City of Heroes: Secrets To Six Years Of Success
August 19, 2010 Page 3 of 5
David, you started out as a comic book artist. Did you ever think you would go into games, or was it just a natural evolution of how your career developed?
DN: It was sort of natural. I've always been interested in games as much as I was interested in comics, and City of Heroes obviously had instant appeal for because I'm a massive comic book fan, and this is just bringing comic books to life in the most realistic and compelling way. So when the opportunity to work on the thing and contribute art to it -- I mean, that was definitely a no-brainer. As much as I love comics, I was very excited to join the team.
At Top Cow, I did some Witchblade work and some various projects for them. When I got to Marvel, I worked on Incredible Hulk and Spiderman and a six issue miniseries with Chris Claremont, which was sort of a fanboy dream come true -- about an anime-inspired Japanese X-Men spin-off team.
Working with him was really exciting, and working on the City of Heroes comic, I got to work with Mark Waid, who's another one of my comic book heroes. Transitioning to City of Heroes was just a way to take my art that I'd been doing in a comic book format and bring it to 3D life. That's why I love it!
What's the aesthetic challenge there? A lot of people have struggled to reconcile the printed page and the screen and done better or worse in being able to bring them closer together. How do you find that that's been for you in making that happen, particularly with new tech?
DN: Yeah, the tech helps a lot. I actually feel more empowered working on a game because I can realize things in 3D, in animation, with effects, with sounds; it's so much more real and interactive than what I could generate in a comic book, and I can still bring all that great comic book sensibility, like interesting designs -- really getting to the heart of a character through the design of his outfit -- all that's the same.
I feel like I'm kind of doing the same job in many ways, just thinking the designers are very much akin to a comic book writer. They provide us with a script and a departure point, and bringing those stories to artistic life feels almost identical to me, comics to games. It's just that we can achieve so much more with the interactivity of them.
How is the design structured? Is there an overarching arc of the way the story's going to go and then individual missions that are designed within that? How is that organized from the design team's perspective?
JC: What we try to do is we define an overarching story arc or goal, so with Going Rogue it's the new universe of Praetoria. It has key players within that universe, and we try to define: "Okay, within this level band, this is the turning point of the story arc that occurs in this area." We try to think up missions to support those. We try to make sure that, as players progress through different levels, it makes sense because it's, again, a journey.
And who has ownership of that on the design team? Does someone own the overarching story, and then the individual missions are more crafted by different designers?
JC: We come up with goals. It's worked out internally by our lead designer, who works with our lead content writer. They brainstorm a bunch of different things that they want to achieve. That is roped internally through to our executive staff, and once we've plotted out the issue or several issues or the next year in advance, then those goals get broken down into our schedules.
So while we are just preparing to launch Issue 18 and Going Rogue, we are ready several issues ahead internally. We're already working on the next several expansions simultaneously. So, yeah. (Laughs) It's not ending... Like I said; MMORPGs are different from consoles. We're always thinking ahead.
How frequently do you release Issues, typically?
JC: We average between three and four Issues a year. Yeah, approximately that.
Outside of something like Going Rogue, is that free content upgrades for the user base?
JC: Well, what's going on with the expansion is there's a free component as well, so we try to make sure that people who don't choose to purchase the expansion are also taken care of; but obviously the people who invest in the expansion get a greater proportion of benefits in terms of content, story, and systems.
But, yeah, all of our Issue updates -- well, some have been system-focused; moving forward, we're trying to make sure that there's a lot of content focus as well.
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