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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Auld lang syne

A year ago on January 27th, viewers of the site were treated to a header image in which Mr. Swift poked hopelessly at a keyboard. This was the header for the first installment (or "issue" if you want to be thematic) of A Mild-Mannered Reporter, covering all things City of Heroes. And for those of you who are just now glancing at your calendar, yes, that was just about a year ago.

Those of you who remembered my sign-off for the last column (the one that mentioned this would be an anniversary column) are in slightly better shape. These things happen once a year, and I figured one day early is better than six days late.

And it's been quite a year for the game and the column alike, with plenty to talk about every Wednesday. So let's take a trip down memory lane and look back at a year of the column with another year just around the corner. If you're just coming into the column now, or if you want to look back at some old favorites, now's the time.

Just the facts

The first column ever, you might recall, was a collection of several useful links. Regular readers will note we do this as the first column for every game column because it creates a unified structure as well as ensures everyone's on the same page about sources. With a game like City of Heroes, though, it creates an interesting dilemma, because there's a six-year head-start for good information about the game.

I'm sure it probably seems like a totally irrelevant bit of trivia from an audience perspective, but from this side of the screen, it's a very real question of what you do for information. Do you try to focus on articles about game mechanics, on the distinct possibility that there are better sources available? Do you focus instead on opinion and news and thereby constrain yourself to pure entertainment?

The first year is the year to experiment with this stuff, and as such, I've been taking a middle path. We've done a three-part walkthrough of the VEAT missions and power choices and taken a look at switching alignment as introduced by Going Rogue. We've also had two columns on playing specific archetypes, covering the Scrapper and the Brute so far (more are in the pipe, definitely). And of course, ventures into some of the many Mission Architect options shouldn't go unmentioned.

I've got some other similar articles in mind too -- there are eight more base Archetypes to cover, if nothing else. The thing is that while the system of CoH is quite deep, a lot of that system is transparent so long as you understand the basics. With the very broad options available to players, hitting heavy on performance and character min-maxing doesn't seem to really tickle the community's collective funny bone. (If I'm wrong here, please, let me know.)

Lore, opinion, and meandering

Opinion pieces, on the other hand, have been a staple of the column all through last year. Nevermind the analyses of recent news, which were themselves pretty strongly opinionated -- there was a lot to feel strongly about over the past year, as one could expect with a new expansion that had such a strange focus. But talking about what the alignment system means for archetypes was just the tip of the iceberg.

By far, the columns that I'm proudest of over the past year were the twin pieces on the two Praetorian factions, the Loyalists and the Resistance. There were some great discussions in the comments of both articles (including one that caught the reference to In the Country of the Kind, which made me happy), and they both took a look at what the two factions really meant, at the virtues of each side unto itself. (The followup to both I wasn't as thrilled with, but it was more straightforward.)

But those are hardly the only times that we've dipped into opinion and analysis -- after all, I've talked about the ongoing Mission Architect balance issues, the problems of creating an endgame, what the endgame's inclusion can mean, and what City of Heroes needs to face over the next year of operation. And occasionally I've gone over and taken a nice long look at our place in the lore and the game as a whole, just for edification purposes.

Some of the columns that I thought were pretty good have wound up hitting people pretty cold, but I look back at the more subjective pieces and I'm still proud of them. I think the hard information needs more development, but I think most of the more opinionated pieces hit the right notes -- and judging by the feedback I've received, even from people who don't agree with my conclusions, the columns have come out well. I've actually been thanked by Hosun Lee for my most negative article to date (even as it called back to a more positive endorsement).

A personal retrospective

When I started writing A Mild-Mannered Reporter, I had only been working at Massively for about three and a half months. (By the time the column came out, it was closer to four months, but you know how that goes.) It's hard for me to look back at my earlier work objectively -- it took a while before I really found my voice in the column, and its development was parallel to my own experience working on the site.

And the column has influenced that, without a doubt, since its existence meant that I was now The CoH Guy. That's pretty unambiguously been a positive. It's meant plenty of chances to speak with the staff, a lot of really neat exclusives, and opportunities I wouldn't have gotten otherwise. There's something unspeakably keen about running the Apex task force with the development team and knowing that most of the devs recognize you.

More than anything, though, I've been fortunate to have dedicated and steady readers, and that's made a real difference. Experimenting with a column is risky, especially when you're still getting your feet under you, and I'm very appreciative of each and every person who's stopped by to take a look at my ramblings, whether or not you've posted a comment or just enjoyed the piece. So to everyone who has mailed me, asked questions, left comments, or even just kept reading over the past year: thank you.

To kick off the new year, incidentally, we're going to switch over to a format in which the column will be told entirely via knock-knock jokes. So look forward to that next week.

Until then, just like always, I can be reached in the comments or by email at eliot@massively.com. And as long as we're telling jokes about knocking things, we might as well take a look at the archetype that takes the largest number of knocks, right?

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.