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One Year On, We Still Miss City of Heroes


I miss this vista. I miss being able to fly over Atlas Park at sunset, or at any other time. I miss this game, which was closed far sooner than it should have been.

Even though the one-year anniversary of City of Heroes’ closing is but two days away, there are still plenty of players like me who love and miss this game for what it meant to us. #SaveCoH is still a popular tag on Twitter for this reason; we former players still share memories and creative ideas for characters we never got to try. And yes, we’re still angry that this game, this virtual world which we gladly paid to access, was so cruelly taken away for such trivial reasons as “realignment of company policies.” (Those new policies apparently included utter refusal to heed customers’ complaints and wants.)

Perhaps I’m beating a long-dead horse. But City of Heroes was far more than just a “superhero MMO”–it was a haven for creative people. You could create original characters, design original costumes in minute detail, choose your own powersets, and play your character in hundreds of beautifully-rendered virtual environments. Not only that, you could meet other creative people and form teams and supergroups (guilds) with them. City of Heroes attracted a different type of MMO gamer, the kind that wasn’t just interested in constant raids and multi-hour quests, but camaraderie and working as a team. It attracted working people, parents, and other folks who didn’t have a ton of time to dedicate to a game–it wasn’t as intensive a game, so it was easier to approach and easier to enjoy casually. It was an MMO for people who don’t like MMOs, in other words; it provided a sanctuary from other time-consuming games (*cough*WoW*cough). It was unique, just like its playerbase…and we grieve for its loss.

And yet City of Titans represents hope amid this grief, because it is at least a partial return to the virtual world I miss. Even though November 30th tolls like a somber bell in our minds, we have something to look forward to, a fan-created virtual world where we may fly over another Atlas Park. We are still sad and angry, one year later, but we have used those feelings to propel us forward. On this Thanksgiving Day, this resilient community of CoH players, with its creative vision and firm resolve, is something for which we can all be thankful.

Soon, Heroes Shall Fly Again, in the City of Titans

Last fall, City of Heroes players wept and raged as Paragon City darkened on November 30th, in spite of everything we tried to do, in spite of protests and calls. It seemed all had finally been lost when the 30th rolled around and NCSoft’s stance had not changed.

Most of us fans crept away and mourned, trying to find solace in other games or projects. But for one small band of players, their response was to recreate the City they had so cherished in a game of their own making. That game is called City of Titans.

The Facts

This group of players formed The Phoenix Project and MissingWorldsMedia, and are currently developing City of Titans as a self-described “spiritual successor” to City of Heroes. According to the FAQ, the game will be built on the Unreal 3 engine by former CoH players, and the studio is shooting for a release date sometime in 2015. Support for Sentinel+ character files (developed by the Titan Network) is planned (yay!).

Lots more is covered in the WorldsFactory interview with TPP’s project lead, Warcabbit–well worth a read to get a good sense of how CoT is developing!

City of Titans Still Needs Your Help!

And most importantly, keep spreading the word! Soon, we heroes will have a City to protect again! πŸ˜€

Pitching City of Heroes to Google: You Can Help!

After the hubbub last fall over the closure of City of Heroes, most people outside the City of Heroes playerbase (and many people in the former playerbase, for that matter) probably think that the #SaveCoH movement is dead.

Not so.

In fact, a relatively new part of the #SaveCoH movement, called “Task Force Hail Mary,” is gathering steam over on the CoHTitan Forums (see details in this forum thread). They are in the process of pitching City of Heroes to Google, following up a tendril of interest from a contact of Mercedes Lackey’s within Google.

Now, before you scoff at your computer screen or utter a cynical “That’ll never work,” please realize that everyone involved knows this is a long shot. But if enough people send letters to Google supporting this idea, perhaps we can make enough waves and draw enough attention to the game to make Google or another company interested in picking it up. After all, what’s the use in rolling over and playing dead when we are most certainly not dead yet?

How You Can Help

What the Task Force Hail Mary needs now is letters–real, paper letters, telling Google how much you enjoyed City of Heroes, how unique a game it is among MMOs, and how it could bring Google positive press and profit (as well as a permanent place of affection in the playerbase’s collective heart). Be heartfelt but also grounded in reality, acknowledging that the company needs to profit from this move just as much as the players need to.

