Archive for City of Heroes

After the End of the World

Well, City of Heroes, the best dang superhero MMO ever, was shut down in the wee hours of this morning, and I got to stay online and enjoy the ride clear up to the final disconnect notice.

I played City of Heroes for over eight years. I didn’t get in at the very beginning, ’cause I had to get a new computer that was able to run it. And I had a few periods when I wasn’t playing, either because life was too busy, or because my old computer went kaput and I wasn’t able to play anything. And I’m really glad I got to play all that time. I’m even glad I got to play clear ’til the game shut down. I know people who were so upset about the game ending that they didn’t play anymore — every time they logged in, they were overcome with sadness. I don’t blame them a bit — I think I’ve been adjusting fairly well, but there’s no way to tell whether I’ll wake up tomorrow and go into a period of deep mourning about it.

I can guarantee I’ll very quickly miss flying over the casinos in St. Martial, or super-jumping across the rooftops of Steel Canyon and Talos Island, or zipping across Skyway City at superspeed. I’ll miss watching my mastermind’s robot minions tear through enemies, smashing through villains with my tanker, or blowing up cars and bank vaults with my brutes. I’ll miss sliding down the slopes in the ski chalet, watching costume contests in Atlas Park, hunting exploration badges, and finding the secret, hidden locations in each zone.

There are rumors that there may still be a chance to resurrect the game. Some of the players have speculated that NCSoft may have obscure legal reasons — possibly related to the $47 million judgment against them in the Richard Garriott lawsuit from a few years back — to want to shut the game down completely before offering it up for sale. If that’s the case, whoever ended up buying the IP and the servers would probably be able to get them for a lot less money. But I’m not comfortable assuming that’s going to happen. I think it’s probably better to expect it not to happen — to expect the game to be gone for good. If it is done for, the easier to get adjusted to that fact. If it comes back, well, that’s a happy surprise, isn’t it?

I don’t think there’s any way to question that City of Heroes did a lot of things right. The character creator is widely considered the best one ever made for any game — with a lot of people wondering why other games haven’t made similarly extensive ones. Likewise, the sidekicking system, which let players team up no matter what level they were, is something I just can’t believe hasn’t been adopted in every game out there. You could bring new players in, team them up with players who had already hit the level cap, and know that everyone was still going to have fun. The mission architect — which let players create and play their own missions — was an amazing accomplishment, even if they stumbled in implementing it.

They had some stunningly beautiful zones — Atlas Park, Founders Falls, Croatoa, Talos Island, St. Martial, just about every zone in Praetoria — and lots of amazing music. They had incredible details in the scenery that often had me sitting around and wondering what on earth it must be like to live in a place like Praetoria or the Rogue Isles.

And they did superheroics better than anyone else. I was never a roleplayer, but I loved getting to play all my characters — not just because they had great powers, but because I loved getting to imagine what they were thinking while they fought (or committed) crime. I wrote biographies for almost all of my characters, often before I got out of the tutorial. It was one thing to play the game — it was another to play while envisioning my characters’ motivations. That helped make it the most fun of all.

There were still some things that I wish had been done better. All of the most recent zones were very strongly horror-based, particularly First Ward, Night Ward, and the new Dark Astoria, which went from enjoyably creepy to unpleasantly scary and depressingly grim. I like horror a lot, ya know, but I think they really overdid things in their last few updates. I wanted to play a superhero and smash up the bad guys — I didn’t want to run around the nightmarish zone and deal with missions where the monsters told me I hated life, was chronically depressed, and wanted to be eaten by eldritch monster-gods.

The game never managed to do superstrength the right way. Superstrength really is the signature superhero power, but characters who had superstrength in City of Heroes only got to smash up bad guys a bit — it didn’t even do very much damage, compared to other powers. And you certainly couldn’t pick up a car and throw it at a bad guy. Both Champions Online and DC Universe Online had decent superstrength powers, but City of Heroes never managed it.

And really, I wanted a costume option for pencil-thin mustaches for years, and I never got it. How was I to recreate Mandrake the Magician without pencil-thin mustaches?

