Tag Archives: city of heroes

The City of Heroes “New Character Checklist”

Since I am still hopeful that we CoH players can save our beloved game, I thought I’d do a post this week full of similar hope for the future–and what’s more hopeful than creating a new character?

If you’re addicted to making new characters, as I am, the process is likely a familiar one, but can be a little disconcerting. Like getting anything new, you have to break it in, have to conform it to your particular tastes, and it can be a little difficult to remember all your settings from more established characters.

Here’s an easy way to quickly set up your new character, from the first moment you exit the Character Creation studio:

Upon First Arriving in Atlas Park/Mercy Island

  • Arrange the various modules on your screen to your preference. For instance, I prefer my Chatbox on the bottom left of my screen, while my boyfriend prefers his on the bottom right.
  • Drag and drop your powers on your power tray in your preferred order. For me, I like to have my most-used powers on the first 5 numbers; you may have a different system.
  • If you have a supergroup you’d like to be invited to, message one of the admins and ask them to add you to the group.
  • Go into Options > Keymapping, and make sure all your keyboard shortcuts and mouse settings are to your preference. For instance, I like my Tab key to target the “Nearest” enemy towards me instead of the “Next” enemy, so I change that every time. I also set up my Inspirations to trigger using the YUIOP keys instead of F1 through F5.
  • Go to the nearest Hospital to stock up on Inspirations (the Nurse in the Hospital lobby sells them). Since you only have a few Inspiration slots at level 1, you
  • Talk to your first contacts (look under “Contacts” in your Navigation Console, top center of the screen), and begin to run all the missions you can. When one contact runs out of missions, ask to “Be introduced to another contact” so you can keep the XP going.

When You’re Level 2-5

  • As you level up and receive new powers, don’t forget to add other supportive powers like Rest, Sprint, Mission Teleporter, Mystic Fortune, etc. Go to your Powers menu (linked on the Chatbox module) and scroll down till you get to the “Inherent Powers” box (on the right-most side of the Powers menu). Click the icon for each power that you want to add to your power tray.
  • Use the global email system to transfer a little bit of influence (10-20,000 should suffice) from your other characters. This way, you can buy Training Enhancements for your powers as you level up.
  • If you get Training Enhancements you can’t use, sell them off to Vendors so that you can buy the Enhancements you need.
  • Explore the available Power Pools before you level up, so you can see what kind of powers you might like to pull off those as you level up. (You can choose your first power from any pool at level 4.)

Interested in Saving City of Heroes?

I generally keep up with all the latest #SaveCoH news on Twitter through my City of Heroes Twitter, @skiesoveratlas. Follow and join the fight!

A Gamer’s Plea: Do NOT End City Of Heroes

Last Friday, NCSoft dropped a huge bomb on City of Heroes players, and sadly, it wasn’t an awesome game-wide event. Without any warning whatsoever, it was announced that game production would cease, and that City of Heroes would be discontinued by November 30th.

Mine were among the first shouts of dismay and horror; mine were among the first heartbroken Tweets and Facebook statuses tolling the sad news across the Internet. But they were most certainly not the last.

With this sudden, cutting action, NCSoft not only struck at the heart of its most popular game’s community, but undercut the City of Heroes developers (Paragon Studios) as well. Those developers were simply laid off, seemingly as if the decision meant nothing to anyone. I was appalled at how slapdash and unprofessional it all seemed. Did the developers’ hard work and creativity really mean so little? For that matter, did our creativity and hours of playtime, as customers, really mean so little, too?

I was shocked at the time, and I still am. But I am not ready to roll over and let my heroes play dead. If there’s one thing I’ve learned from City of Heroes, it’s that being defeated is only temporary: you can be brought back into the fight in many ways.

If there is still time to reconsider, still time to talk, I will not simply give up. I want to continue playing this amazing game, and I know that I speak for many CoH players when I say so. So I present my best and most accurate shot, the most powerful I can summon, to ensure that my voice is heard.

Dear NCSoft:

Please, do not give up permanently on City of Heroes. We customers know of your grievous financial losses and are trying to understand that you may have done this out of necessity. But we are saddened that you felt you had to take this highly drastic course of action, when so many more temperate options were available to you (selling the game to another company chief among them).

This move need not be permanent, and in fact may do more damage to your business overall than anyone ever dreamed. With this action, many players, including myself, feel alienated and unheard; we would LOVE to work with you to restore this game, which is your most beloved product, but we do not feel you will hear us. Please consider how this has damaged your reputation as a company among gamers, and at least give thought to mitigating the decision.

We, the players, would love to see the game continue, whatever else happens. If you no longer want to be the parent company of the game (or cannot be, for whatever reason), then perhaps another company can step up and take over leadership. If you do not want another company to take leadership, or if that avenue is blocked by legalities, then perhaps you can make the game code open-source. That way, fans could host their own servers, and still partake of the beautifully creative world you once spearheaded. I know these two options would make no more money for your company, but announcing the closure of the game ensures that anyway.

I know we as players do not understand all of the reasons behind this decision, and I fully admit my ignorance in this. But I respectfully ask for you to reconsider and, if possible, reverse the closing of City of Heroes, at least until other possibilities for continuing the game have been thoroughly explored.

Thank you for your time and patience, and I look forward to hearing from you.

The Wondrous Powers of Null the Gull

In City of Heroes, there are various strange personages you can meet with, either to receive missions, gain story background, or buy/sell items. But there’s one entity you’ll want to take every character to see, and that’s Null the Gull.

Where is Null the Gull?

Seated atop an unmarked truck on the Villain side of Pocket D, Null the Gull is a little seabird who can help you streamline your CoH experience (and make it a lot less annoying to play in groups, too).

The view of the villains’ Mayhem Mission truck and Null the Gull, looking from the center of Pocket D.

There he is, sitting on top of the truck!

IMPORTANT: Make sure you don’t click the truck when you’re trying to interact with Null the Gull! The truck is the beginning of a Mayhem mission, and you may not be able to back out of it once you click.

Here’s a short list of what Null the Gull can do for you:

  • Keep Speed buffs and debuffs from affecting you
  • Keep you from being affected by Group Fly or Team Teleport
  • Choose to always accept or always deny Mystic Fortune instead of having to click in the dialog box every time
  • Keep up with your Dimensional Warder Badge progress by learning how many archvillains/elite bosses you have left to defeat.

