Perspective from a year later

Image borrowed from http://www.savecoh.com

Image borrowed from http://www.savecoh.com

November 30th, 2012.

Yes, dear friends, it’s now been a year since the closure of City of Heroes.

Today marks the anniversary of the last day of the live servers.

It’s been a rough year.

Thus far, NCSoft has proven totally intractable on City of Heroes, however, the fight to see it liberated is ongoing.  Corporations, when talking about dollars listed in “millions of”, tend to take a LONG time to come to a decision.

Also, we’ve lost several good friends and family members over the last year to accident and illness.  Heroes all, we mourn our fallen, cleaving even tighter to the path, simply because they’re no longer able to.

However, this year hasn’t been a TOTAL downer.  We’ve had proof that the CoH community just isn’t going to take “no” for an answer.  Earlier this month, a Kickstarter for the community-based City of Titans closed at 211% of it’s initial goal!

So yes, there’s a market for this sort of thing.  One DC Online and Champions Online can’t fulfill, and one NCSoft refused to continue fulfilling.

And if you do not listen TO HELL WITH YOU!    – Conan

Additionally, due to the massive contributions of several programmers in the CoH community, we now have access to the CoH costume creator and at least a minimal ability to access game maps and move around in them.  Can a basic, community-written shard service be far off?

So, for all of you out there, look back.  But don’t just feel the pain of our loss.  Look back and see the strides we’ve made.  And know that it can only get better.  The World ended.  Yet we’ve survived.  We’ll continue on.  We WILL win.

We’re heroes.  This is what we do.

 

The passing of a hero.

Ascendant

Well, life just slapped me in the face again.

I just found out that Tre Chipman (a.k.a. “Ascendant”) from City of Heroes died last night, and I’m now MASSIVELY bummed at this point.

For those of you who didn’t get the chance to know The Big A in game, head over here and read up on some of what made him famous in-game. He was always a blast to team with.

I even got to meet him a couple times at the assorted Cape-cons I’ve attended over the years. He was every bit as nice and entertaining as he was in-game.
And while our community is poorer for having lost him, we’re infinitely richer for the time he gave to us.

The Media is still talking about CoH. Why?

Okay, it’s been roughly 7 months since the announced closure of Paragon Studios and 4 months since the server shut-off.

Yet the gaming Media can’t stop talking about CoH and its closure. And people in the industry still think it was shut down needlessly.

So why is a dead game such a hot topic still?

Well, primarily because it points out some of the major differences between MMOs and stand-alone games.
Stand-alone games, even with interactive components, eventually cease development. There are no more boxes to ship and no new revenue.
With an MMO, theoretically, the game could continue for an indefinite period of time. Unless the game itself is pulling in less than its server, CS, and support costs, there’s little to no reason that games like this can’t run for decades. Part of this is what makes CoH’s closure such a bitter pill to swallow. The game itself was paying not only for itself, but the development of new projects within Paragon.

On a secondary, but no less important, note, it also points out the problems with such closures.
with stand-alone games, for the most part, you can essentially play them even after the company ceases development.
With an MMO, they shut down their servers and the game simply ceases to exist. This not only severs the ties between player and game, but also demolishes the community that built up around the game.

And worse, for the gaming community as a whole. It SEVERELY alienates players. Not just from the offending studio, but towards gaming in general.
One of the hardest parts in gaming is building a sense of “investment” into the game. This sense that the player is working in cooperation with the developers and other players to make the game bigger, better, and a fuller experience. In a sense, the game becomes “theirs”. And this type of emotional investment tends to spur a monetary investment as well. Players bitten by this sort of closure scenario tend to refrain from investing, emotionally and monetarily, in other titles afterward. They tend not to bind tightly into the community. They don’t trust the developers or the publishers. And they severely curtail their spending under the notion of “Why spend money if it’s just going to be taken away?” Not just for the offending publisher/studio. For ANY game they approach (if they, indeed, don’t cease gaming altogether).

This was something that the City of Heroes developers and marketing spent a LOT of time and effort on. It was a combination of very close developer-community relations, VAST user-customization options in-game, and extensive, regular, RELIABLE community and media outreach. And it paid off in spades. CoH had one of the tightest-knit core communities I’ve EVER seen, and I’ve been involved in tabletop and computer gaming for over 20 years. And they did it on an advertising budget that was very nearly $0 a year.

But NCSoft was still stuck in their basic “market blitz for the first year and then nothing on advertising after that” mentality. So, while CoH was able to maintain an incredible retention rate, it simply didn’t have the resources to truly pull new customers in. They had THE top-rated title in the supers-genre for MMOs. Even the 2.0 version of their game (Champions Online) had utterly failed to unseat them. As had DC Universe Online.

So, sitting complacently on market dominance, they decided to simply flush the product because it wasn’t bringing in WoW numbers and they thought they could get better returns on shipping a few more copies of Guild Wars 2 and selling us softcore kiddie-porn with Blade and Soul. Because superhero properties can’t make money. Right?

We’ve built this City…

Okay, I’ve had about a week to calm the *bleep!* down, wrap my head around the closure of City of Heroes, and get an action plan in place for how to proceed.

This is NOT to say that it wouldn’t be more emotionally gratifying to Leeroy Jenkins my way into NCSoft and bust heads.  But that only makes ME feel better (at least until the cops taser my stupid, fat ass), and doesn’t really help fix this situation at all.

