Editorial: Farewell, City of Heroes

You may be aware, Lusifans, that City of Heroes is shutting down in only a few days, with the final server shutdown happening right at the end of November. With the final shutdown imminent, I wanted to talk a little bit about my experiences with and opinion of the one superhero MMO anyone ever considered worth playing.

I began playing CoH in about 2005, a little over a year after its release. At fourteen, I was significantly younger than a large portion of City of Heroes‘s older-than-average player base. With no prior MMORPG experience to back me up, I broke a large number of the unwritten MMO social rules, like “Don’t steal another player’s kills”, and in those early days I made a few enemies as I learned what to do and what not to do. As I learned the game, I began to play it significantly more often, both with and without the real-life friends who had initially convinced me to join CoH.

It is admittedly a fairly bland logo.
The old City of Heroes logo is always the one I associate with the game.

Over the next four years, I sunk countless hours into City of Heroes. Issue 5 launched about a week or two after I started, and I remember excitedly trying to reach a high enough level to explore the then-new Croatoa content. I was there when City of Villains launched and proved an overwhelming disappointment due to its lack of content and a surprising lack of actual villainy. I remember Cryptic Studios trying desperately to make people actually play PvP content before finally just giving up and leaving the existing PvP content in an unbalanced, unplayed state for those few people who actually enjoyed it. My friends and I eagerly awaited the Veteran Rewards system and its addition of wings to the character creation options – forget all the cool powers and the extra respecs, we can have wings now!

There was a time when the community was optimistic about City of Heroes being sold to NCSoft. As far as we were concerned, the new management would be able to fix all of the problems with the increasingly dated MMO. And for a while, they did; the eventual release of the long-awaited “Mission Architect” brought player-created storylines into the game for the first time. Another feature people had asked for for years, alignment switching, was introduced in mid-2010 with Going Rogue. While City of Heroes: Going Rogue was marketed as the game’s first paid expansion pack, the playerbase frequently commented that the underwhelming launch of City of Villains was the franchise’s first paid expansion and Going Rogue its second.

Also in this picture: my main character and the power tray setup I've been using since last year.
Portal Corp, part of Peregrine Island, is a hub for high-level content.

I eventually stopped playing City of Heroes in 2009, but I never let myself believe that I was done forever. I still had endgame content that I had never touched, and the frequent updates to the game meant that there would be plenty of new missions and areas for me to experience. When Freedom was announced, I knew I would be returning to the game, and in late 2011 I reinstalled my old favorite and jumped right back in. I only ever played Freedom casually; even with all the new content to experience, I was a little burned out on City of Heroes after so many years. I have only played the game twice since the announcement of the shutdown. While many people have been trying to play the game as much as possible before the end, I found the announcement of the end had the opposite effect on me. With the inevitable ending drawing closer, I have simply resigned myself to the fact that there are some parts of City of Heroes that I will just never be able to see.

The announcement of the end was rather sudden; there were not even rumors of the game’s end. Issue 24, the next major content patch, had been announced and promised a major overhaul for the game’s primary ranged DPS class. A new VIP or cash shop only story arc was midway through its release and the players will now never be able to see it through to its end. The sudden and closed-lipped way that NCSoft has handled these past few months has left a horrible impression on the City of community. A number of efforts have been launched to try and save the game, but so far NCSoft has neglected to address these comments outside of an short post thanking the community for everything it has done. I have watched in the past few months as the community came together to try to save City of Heroes and while I admire the fanbase’s capacity for unity and their drive to keep the game alive, it was obvious from the beginning that the campaigning and petitioning would get them nowhere.

So, City of Heroes is ending. Will I be there at the end to watch it go down? In all honesty, I have no idea. My burnout with the game, combined with my new distaste for NCSoft, makes me want to just uninstall the game now and be done with it. However, my fairly long history with the game means that despite what I may say, chances are good that I will be there with my fellow players in Atlas Park, saying farewell to the game we all enjoyed for so long.

10 comments

  1. I hope NCSoft goes out of business for the way they’ve treated their userbase.

    (But they won’t.)

  2. I don’t know if it was an issue of aesthetics or the gameplay, but I could never get into City of Heroes (even for the cost of nothing). For as much as I find WOW to be a tedious grindfest, there is a lot to like and I have been pulled back in on a couple of occasions (and would certainly play it for free) while City of Heroes seemed like a cool idea, it was for whatever reason, not all that engaging.

  3. So strange that in gaming you get such a dichotomy of games you love made by companies you hate.

  4. @Kobold: I think the issue can be summed up by saying that every time WoW updates, I log in and I am overwhelmed by things I want to do. Pet battles! Minigames! Scenarios! Raids! Dungeons! Exploration! Mounts! Titles! Challenges! Storyline! PvP!

    When I played CoH, there was literally nothing I wanted to do in the game. No engagement, no interest. It felt like an unpolished free to play game (and it was).

    Few MMORPGs can constantly provide novelty at sufficient speeds to keep me interested. FFXI pre-Wings was good, but WoW has done it so much better than I honestly can’t see myself playing any other MMO until someone can beat them at that, and that just doesn’t seem likely with the hedging going on now in MMO development. (i.e. If a company isn’t willing to sink a LOT of cash into a project and accept that it will be a long-term development endeavour, there’s no chance. And most companies want to make as much money as possible in the shortest possible time, so they’re not interested in that kind of project.)

  5. @Lusi I do not understand why companies continue to make MMO’s without planning for the long haul. I also do not understand why every franchise needs to have an MMO. The MMORPG market is oversaturated as is — why would any company think it is a good idea to try entering such an overfilled market?

  6. Yeah, I’m very interested in what those pitch meetings look like. I imagine most of them just talk about how their MMO will have more appeal than WoW, and then the execs get cartoon money symbols in their eyes.

  7. @Ethos I’d like to know just how much money new MMOs make from initial sales & subs, and if that covers the cost of making the game.

    Some people pay for the longest length of time possible then spend very little time in the game.

  8. Deimosion wrote, “@Lusi I do not understand why companies continue to make MMO’s without planning for the long haul. I also do not understand why every franchise needs to have an MMO. The MMORPG market is oversaturated as is — why would any company think it is a good idea to try entering such an overfilled market?”

    This. Exactly this.

  9. I think that MMO market is oversaturated because companies look at WOW and without really understanding precisely what makes it work so well they think, “That looks easy and we could make a shitload of money off of something like that” while neither doing what WOW does as well as WOW does it nor differentiating itself to a large enough degree to present a realistically viable alternative.

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