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Archive for March 8, 2010

Ronin’s MMO Report – City of Heroes

Ronin’s MMO Report

City of Heroes – An Overview

When I say the words Massively Multiplayer Online Role-Playing Game, the usual names of games that pop into the mind are ones like Ultima Online, EverQuest, Dark Age of Camelot, or World of Warcraft depending on what time you one was to enter the MMO realm. Things started with the fantasy settings but as time went on more and more settings proliferated into the genre. Sci-Fi was a logical step, and we got Anarchy Online, EVE, Star Wars Galaxies, the recently released Star Trek Online. Where Am I going with this? I don’t really know, I just felt like namedropping some MMOs for no apparent reason (And don’t get mad if I didn’t mention YOUR favorite game, it’s not that I don’t know about it, it’s just that I can’t be bothered to go the extra mile). Well there was a reason, I was going for a sequence of thought that would eventually get me to the game I wanted to talk about. Oh yeah… City of Heroes (and Villains).

That’s it folks, the time has finally come for the discussion of the thing that branches Reverends world of comics and my world of video games, City of Heroes. (I mean I could have talked about Marvel: Ultimate Alliance 2… but that was a while ago… and there was the fact that it was a disappointment… even though it did have some awesome Deadpool moments… even though in comparison to the ‘now’ awesome Deadpool was a lot easier to find back then… dot dot dot non sequitur).

For a little bit of history, City of Heroes launched back in 2004 as pretty much the first and most influential in the ‘Super-Hero’ niche market. (Niche market, not Nietzsche market. That would be a depressing game. ) In late 2005 City of Villains was released as a standalone game instead of an expansion, that interacted with the first game as heroes and villains should. Later, when the IP was bought by NCSoft they gave anyone who owned just one game access to the other in 2007 and since then it has been sold as a bundle(Which is why I can simply refer to both games as just City of Heroes from now on). And set to release later this year is the games first real expansion ‘Going Rogue’ (Grr… Palin.) which will allow heroes and villains to switch sides and allow players to visit the Praetorian Earth (the mirror universe/Earth-3 version of the world the game takes place in).

Because the game is just now getting to its first expansion, new content has been delivered through numerous increments known as ‘Issues’ in keeping with the comic book inspiration. Since its release in 2004, City of Heroes has been radically improved and expanded through 16, soon to be 17 Issues of content updates. In its inception, the level cap for heroes was level 40, there were issues with getting people to run actual missions, gameplay issues and bugs, and other problems that plagued brand new online games. The costume creator, which at the time was shown to be one of the most creative ways to customize one’s character in an MMO, has come so far since the beginning. Hell, it took an Issue before players could get capes. Now players can easily change their costume, which they can have up to 5 of, and create an even more unique experience than they could a few years ago.

City of Heroes holds the title of most improved MMO in my book, simply because of the amount of dedication the developers put towards listening and satisfying the players. This game doesn’t seems to get looked over in its improvement because its gone from something good into some better. Improvement is much more noticeable when a game goes from something barely playable to a genuinely good experience (I’m looking at you Age of Conan, rather, I’m looking at you any game Funcom has ever launched ever).

But let’s take a look at the game today. The level cap has been raised to level 50. You can choose to create a Hero or Villain, which are split up into 5 basic archetypes (and two ‘epic’ specific story driven archetypes) built with a primary and secondary powerset, accompanied by additional smaller power pools of the players choice. City of Heroes shuns the traditional character triad of Tank/Damage/Heal, which allows for much more differentiated teambuilding. Villainous archetypes are even more capable of unique team building. Currently, the character building allows for almost 790 powerset combination (that’s just counting primary/secondary pairings), and once you get into character improvement through slotting powers with different assortments of enhancements, each and every player is capable of creating a Hero or Villain that is unique to them.

Another great thing about this game that deserves mentioning is the community. Never before have I met such a fantastic mass of online folk. Granted this is the internet, and you can find a dumb person quicker than you can say the word ‘competence’, but the forums of City of Heroes are one of the greater bastions of intelligent thought, at least when it comes to online gaming. The sense of community is profound. There’ll always be someone to help a player in need, a place for delightful chatter, not to mention the delightful connection to the LGBT community. And in game you shant find too much deviants outside of rare instances or heavily populated coincidences.

Heroes begin their journey in Paragon City, a fictional Rhode Island city, as a rookie hero after an alien invasion had struck, leaving the city’s superpowered population at a low point. Your character advances, taking on more powerful enemy groups and finding the world’s fate in your capable hands. Villains begin their journey in Paragon City’s prison with paper walls (that only serves as the tutorial level). They are broken out of prison by the greatest villainous organization in the City of Heroes universe, Arachnos. It just wouldn’t be a comic book game without a villain group with a bug motif. Turns out your villain is on a list of “Destined Ones”, and now you carry out various acts of villainy from the Rogue Isles, a fictional archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean.

And even after all of the official content that the developers have provided, there is the grand pool of user created content. City of Heroes includes the Mission Architect, a tool that allows any player to weave their own story with custom characters, enemies, and stories. You keep saying that you can craft a better story and original characters than Rob Liefield? Put it to the test. Players are capable of creating story arcs comprised of up to five missions, and show them to the world for other players to enjoy experience. Thousands and thousands of arcs have been created, and more are made each day, supplying players with an infinite amount of content limited only by the human mind.

I have been playing this game for over 57 months (not included various month-long breaks here and there). I have seen this game grow into something absolutely wonderful, and I feel it is my duty to convince anyone with an interest in both comic books and online gaming to try this game out. For anyone who wishes to craft their own story, show their creativity, save the world, achieve ultimate power, join a great community, or just craft an experience as you go. Massively Multiplayer Online games are a strange thing. They evolve, diminishing the importance of reviews. They garner such polarizing loyalty and hate that seems cause some weird electronic ethnocentrism. Most strange, they live. I’ll be the first to admit that I love this game, and I expect to bore you all as I return to this subject more times in the future, and you will suffer. So sayeth the ronin.

Also, because I probably suck at summaries, here a link to a good overview at the Tropes Wiki: CITY OF HEROES

TL;DR Version, play this game.