I’ve long wished that City of Heroes had gotten some more press within the comics community. The game got possibly its only mention on comics news websites like Comics Alliance when it was announced that it was closing — and Comics Alliance gave buckets of free publicity to every single press release for any computer games based on DC or Marvel comics. The occasional article about CoH on Comics Alliance or Comic Book Resources might’ve brought in a bit more cash for the best dang superhero MMO ever made.

But I don’t want to spend a lot of time with recriminations and complaints. I had a great time over the past eight years, and though I’m sad that the game is gone, I’m also very happy that it was ever made in the first place, and that the City of Heroes community, already known for being one of the strongest in the computer game community, got even stronger over the last few months. And the developers at Paragon Studios, who’ve been awesome from the first time they started work on the game, have gotten even cooler, too. City of Heroes gave me almost a decade of happy superheroic memories, and that’s a solid win in my book.

Was this a sad day? Yes, it was. There are lots of folks who I knew through this game who I’ll probably never meet again, whether online or in meatspace. There was a great deal of sorrow, not just sitting out in Atlas Park, but during our missions and taskforces. There were a lot of people bidding farewell to the characters they’d played — in some cases, they’d been playing these very same characters ever since they started the game, and they knew they’d never see them again, except in their own screenshots.

But more than anything else, we were all saying to ourselves, “What a great game. These last few years have been amazing. We had so much fun playing together and running around this great game world.” We were sad, but we also stuck around, not just because we enjoyed the game so much, but to pay tribute to the game creators and developers and to the players who have made the game so wonderful.

Hats off, ladies and gentlemen, for City of Heroes. May it live long in our memories.

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Friday Night Fights: City of Heroes Forever!

Okay, I was taking the week off, but I couldn’t say no to a little Friday Night Fights, could I?

Well, it’s November 30th, and in mere hours, City of Heroes, the best dang superhero MMO ever, will be shut down. The game’s owner, NCSoft, has shown more dedication and grit and focus in getting the game cancelled than anything else it did over the last eight years, and the loyal players and developers have been amazing and impressive in the ways they’ve worked to save the game. Unfortunately, it’s looking very clear that nothing is going to save the game, despite nearly the entire playerbase working together and supporting each other. So again, mere hours ’til the game’s servers are shut down. I expect to spend my last day in City of Heroes running missions and taskforces, and probably sitting around in Atlas Park outside of City Hall, reminiscing about how much fun we’ve all had.

I’m gonna miss this game a lot, not just because I loved playing superheroes and supervillains, not just because the costume creator was the best ever made for a game, not just because of all the friendships I made with other players. But also because it was fun to drop some whupass on the bad guys.

So, from the minds of Cryptic Studios and Paragon Studios, here are the heroes and villains of City of Heroes. Please give it up for…

The Orange Avenger!

Necrovora!

Miss Mega!

Jonni Rotten!

Beelzebambi!

The Brain from Planet 7!

Blue Heaven!

Murderin’ Jack!

Talon-12!

Waterspout!

Plutonium Lass!

Justice Gal!

The game may end tonight, but in my imagination, they’ll be fighting the good fight forever.

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Final Heroes

I’m taking most of this week off blogging. I’ve got plenty of comics to review, but right now, I’ve got a leisure activity I’d prefer to focus on for now.

As I’ve mentioned before, my beloved City of Heroes is shutting down at the end of this week. I’m still not real happy about that, but I’d like to spend as much time as I can this week running around Paragon City and the Rogue Isles — and I can’t do that if I’m coming home and worrying about how I’m going to fill up a blog post.

So no blogging for most of this week. If you’re playing CoH, I hope I’ll get to see you online, and we can toast this mad, glorious game in its final days.

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City of Heroes to Hang up its Cape

This weekend, I fought my own evil twin, a giant squid, and three giant robots. I traveled through time and to alternate dimensions. I beat up ninjas, steampunk automatons, ghost pirates, zombies, murderous gnomes, alien invaders, and a homeless guy wearing a broken TV over his head.