When you have written your letter, send it on to:

Jeson Patel
Engineering Manager
Google Inc
Google Mountain View
1600 Amphitheatre Parkway
Mountain View, CA 94043

This is the original contact within Google who was interested in seeing a City of Heroes pitch. You may also want to send your letter to Jamie Rosenberg, Vice President of Digital Content, using the same mailing address.

A Final Note

Since one of the posts I made about City of Heroes garnered some negative opinions about the game, as well as shaming comments about people who wanted to save the game, I will go ahead and say this: if you don’t care about the #SaveCoH movement or are glad that the game was shut down, then please do not post. Every gamer is allowed his or her opinions, and the #SaveCoH movement is no different. If you believe we are silly for trying this, if you think the game was stupid and isn’t worth saving–we simply don’t want to hear it, and any such derogatory responses will be deleted from the comments. As I said before, we know this is a long shot, but if we do not try, we will indeed be “playing dead” when we are not dead at all.

Call to Action: Don’t Give Up on City of Heroes Yet!

Recently on the CoHTitan forums, a very interesting post by a user named Mister Bison appeared, quoting a message from a French GM of NCSoft Customer Support.

This message, sent in response to a French player’s support ticket, seemed to indicate that all the account information for City of Heroes players has not been destroyed, and in fact cannot be destroyed. Customer Support also said in this message that “[they] don’t know yet what will become of the City of Heroes servers.”

The Meaning of This Mysterious Message

What does this mean for us long-suffering City of Heroes players? At first blush, this seems to mean that the City of Heroes servers have not been wiped clean, as we all feared would happen after Nov. 30th. And it also seems to mean that our personal CoH account information has not been deleted.

Many of the first repliers to this post believe, as I do, that this means NCSoft may still be amenable to selling off City of Heroes to another game company. Of course, another, more pessimistic, possibility still exists, as a few users have suggested–that the account information in question is the “master” NCSoft account, not the specific CoH account.

The Call to Action: Ask NCSoft for Information

Whatever the case, we need more information; if Paragon City has indeed not been razed to the ground, we need to know. Our next move as a community, then, is for as many players as possible to contact NCSoft Customer Support. We need to ask about the state of our City of Heroes account information.

Here are the mailing addresses and phone numbers for the various customer support centers, retrieved from NCSoft’s global page.

North America/




Address: 6801 N. Capital of Texas Hwy, Bldg 1 Austin, TX 78731

Phone: (512) 225-6359

Address: Ebisu Business Tower 16F,1-19-19 Ebisu, Shibuya-ku, Tokyo 150-0013

Phone: +81-3-5793-2500

Address: 6F No,738 Chung-cheng Road, Chung-ho City, Taipei 235, Taiwan

Phone: +886-2-8024-3300

Address: 14Fl, 18 True Tower, Ratchadapiek Road, Huai Khwang, Bangkok 103 Thailand

Phone: +66-2-699-1474

When you contact them, be sure to ask specifically and politely about your City of Heroes account information. However we may still feel about NCSoft and their treatment of us as customers, we do need to ask carefully, if we want our game back. They hold the fragile keys to Paragon City in their hands, after all.

As I stated on my CoH Twitter account after Nov. 30th, “Paragon City is not burned to the ground; the lights have simply been turned off.” If we still want this game back, let us show NCSoft in the most civil and adult way possible–by submitting questions to them concerning our account information. Even if the information we get is not what we want to hear, at least we will know, and not be left to wonder!

Saving City of Heroes: If All Else Fails, Plan Z

If you’ve heard anything about the #SaveCoH movement at all, you’ve likely heard the term “Plan Z” noised about among resolute City of Heroes fans. What is this mysterious plan, and what does it entail?

According to forums on CoHTitan and CoHGuru, “Plan Z” would be a fan-supported MMO, which would cleave as closely to CoH as possible without being sued.

I admit, this isn’t exactly “saving” CoH, but it would save what we love most about the game itself, only porting it to a new game. It’s not ideal, and it’s something we #SaveCoH-ers hope will not be necessary…but it’s our last resort. Already, people are discussing on the CoHTitan forums about what the Plan Z game should and shouldn’t have, and what kinds of changes should be made (or need to be made, to avoid lawsuits). If enough details can be hammered out, this could be a workable solution, but more input and more information is definitely required, not to mention funding.

What Should CoH Players Do in the Meantime?

