Monday, December 03, 2012

In Memoriam: City of Heroes

This weekend, the 7-year-old MMORPG City of Heroes closed up shop and while I hadn't played in a long, long time - hadn't even set it up on my latest computer - it still remained close to my heart. I just don't have the time to play MMORPGs and never could manage to keep a group (or in WoW, a guild) happy with my schedule. So long as I could do solo missions or get reasonable pick-up groups, I was fine, but the bigger missions and higher levels were always beyond my grasp. So I'll remember Paragon City as the place THESE characters lived, all of them based on real people in my life. There was Team LISA:
Based on an improv team sponsored by a dentist's office, I played McNasty, while friends (never the improvers themselves) used the Queen of Mean, Havana Nights and Male Nurse Doyle (almost all real nicknames). We only played these when multiple members were online, so when that wasn't possible, I played one of two possible solo heroes. My main scrapper was Zen Girl:
Her vacuous personality right out of Clueless gave her a zen attitude that filled her with subconscious martial prowess. Not particularly empowering, but my honorary kid sister Emma, on who she was based, could take the joke. Zen Girl eventually showed up in my DC Heroes RPG sessions, because I like her so much. The other character was based on me, and an identity I'd created as a kid drawing superheroes in colored pencils: Mighty Mitch!
My original concept for him back in the early 80s was that he woke up each day with a different power. Like Resurrection Man, but with wonky powers like talking to plants by eating them, and turning into a snot monster. I even had a costume made from some pajamas (thus the color scheme). In the game, you can't do that, so the whole of my play experience was to screen shot Mighty Mitch as having even more powers than those the game gave him (his build was designed to give me access to as many different effects as was possible). But weird stuff like Magic Fingerprint and Steam Release.
Full list here. That's what was so fun about City of Heroes. Not the game play which was fine, though it could get repetitive, but the character creation. Sure, a lot of people tried to make their own SppppppiddderMan69 or Wolverzine, but most took real care in creating cool costumes and concepts, and many never bothered to kick them up to higher levels. I know many of mine, whether based on real people (Bauble), old designs from when I was a kid (Missile Man), or Frank Black songs (Speedy Marie), never made it past the beginner's phase. It wasn't important. It was about creating a cool hero, taking a few pictures, maybe even participating in one of a series of endless pageants and costume contents in the public square.

And now it's gone. I wish its character creation software was still available. No need to play, let's just draw up some cool heroes and villains!

BONUS! I just found a pic of Zen Girl in her Silver Age uniform, a gift I got at level 20!
She could have been a Legionnaire!


Servo said...

As a person who was a big fan of COH, I'm glad to see that your comic-book love extended to the game as well. Moreso than any other MMO I ever played, City of Heroes was probably my favorite for many of the reasons you mentioned.

With all the debate, frustration, and just head scratching going on over the game's closure, I'm also glad you focused on the positives at this time as well.

Siskoid said...

Well, who spits in the grave at a funeral?

mkhall said...

I started playing CoH back in the original beta. It was my first MMO, and the only one I've been willing to play more than a couple of times. I don't know that I would ever be able to reconcile myself to a game with fewer creative options.

For what it's worth, there's a group of programmers working on reverse-engineering the character creation sub-system. Now that I know you enjoyed it, I'll try to keep you abreast of any progress.

In memoriam, here's a picture of my oldest hero, The Glass Goblin.

Siskoid said...

Thanks for that. 80% of the fun of the game was sharing character designs and concepts with other players.