To preview the dialogues so that you don’t accidentally choose the wrong option, check out the Option Dialogues on the Null the Gull page @ ParagonWiki.

Why Are These Changes Worth Mentioning?

This sounds like a pretty simple list, right? And most of these changes or updates are small, almost insignificant. But you’d be surprised how much these little edits help. For instance:

  • Speed Boosts, while greatly increasing your speed, can really mess with how you move your character onscreen–you can end up in the middle of fights you didn’t mean to trigger. Keeping Speed Boost and other speed buffs/debuffs from affecting you helps you play at your chosen tempo, all the time.
  • Group Fly and Team Teleport, while they sound nice, can be very annoying for team members who aren’t expecting a teleport, or have their own movement powers they prefer to use. Turning their effects off lets you move at your own pace.
  • Auto-accepting or auto-denying Mystic Fortune is a GODSEND. If someone throws cards at you during battle, you no longer have to hunt for the mouse cursor and click on the Accept or Deny button–it just happens, or doesn’t happen. Since I play on a laptop, not having to hunt for the mouse cursor keeps me from having to stop what I’m doing (and risk dying) if someone cards me mid-battle.
  • If you don’t keep track of which archvillains/elite bosses you’ve faced so far, your Dimensional Warder badge can be very frustrating to achieve. Null the Gull helps you out with that, helping you remember which ones you’ve faced.

One Small Caveat

The only bad thing about Null? You can’t just make the changes on one character and have that choice affect all your other characters; you must instead take each character to him individually and make the choices. It’s a pain if you want everything to be the same across all characters, but at least there’s the option of going in the first place.


If you’re a City of Heroes player and have never met Null the Gull, now might be the perfect time to go see him in Pocket D and make your life in Paragon City that much easier. Enjoy this “hidden gem”, fellow CoH players!

City of Heroes “Freedom”: Restrictions and Compromises, Ahoy!

When NCSoft’s popular MMO City of Heroes came out with its “Freedom” expansion, allowing players to get and play the game for free for the first time in game history, I was thrilled. Now some of my real-life friends who could not afford to play the game could enjoy it as well!

But there are some important caveats to the “Free” player system, which I believe more players should be aware of before they get into the game.

Free Players Can’t…

  • Send Tells (private player messages) or in-game emails
  • Receive items from other players
  • Trade items with other players through the Trade Screen
  • Receive experience in Architect Entertainment (player-created) missions
  • Make more than two characters
  • Use Invented-Origin Enhancements for their powers
  • Earn Reward Merits or Vanguard Merits
  • Use Wentworth’s (Player Auction House)
  • Play post-level 50 content
  • Build Controllers, Masterminds, Peacebringers, Warshades, Arachnos Soldiers, or Arachnos Widows
  • Create Supergroups

Why Are These Big Issues?

The loss of most of these game mechanics severely limits the player and the team or group around them–not only can you not give a Free player a spare Inspiration to help them during a mission, but the Free player is restricted in what items they can use. They can’t even sell items on Wentworth’s or trade items to other players, and those items can quickly junk up the already-limited Inventory space that Free players are given.

The inability to send Tells or Emails lowers the Free player’s ability to connect with other players; with Incarnate content disallowed, there’s not much for a Free player to do with his/her character once it gets to 50. The restrictions on receiving Merits and receiving XP in AE missions are secondary, but still annoying–didn’t the Free player play just as much to receive those benefits as a paying player?

The limit of two characters is understandable, as is the restriction on what archetypes you can build as a Free player. And I suppose I can understand why Invented-Origin Enhancements are off-limits; if they weren’t, then Free players would have complete access to all the high-level, really strong Enhancement Sets that max out characters’ healing, damage, etc. But some of these restrictions seem silly for Free players, when it restricts so much of gameplay that it’s almost too frustrating to deal with.

Light at the End of the Tunnel: Premium Status

But, if you want the Free price tag but not the Free experience, there are a couple of ways to attain the “middle” status between a Free player and a completely-paid VIP player–this type of account is known as a “Premium” account. This status gives you a little more access, but possibly without as much monetary investment.

Any time you spend any money on the game at all, whether it’s an item set, costume piece set, or a special booster pack, you’ll be upgraded to a Premium Account if you’re currently a Free player. Also, if you get a Game Card that gives you a paid month of game access time, you will also be upgraded. (Important Note: Premium Players do not get opted-in to a paying plan automatically.)

Once you are a Premium player, you can purchase access to several key options, including:

  • Full access to all communication channels available through the Chatbox
  • Holding up to 2 billion influence (in-game money) per character
  • Sending and receiving email
  • Earning Reward Merits and Vanguard Merits (you must be level 35 and have run Levantera’s missions in the Rikti War Zone to get Vanguard Merits)
  • Varying levels of access to the Architect Entertainment system:
    1. Playing solo missions in AE, but not getting any XP: 2 Reward Tokens
    2. Getting XP and rewards from AE missions: 8 Reward Tokens
    3. Making your own AE missions: 20 Reward Tokens
  • Joining Supergroups and editing Supergroup Bases
  • Getting medium and large Inspirations (temporary boosts) through regular combat
  • Trading with other players
  • Creating Invented Enhancements

However, you must pay for each of these options individually using Reward Tokens in the Paragon Rewards system, which does cost real money. You will need to pick and choose which game features you really want and which you can live without if money is very tight. Being a Premium player makes it more bearable to play for less money, but it is still restrictive (though not nearly as restrictive as the Free account). (By the way, the only way I can see to get access to Premium account status without much money investment is to ask for Game Cards as birthday and Christmas presents… LOL)


Playing City of Heroes for “free” can give you a fair experience of the game, but it does restrict players in ways that most of us wouldn’t expect or even think about. That’s why I’ve shown the drawbacks of playing for Free in this article, as well as the ability to occupy a “middle ground” between Free and VIP status. Keep this in mind, and definitely don’t judge the whole game by the Free-account experience!

Why Do Modern Gamers Love MMOs?

Even just 7 to 10 years ago, most gaming took place on consoles, on games that took place on discs or cartridges. Once you played all the way through the game, found all the hidden stuff (and plugged in all the cheat codes), you were done. Oh, and if you wanted to play with more than four players, the extra people had to wait their turn.

