A Mild-Mannered Reporter: 2010's roguish review

I joked once, long ago, that I should never answer WRUP truthfully, because it will invariably result in a total lack of doing what I announced. Lo and behold, I had the time to play through a single Mission Architect mission amidst an intensely obnoxious virus (just at that level where you're sick enough to know it but not sick enough to avoid work) and the preparation needed to get my house ready for hosting an entire family.

For the record? Never agree to do that for your family, no matter who your family is.

So instead, we're going to take a look through the big news of the year, the five biggest stories that have affected City of Heroes in the past 12 months. I had originally planned to save this one for next week, but I doubt that we'll get an enormous piece of news between now and next week. It's been an interesting year for the game as a whole, so between an expansion, major updates, and tumultuous times in the larger MMO world, let's look at the five biggest stories pertaining to the city.

5. Champions Online's going free-to-play

I said pertaining for a reason up there.

While I've said it before, I will say it again -- Champions Online had every reason and opportunity to turn City of Heroes into a metaphorical smear on the ground when it launched. The fact that that didn't happen, I believe, has a major long-term effect on the game and how the development team views its biggest direct competitor. And if you believe that, you can't think that the game's dropping into the free-to-play pool goes wholly unnoticed.

The long-term effects of this news on CoH have yet to be felt, but I imagine a lot is going to depend on what happens once the system goes live. Champions Online might start moving up on CoH's territory more aggressively, and that's going to have a pretty big impact on the older game. I'd like to think such a change would ultimately be beneficial -- considering that Paragon Studios hasn't had a direct competitor in the superhero MMO field for quite some time, it will be very interesting to see what next year brings.

4. Layoffs hit Paragon Studios

This story is a sad one, and it's one that still lingers in my mind. We still don't have an official statement about who was given their walking papers, why it happened, or anything beyond the official line at the time that the layoffs happened. And it's a sensitive subject, even now, so I feel bad putting it on the list at all. But it was big news; that's undeniable. I would be surprised if people weren't still looking over their metaphorical shoulders as a result.

3. Issue 17 and the six-year event

This wasn't just a big patch that brought in Ultra Mode -- it also kicked off the game's sixth year of operation and brought us a number of other improvements besides... not the least of which was Demon Summoning for those of us who had pre-purchased Going Rogue. And while that meant we were all surrounded by demons for a few weeks after the patch dropped, it was all worth it in the end.

For me, the biggest thing this patch brought was the unlocking of EATs at level 20 rather than level 50. I know that I'm unimaginably lame for not having brought a few million villains to level 50 at the time this patch dropped, but I hadn't, and so this meant I finally got to play with Spiders. Those of you who have heard me gush in-depth about how much I love Spiders have probably gotten the picture by now. But I do totally love them.

2. Melissa Bianco takes the helm

January's announcement that Matt Miller was passing the design lead torch to Melissa Bianco knocked more than a few players for a loop, seeing as it came almost completely out of the blue. From an administrative point of view, it meant that Miller could focus on the endgame systems (Incarnates, as we now know) and Bianco could focus on keeping the game unified and interesting. The view from outside, on the other hand, was the same as ever -- is the new boss going to be the same as the old boss?

Speaking personally, War Witch is probably my favorite lead designer the game has seen, simply because she's got such an infectious level of enthusiasm. Issue 19 was one of her first displays of what players could expect from her tenure, and it's been a great update in my opinion... which makes Issue 20 all the more interesting, even though we don't know what it will contain beyond a few tantalizing glimpses.

And the most important event of the year? Come on, you know this. Heck, the title gives it away right there.

1. Going Rogue launches, rocks

I can understand why not everyone is totally on-board with Going Rogue, but the fact is that I just don't care. From a technical standpoint, it is pure awesome. It changes the face of the game in surprising and engaging ways, but even beyond that, it keeps a player engaged through the first 20 levels in ways that some newer games can only dream of. I am seriously still pumped about this expansion; I love it, and time has not dulled its luster.

There are holes, definitely, and if you were hoping the expansion would revitalize the top of the game, then you were probably among those disappointed with the initial launch. (Of course, you can't say that Issue 19 didn't give the new high-level game a proper kickoff.) What it has revitalized is everything else -- the leveling and the character experience -- and that's what CoH has always excelled at anyway. It makes me excited for the coming year, because if we can get another series of updates on par with this, we'll be in good shape.

And if we can keep getting major content updates every four months or so, hey, that'll be pretty awesome too.

You are, of course, free to disagree with my evaluation in the comments or via mail to eliot@massively.com. And of course, you're equally free to send me more architect missions. Next week, we're getting back to those again. That's the plan. (I have only a limited faith in plans these days, but hope springs eternal.)

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.