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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: The fight to save City of Heroes

Eliot Lefebvre

City of Heroes fans took to the streets on Saturday. Specifically, they took to the streets of Atlas Park, running a massive in-game protest against the game's cancellation. I'm going to assume that you were there if you're reading this column, as I certainly was, and I got quite a number of screenshots of the whole protest part of the event. If you missed it, we've got video.

I didn't stick around for the costume contest, mostly because it turns out I didn't have a slot for Melissa Bianco with a crab backpack.

The protest was the brainchild of TonyV, who is also the organizer behind the entire movement to save City of Heroes via a special message board dedicated to keeping the community organized. And considering what I've said in the past regarding other games that have shut down, you probably knew I would have something to say about this movement. It's something I support, but there's more nuance to it than just that. So let's talk about the fight to save the city.

Better to stand and fight than live with the knowledge that I ran.We are not likely to win

It's important to note that the odds are against us, and not in the superheroic style. It's not a matter of the odds being against us and we just have to try harder; this isn't The Dark Knight Rises. No, the odds are against us because we have basically no ammunition.

We as players have precisely two arguments to make to NCsoft to convince it to not kill the game: that we'd pay money for the game and that we care about it. The former point is essentially moot because the game was making money. CoH players were already paying to play the game; that's not the problem. If the presence of a paying customer base would have kept the game afloat, we wouldn't be here having this discussion.

That leaves us trying to convince NCsoft that the game is worth something to us as players. The hopes of another company taking over requires us to convince NCsoft that there's a paying customer base that it would like to sell to another company while at the same time convincing that other company that it's worth the expense to purchase the game in the first place. None of these scenarios is terribly likely.

These scenarios are also not impossible. Unlike Star Wars Galaxies, this game has no complex licensing issues to untangle. It's also not a money pit like several other cancelled NCsoft titles. But we don't have any actual threats or firepower to leverage against NCsoft, and it's very likely that all of our protests and requests will amount to nothing.

It doesn't mean we should stop trying to save the game, but it means we should temper that desire with a need to make peace with what's happening. And that's going to be a topic of a future column, but it's worth stating this up front because the last thing I want to do is give other people false hope about the game.

Now that the cynicism's finished...

I want to make something very clear: Even though I think the odds are good we've already lost, I intend to fight tooth and nail to keep the game going. And I think you should as well.

The people behind this project have done a wonderful job of keeping these protests efficient, focused, and aimed in the right direction. And honestly, at this point, "winning" doesn't enter into it. The point is that was as players have to stand up and make it clear that this game is important to us, that whether it remains online or not, you can't just shut it down after three months with no warning. We have a voice; we need to make use of it.

Sometimes you fight because you need to fight, not because you expect it to work.

The Ghost Shirt movement.
If you somehow missed the rally on Saturday, it can be summarized by the amount of difficulty people had getting on to the servers. Virtue got swamped, then Infinity got swamped, then Freedom got swamped as players swarmed from one overflow destination to the next to show support. Atlas Park broke 33 instances on Virtue, with pretty much all of them being full by the time I got my spider out to the park in support.

Obviously it's a bit easier to ignore than a riot in front of NCsoft's corporate offices, but this was a very well-organized and well-conceived protest. It showed the solidarity of the playerbase by pushing hard server concurrency numbers while also hammering the game's servers, both traits that are more likely to draw the notice of the corporate side. It was also a great chance for players to get together and really feel the pull of acting together. It's hard not to feel a tug when Atlas Park's stairs are covered in heroes holding torches for a game that's held us all together for so long.

Maybe you couldn't attend, but that's all right. The next major push is already taking shape, and it's a good one, albeit one that will cost you a little money in supplies and postage. The Masks and Capes campaign asks you to buy a simple costume mask and cape and send it to the corporate offices of NCsoft to make it clear just how much this game means to us.

My suggestion would be to send it to the Korean office, but you can't go wrong with multiple packages. Seriously, you can buy this stuff on the cheap for about five dollars. I know I'm going to be scouring the local Halloween stores once they start popping up just for this.

If you haven't already bookmarked the message board, do so now. And if you've got more suggestions in the comments, more ways to keep this cause promoted or visible, post them in the comments or mail them to I've been absolutely flooded since the last column, which I'm thrilled about, but that does mean I'm moving a little more slowly with email (which I'm never great about).

Next week, I'd like to talk about Paragon Studios, the people I've met, and the way the game has shaped my career. I'd also like to share some player stories, but I'm going to save several of those for a future column -- but don't be afraid to send in your own tales of the city.

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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