But gaming has changed. Wow, has it ever changed! Most modern games now include a Massive Multiplayer Online (MMO) experience, where you can play with tons of people across all different regions (and countries)!

But why was there this major shift in game development? Well, it seems that modern gamers naturally gravitate toward MMOs, and I believe there are several social and gaming reasons for that.

MMOs Make More Individual, Innovative Game Experiences

Because of the online component of MMO gaming, there are a lot less “scripted” dialogues/events, and more off-the-cuff, genuinely new experiences. Basically, when you start the game, you’re never sure what new challenges await you.

I think of my experiences playing City of Heroes–you’re never sure whether there will be a Rikti Invasion special event while you’re playing, or which of your online buddies are going to be there to play with. It’s always a little unexpected, which is part of the fun. Unlike a cartridge or disc game, which is played thoroughly and then often set aside, MMOs give a player a truer, more responsive and “human” gameplay experiences, which continually rouses mental curiosity.

MMOs Provide Social Interaction

Instead of being cloistered away in a bedroom or basement utterly away from other humans, modern gamers have the option of real social interaction with other players through the MMO system. Now, sure, some of this interaction is made up of insult exchanges, random outbursts of rage, and the like, but some of it is actually worthwhile. You can actually find yourself talking about stuff other than the game, with people who are just as thoughtful as you. You just have to be willing to start a conversation–and MMO gaming gives you the chance to do exactly that.

For instance, I’ve met several good gaming friends through my City of Heroes experiences, and we have since become friends outside the game as well. We don’t just have to talk about “the game” or what characters we’re building next–we can actually talk about what we do when we’re not on the computer, any work-life stuff, all the kinds of things that friends talk about. This makes the “game” almost more than a game–it’s nearly a social network of its own.

MMOs Give Players Endless Replay Value

Because of the individualized, responsive gameplay I spoke of earlier, MMOs can be continuously replayed. Playing the game does not get rid of storylines, to be replayed the same way when you “finish” the game and start over; in fact, MMO gaming constantly builds on old storylines and introduces new plot threads in a fairly seamless experience. In essence, it’s never the same game twice, to paraphrase Disney’s Pocahontas.

This differs greatly from console games, which are generally locked into one major story that is only successfully played through one way. Even though returning to an old favorite game to replay it can give you warm fuzzies of nostalgia, it can also be a little boring to hack through the game the same way all the time. MMO gaming most certainly does not have that problem.

MMOs Always Have More Stuff to Do and Find

Because of developers and content creators working consistently behind the scenes, there are always new expansions, new story threads, new Easter eggs to find, and new graphic creations. Unlike console games, which don’t have much capability for innovation beyond what was programmed into the disc or cartridge, MMO games can always be updated, changed, patched (and repatched), etc.

City of Heroes, for example, has various timely expansions called “issues,” in which new costume pieces, new storylines, and other game developments are introduced. This ensures that the game is always fresh and has more challenges (which we gamers love!).

MMOs Can (Usually) Be Played by Anyone with a Computer

Lastly, unlike most console games, which are inextricably tied to a particular console to play, MMOs can generally be played by any computer. This makes MMOs more accessible to a wider swath of people–most humans these days have a computer for work or home use, but not everyone has a particular gaming console. When the computer becomes your gaming console, it’s a lot easier to game overall!

Having more potential players means that more people can meet and play together, increasing the strength of the game’s social network and boosting the innovation of the game experience. Plus, you no longer have the console wars to get in the way of good communication (i.e., you don’t have a bunch of Xbox players ragging on the Wii players, etc.).


Because of the massive multiplayer online genre, we are seeing more interactive, responsive, and social games than ever. This has changed gaming, and I believe it’s for the better.

Now, do I still like console games? Sure, because they are simpler and better suited for one-player experiences. (They are also a nice change, and a little hit of nostalgia never hurt any gamer.) But if I really want an involving game experience, I’m much more likely now to turn toward an MMO myself. MMOs provide something no other digital game experience provides–a sense of real, human community.

The Lowbie’s Survival Kit

For anyone who’s ever made a new City of Heroes character after weeks of playing a high-level character, you know what I’m talking about when I say “the lowbie blues.” Suddenly, you’re playing a character who can’t just zip across a zone in no time, and who can’t just charge into any battle and come out alive on the other side. Lowbies are so named because they are low in levels…and low in just about everything.

I’ve built a lot of characters, and every time I build a new one, I have to remember that I’m not quite as kick-butt as usual. Lowbie characters, especially those under level 10, suffer from the following:

  • Lack of quicker travel powers; Sprint is pretty much it
  • Inventory size restrictions (not being able to carry as many items with you)
  • Not being able to travel everywhere as safely–sometimes parts of Atlas Park are too dangerous to travel alone
  • Fewer attack/defense powers
  • Less hit points/strength

To offset your lowbie’s limitations, I have assembled a Lowbie Survival Kit full of helpful hints (and links to help you learn more).

Use a Booster Pack Travel Power

To help you travel through zones faster (and get to usually-unreachable areas) without having to wait for your typical travel power pools, booster-pack travel powers like Ninja Run, Beast Run, and Steam Jump can help you get around. Ninja and Beast Run both provide extra ground speed; Steam Jump provides 30 seconds of almost-flight time with every usage.

Each of the Booster Packs associated with these powers cost real money, but since they give you the travel power on every character you have (and will ever build), it benefits you in the long-term to buy the packs. You can get Ninja Run by buying the Super Booster IV: Martial Arts pack; Beast Run is available through the Animal Pack, and you can get the Steam Jump power through the Steampunk pack.

Lastly, the free Temporary Power Jet Pack can help you fly if you can’t get hold of the Steampunk Booster Pack.

Enhance All Your Powers with Training Enhancements

Lest you think that Training Enhancements are a waste of your hard-earned influence, let me tell you that at low levels (especially under 10), TEs are great for boosting your powers just enough to get you through. I notice a real difference in gameplay strength when I don’t enhance my lowbies at all, or don’t upgrade their enhancements when they level up.

Be sure to put an enhancement in every power slot you get–it will help your character out so much in the beginning. You can always replace the TEs with real Enhancements later, but they will help you live more successfully through the tough first levels.

