A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Nine reasons for nine years of City of Heroes

Eliot Lefebvre
E. Lefebvre|05.08.13

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Nine reasons for nine years of City of Heroes
Bree says this header makes her cry.
This is not timed perfectly to coincide with what would have been the ninth anniversary of City of Heroes. It couldn't be, honestly; trying to do so would have resulted in a worse column. There's also the simple fact that the ninth anniversary did not actually happen, the game was gone before then. Sanctifying the date will not bring the game back, nor will it assuage the fact that it's not there any longer.

Despite all of that, I liked the thematic structure put forth on the Titan boards, nine reasons for nine years. But since I'm incapable of doing things any way but the wrong way, I'm approaching this in my own style with my own nine reasons that I wish we'd had a ninth year. Even if the game comes back tomorrow in some form, it's never going to have the life that it should have had, and here's my nine reasons why I wish that weren't the case.

I had so many more costumes for Sipahi, really.1. There was so much more left to do.

Even if you write off half of the mission chains in the game as being crap, the other half was enormous. That's not even touching upon all of the creativity on display in Mission Architect or the endgame content. I had barely scratched the surface of Incarnate systems when I had to wave goodbye, and no matter how much of the game you played, I would bet good money that there was still a lot more you had never seen. Running out of things to do in the game was never the problem, and it was rarely even a game where you would run out of things you found fun to do. There was always more to be done.

2. The game was finding some of the best parts of its voice.

Eight years might sound like plenty of time to get a game's design down to a science, but I think it was honestly around the time of Going Rogue that City of Heroes had found exactly what it wanted to be in terms of lore and feel. The featured episodes had been getting better and better, new mission arcs were better and better, and the overall thematic flow of the game was stronger at the end than it had been at any earlier point in its history. I think that we would have had more than a few moments of genuine amazement in the ninth year, and I can only wish that we had a chance to experience all of that.

3. It meant the death of Paragon Studios.

Oddly, I feel that Paragon Studios was always a bit better for CoH than classic Cryptic. The people who stayed and formed Paragon were a purer breed in some ways, aimed more completely at making CoH the best game it could be. But there were still new projects the team could have undertaken, and there was so much passion behind the people involved that it was impossible not to feel some of that energy. The fact that we'll never see another game by Paragon Studios is a darn shame, and while I know the talented folks involved have found new homes, it's just not the same.

4. It made everyone more nervous.

You get used to the idea that certain things stick around no matter what else changes. CoH was reliable, constant, a game you could count on. It was profitable, solid, and well-loved, with none of the baggage or backlash that Star Wars Galaxies had endured over some ill-advised patches. The result was that losing CoH drove home the point that no game is entirely safe, something that leads to plenty of nervousness, apprehension, and agitation. Not good for the community.

Even the characters I didn't like as much I miss.5. It reduces the visibility of innovations.

I liked to joke that CoH came up with innovative ideas that wouldn't even be touted as innovations for another few years when they showed up elsewhere. Seriously, on a list of games with ideas worth stealing, CoH is probably right at the top. Unfortunately, it's a lot harder to point to it as an example when it's no longer there to show people all of the nifty ideas it used.

6. There's no other game with such an even approach to level scaling.

Guild Wars 2 does offer level scaling. It does not do so nearly as well as CoH did so. This was a game where I could frequently let a character stop in the mid-game without feeling like I was missing most of my abilities, but leveling further still felt universally rewarding. There was nothing but good stuff as you leveled and nothing to stop you from being effective even at lower tiers.

7. It was a blow to the genre as a whole.

I've said before that there are some benefits to the superheroic genre as a whole without CoH, but it also dealt a pretty huge blow to superhero MMOs in the immediate. Possibly even in the long term. If something that's run this long can't last beyond a certain point, why assemble a new one? During a time when superheroes are still a hot property, the last thing that anyone wants is to try to defend the genre's worth.

8. We're left only with memories.

People are already polarized about CoH. Some people will point to it as the greatest thing ever, while others will spend a great deal of effort explaining how terrible it was, and the problem is that we no longer have reality to check our recollections against. We've become fragmented, bound by things only half-remembered, willing to divide and loathe over imagined differences. The unity that was the hallmark of the community for years is nowhere to be found.

9. It was my second MMO.

Yes, this one has nothing to do whatsoever with careful reasoning or rationality. It's just based on the fact that this was the second game I ever committed to, and losing it still feels like losing an old friend. I don't like losing my friends.

Feedback is welcome down below in the comments or via mail to eliot@massively.com. Next week I'd like to move away from being (appropriately) maudlin and talk about what Champions Online could do to pull itself together.

By day a mild-mannered reporter, Eliot Lefebvre spent years in City of Heroes before the world-shattering event that destroyed his home world. But he remains as intrepid as ever, traveling to other superheroic games and dispensing his unique brand of justice... or lack thereof.
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