The dev team are the other side of CoX that really shines, not just because their output is good, but because they really, really know how to communicate. That makes ALL the difference for morale and a sense of participation. They don't just sit up there in ivory towers handing down edicts; they have a shared passion with the people who play their game, and it shows through. As a player, you know that if you have an issue with something or it doesn't make sense to you, you can get the message across, and so long as you're not a jerk about it, you will be heard.
And they play the game themselves, both incognito and as their superhero or villain personas. I've run into Ghost Widow a couple of times, which was bizarre and fun. But my favourite dev story, by a country mile, is the one where Sister Flame (aged six) gets to meet her hero War Witch. It chokes me up. In a good way.
What games are you playing now, and what are your characters?
In CoX, far too many alts to list. My wife's also a CoX player, so we duo a lot and have characters that work together. Every time a new issue brings a new powerset or a proliferated one, I have to roll at least one new alt. I think our most recent projects were a fridge and a microwave oven from the future. He's a hot kitchen appliance, she's a cold kitchen appliance. They fight crime!
In Age of Conan, a ranger called Hazai and a demonologist called Mezelline, both named after villains from one of the Drow War books I wrote. In Tabula Rasa, a soldier called Mez Sanguay. In Warhammer Online, a witch hunter called Konstantina, a dwarf engineer called Betsygimble and a greenskin shaman called, erm, Colostomus. Sorry.
Why do you like MMOs so much?
Because they give people new, shiny, interesting toys with which to interact with one another. MMOs at their worst are a hamster wheel, something that people can use to shut their brains down for several hours each week. But MMOs at their best are a new social vista, the sort of thing I hoped for from the future when I was younger.
And they also give you a means to really spread the joy of playing among other people. This is especially true of CoX, I find, when you're on a good team. By being there for other people, pulling your weight, taking care of your side of the business, you can not only have fun yourself but get a kick out of making someone else's night.
That sort of co-operation in-game is something I'd been waiting a long time for. I can remember clearly playing an old vector graphic Star Wars arcade game back when it had just been released, and thinking 'this is fun, but what if someone else was playing one of these next to me, and I could be Han Solo instead of Luke Skywalker, and zoom down and help him out? How cool would that be?'
What accomplishment in-game are you most proud of?
Helping out new players and stranded lowbies in City of Heroes. There's no one event in particular that stands out, but it's amazing how much fun you can have with Teleport Friend in the Hollows. That zone isn't as savage as it used to be, but people still need help sometimes.
There was a whole group called the Taxibots - I think they're still going - whose sole purpose was to help other players by teleporting them around. They got nothing out of it except the satisfaction of giving other people a helping hand. I just love that.
What's the most terrible, drama-filled, awful thing to happen to you in an MMO?
I've been blessedly free of drama, to be honest. I recently scored first place in a public quest in Warhammer Online, only to find myself miles from the loot chest and dead. I ran as fast as I could back to the chest, but I didn't reach it in time and the quest reset. My loot, my wonderful loot, gone.
If you had 10 more hours to play every week, what would you spend them doing?
Rather than maxing out my time in any given MMO I already play a lot, I'd spend them exploring games I haven't had time to delve into as fully as I'd like yet. Tabula Rasa, for example. That game really shocked me with how more-ish it was. I joined up relatively recently, so I missed the early buggy stuff, and I found I just kept wanting to log back in and shoot some more bad guys.
I'd probably also give WoW a try, to see what all the fuss is about.
When you're not playing MMOs, what do you do?
I'm a writer and game designer. I write tabletop RPG material for a variety of publishers, but my best known books are probably the Drow War trilogy and the Book of Unremitting Horror.
And the great majority of my time is spent being a father to my baby girl Sabrina and a husband to Lucy, and I wouldn't have it any other way. MMOs are great, but family comes first. Sabrina, by the way, is also the caped crime fighter Super Noob, nemesis of Ghost Widow.