And if the prices of TEs are a little rich for your blood, you can search on Wentworth’s to see if anyone’s selling them for a little cheaper, as well as using AE Tickets to purchase them (or selling off items at Wentworth’s so you can afford them).

Shop the Paragon Market for Extra Storage Space

As of issue 21, the Paragon Market is officially open, and is useful for spending your Paragon Points to gain access to game extras.

You can get lots of goodies like extra Character Slots and Respec Tokens, but what will be most helpful for lowbies is to increase your item storage space on your character. Upping the number of Enhancements, Recipes, Salvage, and Vault storage spaces on all characters will help your lowbie out more than you think–suddenly, you have ROOM in those expandable pockets again!

And don’t forget the XP Booster…gives you +25% XP for an hour. Not bad for a lowbie trying to level quickly!

Find and Use Temporary Powers for Attacks, Buffs/Debuffs, and Healing

Craftable Temporary Powers often drop off defeated enemies, as well as being sold through Wentworth’s–check your Recipes section (alongside your Salvage, Inspiration, and Enhancement storage windows) to see if you’ve gotten any Temporary Power recipes.

Temp Powers can be attacks, diversionary tactics, healing/rezzing aids, and even debuffs. The better the power’s effect, the less charges you get, generally. See the full list of buildable Temp Powers, below:


St. Louis Slammer (close-combat, 30 uses)

Gabriel’s Hammer (close-combat, 30 uses)

Revolver (ranged, 30 uses)

Envenomed Dagger (ranged, 30 uses)

Hand Grenades (ranged, 18 uses)

Plasmatic Taser (ranged, 24 uses)

Divert Enemy

Ethereal Shift (make yourself un-targetable for 30 seconds, 5 uses)

Backup Radio (call in a special pet to help you fight, 5 uses)

Smoke Flash (distract and Placate foes for a little bit, 10 uses)

Stun Grenades (disorient foes for a little while, 20 uses)


Med-Pack (heals 1/4 of your max hit points, 10 uses)

Recovery Serum (boosts recovery rate for a short time, 5 uses)

Resuscitator(rezzes an ally, 10 uses)

Buffs & Debuffs

Kinetic Dampener (increases your defense against Smashing and Lethal damage, and improves Energy resistance; # of charges unknown)

Jet Pack (lets you fly for 30 seconds; # of charges unknown)

Power Analyzer Mk III (view Foe Combat Attributes to know what kind of damage they’re weak to; 20 uses)

Use Available In-Game Storage Besides Your Own

If you’re not in a supergroup and don’t have access to salvage racks, enhancement tables, and inspiration holders, then the Vault Reserve and Wentworth’s are going to be invaluable to you.

Vaults are located in Atlas Park, Kings Row, Steel Canyon, Talos Island, and Pocket D. You only start out with 3 spaces in your Vault at level 1, which is why I suggested earlier that you may want to spend Paragon Points to get more storage space early on. But even if you don’t amp up your storage space prematurely, it’s a great way to hold just those few extra items you don’t want to sell yet but don’t have room to keep. (And Vaults are only for Salvage items, not Enhancements or Inspirations, fyi.)

And if your Vault is absolutely slam full of Salvage, or if you have a bunch of Enhancements and Inspirations you need to hold on to, you can actually use your Wentworth Auction Inventory to hold items temporarily. All you have to do is drag and drop the item from your storage space into the Wentworth window to store it, and then don’t put a listing price.

Wentworth buildings are located in Atlas Park, Kings Row, Steel Canyon, and Talos Island–incidentally, almost everywhere there are Vault Reserves. Like the Vaults, you only have a few auction inventory spaces in lowbie levels, but even 1 or 2 spaces can help you hold that Inspiration or Enhancement you don’t have room for.

Play AE Missions and Shop the AE Building

In the Architect Entertainment building, you can play user-created arcs, win tickets (just like at old-school arcades!), and turn those tickets in for in-game prizes. For lowbies, those prizes constitute pretty much a one-stop shop.

With enough tickets, you can buy Salvage to sell at Wentworth’s (or use to build your Temporary Powers), medium and large Inspirations, and even Training and Origin Enhancements, which you likely wouldn’t be able to get at other Stores because it wouldn’t be safe for a lowbie to travel there yet. (Not to mention that money/influence is usually at an all-time low for lowbies.)

These three categories of items are great buys for lowbies, because you can largely pick and choose what you want (except for common Salvage–your choice is randomized). You can also skirt the higher fees for these items at Wentworth’s doing it this way.

(You can also buy all kinds of Recipes at the AE Building, but you’re likely better off trying to buy them on Wentworth’s for influence rather than using AE tickets.)

Empower Your Lowbie Self with Long-Lasting Buffs

Empowerment Buffs are available only to those lowbies who are lucky enough to be in a supergroup with an Empowerment Station. But if you fall into that category, remember the Empowerment Station as a fast and relatively cheap way to get a long-lasting buff.

You only need 1 or 2 pieces of specific salvage to get any of the buffs, whose requirements differ depending on if you’re using an Arcane Station or a Tech Station. Each buff lasts much longer than an Inspiration–more along the lines of Mystic Fortune or Secondary Mutation. You can get buffs that help you with everything from your Run Speed to your Fire Resistance, from your Hold Resistance to your Knockback Increase. Very helpful for little heroes, who could use the extra help!


These tips on surviving your first few levels, from your gameplay to your in-game amenities, should help you get a good start in City of Heroes. Take it from one who’s been in the “lowbie zone” many, many times–it is a little inconvenient at first, but tips like this make it much easier.

Empowerment Buffs, or “those buffs made from salvage”

In City of Heroes, we focus a lot on Enhancements (most comparable to “gear” for World of Warcraft players)–they are permanent boosts to a hero’s selected powers. You can boost the healing potential of your hero, their damage potential, how accurately they hit, and many other facets of their powers. We also pay a lot of attention to Inspirations–temporary, ubiquitous boosts that can be activated during battle to help you get through tight spots.

We don’t, however, pay a lot of attention to Empowerment buffs–but they are important, too!

What ARE Empowerment Buffs?

