A Mild-Mannered Reporter: A marvelous, titanic super-hero September

Eliot Lefebvre
E. Lefebvre|10.02.13

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: A marvelous, titanic super-hero September
There was a time when the word 'titanic' didn't bring a disaster to mind, but I wasn't alive for that.
I'm breaking up my usual format a bit for this month. Part of that is just out of necessity; DC Universe Online launched a big DLC pack that I talked about in the last column, which obviously was the focus for most of the past month. Champions Online just had an invasion event going that I didn't actually take part in; I've had enough invasion-style events to last the remainder of my natural life, even if the rewards for this one do look pretty awesome. Call me cynical.

No, this month I'm focusing on two games, only one of which is actually out at the moment. One of these games has been firing on all cylinders and might force cynical old me to eat a bit of crow, which I'll happily do if it means that the game is better for everyone enjoying it. And the other... isn't. You can probably guess what I'm talking about, but you can also go ahead and jump past the cut to eliminate any possible doubt. I encourage it!

If I could make this a column about Emma Frost all the time, I probably would.Staying frosty

It's no secret that I'm not a big fan of Marvel Heroes, and the past couple of months haven't given me many reasons to reverse that stand. September, however, saw the launch of two major patches, each containing one of the delayed characters and adding a whole bunch of improvements on besides. Better yet, the characters added were Luke Cage and Emma Frost.

Seriously. The only way I could have been happier is if the developers also added Blink and M.

I've been informed I have exactly one paragraph to explain why I like these two characters so much, because neither one is really an object of affection due to gameplay but because they are awesome. Luke Cage is like this beautifully strange backbone that summarizes the entirety of the Marvel Universe, a man granted super powers who still pretty much lives like a regular dude. Emma Frost meanwhile, was busy being a woman with agency in comics back before that was even a talking point; yes, she's always been dressed to impress a specific demographic, but she does so for stated reasons and isn't diminished into just serving that purpose. When she's written well, anyway.

But my affection isn't won just by adding characters. No, it's also helped materially by the addition of things like different gameplay modes and systems. The idea of being able to unlock bonuses for your entire roster of heroes when a character hits certain milestones is just plain worthy, hearkening back to some of the better design choices for Star Wars: The Old Republic's Legacy system. New difficulty levels are good, since they're sort of the bread and butter of Diablo-style games.

Whatever your thoughts on the choice of how the game was designed, once a game is launched, the real test is how well the game adapts and expands to improve itself. By all accounts, Marvel Heroes is working hard at making sure that it does well. And seriously, adding in Blink? That would cover a multitude of sins.

It's a sign that the game has come a long way in a year.  It is also not gameplay.The sad saga of a city

Last month was supposed to see the launch of the Kickstarter project for City of Titans, formerly The Phoenix Project. Unfortunately, the project got hit by a delay by being the epicenter of a dramatic community explosion that more or less outlined every reason I've been leery of the entirety of these fan-created City of Heroes successors.

I don't know all of the specifics. Both sides say different things, and without being involved in the day-to-day running of the project all I've really got is speculation. Obviously, there was a huge disagreement, people left the project, new people rose to prominence, and what had been a unified front turned into a group beset by fractured bickering. And the days roll on, and now we're again told that the Kickstarter is coming out "soon."

Oh, and we're increasingly getting reports from all comers that, in case we had somehow forgotten, game development is kind of hard. Kickstarter games are starting to hit brick walls in terms of cost. Embers of Caerus in particular has wound up in a place wherein the game was funded... but can't get more investors and doesn't have the money necessary to actually finish the game, possibly requiring another Kickstarter to pick up that money.

So what have we gotten? A bracingly short teaser trailer with the promise that it's really going to be soon. And I don't doubt that the people behind the project are working overtime to try and make this happen by putting this company together in the wake of losing a game that meant a lot to a whole lot of people. I fully believe that everyone is trying to make this happen out of passion.

But passion doesn't make games. No matter how much we might like it to be otherwise.

When I first wrote about the fan-made sequel projects, I mentioned that there are a lot of hurdles between wanting to revive CoH and it actually happening. These are extensions of those same hurdles, and as near as I can tell City of Titans is the closest we've come to one of these projects actually happening. The team has tried hard to put out new information about a game that won't exist for a couple more years if everything goes well, and that's never a fun road. But right now it's hard to tell if the game will even happen, and it looks like a bunch of fans bickering into smaller groups while trying to revive something with an ever-vanishing window.

I want a success. But that requires people to unify and recognize that making City of Titans happen is more important than derailing things over a dispute in the vision. And I increasingly don't see that happening.

Feedback, as always, is welcome down in the comments or via mail to eliot@massively.com. As ever, come on back next month for another roundup! (And who knows, there may be an extra or two this month. Just a possibility.)

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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