As we all stare anxiously at our calendars, likely fearing November 30th, there are a few things we each can do:

  • Get on the CoHTitan forums, and/or follow @thetitannetwork on Twitter to keep up with the #SaveCoH campaign and Plan Z
  • Add your ideas to the Plan Z pool, and/or offer any alternatives to Plan Z that you can think of, such as contacting other game companies, etc.
  • Save each of your characters with the Sentinel+ character file exporter. (More info about how to understand the Sentinel+ output in this forum post.) Potentially, Plan Z could import these character files later.
  • Keep making as much noise about #SaveCoH on your social networks–it’s still a viable campaign. No one’s given up yet!

In short: City of Heroes players have plans afoot that don’t involve completely migrating to another game entirely. We may yet be able to bring the spirit of our beloved Paragon City into a fan-supported, fan-designed game, perhaps with all our alts intact.

But this is our last resort; till we know for certain that no other path is open to us, #SaveCoH will continue to sally forth on social networks and blogs galore. If you want to save City of Heroes, you’re welcome to join us. πŸ™‚

The Slow, Agonizing Death of AE Missions

Author’s Note: Though this post references the currently slumbering MMO City of Heroes, it’s an important historical post because it reminds us players of what we need to be careful of if/when the game returns. I’d like to see true Architect Entertainment missions enjoy a renaissance along with the game itself!

Architect Entertainment missions (also known as AE missions) enjoyed a great popularity when issue 14 of City of Heroes/Villains was released back in 2009. For the first time, City of Heroes players could write their own missions and have other players play them, instead of doing runs of the same in-game content over and over again. The week i14 released, you couldn’t even walk your character by the Architect Entertainment buildings without lagging, because there were so many heroes crammed inside waiting to take part in the new facet of gameplay.

But in 2011, just two scant years after the AE system was introduced, the AE building stood mostly deserted. If you came in to play a player-created arc, you likely had the run of the whole place to yourself. New players didn’t even know what the building was for, because nobody much played there anymore.

As a CoH player who dabbled in creating her own arcs (and as a player with an arc-crazy boyfriend), I’ve wondered why this creative outlet lost its charm, when it had been such a hopping, popular place to be for months on end after its addition. But, with a little digging, I believe I discovered at least some of the reasons why the AE mission system’s novelty wore off:

“XP Farm” missions were outlawed.

When the AE building was first unveiled, crafty and clever gamers were quick to jump on the bandwagon of making missions–but these players were making missions that focused solely on gaining XP, throwing storylines and character creation completely out the window. Some missions were created around enemies that wouldn’t fight back, so they were easy kills; others were made of thousands of copies of the same purple Elite Boss enemy, so the XP was maximized and the sheer challenge level was lifted. These and other types of missions like these were called “farms,” because you could easily gain XP from them.

Needless to say, the game developers were not happy with this–suddenly, people were leveling their characters so fast that it wasn’t even about enjoying the gameplay anymore, but about having the most level 50 characters! Thus, the devs began to put in place several “safeguards” against farm creation in the Architect Mission editor (for instance, you couldn’t pick enemy groups that don’t fight back), which lowered the power levels of these “farm” missions severely. (Not to say that all farm missions were gone–they just became less XP-crazy than before.)

More interesting in-game content was added.

The AE building predated several of the most important game updates: the Going Rogue expansion, Alignment Missions, and the Incarnate system. All 3 of these innovations drew attention away from the AE system.

Going Rogue

The Going Rogue expansion box allowed for two totally new character alignments (Vigilante and Rogue), as well as the ability to cross Heroes over to City of Villains, and vice versa. Not only that, but there was a whole new area of the game to explore, a group of three islands known collectively as Praetoria (a level 1 to 20 city).

Alignment Missions

Players suddenly got the chance to change their status from “Hero” to “Villain” (or vice versa) with what were called “Tip” missions, or spur-of-the-moment missions you could run in any zone you happened to be in. “Tip” missions aided a player’s ability to either reinforce their character’s current alignment or to start the process of changing alignment.

For instance, I had a Villain character that I wanted to change over to Hero, so I ran 10 Heroic Tip missions, then a Morality Mission that allowed me to change my alignment to Rogue. From there, I was able to run 10 more Heroic Tip missions and another Morality Mission that allowed me to finally change over to Hero. The Tip missions were fairly easy to complete and didn’t require returning to a contact, so they were much faster and easier processes, while still being good ways to gain XP, especially with a team.

