If you're not happy with the numerous groups that you've seen around the game's missions, the Architect lets you populate your stories with your own custom characters and groups. Create a group, and then populate it with gang members. Add descriptions to let everyone know you've thought it through.
I called my guys the Loveless Unborn because it sounds like a subtitle to the Crow movies without actually meaning anything. I like to imagine the LU minions muttering to themselves, waiting to be killed by a hero.
"Unborn? How does being unborn make us cool? Undead, maybe. Undesirables, definitely. But Unborn? It's bullshit, man. I wish I was in the Titanium Nutsacs, those guys really know how to throw a party."
You don't have the power to model and skin your characters - keeping it simple, remember - but you do have access to the excellent character creation set. It's no Spore Creature Creator, but the ability to create such a fantastic range of convincing comic-book characters is one of the City of Heroes' great accomplishments.
It's less suited to creating minions - by its nature, you'll end up fighting people who look like superheroes - and you won't be able to create the variety of creatures you'll find in the pre-defined NPCs. But the ability to create your own gangs, gang descriptions - essentially, your own lore - is a compelling addition.
Help Is At Hand
I've got this far - a playable mission that's not unlike a Paragon City tutorial mission - simply by exploring the interface, and doing what seemed to make sense. To Paragon's credit, it's been a complete doddle. There's no scripting knowledge required at all, everything's presented in plain English (as plain as a superhero MMO mission-creator allows, anyway), and as I've already mentioned, the help fields are all detailed enough to eliminate the need for a manual.
When you do make a mistake, the error reporting is both simple, and a useful tool to fix your mistakes. Every element of the error report is a link that takes you to the box that needs work. And it doesn't just spot empty required fields - if you create a mission where every objective is dependent on the completion of another objective, then it spots game-crippling logical flaws, and won't let you test or publish it.
So, I've created four missions, given the Loveless Unborn a personality (they prefer Lily Allen to Kate Nash, and don't think much to Katy Perry) and populated the gang with three distinct units. I feel like I'm nearly finished, but I've not reached 25 per cent of the size limit. To get nearer to that 100 per cent - which I have to remind myself is a limit, not a goal - I decide to chain together some advanced objectives.
I'm happy with my second mission - a heart-breaking metaphor for love, expressed through the medium of searching seven desks for something that was in your pocket all along. So I'm ready to spruce up Mission 3, which at the minute has quest-giving text that reads: "CAN YOU GO OVER THERE AND OBEY THE DEFAULT TEXT PROMPTS PLS"
So what can you do, apart from the four basics of Kill Everyone, Search Stuff, Fight A Boss, and Free A Captive?
Add an ally: This puts a character into the level that'll fight alongside you. Useful for balancing out a harder level, and you can choose where, roughly, in the level they'll join you. By roughly, I mean beginning, middle, end. The Ally can be on her own, or surrounded by enemies of any difficulty, and you can have her fight with full aggressive AI, or hang around and be an escort-style victim. You can also make her say things at certain trigger events, allowing you 50 or so characters to build her personality.
Add an ambush: Other missions have key moments - completion, for example - and you can flag these moments as a trigger for an ambush. A drop down menu appears here, listing all your available triggers, and you can select who'll attack from the pre-set or custom groups.
Add an escort: Select the character you'll meet (using the pre-set or custom characters as usual) and then decide if you want them to betray the players. Most of this objective's details are calculated automatically - the path you'll take, when it'll finish - but it's a good stepping stone to an ambush or a battle.
Add a patrol: You can only select one group of enemies for the mission - adding a patrol gives you more flexibility to mix up the characters. It also gives you a chance to throw in some expositional dialogue, such as "I hate patrolling caves," or "The boss just texted me to say he needs two more Rubidium crystals. So inappropriate. I'm just a minion, that shit should be on a need-to-know basis."
Add a battle: You can't have anything as epic as the battles in the main game, but you can trigger battles between two sets of NPCs. You can have one set as allies, or have both turn on you. Leave them to it, though, and they'll damage and kill each other.
Add a destructible / defendable object: Make the players destroy or defend an object from the game's library of models.