With the release of the latest COH expansion and the winds of change blowing, I decided it was time to play weatherman and speculate on where our game and community are headed. Here’s my take as a former top-ranked player.
Back in the stone age of the vCOH beta, it was rare to see more than 300 people online. I never remember seeing more than 3,000 online throughout all of regular vCOH. With the release of Opposing Fronts, the average number of players almost doubled. I was stunned to see 5,000 or 6,000 people online at peak hours. I was even more surprised to see peak numbers continue more than a year after the release of OF.
Yesterday, a new all-time high was reached: more than 10,400. While it’s true that single-player users are forced to login to Relic Online, they only account for about 30% to 40% of users online at any given time. This still leaves yesterday’s 10,400 figure well above previous OF highs. Despite the cries from the prophets of doom on GR.org, the game does not appear to be dying at all, but is growing larger.
What does this mean? It means COH may have the numbers to support multiple community sites, more pro-level players, and larger, more frequent tournaments due to a larger advertising base for sponsors. Think PC hardware, software, gaming companies and even soft drinks and snacks targeted at the coveted 18-34 young male gamer demographic.
Way more cowbell
Since the days of vCOH, the amount of cowbell — by which I mean bells and whistles — in the game has increased exponentially. Once, we made do with spartan features and caveman-like balance. It took a post-release OF patch just to get arranged 2v2. New maps, game modes and even frivolous units have been added.
The community sites have also evolved. Anyone remember the days when replays were posted in a new topic on a special part of GR.org? The number of shoutcasts, videocasts and players using in-game broadcasting has gone up and up over time. I only hope that the addition of more cowbell doesn’t stop people from remembering they bought COH to play it, not just to read about it, study it, or watch other people play it.
It’s my opinion that the new, interchangable units from ToV represent a new shift in the way expansions will be released for COH. In the future, I believe there will be a number of new units coming out for existing armies alongside new factions, doctrines and maps. Since these units aren’t actually being added to the old armies but are potential replacements for existing ones, the diversity of each faction could increase.
This depends largely on balance and design. If the new units are simply better versions of the old one, then there is no real choice. Players who want to win will always choose the stronger unit no matter how lame it is or how many people try and put them down for playing to win. If Relic gets the new units right, there will be a paradigm shift in the metagame. Players will need to select units to fit their intended strategies and to counter potential opposing strategies.
Because it’ll be impossible for players to tell which units their opponent has selected before they appear in-game, a new dynamic will be created, one with interesting implications. Automatch players will need to construct versatile armies to face a large number of possible maps and opponents. Tournament players will have the opportunity to build highly specialized armies to maximize results against the expected opponent, army and map.
Note my use of the word the word “expected.” Say I’m playing Morelloo in a match. He knows from my replays that I like to build army X. So he chooses a new specialized army, Y, to counter my X. Except I anticipated this and built army Z which is totally different from army X and isn’t countered by Y. The potential for custom army poker is high, and Relic will need to get the interchangeable units just right to prevent a breakdown in balance.
Thats all the baseless reading of tea leaves I have time for today, and I’ll leave you all with an example of other top COH players making predictions.