Paragon Forever

Patty at Wentworths
Patty Prestige at her favourite location.


Already Gone:

Well, it’s been a rough year for me electronically. All other aspects of life have been on varied. Most things, at times, have managed to be “Shitty”, “Poor”, “Negotiable”, “Great”, “Fantastic” and “Fan-fucking-tastic”. But, for me, on the electronic escapism front, 2012 has sucked copious amounts of sagging, wrinkly, greying, wiry scrotum hairs. That’s disgusting. I know. I won’t apologize though. That’s how I’ve felt about the handling of my two favourite video game franchises this year.

First off, this spring BioWare cut and pasted a picture of a steaming dung pile into where the end of the Mass Effect trilogy was supposed to be. I had intended to ride out the spring and summer months with near constant replays of ME3. Instead, the ending left me with a poor taste in my mouth and effectively killed any interest I had in ever replaying any game in the series. But that’s another post. (One that I’ve tried to write, but couldn’t find the words.)

Tonight (or today, if it happens to be daytime where ever you are right now) I want to vent about the shit that Korean publisher NCSoft took on one of their most successful games, City of Heroes.

EChip Oprah
The Last Character I ever created, EChip Oprah.

Mistreated:

Up until last night, I’d been playing City of Heroes, on and (very briefly) off, since 2 months after it launched. I was extremely excited for its launch. I didn’t buy it on launch day back in 2004, because of the minor setback of not even owning a fucking computer at the time. It took my wife (then girlfriend) and I 2 months to get the funds together to be able to be able to get the machine, game and internet connection required to play it.

Since then we’ve gone through 4 computers, 6 moves, 2 other MMORPGs (Massively Multiplayer Online Role Playing Game, hereinto referred to as MMO), probably 27 Pepsi soaked keyboards, a dozen mice, and 6 housefans playing the game. We each had accounts and characters in the game. We’ve played together probably hundreds of hours. We’ve made friends in the game, and we’ve kept in touch with real-life friends through the game. And now it’s all come to an end.

Spikopacarba
Spikopacarba, my “main” character.

Despite bringing in an estimated $10 million a year for the company that owns it (that’s gross, there’s never been any numbers released on exactly what they net that I’ve seen) the game was shut down permanently last night, November 30th 2012. There was no reason given to the customers. Well, they threw out the usual “realigning our company’s vision” bullshit. Usually that means “This thing is costing us money.” But insiders have shown that this game was still turning a profit.

The news of the game’s closure sprang up in late August. It came as a shock to everyone involved with the game. Paragon Studios, the developer of the game, was shut down, with mass layoffs, without any warning. In fact, they were preparing for the release of a new content patch in September. The devs and players were both shocked by the news.

Since then, the game’s community has grasped at every straw imaginable to keep their game alive. People have tried petitions, media campaigns, “boycotts” and even put forward offers to purchase the game and its IP from NCSoft, just to keep it alive themselves. All these items were ignored by NCSoft, and the cancellation continued.

If the fuckers at NCSoft ever release a City of Heroes 2, they might see my money again.  Likely, though, I’ll continue to avoid them like the plague, and support the game’s developers, employees of the former Paragon Studios wherever I can.

A minute ago, I said I wanted to vent.  A few paragraphs later, I don’t think I want to anymore.  Morgan on Media did a much better job in his posts about City of Heroes outlining what NCSoft did wrong, and what they did right for their employees.  If you care about this topic at all, go read his shit.  I think I’d rather like to talk about what I enjoyed doing in the game.

The big question for me here is, do I go paragraph or bullet list?  Maybe a Top # Things about City of Heroes?  I don’t fucking know.  I’m just going to throw shit out there and see what sticks.

At Least It Was Here:

The Community in City of Heroes was fucking amazing.  By the time the 5th Anniversary of the game rolled around, even the forum-troll-assholes had become at least partly reasonable.  Sure every new content update had someone rage against the changes, or lack of changes, to their favourite thing were, but mostly they were reasonable.  If they weren’t they went away, and very few people missed them.

But the group of friends I made while playing were excellent.  Largely we were all like-minded, laid back, roll-with-the-punches types of people who didn’t rage quit at the first sign of difficulty.  We didn’t mock other peoples builds, but we would often mock other peoples attitudes.  We met weekly and just shot the shit while arresting evil doers.  It was a blast.

HAIL ZEBRA!
The Zebra Death Squad Troopers assault a cave of some kind.

Fly Like An Eagle:

City of Heroes was the first superpowered MMO.  It was the first MMO I ever really played, but it was also the only one that ever really appealed to me.  I like swords and sorcery as much as the next Fat Guy With Glasses, but super heroic powers has always been my main chosen form of nerd speciality.  Beyond being the first “Super” MMO, it was really one of the first 3D environment, open world super powered games.  Almost every one that I can think of that came before it sucked, and sucked horribly.  The only good one I can think of off the top of my head is Spider-Man for the PS1, and that was far from being open world.