You might be thinking, “Empower-what?” Well, you can think of Empowerment Buffs as something like the Mystic Fortune buff from the Magic Pack–it’s a long-lasting buff (1 hour), much longer than an Inspiration or an ally buff, but not quite as permanent as an Enhancement. What is least known about them is how they are triggered, and it actually takes a Supergroup base to get them.

How to Get Empowerment Buffs

To receive an Empowerment Buff, you must first have access to an Empowerment Station, which is generally part of a Supergroup Base. If you’re in a Supergroup that has an Empowerment Station, you only need certain pieces of salvage to trigger the stations.

Empowerment Stations look like this (all following pictures from ParagonWiki):

Arcane Empowerment Stations

From left: Enchanting Crucible (Tier 1), Arcane Crucible (Tier 2), Mystic Crucible (Tier 3)

Tech Empowerment Stations

From left: Radiation Emulator (Tier 1), Linear Accelerator (Tier 2), Supercollider (Tier 3)

It doesn’t really matter which type (Arcane or Tech) you go with–it’s mostly a cosmetic difference to match the theme of your base. What matters is that these stations, when activated with invention salvage of varying types, can give you buffs to your resistance to damage, your attack speed, and tons of other cool effects.

Example: Endurance Drain Resistance Buff for Fighting Malta Sappers

For instance, to fight Malta (and the resident Sappers who eat your Endurance when they shoot you), you’ll definitely need the Endurance Drain Resistance bonus–just feed a Hydraulic Piston into the Empowerment Station! You might not think this helps, but it surely does–I’ve been able to make it through a whole Malta battle without having to Rest or eat Catch a Breaths like Bon Bons.

Make Sure Your Empowerment Station Is Fully Upgraded!

There are three levels of Empowerment Stations–Tier 1, 2, and 3, as I noted in the pictures above–and the Tier 3 station will give you access to all the buffs you’ll ever need. However, to be able to build a Tier 3 station, your Supergroup needs a LOT of prestige. Also, you’ll have to buy and build the other two levels of Empowerment Stations first; Tier 1 stations are used to craft Tier 2 stations, and Tier 2 stations are used to craft Tier 3 stations.

When you upgrade stations, you still have access to the previous level’s buffs, so it’s worth it to upgrade when you can.

Find out more about Empowerment Stations (and how to craft them for your Supergroup Base) here: Empowerment Base Items.

What Kind of Salvage Makes Empowerment Buffs?

Salvage of all different level ranges can make Empowerment Buffs–it just depends on what buff you’re after and what level you are. Most of the required salvage for Empowerment Buffs is common salvage, but some buffs require uncommon salvage. Also, some buffs only need one piece of salvage, some need two, and some need three.

A complete table of Empowerment Buffs and the salvage it takes to create them can be found here: Empowerment Buff Recipes and Ingredients. Depending on whether you have an Arcane or Tech Empowerment Station, the salvage recipes will vary slightly for most of the buffs.

It’s a good idea to keep a stash of common and uncommon Invention Salvage in your Supergroup Base (or on your individual characters) that matches up with your characters’ needs. For instance, if your Scrapper keeps getting knocked back all the time, making it impossible to fight, you might benefit from the Knockback Protection Empowerment Buff. Therefore, you might want to carry the salvage that the buff requires (see the list here).


Using Empowerment Buffs might require a little time investment, but if it helps you get through mission arcs full of maddening enemy attacks, it could reduce frustration by 17.5%! 😛

The Slow, Agonizing Death of AE Missions

Author’s Note: Though this post references the currently slumbering MMO City of Heroes, it’s an important historical post because it reminds us players of what we need to be careful of if/when the game returns. I’d like to see true Architect Entertainment missions enjoy a renaissance along with the game itself!

Architect Entertainment missions (also known as AE missions) enjoyed a great popularity when issue 14 of City of Heroes/Villains was released back in 2009. For the first time, City of Heroes players could write their own missions and have other players play them, instead of doing runs of the same in-game content over and over again. The week i14 released, you couldn’t even walk your character by the Architect Entertainment buildings without lagging, because there were so many heroes crammed inside waiting to take part in the new facet of gameplay.

But in 2011, just two scant years after the AE system was introduced, the AE building stood mostly deserted. If you came in to play a player-created arc, you likely had the run of the whole place to yourself. New players didn’t even know what the building was for, because nobody much played there anymore.

As a CoH player who dabbled in creating her own arcs (and as a player with an arc-crazy boyfriend), I’ve wondered why this creative outlet lost its charm, when it had been such a hopping, popular place to be for months on end after its addition. But, with a little digging, I believe I discovered at least some of the reasons why the AE mission system’s novelty wore off:

“XP Farm” missions were outlawed.

When the AE building was first unveiled, crafty and clever gamers were quick to jump on the bandwagon of making missions–but these players were making missions that focused solely on gaining XP, throwing storylines and character creation completely out the window. Some missions were created around enemies that wouldn’t fight back, so they were easy kills; others were made of thousands of copies of the same purple Elite Boss enemy, so the XP was maximized and the sheer challenge level was lifted. These and other types of missions like these were called “farms,” because you could easily gain XP from them.

Needless to say, the game developers were not happy with this–suddenly, people were leveling their characters so fast that it wasn’t even about enjoying the gameplay anymore, but about having the most level 50 characters! Thus, the devs began to put in place several “safeguards” against farm creation in the Architect Mission editor (for instance, you couldn’t pick enemy groups that don’t fight back), which lowered the power levels of these “farm” missions severely. (Not to say that all farm missions were gone–they just became less XP-crazy than before.)

More interesting in-game content was added.

The AE building predated several of the most important game updates: the Going Rogue expansion, Alignment Missions, and the Incarnate system. All 3 of these innovations drew attention away from the AE system.

Going Rogue

The Going Rogue expansion box allowed for two totally new character alignments (Vigilante and Rogue), as well as the ability to cross Heroes over to City of Villains, and vice versa. Not only that, but there was a whole new area of the game to explore, a group of three islands known collectively as Praetoria (a level 1 to 20 city).

Alignment Missions

Players suddenly got the chance to change their status from “Hero” to “Villain” (or vice versa) with what were called “Tip” missions, or spur-of-the-moment missions you could run in any zone you happened to be in. “Tip” missions aided a player’s ability to either reinforce their character’s current alignment or to start the process of changing alignment.

