City of Titans hits Kickstarter

Following the closure of City of Heroes:

  • Some people despaired
  • Some raged
  • Some shut down
  • Some of us even bawled like little kids who just lost a pet
  • A large number put up one of the biggest media fights the game industry ever saw

And some of us got PRODUCTIVE.

One of these groups was the crew at Missing World Media.
They began work on a spiritual successor to City of Heroes.

As of this evening, City of Titans has hit Kickstarter for an initial funding round that’ll take them to publication sometime in 2015.

The Phoenix Project - City of Titans -- Kicktraq Mini

Please note that the chart above actually trails the project itself by an hour or more.

Good luck and godspeed!

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?

Of CO and stupidity…

Okay, as some of you may know, I landed over in Champions Online.

It’s not a bad game.  It’s not CoH (and I’d drop it in a heartbeat if CoH returned), but it’s a decent game in its own right, and some of the subsystems there are, arguably, superior to CoH.

But other things are just BLINDINGLY stupid.

The game’s main problem comes from all the bungling Cryptic and Atari did when they first released the game, incomplete and way too early.  Then trying to soak their subscribers for more money almost immediately for the fixes to their earlier screwups.

This absolutely DESTROYED their player base and the game’s population is a fraction of what it should have been.  As such, it’s the bastard stepchild of Cryptic/PWE’s games now.  They actually yanked most of the devs off the game to work on Cryptics NEXT title, Neverwinter, leaving the game on life support and unable to fix months-old, game-breaking bugs.

On top of that, are some of the game mechanics.

One of the mechanics that comes in later on is boss fight lockouts.  Basically, you die and hit “Revive” you respawn outside the boss fight and can’t get back in until EVERYONE on your team is defeated.  Which ALSO completely resets the fight.

No.  Seriously!  Their answer to their already shoddy teaming mechanics is to basically castrate the team if a boss gets a lucky shot in.  And some of the bosses, like Gravitar, tend to aggro on characters that can self-rez, killing them as they stand up again and are essentially helpless.

Way to make a player fucking HATE your game!

Yeah, yeah.  Someone’s gonna start bleating about “challenge” and “skill”.  I play the game to just beat face.  That means, on occasion, I die.  Hit shappens.  What I do NOT want to do is stand around with my thumb up my ass until my teammates decide that they should all just die so we can start a 30 minute fight all over again!  That’s not “fun”.  Hell, that’s the very antithesis of “fun”!

Their most major problem is the way they’ve gated their content.

Most of the game happens in zone instances, rather than mission instances.  The problem is, these zone instances are subdivided into normal zones and crisis zones.  And it isn’t always obvious which mission paths progress the zone arc and which are gateway missions to later arcs.

So, if you burn your way through the zone arc missions, simply to complete a single contact, you run the risk of being ejected from the crisis zone BEFORE running the rest of the arcs in it.  Leaving you unable to access later mission content, and curetting down available “appropriate for your level” missions later on.

What’s worse is the way they handle contacts.  Some of the CONTACTS are instanced as well.  Like “Astral Dr. Ka”.  Basically it’s a timed “get to this place” objective followed by a “defeat waves of ambushes while protecting the NPC”.  It’s at the end of a long LONG string of missions where each of the previous missions is REQUIRED before going on to the next mission.  And, if you drop it (such as if you want to team to do the mission), it’s damn near IMPOSSIBLE to get Astral Dr. Ka to show up again someplace.

Now I’ve basically burned through all four or five of the available standard contacts in Vibora Bay and am left with NOTHING to do there but repeatable missions if I can’t get the Astra Ka mission.

This game could be so much more.  Unfortunately, all the mistakes Cryptic and it’s various owners have made have screwed it over bigtime.  It doesn’t have the massive built-in fanbase of Star Trek nor the name recognition.  While the gaming industry is pretty pervasive, not everyone recognizes the Champions property.  And the people who’ll participate in the MMO are just a fraction of that player base.

Moreover, those who go for a superhero genre MMO are not necessarily going to like the “tongue in cheek” (nice way of saying dopey) atmosphere and all the homages to bigger, more pervasive comic book and cultural properties.  Not to mention the art style.

 

So…what’s the answer?

In short, I’m not sure.  For starters, though, it’s going to take a group of devs on the game that aren’t being peeled off for other projects.  And it’s going to take a lot (and I mean *A LOT!*) of time spent going after bugs and bad mechanics in the game.  And, I’m not sure if PWE and Cryptic are going to be willing to invest that kind of time (and money) in a three year old game that they’ve already crashed and burned.

And if CO goes, the only superhero property even CLOSE to being called a Superhero MMO is DC Universe Online.  And THAT game is an even BIGGER mess than CO is.  By several HUNDRED orders of magnitude.

At this point, if CO doesn’t see some loving fairly soon, I’m probably done with computer gaming.

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.”

 

 

What The Fuck NCSoft?

Okay, you lose million on a turd like Gears of War 2.

So your solution to balance the books is to shut down a source of pure profit like City of Heroes and fold that money back into GW2?

Dammit!  I feel like someone just shot my best friend right now…

 

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!