Mel’s first character, Lunar Twilight, flies through the sky.

So when it was revealed that there was an MMO with super powers, and super movements, and that you would be able to fly around this Grand Theft Auto sized open world blasting thugs with fucking eye lasers from the sky, I was stoked.  So was pretty much everyone else that ever played the game.  The first thing about 90% of players did upon reaching level 6 for the first time, was take the “Hover” power, and fly on top of the gigantic fucking statue of Atlas in the centre of the city’s main starting area.  Not long after the game’s launch, you even got a little reward for doing so.

Understanding:

And that little reward is just a single shining example of how the developers at Paragon Studios really got their audience.  There was a plaque that you had to visit in order to get your character a particular badge that made light of a ridiculous bug that took place in the early days of the game’s launch.  Other badges referenced in-game jokes from members of the game’s community.  Mostly, though, in the last 4 or 5 years, every change made to the game seemed to answer to the questions, “Is this fun?” and “Do the players want this?” with a resounding “Yes.”

I’m sittin’ on a giant goddamn rock, son.  I didn’t fight in the big one, W-W-I-I, so’s you could pretend to be pretty green ladies who shoot eye lasers.  Let me punch some goddamn Lesson Monsters.

The mishandling of the player base and devs by the Korean execs at NCSoft is made that much more frustrating, because around every corner of the game, and out of game, material, you could see that the Paragon Studios crew loved the game they were working on, and the fans they made it for.  In a year where big business seemed to be taking a crap on every video game fan, it was particularly heartbreaking to see a crew of developers that understood their fans so well get shitcanned in such a horrible, obvious blindside.

The End:

I’m skirting on the edge of venting again.  I don’t want to do that.  Instead I’ll just wrap up with a mention of the fact that I’m going to miss playing this game terribly.  I had a lot of fun with it.  Here’s a stupid bullet list of memories that players of the game might also remember.  Also, here’s the smooth vocal stylings of “The Man in Black”, Johnny Cash, to play us out.

Goodbye HoES.

Goodbye HoES.

In no particular order, I remember the first time I:

  • floated to the top of Atlas’ Globe and danced.
  • lost a costume contest.
  • Rikti Raided.
  • watched crazy NPCs try and enter the subway under the Kings Row train.
  • Dumpster Dove while herding Perez.
  • was asked “Bridge?”
  • was killed by a Pumicite while falling through the ground in The Hollows.
  • completed a Task Force.
  • pulled a Mortificator.
  • violated the EULA.
  • left a good group to work on a costume.
  • used TeamSpeak.
  • investigated a Leshy Corpse.
  • was asked if I was really Bruce Willis.
  • jumped up windowsills to find Circle of Thorns on the rooftops of Kings Row
  • saw Bat’zul.
  • wondered what a random level 34(!) Tree of Life was on the streets of Kings Row.
  • patiently lurked through Perez Park.
  • failed the respec trial.
  • conquered the respec trial.
  • respec’d.
  • deleted a character.
  • had a team mate that was “rite by door”.
  • heard “he saw through my hide”.
  • was told something was “sweer”.
  • farmed a mission for xp.
  • farmed a mission for a badge.
  • farmed a mission for inf.
  • farmed a mission for all three.
  • stayed logged in, afk, all night for hold badges.
  • used Ventrilo.
  • used Phantom Army.
  • defeated Hamidon.
  • power leveled a friend.
  • twinked a noob.
  • gave away an eChip.
  • fought along a scaffolding set up outside a giant robot inside a volcano.
  • defeated Lord Recluse.
  • saved Statesman.
  • switched toons to play with friends.
  • built a base.
  • put a group in stitches with “In Character” chat.
  • flew as high up as the game would let me, then dropped to the ground.
  • teleported a friend into a group of enemies while invisible.
  • kicked someone from the team.
  • built an enhancement.
  • cancelled my account.
  • was “literally slapped in the face”.
  • steamrolled a TF with my main group.
  • team wiped in Fanboys 2.
  • flashbacked a mission arc.
  • used the arena.
  • built a triform kheldian.
  • got lost in Orenbega.
  • cursed the Wedding Cake Room.
  • saw Jurassik.
  • saw the Crystal Titan.
  • finished the Dr. Quartermain TF.
  • soloed Positron’s TF.
  • convinced someone to start playing the game.
  • convinced someone to return to the game.
  • realized I’d never play the game again with anyone.
Never again...
God Damn it, NCSoft.
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3 comments on “Paragon Forever

  1. Great post, Spikor. Your list of memories at the end was great… reminded me of a few things I had forgotten myself (those damned KR rooftops!) I appreciate the links to my posts as well.

    Great point about how exciting just the concept of the game was. That's why I got into it, and I imagine why most people did. And, of course, it was shared by the devs. All the uncaring development teams out there in the industry, and Paragon Studios really loved their work. Not the way things should have ended for them.

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