For instance, I had a Villain character that I wanted to change over to Hero, so I ran 10 Heroic Tip missions, then a Morality Mission that allowed me to change my alignment to Rogue. From there, I was able to run 10 more Heroic Tip missions and another Morality Mission that allowed me to finally change over to Hero. The Tip missions were fairly easy to complete and didn’t require returning to a contact, so they were much faster and easier processes, while still being good ways to gain XP, especially with a team.

The Incarnate System

Lastly, with the game update called issue 20, the game developers released the Incarnate in-game content, made specifically for level 50 characters. Pre-issue 20, City of Heroes mirrored real life in a way–your character got to level 50 (was done leveling up), and they didn’t really get to do anything more of importance except make you double money every time you defeat a bad guy. It was like a middle-aged person having worked 30 strong years only to retire, sit at home, and do nothing.

With the addition of Incarnate content, there was suddenly something to strive for on your level 50 toons. Not only were there new challenges to unlock (like the super-challenging Incarnate Trials), but a whole new system of upgrading your character’s performance, called the Incarnate slot, was unveiled. Now you could potentially choose to upgrade all your characters’ powers at once with one Enhancement, to boost Damage, Accuracy, Endurance Cost, or Recharge Time. In short, there was a reason to play your level 50 characters again, those characters that you worked so hard on. Thus, less attention was paid to AE missions.

There was very little special reward for playing AE missions, outside of getting AE Tickets and a few badges.

AE Tickets could purchase in-game Invention Salvage, Enhancement Recipes, Inspirations…and very little else. It wasn’t exactly the most enticing prize ever. Not to mention that the CoH developers began to dislike the system itself because of all the farm missions, which meant they withdrew much of their official support. While the AE system was still an occasional showcase for creative talent, it wasn’t attractive to most players, who were not willing to put that much effort into creating their own game content.

The “rating” and “searching” system for player-created missions was idiotic at best.
Picture this: when you finished playing an AE mission, you had the option to rate it and type in a comment, which was then sent as a private message to the author of the mission. But since most people don’t like giving 5-star (top) ratings to just any mission, they often just gave a mission 4 stars.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? But in fact, when you rated a player-created mission 4 stars, you doomed that player to never having their mission played again. Basically, if a mission didn’t show up on the first 3 pages of the Architect Editor’s simplistic search function, nobody saw it, and so nobody would play it unless you talked it up on the CoH forums or to other players directly. There is a reason players referred to this phenomenon as “Four-Star Hell”–when your mission dropped to a 4-star rating, you could just about trust that your hard work wasn’t going to be seen by other players. (Trust me. I made a mission that got rated 4 stars, and it got maybe 5 plays over a 16 month period–and it only got that because my boyfriend suggested it to a team I was playing on.)

There was really no way to type in a “type” of mission and search for it–you either had to know the mission arc’s ID number/title, or you needed to know the author name. Again, nobody was willing to put in that kind of effort for a game, so the same old missions on pages 1-3 of the AE Machine got played over and over again.

What Could Be Done Differently This Time Around?

  1. Giving some kind of more tangible reward, such as a special costume choice, extra influence, a cool power, etc., for mission creators; maybe even extending that to players who do certain numbers of AE missions.
  2. Making it possible to search missions by keyword, custom character names, enemy groups used, etc–in essence, making the search engine more diversified.
  3. Supporting mission creators by picking a mission with very few plays and hyping it every week or every month–just knowing that someone else actually cares about player-created missions is a huge boost for shy creators like me who don’t like to holler and shout about their creations.

These are just my ideas–what do y’all think?

Stress Test: Being the Healer

Players of MMOs, like World of Warcraft and City of Heroes, know the value of a “healer”–the character who heals damage in a team, so that the team’s big bruisers and snipers stay alive long enough to do their job. Healers are always in demand, whether a group is advertising for a priest or for an Empath; they know they will need someone backing them up with supportive, team-oriented powers.

But not everyone is cut out to play a Healer. If you like to deal lots of damage and kick a bunch of butt, the Healer class is not for you. If you don’t like playing with other people, and prefer to go your own way, the Healer class is also not for you. Creating and playing a Healer is about being defensive and supportive, being team-oriented, and most of all, maintaining that team as long as you can. It can be a lot of hard work, but I like to think of it as a “stress test.” If you can handle being a Healer, you can handle just about anything the game throws at you.

Throughout this article, I’ve used actual screenshots from a session of playing Lyssadia, my Empathy/Energy Blast Defender. Empath Defenders are one of the most common builds for Healers in City of Heroes, and Energy Blast typically knocks enemies back so that they are stunned for a few seconds, so her attacks still work to support the team.

Healers have to care. A LOT.

No longer can you just run ahead of your team, heedless of everything the other players are doing, and shoot or slash the living daylights out of everything. If you’re a healer, you need to care about what your team is doing, because without you to back them up, they can easily get wiped out in the middle of a big enemy spawn.

You also need to care about the welfare of each of your teammates mid-battle. Your particular MMORPG, like City of Heroes, may allow you to have a sort of “Team Window” where you can monitor each member’s health and other vital stats.

This little window is a godsend for healers. Out to the side, you can see all the little icons representing many of the buffs each character has on them–this helps me figure out who needs which buff, who needs healing, etc. I just look for the bright green icons to know whether I’ve buffed somebody recently, and I can easily watch their red Health and blue Endurance bars, too.

Believe me, as a person who’s played just about every Archetype available in City of Heroes/Villains, damage-dealing characters do depend on their healer teammates to be the “net,” to catch them if they fall! Caring healer players can literally be the saviors of their teams during huge battles.

Healers have to be responsible.

Caring also entails responsibility. You have to be paying attention to where the team is going, not wandering off randomly by yourself because you accidentally closed your Map (*raises hand* Guilty). You also need to scan the battlefield at all times, not just focus on the particular enemy or ally in front of you. This helps you stay alert to rapidly-changing battle events.

For example, here’s what happens when you focus too long on one particular thing as a Healer:

I’ve selected one of my teammates’ names in the Team Window at left, denoted by the white box around the name, and have just healed him close to full health. My own health bar isn’t looking so great, though, because in healing my teammate, I’ve come a little too close to the battle front.
See all those red numbers above Lyssadia’s golden halo? That means somebody’s damaging her. The red and blue bars just above the halo show her health and endurance–her blue endurance bar is nearly full, but her red health bar is almost half gone. I have to get her out of the line of fire fast!

