Negotiations started off pretty good between the parties. While Miller wasn't in the talks, he was briefed regularly. And the company was optimistic enough about its future that it quietly began to ping select media outlets to discuss plans on how it would break the news once Paragon and NCsoft had reached a separation agreement.
Then, things fell apart.
"Things looked like they were going to go well and then things just kind of stopped going well," says Miller. "I'm not exactly sure where the sticking points were, but in the logistics of business there's always some sticking point somewhere [on which] people just aren't willing to budge and I think that's where we ended up. There were one or two points where neither side could budge.
"On the night before we all got the notice of the studio shutting down, Brian, Ross, and Destin were in there still trying to work out that deal. We were a signature away from things going through or not - and we unfortunately fell on the not side."
At that point, between 15-20 people were part of the inner circle surrounding the attempted buyout. And while all of them were instructed not to tell anyone the deal had fallen through, word spread quickly -- as it tends to do in the gaming world. By the next morning, most of the employees knew what they'd be hearing that day and immediately began cleaning out their desks when they arrived at work.
While the layoffs and dangled-but-retracted hope of independence were disappointing for the team, it was just as frustrating to walk away from the projects they were working on.
The latest City of Heroes update was less than two weeks from hitting the live servers. Plans were underway for the game's upcoming anniversary. And two new IPs were in various stages of development at the studio.
All of that work had to be abandoned.
Since City of Heroes wouldn't be shut down until the end of the year, Paragon tried to give players a final gift, says Miller. While the latest update was unfinished, it was close enough that they tried to open it up to players.
"I insisted that we push it up immediately bugs and all just so the players had something new for the last couple months but even that was impossible to do," he says. "We just had no support from NCsoft for getting a new version out there. It was too bug-ridden and it was going to cause customer-service complaints and they didn't want to have to deal with that."
The anniversary plans Paragon had for City of Heroes were elaborate, Miller says. A new enemy was about to make its debut, which would culminate in the opening of a moon base for players. Preliminary work was underway, including concept art and level layout.
"We really wanted to give the players a brand new environment -- something they've kind of been asking for, something to take the game to that galactic stage," says Miller. "We've had superheroes in the game. You start off [and] you're just fighting street crime. Then you move up and you're fighting citywide threats and then global threats and then these sort of extra-dimensional threats all threatening the world. And we really wanted to take the stage and make it more of a galactic stage.
"So we had an alien invasion race called The Battalion that was going to be arriving in the very next issue. That would play out over several issues culminating with the moon base, where you would use the resources of the moon base to actually fight back and basically kick Battalion out of our solar system."