I’m going to miss “City of Heroes” so very much.

Last Friday afternoon, those of us who are players on “City of Heroes” got a very unpleasant surprise — the publisher, NCSoft, was shutting down Paragon Studios, the game developers, as well as the game itself.

In a realignment of company focus and publishing support, NCsoft has made the decision to close Paragon Studios. Effective immediately, all development on City of Heroes will cease and we will begin preparations to sunset the world’s first, and best, Super Hero MMORPG before the end of the year. As part of this, all recurring subscription billing and Paragon Market purchasing will be discontinued effective immediately. We will have more information regarding a detailed timeline for the cessation of services and what you can expect in game in the coming weeks.

It looks like the game servers will remain operational through the end of November, but that hasn’t done much to pacify the game’s players, who are reacting with a combination of complete shock, furious anger, and abject sorrow. And I can’t say I can blame them.

I wasn’t able to play the game from the very beginning — I was actually waiting for a new computer to be delivered so I’d be able to play — but I’ve been a loyal player for over eight years. I never managed to get a whole lot of characters to the level cap, ’cause I’ve always been afflicted with alt-itis — addicted to creating more and more and more characters, too many to give them the right amount of playing time to get them to Level 50.

To say that I’m disappointed that the game’s going to be shut down in a few months is a vast understatement. It wasn’t as popular as games like World of Warcraft, but I thought it was a lot more fun, more innovative, with better storyarcs — it’s definitely light-years better than Champions Online and DC Universe Online, the other two superhero MMOs. I don’t know why NCSoft decided to shut the game down — they say it’s strictly a financial decision. That may be so, that may not be so.

This has been a game that let me fly around a giant city in colorful spandex, living out all my superhero dreams — and supervillain dreams, too, since you can play as a good guy or a bad guy. I got to beat up monsters and villains and gangsters, make awesome costumes in the best costume creator of any game out there, run missions that are exciting and funny and scary — and even cooler stuff than that.

Some of my best memories of the game aren’t even related to virtual crimefighting. I once attended an in-game wedding for some friends who were about to get married in real life. I once attended a memorial service for a player who had died — at least a hundred other players turned out to remember him. I once got hit on by a teenager who was hilariously horrified when he found out that, though I was playing a female character, I was actually a man. I made some great friends online, and I made some great friends who’ve since vanished and who I’d love to try to find again. And the best job interview I ever had in my life was for a position where I would’ve been working for NCSoft’s Austin office writing for the “City of Heroes” website. I didn’t get the job, but I never enjoyed an interview more, thanks to all the comics and game memorabilia scattered around the building.

So I want to thank the developers for making a great game and keeping it great for over eight years. I wanna thank the players for being awesome and fun and friendly and cool. I’ve never loved a game as much as I’ve loved this one, and I don’t know that I’ll ever find something as great to replace it with. I’ve got three months before the first and best superhero MMORPG goes away, and I’ll do everything I can to enjoy it while it lasts.

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Don't Bother Me! I'm Playing Video Games!

SuperMarioBros6

Hot dog, a new awesome update for City of Heroes! Ya know what that means? Wait, actually, I don’t care if you don’t know what that means — I’m too busy playing on the computer!

Here’s some links, so keep yer yaps shut while Daddy’s busy!

‘Scuse me, gotta fight cybernetic supervillains now. EAT RADIOACTIVE LASER BEAMS, EVILDOER SCUM!

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Happy Links!

A little of this, a little of that. Click away, gang!

