When it comes to the gameplay design, I just kind of sensed that it was about shifting alignments, but you can live in that gray space; you don't really have to go binary. Is that what you're saying?
DN: You can. You certainly have rewards at every step of the way. We reinforce if you want to stay a hero or villain; you get certain rewards. If you move, you get certain rewards; if you're in that middle space, the reward you get is you can access both the hero content and the villain content, which you can't do if you're a dedicated hero or villain.
But the rewards for being a true-blue hero or a villain are special bases that you can go to with ways to power up your character. Some of the best loot in the game can be gotten there. It rewards your play style however you want to go.
That's just the thing; the whole game is about customization, letting players live out their superhero fantasies. So we gave them costume customization, then powers customization, mission content customization -- now alignment customization. It's kind of all just expanding that theme of player and empowerment.
It's been hard for a lot of games. I think they've been fairly criticized for their black-or-white morality, so it's interesting to see something that sort of pushes the gray a little bit.
DN: Yeah, I think so. I have to imagine that most superhero fans -- the people who really get something out of reading superhero fiction or creating their own characters in City of Heroes...
What's fun about storytelling is movement, right? Taking your character from point A to point B. This lets you do that. This actually creates the ability to color your own story. You're not just stuck as hero; you're not stuck as villain. You can move. It's amazingly freeing, I think.
You don't have a story arc if you're stuck in one place. You need to be able to have that forward momentum and create change in your character to have that character be alive and have a living story, and that's really why this is so massive.
So many games do good or evil polar binaries, but there's actually very little in the way of actually presenting gray to people as a viable option or even encouraging them to think that way.
JC: Oh, yeah. Like there's one certain situation where there's a drug in the game -- I don't know if David touched upon it -- it's called "enriche". It's in the water, and as part of the Resistance you want to stop the manufacture of any enriche, because you don't want everybody to be brainwashed; but, if you do, you will stop the only water supply for the entire city.
So stopping it will achieve what you want, no more brainwashing, but stopping it will also mean that there's no more water. Well, what do you do? It's a hard question, and it's not something that is good or evil. Is there a benefit to being brainwashed? Being brainwashed might actually be a good thing! There's always moral challenges that we're presenting in the game that make Going Rogue much more mature and much more interesting than just being, "Oh, hey. I'm just good and evil." Kind of awesome.
David, You mentioned working on an anime-inflected miniseries at Marvel. Did you ever think about adding in some of those elements to bring in the manga fans into the City of Heroes universe, or is it a "never the twain shall meet" kind of thing?
DN: Well, the game has a certain style, but I think the beauty of the comic book-inspired landscape is that almost anything fits into it. A cowboy wouldn't be out of place. Samurai is definitely not out of place. Giant mechas certainly would fit right in.
We always have plans: What is the next cool aesthetic thing we're going to add to the game? We're always trying to get the next thing in there that isn't represented currently. I would definitely love to do a big, Gundam-inspired anime set. That'd be awesome. I think the players would dig it, too.
Some of our upcoming costume releases are definitely going to address these solicitations we've got from the forums of what players actually want, holes they see, and concepts they couldn't create previously. So we'll just satisfy more and more of their special wishes, I'm sure.