The Incarnate System

Lastly, with the game update called issue 20, the game developers released the Incarnate in-game content, made specifically for level 50 characters. Pre-issue 20, City of Heroes mirrored real life in a way–your character got to level 50 (was done leveling up), and they didn’t really get to do anything more of importance except make you double money every time you defeat a bad guy. It was like a middle-aged person having worked 30 strong years only to retire, sit at home, and do nothing.

With the addition of Incarnate content, there was suddenly something to strive for on your level 50 toons. Not only were there new challenges to unlock (like the super-challenging Incarnate Trials), but a whole new system of upgrading your character’s performance, called the Incarnate slot, was unveiled. Now you could potentially choose to upgrade all your characters’ powers at once with one Enhancement, to boost Damage, Accuracy, Endurance Cost, or Recharge Time. In short, there was a reason to play your level 50 characters again, those characters that you worked so hard on. Thus, less attention was paid to AE missions.

There was very little special reward for playing AE missions, outside of getting AE Tickets and a few badges.

AE Tickets could purchase in-game Invention Salvage, Enhancement Recipes, Inspirations…and very little else. It wasn’t exactly the most enticing prize ever. Not to mention that the CoH developers began to dislike the system itself because of all the farm missions, which meant they withdrew much of their official support. While the AE system was still an occasional showcase for creative talent, it wasn’t attractive to most players, who were not willing to put that much effort into creating their own game content.

The “rating” and “searching” system for player-created missions was idiotic at best.
Picture this: when you finished playing an AE mission, you had the option to rate it and type in a comment, which was then sent as a private message to the author of the mission. But since most people don’t like giving 5-star (top) ratings to just any mission, they often just gave a mission 4 stars.

Doesn’t sound too bad, right? But in fact, when you rated a player-created mission 4 stars, you doomed that player to never having their mission played again. Basically, if a mission didn’t show up on the first 3 pages of the Architect Editor’s simplistic search function, nobody saw it, and so nobody would play it unless you talked it up on the CoH forums or to other players directly. There is a reason players referred to this phenomenon as “Four-Star Hell”–when your mission dropped to a 4-star rating, you could just about trust that your hard work wasn’t going to be seen by other players. (Trust me. I made a mission that got rated 4 stars, and it got maybe 5 plays over a 16 month period–and it only got that because my boyfriend suggested it to a team I was playing on.)

There was really no way to type in a “type” of mission and search for it–you either had to know the mission arc’s ID number/title, or you needed to know the author name. Again, nobody was willing to put in that kind of effort for a game, so the same old missions on pages 1-3 of the AE Machine got played over and over again.

What Could Be Done Differently This Time Around?

  1. Giving some kind of more tangible reward, such as a special costume choice, extra influence, a cool power, etc., for mission creators; maybe even extending that to players who do certain numbers of AE missions.
  2. Making it possible to search missions by keyword, custom character names, enemy groups used, etc–in essence, making the search engine more diversified.
  3. Supporting mission creators by picking a mission with very few plays and hyping it every week or every month–just knowing that someone else actually cares about player-created missions is a huge boost for shy creators like me who don’t like to holler and shout about their creations.

These are just my ideas–what do y’all think?

City of Heroes


(Note: The following post was first published in February 2011; however, City of Heroes was unceremoniously shut down by its parent company, NCSoft, in November of 2012, amid much outcry from its devoted fans, myself among them. Currently, many of us are fighting for NCSoft to release the intellectual property rights so that we can keep CoH going as a fan-based game. After some debate, I have chosen to let the original post stand–with some minor edits–as a testament to how awesome this game was and still can be if certain folks will let it be.)

City of Heroes is an experience-based superhero game, which is only similar to World of Warcraft and its ilk on the surface. Boasting a powerful, nuanced character design module which has been touted by players of many different MMOs, plus a user-friendly screen design and playstyle which make the game approachable for even younger players, CoH is at once an environment rich in creativity but relaxing to play.

