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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Topical cannon

Eliot Lefebvre

One thing I've been asked, on occasion, is whether or not I'm ever going to run out of things to write about City of Heroes so long as the game is still live and getting updates. The answer, in a word, is "no" -- I started writing when the game was already fast approaching its sixth anniversary, and with everything that's changed since then, I still don't think I can possibly tackle everything under the game's banner.

But that having been said, there are also things that I naturally find more interesting than others. PvP is a fine example. I've stated before that I have zero interest in the game's PvP scene beyond an academic curiosity, although I definitely do want the players who are interested to be happy. (They aren't, in case you weren't aware.) And if there's one thing I'm being reminded of recently, it's that there's a certain charm to letting things go out of your hands and letting the readers pick out what you're doing.

So I'm going to steal a page from Mark Rosewater. Aside from being the head designer for Magic: The Gathering, he's also a writer of a regular column on the game's design. One of the regular features he runs (or ran, more accurately, as he hasn't done one in a while) is a sequence of topical blends, in which readers vote on a Magic-related topic and a non-Magic-related topic, and he writes a column surrounding the two winners. It's an interesting idea, and seeing as how I've been itching to play with the poll feature on the site again, it seems like now is as good a time as any.

Below are two polls, one for City of Heroes topics and one for topics on the subject that has brought most of us to the game in the first place: a love of superheroes. Voting will run for a week, and once the polls are concluded, I'm going to take some time to cook the resultant blend into an article. It's probably going to take me a couple of weeks to do so, but hopefully the result will be worth it.

Potential future topic: how did the guy on the left get into Galaxy City?CoH Topics

Starting a new Kheldian: When I ran a poll way back when to see if people would be interested in this, there was a definite positive response. Unfortunately, there were other things that came up, like the free-to-play conversion and a whole lot of naps to take. So I'm putting this forth as another option to keep things lively.

Badge-hunting: I don't go out of my way to pick up badges. Certainly I grab a lot of them, and I like that every single one of them turns into something of a title, but the fact is that I just don't find hunting for them all that interesting a lot of the time. But it's interesting to see all of the badges that are available, and I certainly wouldn't mind the excuse to break from my usual pattern and go nuts with some badge-seeking.

See how the other half lives: Look, with the other two superheroic games both being free-to-play, there's never been a better time to take a look at them. I played Champions Online briefly during beta, and I've never actually set foot in DC Universe Online. For better or worse, these two games form the core competition for CoH. You can say that they're not real competition, but they are the other games in town.

Soloing vs. grouping: CoH was part of a big paradigm shift away from forcing players to level in groups and part of an overarching philosophical change in design for the genre. But there are still elements that remind you this game is very much part of the old guard. There's a lot to unpack in that split.

Building bad characters: It's comforting to know that I'm not the only one who does this, but the fact of the matter is that I like putting together really strange power combinations and then trying to make them work. The straightforward bores me. The bizarre attracts me. I like building characters that look bad on paper and then work at least decently in play, just to say that I could.

The totally free experience: I've been playing CoH as a subscriber even with the switch in business models. That doesn't obviate my creating a separate account and seeing what things are like when I'm totally in the clear. Is it worth it? Where are the paywalls? What works and what doesn't?
Potential topic: How exactly does Iron Man avoid anyone noticing his bimonthly budget for entirely new sets of mechanical armor?Superheroic topics

Making invincible heroes interesting: One of the most common complaints about certain heroes (Superman in particular) is that they're hard to make interesting by virtue of their sheer invincibility. If you can't hurt someone in any way, how do you keep a reader invested? How do you care about a character who can solve every problem in a matter of seconds?

The development of a nemesis: The Joker nearly didn't survive his first issue with Batman. Magneto went from being a generic villain to an ideological foil for the X-Men. Spider-Man developed his rivalry with the Green Goblin over a very long time, with a whole lot of backstabbing and rivalry. How do nemeses develop, and what makes for a memorable one?

How Generation X warped my perception of comics: I don't talk about this comic nearly enough, but it had some charming elements in it. If I had to point to a single book that really got me hooked on comics into my adolescence and adulthood, this would be it, which is odd because in many ways it's a superhero comic that wishes it weren't a superhero comic.

The inaccessibility of heroes: There's a lot of reasons why superhero comics have drifted further and further out of vogue over the years, and it's not just issues of stupid male bias. Those certainly don't help, but there are more issues than just that. Superheroes are fast becoming a concept of the past -- but why, exactly?

Reboots: Sometimes, you need to just start over from the beginning. There have been a lot of heroes rebooted or restarted over the years, some with more success than others. CoH hasn't been rebooted, but is there an advantage to be had by doing so? Is it worth doing? What works and what doesn't?

Weak, helpless love interests: If your sole exposure to actresses was via superhero films, you could be forgiven for thinking that most actresses are hired for their ability to scream and flail. (Kirsten Dunst's performance in Spider-Man was basically nothing but this.) Is it horrible writing that paints women as a huge group of victims, or is there a way to look at this that's not quite as awful?
As I mentioned, this is a bit of an experiment, so I'm curious how all of this turns out. If you like the idea or hate it, feel free to say so in the comments or via mail to Next week, I'm going to go back and look at another enemy group... one that's in stark contrast to our last group, a bunch of enemies that no longer really even exist.

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.

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