A Mild-Mannered Reporter: A personal tribute to Paragon Studios

We stand until the end.

When I started my career at Massively, I wasn't hired to be the City of Heroes guy. I wasn't hired to be the anything guy, although I quickly earned a reputation. It was a few months after I got hired that I got the opportunity to start doing a pair of weekly columns, one on City of Heroes and one about the online Final Fantasy installments. This was due to the fact that my affection for City of Heroes was well-known on staff, and I was already knee-deep in the game, so...

It wasn't quite three years ago, but it was close enough. And I've said many times that my professional career has been tied in directly with City of Heroes because of that. As I've grown as a writer and a journalist, I've been working alongside City of Heroes. So today I'm not going to talk as much about the game itself. I'm going to talk about the people of Paragon Studios, some of whom I had the good fortune to interact with over the years and all of whom seem to be absolutely astonishing human beings.

I'd like to note that Paragon Studios also worked to create a lore tha feels authentic to a comic book nerd like myself.  That's also commendable.

The first time I really had a chance to interact with the staff directly was at PAX East 2010, the first year of PAX East and a watershed event for me as a reporter. Melissa Bianco was my first professional interview, so of course my voice recorder wound up completely borked. I had to run to a CVS, buy a notepad, and start scrawling furious notes as she answered my disconnected questions. The point that I'm trying to get at here is that I was not exactly collected and together when I sat down for this.

But if I liked the game beforehand (and I did), Ms. Bianco made me fall in love with the staff as well because she was every bit as enthusiastic and interested in the game as I was. Half of the interview was rambling conversation on various tangents, and the NCsoft PR representative present for the interview had to occasionally cut her off mid-sentence before she revealed something she wasn't supposed to. It was intensely humanizing event that made these people more than names on a credits screen.

This has resulted in several years when I've felt as if I walked an awkward two-way street. I've been writing a column about the game, but at the same time, I've also been getting feedback directly from the developers because they read and enjoyed the column. When I suggested that Matt Miller's absence from PAX East 2011 was a sinister plot, I was informed a few hours later that he does his sinister plotting only on Thursdays, not Saturdays. When I wrote up an intensely negative piece not long before NYCC 2010, I got a handshake from brand manager Hosun Lee at the convention proper and his thanks for being honest.

More than anything, I've had an open line of communication that's allowed me to see the people behind the game without any PR filter. Obviously, I haven't always seen eye-to-eye with the studio's decisions, and I've been critical when necessary, but Paragon has never been a studio that dwelled in an ivory tower. These were people who loved the game they made, were enthusiastic about it, and had tons of ideas about how to make it better. Always.

This is probably true of every studio out there. I freely admit that. But Paragon Studios was my example in action. It has -- had -- an open and talented group of people who have a lot more to give the gaming world than they have so far, and the fact that the studio is being axed along with the game is a huge shame.

I don't even want to think about the work that went into making tintable powers solely because people had asked for them.

Yes, shutting down CoH is bad enough, but Paragon's shuttering is a waste. It's a waste of spectacular talent and a group of kind people who have spent years working on this game and doing wonderful things for the community both in and out of the game. There are a lot of games that lose something over the course of their operation, but I can honestly say that City of Heroes has gotten better over the past seven years in an almost unbroken trend upward.

Will the team work together again? I don't know. The problem here is that CoH has had its day in the sun, but that was quite some time ago. If I had the money, I'd hire the old Paragon staffers within about two minutes, but I'm not a game developer. I would love to see what they could do out from under the thumb of NCsoft, but it might require a company more willing to take chances to reunite everyone.

I've talked before about the possibility of a sequel to the game, and this is a case in which I truly believe the original team could go back, do things very differently, and keep the same magic.

Whether you're in the fight to save the game or you're just remembering the game that was, take some time to remember the people affected by this whole ordeal because it's not just about us on the player side. The Paragon folks have poured themselves into making the game that's so near and dear to our hearts, and they love the game as much as we do. We're losing a game; they're losing a game and their jobs. It's a waste of talent, and it's far less than they deserve.

Sorry we couldn't do more than buy you lunch, guys. But I hope it was a really good lunch.

Comments and feedback, as always, can be sent to Next week, I'm going to start turning things over to people for testimonials, so if you've got a story you'd like to see here, pass it along. This will likely take more than one week.

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.