A Mild-Mannered Reporter: All the news that's fit from PAX

The revelations at PAX East were pretty darn big for City of Heroes, but they had a big advantage over PAX Prime. At the time we sat down in Boston, Going Rogue was months away, and we knew almost nothing about what it would bring us. This time around, it's been out for a couple of weeks, and most of the fancy pieces of knowledge are pretty well established. It would be hard, if not impossible, for the development team to hit us with the same one-two punch.

I wouldn't argue that the team quite managed that -- there's no comparison to revealing two new power sets, the endgame system, and video demonstrations of much-awaited sets -- but Paragon Studios sure did manage to drop quite a bomb on us. As I've done frequently in the past, we're going to take this point by point, with a full collection of neat pieces of news that leave me wondering just how much interesting stuff is yet to come from the development team.
Fitness gets fundamental

First of all, I'd like to give a big thanks to Larry Everett, our columnist for Star Wars: The Old Republic and all-around gentleman and scholar. My unexpected non-appearance at PAX meant that he had to pull double duty, and I owe him a debt of gratitude not just for covering the City of Heroes panel but for sharing some big revelations as breaking news.

"[It] feels like there's been a change in how the team looks at the development cycle."

And boy, was that ever breaking news. Not six months before, we were reminded that the odds were against Fitness (especially Stamina) ever becoming universal. Now, here we are, with the powers not just being universal, but being baseline in a way that I wouldn't have even guessed at. Castle has confirmed on the official boards that they'll be early additions and fully slottable, which means that you can suddenly customize your character's health regeneration, stamina regeneration, and movement speed in ways not previously allowed.

This is a huge change for the game, and not just in the sense that you have three additional power choices. That alone is enormous -- it means that the deforming pull that the pool previously had is gone -- but it also means that from this point on, the game can be balanced around the expectation of these effects. It means that slotting baseline powers will become desirable. It means that the possibility exists for making other "basic" stats -- such as health, resistances, etc. -- improvable to a point via enhancements. It could herald widespread changes.

I think it also highlights a difference in leadership between Melissa Bianco and Matt Miller. Positron did a wonderful job as the head of the game, but I have the feeling that he had certain sacred cows that he didn't want changed, Fitness among them. I'd like to think that this was a result of War Witch deciding that ultimately, the only way to deal with Fitness was to remove it or to make it baseline. I'm not a fly on the wall in the studio, sadly, but it would line up with outside evidence.

Issue 19

The team handled this one pretty well, especially since the news about Issue 19 was pretty negative, when you get right down to it. We had been looking forward to it as the big rollout of the Incarnate system... instead, it's going to be the one slot we expected to come with the expansion, along with a new task force, story arc, and more tip missions. There will most likely be more included as well, but right now it's looking like fewer systems and more drops of actual content.

I'm of two minds on this point. On the one hand, I'm a little disappointed at the slow speed with which this is being released. It's not as if there isn't plenty of content to take part in at the moment, but jeez, can't we find something for our max-level characters to do now? On the other hand, I'm also going to bet that if one slot merits a fair chunk of an update, each individual slot is going to be pretty darn cool. I can only hope we hear more about what it's actually going to contain.

Besides, let's not kid ourselves -- a new task force plus a new story arc hints at good times for all. Whether or not you feel the quantity of content has been sufficient of late, it's hard to argue that the quality hasn't been there. Expect something pretty darn awesome, especially since Paragon is bringing back Apex of all people to serve as the contact.

Yes, I'm fond of this fact. Sure, the original comic might have been frequently goofy, but it was darn good fun, and it carried with it the sense that the most important people were the player characters. It was produced to be a fun supplement to a fun game, and the fact that the characters from it get more of a highlight is a good thing in my book. Now if only we could get a Horus-themed costume set.

Issue 20

The news for the next big update was... well. It's almost non-news, except for the fact that this issue is getting tested prior to Issue 19's release. That does sort of feed into the theory some have espoused that Going Rogue came out just a bit too early, and Issue 20 is the first "real" new patch since the launch. There could be something to it... or it could just mean that Issue 20 is going to have some big hits in it, and the team wants to get them tested and balanced early.

A return to form

Maybe it's just me, but all I could think as I was soaking in the news from PAX was that this is a return to form for the team at Paragon Studios. An emphasis on new missions and new content, an expansion that gives us plenty to do without overwhelming us with new system and content, a slow roll of big system updates mixed with across-the-board improvements... it feels like there's been a change in how the team looks at the development cycle.

I'm happy about this. I'm happy that the team is still going strong and still working hard, and that the game doesn't show signs of stopping six years in. We've had a great run, and we're nowhere near finished. My hat is off, and I'm looking forward to continuing the ride.

Next week, we will not have yet another convention to entertain us, so I'm going to turn my gaze elsewhere. I have a few ideas, but if there's a column you really want to see, feel free to leave a suggestion -- I really do listen! You can mail me at eliot@massively.com, or leave comments and questions in the comment field.


By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre unveils his secret identity in Paragon City and the Rogue Isles every Wednesday. Filled with all the news that's fit to analyze and all the muck that's fit to rake, this look at City of Heroes analyzes everything from the game's connection to its four-color roots to the latest changes in the game's mechanics.

This article was originally published on Massively.