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Mission Architect Tutorial 400 Series

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Parent Article: Mission Architect Tutorial

Tutorial 401: MA Interface: Browse and Play Tab


The story browser - the small window with so many possibilities. This is the first window you see when you click on the Mission Architect computer. This little guide is here to help you try to get the most out of what you see.

So what is the story browser?

It's your gateway to endless possibility.

OK, that sounds a bit too ad-like for me. The Story Browser (my name for it) is your main interface for finding, browsing, creating and managing stories in the Mission Architect. It lets you search for stories others have written, check up on your own, see how your published stories are doing, and manage your custom characters and enemy groups.

It's a lot to ask from a little window.

First, a little terminology:

  • Published arc: These are arcs that a player has created and sent to the Architect servers. These are available to anyone, on either side (hero or villain) on any server. This does not mean you can team cross server, just that the arcs will be visible regardless of what server you are on.
  • Local arcs: These are arcs that are not published, but stored locally on your hard drive. You can email these files, upload them to a supergroup website or the like, and anybody can download them and play them - but they cannot be rated, and will not earn MA ticket rewards.
  • MA Tickets: This is an award given while playing through and submitting published arcs, unless those arcs become Dev's Choice arcs, in which case they won't drop Tickets, but regular drops of recipes, enhancements, and salvage. These tickets can be turned in at the Architect Engineering building for rewards such as salvage, recipes, and unlockable maps for use in your own adventures.

Your first look

When you first open up the window, you're going to see stories others have been submitting, as well as several tabs. The pages are limited to 25 story arcs per page. But we'll get to that in a moment.

Across the top, you have a few tabs. We'll go through them a tab at a time.

Browse and Play Tab

This is the active tab when you first open the mission architect. This allows you access to published arcs. You can simply scroll through the pages, but that's most inconvenient. Instead, use the Search Options tab.

Search Options

Clicking on Search options expands the screen slightly. You will have one line as a text area, just like a normal search. Just like the forum search, it will try to match the string itself. So if you search on the string POS, you'll find (as examples) arcs Positron has submitted, arcs named The Power of positive Thinking, arcs with "They find their positions reversed" in the description and the like - anything that has 'pos' in it.

Use this window for any text you think will describe what you're looking for. If you're looking for missions about Kheldians, look up "Kheld" (since it might be shortened.) Looking for a particular poster? Well, be careful, as the "by" line gives the name of the character the person was on when they posted it.

You'll see the text that you're filtering by show up next to "Search options" in blue (Filtering by: Text: pos, for example.)

The selections below it, though, are most useful.You have three dropdown menus and two radio buttons. Let's take a look:


Every arc can be rated. They will be anywhere from zero to five stars. In addition, there are two additional ratings - Hall of Fame (a "players choice") and Developer's Choice.

Every option except for "All" acts just like the team search window - you can choose multiple settings (for instance, if you just want to see unrated and five star missions, you can select both and not see missions without those ratings.) The only one that doesn't act that way is "All," which clears all the other selections.


Length gives you five choices, as well as "All." Very short, short, medium, long, and very long. The arc length is not dependant on the number of missions, but instead is based on the maps used - so you could have a two mission arc that's "Long," because of huge, multilevel maps, or you could have a five mission arc that's showing as "Very short."


This, I think, will get a lot of use. By default, it's set to "All." But this is also where you can search for missions of Villainous or Heroic inclination - so those of you making missions, be sure to mark this in the editor if you've got a target audience in mind! Note that any character can play any mission whether a hero playing a villainous mission or vice versa. The Morality setting is a suggestion.

Only show me arcs

Here we have two radio buttons that will help you find new content. You can select either one of these so you only see missions you haven't played, or that you haven't voted on. They are exclusive - if you select one, the other cannot be selected. And of course, just click on whichever IS selected to remove that selection completely.


When you have the options you want, click the "Search" button on the right and it will bring up your results. To start a whole new search, click "Clear" and it will set it back to defaults.


As mentioned, just scrolling down the list will give 25 missions. There are sure to be many more than that published. You can just jump to a page of results by clicking on the page number. There is, at time of writing, no page back/forward functionality.

Sort tabs

There are also three tabs you can sort by. Rating, Length and Date. Click on each to select it as a sort criteria. Click again to switch between ascending and descending results.

The mission list/search results

Now for the meat of the window - the mission (or search result) list. The results look pretty straightforward:

  • Mission title
  • By Publishing character (space) Publish date (space) Length: Rated: (raters)

So an example listing would look like:

  • The Rockinist Arc Ever [+]
  • by publishing character 05/15/09 Length: Long Rated **** (57)

There are also three other things you may see that highlight Celebrity Author, Dev Choice, and Hall of Fame. Hall of Fame missions will have a gold background and a green "badge" with a yellow star by the play button. Developers Choice will be a lighter green and have a gold trophy on a red background.

