City of Heroes is going to be shut down. Later this year. November 30th, less than three months away.
For me, this isn't just a game closing. This is a huge chapter in my professional life coming to an end. Covering City of Heroes has been a major part of my writing for the site over the past three years. To think that it's going to be gone soon is just... baffling.
So this is a column written in mourning. It's going to be disconnected, and for that I apologize, but there are a few things that I think should be put down right now. Next week I can start in on the process of creating a tribute; this week, it's about sadness.
Despite the fact that all of the game's staffers have stressed that the important question isn't why the game is being closed, that's the first question all of us jump to. By all accounts, the game was doing just fine. I don't have actual subscriber numbers, but certainly there was nothing to indicate that the game was on the border of being shut down. Development was continuing, people were playing, profits were up because it had gone free-to-play and of course they were. What in the world caused this?
I suspect it was NCsoft. But I'm going to go ahead and say that being mad at the company because of this is counterproductive.
Guild Wars 2 is finally out after a long and expensive development. WildStar is finally getting public attention after languishing in development hell for so long that I went on the record saying that Carbine Studios no longer existed. That's a lot of money, and I've heard rumors -- and suspected anyway -- that NCsoft was pushing some of those high-cost projects by hamstringing its active titles. At the very least, I assumed that the company was floating costs based on the presumed profits of those upcoming games.
In other words, CoH was doing fine. But it was money to a separate development studio instead of directly into NCsoft's pockets as with Aion and Lineage II. So when it came time to look at which studios were pulling their own weight, NCsoft looked at Paragon Studios as an unnecessary expense.
Despite this, it's not fair to say that it's the fault of ArenaNet or Carbine Studios or anyone else. These are companies composed of people just as dedicated as the team behind City of Heroes, teams that run the risk of being stuck in the same predicament. This was a corporate decision, and while I don't think it was a fair one, I don't think other studios deserve to suffer any more than Paragon does.
I know, you want to blame someone. I want to blame someone. I'd like to proclaim that I'm not giving the people responsible any more money. But it's robbing Peter to feel better about what happened to Paul.
That's half of what's horrible about this, with the other half being that City of Heroes is honestly better than it has been in years. I've had a lot of harsh words over the past several months about some poor design decisions, but the game has literally never been in a better state or more poised to improve. For all that the new powersets have had issues, there are countless original ideas at work that are in place because of the development team's changing its philosophy and focus.
Heck, there's the simple fact that this is a development team that's both willing and able to change. One of the things that has astonished me about Paragon Studios is that the company seemed to have no sacred cows beyond ensuring the game was fun. This wasn't a team married to a development vision; it was a team married to a community. Sometimes that meant providing what was needed and not wanted, but you never got the sense that this was a lumbering corporate behemoth or a group of people dedicated to one man's personal design spec.
I think about Melissa Bianco on panels, exclaiming with great enthusiasm about how awesome one new update or another would be. And while some of the updates might have been less awesome than that, they were never for lack of trying or lack of care.
Beyond all the sorrow, I've said before that the first step with a dying game is to work at enjoying what time you have left, and I plan to do just that. I won't have all the time I wanted, but that's a given. I'll have enough time left to try some new things, maybe see a few parts of the game I hadn't before. More than being sad and angry, I suggest you try to do the same. It's not going to be easy, but it's something.
There are still three more months for the title, and you'd better believe I'm going to spend time up until then giving praise to the people I've met, the game I've experienced, and the communities trying to stick together. More than ever, I'm asking you to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you've got tributes or community sites for the game as we approach its twilight because I want to make sure that everyone knows where to go. If I miss your mail, post it in the comments. This is a beautiful, wonderful game, and I want to spend plenty of time over the next months celebrating its life.
But right now, I'm in mourning.
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.