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Massively Exclusive: An anniversary chat with Matt Miller

Unless you've been hiding under a rock, you undoubtedly know that today is the 5th anniversary since the launch of City of Heroes - an MMO giving players the chance to don tights and fight for truth, justice, and the fun of it. Recently, we had the chance to catch up with Matt "Positron" Miller, Senior Lead Designer for Paragon Studios, who gave us some of his personal insights into what the last five years have been like - and a bit about what players can expect in the next five. Be sure and join us after the break to read more about what's planned for Paragon City and the Rogue Isles!

Massively: You've got five great years of City of Heroes under your belt. What's it been like watching your MMO grow and develop over that time? How about staying together through everything your team has been through, to finally becoming Paragon Studios?

Matt "Positron" Miller: I think that it's a testament to the game that so many of us who were here at the launch are still on the project. Watching CoH grow up year after year is awesome. I look back to what CoH shipped with compared to where it is today and I am blown away by how much quality free content we have added and given back to our players over the last five years.

If you had to pick, what are some of your favorite moments in the last five years?

Adding the "trick or treat" mechanism for the Halloween event was really fun. And I really liked how well the "I got a rock" reference went over.

Freezing over the lakes in Paragon City for the first winter event was awesome. The power-leveling fest that was the Winter Lords, not so much.

The very first time we tested the Rikti Invasion where the Rikti teleported onto your position. That felt epic.

Working with Sean Fish on Issues 19 and 20 of the City of Heroes comic book. It was such a nice change of pace of story-telling mediums. I hope I get a chance to write a comic again in the future.

What are some of the best things you feel you've created/changed since the game was released?

I love the way the badge system was done. It was a game-changer for sure. That and the way we introduced "loot" as an optional system with the Invention system. A lot of players who avoided Inventions at first have warmed up to them eventually, but I like knowing that if you come back to the game after a long break you won't find your character to be completely sub-par because they are not "geared out". In general I'm most proud that with City of Heroes we've continued to provide an evolving, innovative online gaming experience for our players, that can't be found anywhere else.

Where do you see City of Heroes and City of Villains going in another 5 years? Will we see a City of Heroes 2?

"That's not to say there won't be any sort of sequel..."

I see City of Heroes and Villains still going strong and still getting content updates for the foreseeable future. I can't say exactly what will happen in the next five years, but I can definitely see City of Heroes still being a strong and popular series we'll be supporting. That's not to say there won't be any sort of sequel by then, but we're all really committed to the original game, so the locales of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles will still be filled with action.

We've heard rumors of a graphical update running around for years. Are there any plans to update the graphics in future issues?

We've hired some "Type-R" programmers (inside joke) to investigate and deliver this very thing. Stay tuned for details.

Do you have in-game events planned for the anniversary? How about badges, costume pieces, or the like that players will be able to pick up?

We've got a badge players can get just for logging in during the month of May, and as many activities crammed into the actual day (April 28th) as possible. I know a few of the Devs will be hanging out in Pocket D on the Training Room saying "hi" to players and chatting.

City of Heroes was originally designed to be purely subscription based, but in-game advertising and item booster packs have since been added. While I realize you can't release numbers, are you pleased with how these alternate revenue streams are going so far? Also, any hints on what players might be looking forward to in future booster packs?

We're definitely pleased at the positive reception and success of our Super Booster packs. They have given us the time and additional resources we need to get things exactly right, like the Mission Architect, as opposed to just "getting the next issue out", and for that I am very thankful we have them as an alternate revenue stream. We definitely take pride in these, and since we have many players of the game here in the studio, the Super Boosters have to pass the "is this worth the money to you" test with these players first.

As for future offerings, players will note that our two signature Super Boosters are based on two of the five Origins we have in the game (Tech for the Cyborg pack and, uh, Magic for the Magic pack). The next Super Booster is "Superscience" so players can look forward to crazy lab experiments and even cooler costume-change possibilities than we've ever offered before.

Speaking of hints, anything you'd like to tell us about Issue 15? [Ed note: This was asked pre-announcement.]

Issue 15 will contain a Task Force for Heroes and a Strike Force for Villains (yes, that means it is NOT a single, co-op, Task/Strike Force that both sides share). They revolve around the same story, but are told from two different sides. We'll be sharing more details shortly, so stay tuned.

We've also got some brand new features for the Mission Architect, including a new "keyword" system that will hopefully make finding story arcs to play a lot easier, as well as a slew of other improvements.

Mission Architect appears to be a huge hit, with players having a blast creating their own missions. That said, lots of people are complaining that others are using it purely for fast experience farming. Do you have anything you'd like to say to the community in regards to their concern? Or is this simply the double-edged sword of having user-generated content?

It definitely is a double-edged sword, but we're doing our best to dull that second edge as much as we can. Players have undoubtedly noticed an increase in patches since Issue 14 launched, and a lot of these have been to address farming concerns.

In regards to user-generated content: There's a 'celebrity author' category for Architect. Can we look forward to some celebrity-created mission arcs soon?

You bet! In the coming months we have some great guest authors coming down the pike that I think will please our fans.

Will you be adding in a way for players to increase the number of Architect arcs (space) they can have at one time? Perhaps through Veteran Rewards or as a purchasable option?

We are considering this as a purchasable option initially. Tying it to Vet Rewards defeats the purpose of bringing in new players with this feature. If a new player loves it, they'd have to wait months or years in order to get more slots. If we make them a micro-transaction like we did with character slots, then they can have immediate access to more slots at a reasonable price.

Thanks so much for your time, Matt!

So there you have it, Heroes and Villains! It sounds like there lots of interesting things in the works from the team at Paragon Studios that we can all look forward to in the future. We here at Massively would like to wish their team a happy anniversary, and all the best for five more. Now if you'll pardon us, we hear there's one heck of a party going in Pocket D, and we've got to get our dancing capes on.

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