Now, while all this is good information, it may not tell you enough to help you decide if you want to play it. Here's a tip - click the plus sign in mission listing. The information will expand, and give you more information, like so:

The Second Rockinist Mission Ever
by Leet Missioneer
Arc ID 449
Rated **** Excellent! (5)
Length: Medium
First published 9/19/2009
Morality: Villainous
Mission 1: Large size map, level range 31-45, contains Ally
Mission 2: Medium size map, level range 10-25, contains Patrol
Mission 3: Unique map, level range 1-4, contains boss
Mission 4: Medium map, contains Collection
Mission 5: Unique map, level 40-50, contains Boss
Enemy groups: 5th Column
Description: It's a really really good mission, really!

Celebrity Authors will also have an "About the author" listing.

As you can see, you now know the enemy groups (including "Custom") you will face, you can see the level range jumps around a lot, get an idea of what you'll be facing (bosses, glowies, allies, etc.) and the designer's comments, as well as that it's a Villainous mission.

When you find the mission you want, click "Play." You'll get a warning that you're entering Architect mode. Hit accept. The hologram in front of you will turn into a contact - talk to them, and gooooo into the liiiiight...

Exiting a mission arc

There are two ways to exit a mission arc.

  1. Architect options: This window will pop up a new screen where you can send a comment, rate the mission and quit the arc.
  2. Team window: Just like in Ouroboros, select "Quit task force."

Tutorial 402: MA Interface: My Creations Tab

This window is mostly the same as the "Browse and play" window, including how arcs are presented and how you can get information on them. What you'll notice differently are four tabs.

  • My local stories
  • My published stories
  • My characters
  • My enemy groups

We'll go over these, and the files they may make on your local system.

Local system?

Yes. PC users (sorry Mac and Cedega/WINE, I have no idea about you guys) will find, if you go to your installation directory (by default c:\program files\city of heroes) a few new folders once you make missions:

  • \Missions
  • \Custom_Critter
  • \CustomVillainGroup

The contents of these are related to what you see in the tabs. First, though, a bit of information.

Each account (not character) can have up to three published missions on the Mission Architect. Having one of those missions rated Developers Choice or Hall of Fame will move them from your published slots, and free one up. On the other hand, you can have as many unpublished missions as you want - these are just local files you can share. Each local mission can be up to 110 kb in size.

Now, let's look at the tabs.

My Local Stories

These are all of the files stored locally in your /mission directory. They end with a .storyarc extension. There is no limit, other than disk space, that we've found yet on these. This will also include, by the way, an .autosave while you're editing, so you will see duplicates at times. This is also a live list - if you're in the Story browser and someone emails you their .storyarc file, drop it in and it will show up immediately in your Local Stories.

They are listed, by default, as such:


So if you're editing an arc - we'll call it World Domination 101 -- and saving versions as you go, you may see five copies of it, but the filename would be different:

World Domination 101
File name: WD101
World Domination 101
File name: WD101-1
World Domination 101
File name: WD101-2
World Domination 101
File name: WD101-3
World Domination 101
File name: Autosave

Note that other that autosave, you must name them manually.

My Published Stories

This is much the same as the regular "Browse and play" section, except you have three buttons - Unpublish (which can switch to Republish,) Edit, and Play. If you pick Edit, be sure to use SAVE AS... to save the file with another name. Yes, it will autosave, but should anything happen with republishing (say, having all your arc slots full,) it will cancel and the changes will disappear.

Aside from being an easy way to find and replay your own missions, it's a fast place to reference your rating, too.

My Characters

Location: /Custom_Critter
File extension: .critter

This can be a long list. Every custom character you create will go into this list. If you just want to edit one, this might be the fastest way to go.

Note that if you have no local files and edit someone else's mission or a mission file from another system, the information on the critters WILL show up here. To save them, be sure to save them in the editor ("Save as...") or they will be gone when you restart (until you reopen the mission.)

My Enemy Groups

Location: /customvillaingroup
File extension: .cvg

Every group you create, whether it has custom critters, a mix of standard ones, or a combination of the two, becomes a Custom Villain Group (sometimes called in the interface an Enemy Group and by Developers as a Critter Group). This file takes all the information of each critter and compiles it into a Custom Villain Group.

Just like the Critter mention above, it can make a cached copy from an editable mission.