Healers have to be careful not to make themselves targets; that’s one reason I say to keep moving and keep watching your screen. Otherwise, you can end up with one very dead Healer…

(This is what happens when I’ve gotten a little overzealous shooting stuff and forgotten to heal myself. Poor Lyssadia. Learn from my fail.)

Healers have to FOLLOW the team, not lead.

Healers actually work best at bringing up the rear–many healers have secondary attacks that they can fire off to prevent a few straggling baddies from stabbing the group in the back, and you can also monitor your teammates more carefully if you are behind them rather than in front of them. As the healer, don’t be the first to fling an attack or explore ahead of your group, because this is a good way to get your Empath character killed.

(Through the confusion of colors, you can see the two names in green in this screenshot–those are my two teammates up ahead of me. Since I’m behind them, I can visually monitor what is going on, and I can click-and-heal them if I need to.)

Several of my healers can fly, so usually I will hover above the fracas, healing, buffing, and offering a bit of cover fire when needed. This elevated position helps a Healer see more of the battlefield, and it can keep you in range of allies who would otherwise be out of range of targeted heals and buffs. Whether you choose to fight from the air or ground, however, it’s important to stay in a central position in the team–if you’re too far forward or too far back, you might not be close enough to a teammate to help them.

Here’s Lyssadia in flight, going “pewpewpew” at the Auto Turret in her sights. My teammates were still in sight in the larger version of this screenshot, so I could take a few shots, then heal or buff if necessary.

Healers have to heal/buff first and fight second.

Even though most healers on City of Heroes are ranged attackers as well, they really work best if you focus on buffing everyone and healing everyone first, and only attacking if absolutely necessary. It can be very tempting to start fighting along with your teammates if you start taking damage yourself, but stay the course–if you can keep your teammates alive by a few well-timed heals and buffs thrown their way, then you won’t have to worry very much about taking damage!

(In this shot, I’ve targeted onto one of my teammates, marked by the green box around his character, and am sending an application of Fortitude his way, which will increase his Damage Resistance to just about every type of damage for 1 minute.)

Healers have to focus.

Eating, watching TV, or doing anything else while trying to play a healer will not work. Even if you can type quickly, sometimes even chatting with your teammates takes too much attention away from the job at hand. Since much of the team depends on you to keep them in fighting shape, you have to maintain a focus that you don’t necessarily have to have when you’re playing a damage-dealing character.

It can be a bit stressful, especially if you’re trying to keep up with a team whose members don’t talk about what they’re going to do before they do it. But if you’ve got a good team going, with lots of communication, it’s relatively easy to stay focused.

(I’m staying a bit further back from the fray in this shot, because there are still several high-level enemies alive, but my teammates are generally mopping ’em up okay. I just need to be alert in case a teammate gets caught unawares by an enemy shot. This time, I’m not making Lyssadia fly into the fight just to get shot!)


Playing a healer does require a bit more work, but it is a very rewarding type of character to play if you enjoy being needed. It’s a team-oriented mindset that can make battle less boring and more involved…for certain, it is a VERY different kind of challenge. If you’ve never played a Healer before, give it a shot!

Building a Better Team Support Toon, Part 2

As I discussed in part 1 of this topic last Thursday, team support is made up of a conscientious playstyle and helpful powers. Part 1 showed how any player’s toon, no matter how damage-dealing, can be equipped with some team-support powers that boost effectiveness in large teams.

Today, I’m going to go through the natural team-support power trees available in the game–these are generally only available to Defenders, Controllers, Corruptors, and Masterminds.

Cold Domination

Available to: Controllers, Corruptors, Defenders
Best for: Debuffing enemies, buffing allies
Complete List of Powers

Cold Domination coats your allies in icy armor so that they can resist many types of damage; you can also slow your enemies’ movement, recharge rates, and even reduce their ability to damage you or your allies. It can be a great fit for an Ice Control Controller who wants to maintain thematic attacks, or really for any of the three builds to get some strong debuffs and buffs.

Dark Miasma/Darkness Affinity

Available to: Corruptors, Masterminds, Defenders; Controllers get Darkness Affinity instead
Best for: Healing, resurrecting, & hiding allies; debuffing and holding enemies
Dark Miasma Power List/Darkness Affinity Power List

Dark Miasma/Darkness Affinity does a little bit of everything–a little heal and rez, a little stealth, a little scaring the pants off your foes, and even a little damage thrown in there for good measure. You generally suck health or stats away from the bad guys and give it to yourself and your team around you. It’s a great power set for toons who need to be a backup healer for a team, since the heal and rez both require Accuracy checks to work, but I have also had success being the main healer for a team on a Dark Miasma Corruptor. Playing your Dark Miasma/Darkness Affinity character carefully (i.e., not running into the fray like a Tank–guilty as charged) will yield better results.


Available to: Defenders, Controllers
Best for: Healing, resurrecting & buffing allies
Complete List of Powers

Empathy is the go-to set for healing, for the most part, but it’s not the only healing set out there. It is, however, a set that doesn’t require Accuracy checks for healing. You can boost your allies’ Regeneration and Recovery rates (how fast they heal and regain endurance), as well as buffing them against all types of damage, and helping them resist negative status effects like Sleeps and Holds.

Force Field

Available to: Defenders, Controllers, Masterminds
Best for: Buffing allies, controlling enemies
Complete List of Powers

Force Field ally buff powers help your allies avoid getting hit in the first place; the occasional foe captures, knockbacks, and disorients you can fire off help your teams survive big enemy spawns. It’s not one of the more popular choices, but I find that Force Field toons just make the rest of the team’s jobs easier. It’s easier to mow down enemies when you’re not taking as much damage, and with your enemies either struggling to get back on their feet or wandering around drunkenly, it’s a much shorter battle. You, as the Force Field toon, may not do a lot of damage, but you are invaluable to the team.