Now, to be perfectly fair, NCSoft has been an EXCELLENT shepherd for the game for the last five years or so.  In a time when some companies wouldn’t even look at a game unless the publishers could guarantee WoW-style numbers of players, NCSoft has basically been tossing continuous cash infusions into CoH.  A niche MMO with, at best, 130,000 players at its height.

Under their watchful eye (and open pocketbook), we’ve gotten twelve Issues (because Issue 11 was effectively already in the can by the time NCSoft purchased CoH/CoV back in November of 2007.

Was going to list them all out here but NOBODY’s going to read a 20-page long review.

If you’re interested head over here and look at what was in every issue from 12 onward.  And, for a point of reference.  I came into the game during Issue 12.  So I’ve quite literally NEVER known the game without some of these systems and settings!

I’ve played games that don’t have half the features that CoH has just ADDED in the last four and a half years!

So, please, try not to be too harsh with NCSoft over what was purely a business decision for them.  They have to make what they feel are the best decisions for themselves and their stockholders.

So, what is being done?

Currently the community is mobilizing in a coordinated, multi-front effort to attempt to save City of Heroes.

There’s been an explosion of Social Media activity on Twitter, Facebook, Google+, etc.

In addition, the community is coming together and coordinating these efforts on the official boards, as well as primary (if unofficial) sites like the all important Titan Network and Unleashed.

There are demonstrations going on in-game, as well as petitions, letter writing campaigns, and even attempts to somehow acquire the game, kickstart a new studio and continue.

And while we may not have Chuck *bleep!*ing Norris “allowing us to live”, there are numerous people in the community with more than a little celebrity of their own.  People such as Jim Butcher, John Kovalic, Mercedes Lackey, and more.  And some of them are willing to put THEMSELVES out there for the preservation of this game.

Not just for a game.  Though the game itself is fairly impressive.  14 archetypes, with over a thousand legitimate powerset combinations, leading up to the possibility of literally hundreds of quadrillions of unique character builds and over ten tredecillion (10^42) possible costume combinations.

And the game was still growing…

But the MAIN reason why people are willing to put themselves out there is the community.  You hear of tightly knit player communities.  You even hear of communities where the devs are somewhat communicative.  But nowhere NEAR the level of CoH.  The relationship between players and developers was so blurry in places it was impossible to differentiate.  Some players actually moved into development, others into the marketing and community support aspects.  Still others actually worked on a contractual basis with Paragon Studios to help improve the game.

The general atmosphere in-game was light, fairly inviting, and VERY casual and social.  You got involved as much as your comfort level allowed and nobody asked more.  You could drop the game for weeks, months, and even years.  Then show back up again, and having people fall all over one another bringing you up to speed on the changes.

Now, many will move on to other games.  And more power to them.

Others will not.  Reasons for this about and I’ll just list a few out.

  • Other offerings in the same genre (superheroes) are clearly inferior.  Including Champions Online, which is built off a newer version of the exact same engine by the exact same company that initially build City of Heroes (NCSoft).  CoH is the benchmark used for excellence in gameplay in the superhero MMO space.  And all the others have fallen far short in just about every review where such comparisons were made.
  • Not into the pseudo-Tolkienesque fantasy genre.
  • Not into the spawn-camping gear-quest/grindfest that many of the Triple A MMOs embrace.  Let’s face it, WoW and it’s mutant ilk are so successful because of Asia.  Where nearly two billion potential players are perfectly willing to sit down in front of a computer for days on-end and grind themselves to death (sometimes quite literally).  Now I’m not saying the CoH community wouldn’t welcome a million-plus player infusion.  But the Asian market, traditionally, hasn’t really been receptive to American comics culture.  The attempt by CoH to push into Korea was a dismal failure.  And I’m not sure we want the game to become synonymous with people so addicted to gaming that they DIE before stopping.
  • Don’t want to start over.
  • Don’t want to try and push into an existing community.
  • Don’t want to play games where certain types of gaming (like PVP), which they may or may not like, are “required”.

 

Also, after the initial push, we started noticing push back from various avenues.  Essentially telling CoH players trying to save the game that they were being stupid, or childish, or what-have you for wanting to rescue the community that’s been going for eight years.

I’m sorry, but these individuals are wrong.  Utterly and completely.  Few of the players are being childish about this situation.  There is still money to be made by City of Heroes.  While it may not be financially viable in NCSoft’s eyes, it all comes down to what any given proprietor is willing to settle for in the way of “profits”.

And venues like an MMO don’t HAVE to die.  Look at Everquest.  It’s over 13 years old and STILL going!  And, like CoH did later, it even survived it’s successor product!

And, if, at the end of it all, the game still dies, we’ll have the satisfaction of knowing we did everything humanly possible to try and save the game.  Rather than the regret that we could have saved it and didn’t even try.

 

So, for those whom have walked in the streets and flown through the skies of Paragon City with me.  It’s been an honor and a privilege.

For those who’re working their butts off trying to rescue this game from oblivion, I say “welcome to the fight, we need you”.

And for the detractors who see this as immature, or selfish, and wish to shout it out from their own web venues, I say “Thank you for your acknowledgement and we’ll see who was “right” on December 1st, 2012.  But, for now, I have better things to do.”

 

 

Okay, so I don’t post a lot. So sue me! (Wait, not really!)

I mostly have the site back together.  A couple of the galleries need to be restored properly.  Just been to darned lazy to do it.

Have added some new pics of the CoH Summer event for your perusal.  I figured some nice, high res pics would be just the thing.

Enjoy!

Also, the new Universal Damage proc that converts any Knockback into Knockdown is FRIGGIN’ AWESOME!