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City of Heroes: Secrets To Six Years Of Success
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City of Heroes: Secrets To Six Years Of Success

August 19, 2010 Article Start Previous Page 4 of 5 Next

Something that your game is known for, at least to me, is having a large, pretty casual audience, a little bit more so than some of the other MMOs on the market. Would you say that's a fair characterization?

JC: Yeah. I think the biggest attractions for our game are that players can create characters right off the bat without having to unlock a whole bunch of stuff -- our character creation system is so robust, once you start experiencing it your imagination just lights up. It's so easy to use and to understand, people can just spend hours and hours within the character creation system without getting into the game, and then, once they get into the game, they realize, "Oh, wow! This is even much more fun!"

DN: The great thing about the character creator is it can be as casual or involved as you want to be. You can spend weeks doing it, or you can hit a button and have a costume generated for you -- or levels in between; you can have that generated for you and only choose the colors. So it's as involved as you want it to be.

In terms of the game content, do you think there's something about your game in particular that attracts that sort of audience? Or, more to the point, you have a hardcore player base that's satisfied, and you're also satisfying a much more casual player base?

JC: Well, we draw our inspirations for a lot of our starting lines not only from comic books but from books and television and movies, and we can have some of our story lines resonate with a lot of people.

I mean, the Roman background, players get inspired to get on their gladiator outfits on, or whatever; or alien invasions where the heroes and villains have to unite to fight off these alien foes. Those are really cool concepts that exist in television, movies, comic books... It's just fun. Not a whole lot of MMOs can take advantage of that because they may not be set in a kind of comic book universe where fantasy and science fiction can meet. I think that's one of our benefits.

Does it have anything to do with the pace of the gameplay or the design also, do you think?

JC: Well, our gameplay is very different from other MMOs. The way that players can fight and move in a 3D space -- other MMOs are always ground-based, so you can't full jump or fly at super-speed and also do combat. It's much slower, I would say, in other games. It's just different. I think our game allows players to feel very powerful without being... I guess gimmicky, if that makes sense.

Your expansion deals with the concept concept of people switching alignment, and in a comic book theme there are clear "evil versus good" stories. Where these have appeared in other games -- like World of Warcraft or Fable for example --  people tend to play the "good guys". Have you found that to be the case in your game, or does the superhero theme or anything you do design-wise encourage experimentation with different alignments?

JC: Comparing City of Heroes and City of Villains, we definitely saw a lot of players favoring the heroes side, but, with Going Rogue, what we've tried to do is we've tried to turn the concept of what good and evil means -- and right and wrong and what that means -- really inside and out and upside-down.

Primarily because, with Praetoria, there's two different factions: the Loyalist and the Resistance factions. In your mind, the Resistance could be, "Oh, they're the freedom fighters, so they must be the good guys!" In the same sense, those freedom fighters can also be agents of chaos.

Somebody who's a Loyalist, who's in the opposite faction -- they're the people who provide the safety and support for the law, and that provides structure and sanctuary; but, by doing so, they may also be supporting a tyranny.

Suppose the good guys are actually bad. So what we are doing with Going Rogue and Praetoria is turning everything upside-down.

In other games, where they have good and evil, with Praetoria, we're trying to change the concept of what good and evil actually is. Players may find that being good isn't where they want to be; they may actually want to sway towards evil, if that makes sense, because we're switching it all around.

Sometimes players resist the good/evil dichotomy stuff, but with superheroes it seems to be a fit. And that's tapped into tapped into the discussion of superhero stuff more recently in pop culture -- about good vs. evil and the gray area.

DN: Yeah, actually that's exactly -- if you look at the story of comic books as a medium, it definitely started off a little on the naive side, a little bit binary good and evil; you know, boy scouts versus mustache-twisting villains.

But through The Dark Knight Returns in the '80s, we saw the medium grow up. To explore this shade of gray, very quickly the vigilante characters that occupy that middle space became the most popular characters. Batman and Wolverine came to the forefront, and Superman kind of faded back.

That's what's been popular ever since! It's the gray-area stuff, stuff that appeals to an older audience with more complicated tastes. Likewise, for the game, players want to be that vigilante and tell complicated stories like the characters they love; now they can make their own characters that fit exactly their concept of what that character's supposed to be like in the game world. That's why I think Going Rogue is so compelling as a basic idea.

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