As a superhero in the fictional Paragon City, your job is to defeat bad guys (β€œarrest” them), get experience and items from them, level up, and get new powers. You can create your own superheroes based on several different archetypes:

The Five Basic Hero Types


Helps neutralize baddies by slowing them, holding or immobilizing them, putting them to sleep, confusing them, or scaring them into submission. Not a damage-dealing class necessarily, but wonderful for supporting teams, especially for helping to soften up lieutenants, bosses, and elite bosses.


Does a little bit of everything–Defenders can be second-string ranged attackers, can buff allies and debuff enemies, or heal and protect allies. This is a hard class to develop because there are so many directions you can go with it, but it is a great team-support class. You can literally become a Jack- or Jill-of-all-trades with a Defender!


Superior ranged attacker. Not so good up close, though the Blaster secondary powersets get some close-combat powers as backup. They are definitely not Tanks, so they can be fragile, but usually you’re taking out the enemies so fast it doesn’t matter. Good to play either solo or in teams, as they provide excellent cover fire for close-combat allies.


Superior close-combat attacker. Can get shot to pieces before they can get close enough to attack, but the secondary defensive powersets can help a Scrapper stay alive longer. Again, they’re not Tanks, but their fragility is offset by their damage potential. Great for playing solo, can play in teams (just be careful not to go off by yourself and get killed!).


Usually “Last Man/Last Woman Standing” of a team. Has the highest defense of any class, so Tanks can take lots more damage before being defeated. They are close-combat attackers, like Scrappers, but they don’t deal nearly the same amount of damage; however, teams benefit greatly from Tanks drawing fire away from the more fragile classes. They can play solo, but it’s usually faster and more enjoyable to level if you play your Tank in a team.

The Two Epic Hero Types

There are also two Epic classes, called the Peacebringer and the Warshade. They operate fairly similarly in terms of gameplay and build–you can build your PB or WS to be close-combat, range, or a cool blend of the two. They function like a combo of Blaster and Scrapper, with all the fragility and damage potential included. They also have three forms–human (balance of offense and defense), Nova (flight, higher offense, lower defense) and Dwarf (heavy, higher defense, lower offense). They are like a Swiss Army Knife hero!

Which form you prefer depends on how you like to play, but you can change the form up on the fly with a push of a button. The only caveat? You can’t build a Peacebringer or Warshade until you have a regular hero (Blaster, Controller, etc.) leveled up to level 20.

Basic Gameplay

Players can play missions (quests, for WoW players) by themselves, or they can play their missions with teams of superheroes working together. You can make a team with anybody–just ask somebody if they want to team! Some people play solo much better, and some players, like me, play in teams much better. It all depends on your personality. For me, CoH is such a social game that I have a lot more fun playing with others; playing by myself tends to make me feel lonely.

What Makes CoH Different

In City of Heroes, the more relaxed pace of gaming makes it stand out among MMOs. You don’t just have to play missions and beat baddie butt; in fact, the game’s many Easter eggs and side quests encourage you to stop and smell the roses while you level up. Sure, you can power-level if you want, but you’ll be missing out on what makes CoH great. Run around aimlessly in zones, see all the scenery, listen to NPC chat, click historical plaques, and run every mission you can, even the ones you think aren’t useful; you’ll learn more about the City of Heroes lore than you ever knew.

Also, you don’t have to play CoH 12 hours a day to get the absolute best of everything. This game attracts working people, students, and even parents and grandparents because it’s more approachable–the emphasis of the game lies more in developing your own heroes rather than constant raids and long quests (though raids and quests ARE available for those who want them). Also, “gear” is not worn, but equipped, and has no effect on your costume, so you can design your costume any way you want!

Lastly, creativity is important. In CoH, it’s not about mimicking an established comic book hero (since that kind of thing can get you in trouble); it’s about developing your own character and fitting them into the landscape of Paragon City, perhaps combining powersets you always wanted to try together, just for curiosity’s sake. Many players, like me, go on to make involved backstories for their characters even if they’re not on a roleplay server (which is available, by the way).

To Learn More about City of Heroes

Though CoH may be playing the role of Sleeping Beauty (or perhaps Lazarus) at the moment, we fans are keeping it alive and active in our memories and stories. The “official” CoH site has been recreated by fans on cityofheroes.ca, and I myself have created a fansite for it called Skies over Atlas, which has its own Twitter account, @skiesoveratlas. You can also check the #SaveCoH tag on Twitter to follow fan communications about the game. Rest assured, we won’t forget!