The cottage rule sucks

For far too many years, the world of City of Heroes has been plagued by a rule called the cottage rule. A player once asked for a particular superpower to be rethought, and a developer — Castle, actually — responded by saying that changing that power into something else would be unfair to the players. After all, players had chosen that power based on its being a certain thing, doing a certain thing. Supposedly, it would be unfair if one day that player were to log in and find that his awesome, destructive power suddenly summoned a cottage. Thus was the cottage rule was born — from a terrible, off-the-cuff, straw-man comment on a forum.

In other words, the cottage rule gives the devs a handy excuse to never change anything they don’t feel like changing. The rule implies that the game is perfect, that the designers got it right the first time around, and that the players’ connection to their in-game skills is more sacrosanct than their being delivered a sound and ever-improving game.

Of course, we know none of these things is true, and so do the devs. They’ve revamped plenty of powersets when it suits them, most notably Regeneration, Icy Melee, Dark Armor, Storm Summoning, and so on. Defiance, Domination, and Vigilance have all been reworked extensively (I miss the days of calling Vigilance, Negligence). That inconsistency undermines the game and makes everyone wonder why the heck other relatively weak sets — Sonic Resonance, Electric Blast, Energy Blast, to name just a few — are still languishing thanks to the arbitrarily enforced cottage rule. The Defender sets annoy me the most; it wouldn’t even take much to fix these sets and put them on par with powerhouses like Radiation Emission and Dark Miasma. Reshuffle Cold’s powers so that the good stuff comes early! Make Sonic’s Clarity power a heal like Storm’s! Recast shield powers and Speed Boost as group buffs! These things are desired by the majority of the players and (more importantly) won’t break the game.

Granted, I don’t usually like arguments from the majority. Majorities are quite fond of oppressing minorities in the real world. But we’re talking about a superhero video game. At this point, I no longer care that five obstinate people work a hundred times harder to make Energy Blast’s knockback (nearly universally hated in the game) work for them. Why should the entire playerbase (and intelligent, dynamic game development) be held captive by a few contrarians? Enough already. Fix it or give us an IO to remove knockback entirely and call it a day.

The last year and a half of City of Heroes has been a whirlwind of changes that literally transformed the game from “just another tired old game that came out before World of Warcraft” into one of the very best casual MMOs on the market. Paragon Studios has turned the game around by doing lots of things the old dev team claimed were simply not possible. Don’t stop now — abandon the cottage rule while you’re at it. Tackle those mediocre powersets. Make me want to stay, because this long into the game’s life, I’m running out of good powersets to play and a cottage-based powerset sounds pretty interesting.

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  1. Chase Buretta says:

    Amazing POST! :D

  2. Julio Wytch says:

    Dude, that was a good post. Lovin your blog like crazy.”

  3. […] a long time, the cottage rule dominated CoH’s design — you know, that whole “we can’t fix broken powers […]

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