time. This gives players who would normally miss out because of timing conflicts a chance to stage their own raids. We also introduced a new kind of inspiration, The Essense of the Earth. These provide a great deal of temporary protection to players who are raiding Hamidon. While these aren"t completely necessary to a successful raid, they are tremendously helpful.
We recognize that Hamidon raids are a big social event as well as a PvE encounter. They're a unique opportunity for a lot of players to congregate in one place and fight one common enemy. Because of this, we chose to not go with an instanced trial. However, to address the concerns with lag, low frame rate, and disappearing Hamidon and/or Mitochondria the number of players that can be in these zones at one time had to be reduced. So the player cap in The Hive and The Abyss has been lowered to 50 players. This lower cap also means that other instances of The Hive and The Abyss (The Hive 2, The Hive 3, etc) will open more often.
We've also added a reward table at the end of a successful raid, similar to what you might see at the end of a Task Force/Strike Force or Trial. Even if you don't think HO enhancements are worth it, Hamidon raids will be one of the few places in game that you can receive a rare invention recipe as a reward. Since there's no longer a minimum time period before Hamidon will spawn again, a 24 hour timer was added to the rewards table. You'll only be able to get 1 HO and 1 rare recipe in a 24 hour period by raiding Hamidon.
The trickiest thing about designing a raid like this is we don"t have the capability of fully testing it ourselves. We simply don"t have enough people to attempt every possible permutation internally, so we can"t fully test how things are working out until Issue 9 goes up on the public Training Room. There"s already been some measure of success on the closed beta test, but those players are still a long way from figuring out a way to beat Hamidon in his latest incarnation. We"re very eager to see Hamidon arrive on the Training Room and then the live servers.
Moving forward, we also want to periodically re-examine the state of Hamidon. Since Hamidon is an incredibly powerful, sentient being, it only makes sense that it (he?) should evolve from time to time. If players discover a critical flaw that makes raids too simple or monotonous, expect to see Hamidon evolve again. We want Hamidon to be one of the pinnacles of challenge in the game that requires a lot of coordinated effort to defeat. The best way to do this is to keep an eye on the tactics that players are using and adjust to them appropriately. That should keep Hamidon raids fresh and challenging.