Available to: Defenders, Controllers, Corruptors
Best for: Healing and buffing allies; debuffing and controlling enemies
Complete List of Powers

This set, along with Empathy, is renowned for its buffs (Speed Boost and Increase Density, for instance), but it’s also a passable healing set as well as a debuff set. I don’t have a lot of experience with my Kinetics character so far, but in the midst of battle, she’s very efficient at pulling health off bosses (much like Dark Miasma). I also find that the debuffs, much like Force Field, make the team’s job of owning face much easier–it pulls away speed and Recovery rate from your enemies, weakening them.

Nature Affinity

Available to: Controllers, Corruptors, Defenders, Masterminds
Best for: Heals and buffs with a few debuffing effects
Complete List of Powers

This power set forms a perfect thematic set with Plant Control, since most of its powers are defensive and protective. LOTS of healing, lots of buffing, and just a bit of enemy damage through poison and holds means that Nature Affinity is a good alternative to Empathy, Radiation Emission, and Kinetics. (For instance, Lifegiving Spores giving both +Regen and +Recovery? AWESOME!)

Pain Domination

Available to: Corruptors, Masterminds
Best for: Healing with a large side of combat boosts and tricks.
Complete List of Powers

Pain Domination is like Empathy with teeth–you’ve still got heals and buffs, but there are some seriously powerful enemy debuffs hidden within those powers, too. This is a great set for a multitasking healer who doesn’t have time to heal/buff and damage/debuff in separate actions. (Conduit of Pain as a retaliatory Rez is hilarious!)


Available to: Controllers, Corruptors, Masterminds
Best for: Damaging enemies, healing and buffing (occasionally)
Complete List of Powers

Poison is best for somebody who doesn’t want or need to play healer much, but does want to debuff enemies in all sorts of ways, reducing defenses, resistances, speed, To-Hit, and even Regen rate. There are some healing/buffing powers, and even a limited Rez (Elixir of Life), but this is more in the capacity of “emergency healer” rather than “primary healer.” Bright side: the debuffs alone should make it pretty easy for a team to mow through enemies, rendering the healing less necessary anyway!

Radiation Emission

Available to: Defenders, Controllers, Corruptors
Best for: Healing, resurrecting, and buffing allies; debuffing enemies
Complete List of Powers

This power set is one-half of the popular Controller build called “Ill/Rad,” or Illusion Control/Radiation Emission. It’s a potent healing set, not quite on par with Empathy, but pretty close, from my estimation. I’ve seen Radiation Emission toons be the main healers of a team, or sometimes the secondary healer–it depends on your playstyle. They also are great for debuffing enemies, bringing down their ability to recharge, to move quickly, to damage you or your allies, or even be able to hit you at all. There’s also a surprising damaging attack late in the set, when all else fails!

Storm Summoning

Available to: Controllers, Corruptors, and Masterminds
Best for: Debuffing and controlling enemies; buffing and healing allies
Complete List of Powers

I’ve played a Storm Summoning Controller for a good while, and I find that the power set is best for locking enemies in place and debuffing them. Heals and buffs are few and far between, which means that your Storm Summoning toon won’t be the main healer, but you can be backup healer in a pinch. The storms are great for debuffing and knocking around your enemies, and it does a good bit of damage (at least, for a team-support character!). While they’re busy trying to recover from what you’ve done to them, your teammates are mowing ’em down. Fun fun!

Sonic Resonance

Available to: Defenders, Controllers, Corruptors
Best for: Buffing allies, debuffing enemies
Complete List of Powers

This is a pretty basic set, and not a very popular one…but I disagree with popular opinion. Played right, your Sonic Resonance toon can make enemies up to 50% less resistant to all types of damage. What does this mean? It means that your team mows through high-level bad guys as if they were your level, demolishing them in 5 seconds or less rather than standing there slashing for close to a minute. (I didn’t know just how much this would make a difference until I played a Sonic Resonance toon of my own, and saw how cool it was.) Debuffs aside, there are also some great team buffs for Defense and Damage Resistance, but you need to be in the middle of your team to make sure everybody is getting the benefit.

Thermal Radiation

Available to: Controllers, Corruptors, and Masterminds
Best for: Healing, resurrecting, and buffing allies; debuffing enemies
Complete List of Powers

This set is more like Empathy in that none of your healing powers require an Accuracy check; however, your buffs and debuffs make up more of your power tree. Thermal Radiation toons help their teams by keeping them shielded from harm, boosting their fighting abilities, and drawing stats away from your enemies. I don’t have a lot of experience with my Thermal Radiation character as of yet, but I like how her powers work so far–everything helps my teammates, even when I target an enemy!

Time Manipulation

Available to: Controllers, Defenders, Corruptors, and Masterminds
Best for: Recharging allies’ powers, boosting ToHit, healing, and enemy debuff
Complete List of Powers

Time Manip toons help with combat by boosting +Recharge, +Damage, and +ToHit, as well as bringing down enemy defenses and resistances…AND there’s healing, too! It’s an excellent power set for somebody who doesn’t just want to be “the healer” for a team, since these powers facilitate battle for the rest of the team. (Farsight and Temporal Selection are standout buffs, while Temporal Mending looks like a great Heal!)


Available to: Corruptors, Defenders, Masterminds
Best for: Enemy debuff and damage
Complete List of Powers

Traps aren’t necessarily your typical “team support” tree, but they can help a team weaken/get rid of very large mobs, which is supportive in its own way, much like Controllers’ Primary Power Sets. A Traps toon can’t do much healing, but the Force Field Generator and Triage Beacon can help in a pinch. Otherwise, you can pretty much pick your preferred flavor of debuff (Caltrops, Acid Mortar, Time Bomb, etc.), and run with it!

Trick Arrow

Available to: Controllers, Corruptors, Defenders, Masterminds
Best for: Enemy debuff
Complete List of Powers

Trick Arrows are purely for negatively affecting enemies, nothing else. Pull a Hawkeye and bring an arrow for all occasions–keep your enemy from flying, recharging their powers, recovering endurance, dealing damage, etc. Or you can use a couple of the arrow types to hold them in place, make them slip, or even put them to sleep! A toon with Trick Arrows can thus help a big team manage lots of enemies. (And, if you happen to be playing with a Fire toon, shoot a few Oil Slick Arrows for extra fun.)


Building a natural team support toon takes having a general idea of what you want to do with your team support powers, and which toon archetype you want to build on (Defender, Controller, Corruptor, Mastermind). But there are literally dozens of combinations that can make you able to support any team you work with!