  • A blog all about the comics of one of my favorite cartoonists, Jack Cole, creator of Plastic Man!
  • Here’s a really entertaining overview of the history of Captain Marvel by NPR, of all people.
  • And a nice article about the very close connections between the Apollo space program and Charles Schulz’s “Peanuts” comic strip.
  • Graeme McMillan ponders why Wonder Woman is such a hard character for people to get. (Simple answer: Superman and Batman are simple characters, and Wondy is much, much more complex.)
  • A bit of a longer rant, triggered by this post by Aaron Williams about the “City of Heroes” MMO game: The new “Mission Architect” feature, which lets players create their own missions and storyarcs for other players to enjoy, is in deep, deep trouble, despite being awesome beyond awesome. You can have only three games available for the other players to play, and even then, no one will ever play them because there’s no good way to promote your stories. My three published storyarcs (which feature evil undead monsters, a cheerleader cult, and my attempt at bleak horror) have been played by fewer than 20 people, and the other impossibly awesome stories I’ve designed (which feature battles against hero teams and villain teams, out-of-control robots, the world’s toughest gangster girlfriends, and hobos) will probably never see the light of day. I sure hope the game’s developers can figure out some solution to all their Mission Architect problems…

Aaaaand that’s it for today. Merry Tuesday, everyone — see youse guys tomorrow!

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Zombie Apocalypse!

Well, now, y’all know about my MMORPG of choice, right? City of Heroes/City of Villains is all about playing as a superhero (or a supervillain) using your powers to fight evil (or to rob banks) and styling around town in your spiffiest spandex outfit.

Well, a few weeks before October 31, they start up the annual Halloween Event. Most years, it’s involved some giant pumpkin-headed monsters roaming the city and a chance to go “trick or treating” — click on some doors, and you’ll either get a treat (an in-game reward of some kind) or a trick (an attack by vampires, werewolves, or other monsters).

This year, they’ve added something new. At random times in each city zone, the sky will suddenly turn an ugly reddish-black color, a short snippet of spooky music will play…

…and the zombies come out.

And not just one or two — hordes of the rotting flesh-eaters…

Zombies!

ZOMBIES!

ZOMBIES!

ZOMBIES!!!

Whoooo! Whattarush! Halloween really is the best time of the year, ain’t it?

(P.S.: Ya know what Lubbock needs? A good ol’ fashioned zombie walk.)

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Holiday Gift Bag: City of Heroes

Ya know, I tried out the “World of Warcraft” computer game when it was in beta testing. It may be the biggest MMORPG (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game) on the planet, but it just wasn’t for me. Loved the scenery, got dead-bored with the fantasy elements. Loved the Night Elves, got dead-bored with killing wild pigs. I found something better instead.

 

City of Heroes and its companion game City of Villains let you play as a superhero (or, if you’re feeling sociopathic, a supervillain). You like comic books, right? You’ll like this game.

So what’s the hook? You play one of several different archetypes — including fire-slinging blasters, brain-blasting controllers, ninja assassins, undead masterminds, and many, many more. You start out fighting opponents that make you feel like a hero (or a villain) — even in the tutorials, superheroes get to help stop an outbreak of a drug-fueled disease, while villains break out of prison.

From there, you can fight dangerous gangs of opponents on the streets of your chosen city, or you can talk to your contacts, who will send you on special missions against evil robots, the disgusting Vazhilok zombies, mutant snakes, or the global villain organization Arachnos.

As you defeat your enemies, your powers improve, and you move on to fight more dangerous enemies, including the mystical Circle of Thorns, the cybernetic Freakshow, and even the invading aliens called the Rikti. And of course, if you’re a villain, there are cops to beat up, heroes to destroy, and banks to rob.

One of the coolest things about the game is the costume creator, which is considered the best of any computer game out there. I’ve been playing the game for several years, and I’m always amazed by the wide variety of costumes you see people wearing in the game. Just about any look you want, there’s a good chance you can create it, from the traditional patriotic hero…

 

…to the dark, brooding avenger…

 

…from mad scientists…

 

…to zombie pirates…

 

…from angels…

 

…to demons…

 

…and even normal schlubs…

 

…or your grandmother.

 

If you’ve got a comics fan who also loves computer games, there’s a pretty darn good chance they’d enjoy this game, too. You can pick up the “Good vs. Evil” edition either online or in an electronics/computers store, and you’ll get “City of Heroes” and “City of Villains” for about $30. Like most MMORPGs, there is a monthly subscription fee — about $15 a month. You’ve still got time to pick it up for the holidays, so jump to it!

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