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A Mild-Mannered Reporter

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: 2013 in review for superheroes

Super-hero, City of Heroes, MMO Industry, News Items, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Consoles, Champions Online, DC Universe Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

Gliding along like it was just another day.
2013 was the first year in which City of Heroes didn't exist. The masses of hero fans cried out in anticipation of a new game but found nothing. All there was to be found was a deafening silence and three other games that scratched similar itches but didn't quite manage to hit the same heights.

But we've talked about that as much as it can be discussed, and quite frankly I'm more interested in the now. We've got three titles that are still duking it out, trying to find their voices, and so forth. And then we have the header of Plan Z, which covers several different projects but at the same time serves as an interesting look at the community as a whole.

So in the wake of a quiet December, let's look back at 2013 for the major titles and for the hopefuls. It was a year in which quite a bit happened, not all of it good, but it was still one that might have a big impact on the future of the superhero MMO field.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Superhero games across November

Super-hero, Patches, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Champions Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter, Promotions, Infinite Crisis

You impress me, you get a masthead.
After a couple of very active months, November was a bit calmer for superheroic games as a whole. It makes sense, of course, since pretty much every game is calmer during November and December aside from sales and holiday events. But there were few big Kickstarter campaigns, a lot of updates that everyone knew were coming, and of course a very poignant anniversary for pretty much everyone reading this column today.

That having been said, the entire month was not a slow funeral dirge for the loss of City of Heroes. In fact, one game apparently decided that the otherwise quiet month was a great time to make some big changes right off the bat, so that's pretty cool. Venture on past the cut with me and we'll take a look at the superhero news from November in review... and possibly bow our heads briefly in respect for the departed.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: The super news of October

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, News Items, Opinion, A Mild-Mannered Reporter, Crowdfunding

Not pictured: Spookies
October was a pretty big month. I don't mean that just because it was a month filled with all of the classic horror you could ever hope for, although that was certainly welcome. But October also saw two big superhero games ramping up and doing things in a big way, one for a console launch and one for a big fan-pleasing rally... which was pretty cool to see, all around.

That's not to say that the other superhero games available sat around and did nothing during October, but you couldn't match the energy surrounding City of Titans and DC Universe Online. Let's look back at the past month of capes and cowls.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: A marvelous, titanic super-hero September

Super-hero, Culture, MMO Industry, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

There was a time when the word 'titanic' didn't bring a disaster to mind, but I wasn't alive for that.
I'm breaking up my usual format a bit for this month. Part of that is just out of necessity; DC Universe Online launched a big DLC pack that I talked about in the last column, which obviously was the focus for most of the past month. Champions Online just had an invasion event going that I didn't actually take part in; I've had enough invasion-style events to last the remainder of my natural life, even if the rewards for this one do look pretty awesome. Call me cynical.

No, this month I'm focusing on two games, only one of which is actually out at the moment. One of these games has been firing on all cylinders and might force cynical old me to eat a bit of crow, which I'll happily do if it means that the game is better for everyone enjoying it. And the other... isn't. You can probably guess what I'm talking about, but you can also go ahead and jump past the cut to eliminate any possible doubt. I encourage it!

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: All the superheroic news that was fit to print in August

Super-hero, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Champions Online, DC Universe Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

Anyone who brings up Man of Steel in the comments to refute my point has not paid attention.
Some months surprise you. When I went back through July's news a month ago, I was surprised to see that there had been a lot of superhero stories that I had collected but not really thought about; what I thought was a quiet month turned out to be quite active. August, on the other hand, was a pretty light month with only one major update that arguably could be pushed to next month depending on perspective.

Incidentally, this was the first summer in a while that didn't have a good superhero film come out. Coincidence? Almost certainly.

Our current month promises to have some shakeups. There's a Kickstarter in the wings for The Phoenix Project, and the other major titles all have patches just over the horizon. But today we're looking at the calm before the storm, known to most people as "August." Even if there weren't many world-shattering revelations, there are still some elements worth discussing.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Superheroic news for July

Super-hero, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

And I managed to avoid turning this into a rant about Man of Steel.  I'm proud of myself.
So how's everybody been? You all doing well? Because I'm super, and thanks for asking.

For some reason, July was one of the first months since its announcement that seemed to be fairly quiet for Infinite Crisis; I can only guess that most of the staff was too busy playing to make announcements, which would be the ideal situation. But the other superheroic games on the market certainly didn't quiet down, with Marvel Heroes and Champions Online both making plenty of noise. Even DC Universe Online got in on the action, or tried to until SOE Live wound up being all about one game.

But I'm getting ahead of myself. You want a rundown on the super scene from last month? It's all here behind the cut, so come on down and take a look. It's the third month since we moved over to the new format, and I can't help but hope that I'm starting to get into the cadence.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Superhero news of June

Super-hero, News Items, Opinion, Marvel Heroes, Champions Online, DC Universe Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

But when are they going to get to the fireworks factory?
June was definitely a month. And things definitely happened during it. And some of them could sort of be seen as relating to superhero games, so that's good. Unfortunately, most of them sort of... weren't.

That's not entirely true, really. There was some news about superhero games all through June; it's just that most of it had very little to do with the here and now. Most of it focused around what will happen, where games will be going, and what players can expect in the future. There was a decided lack of news about what's going on right now.

Still, that makes it no less worthy of review. So let's hop in the not-very-far-back machine and take a look at the news from June, which also featured some sort of gaming convention or another. I can't remember which one, exactly. It'll come to me in a minute.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Rounding up May's superhero news

Betas, Super-hero, News Items, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, Champions Online, DC Universe Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter, Infinite Crisis

Flying high, trying new.
Today marks the start of a new format for A Mild-Mannered Reporter, but it's a natural segue because this is what I'd be doing anyway. Yes, it's time for a roundup of news, and over the past month, most of the news has been about two superheroic games hitting the "action" button until it falls off. It's all about Marvel Heroes and Infinite Crisis, in other words.

Not that these are the only two games that have been doing things, mind you. Both Champions Online and DC Universe Online have brought out some new content, although the volume differs. But the biggest waves are being made by games emphasizing the punching of villains with extreme prejudice. Or the punching of heroes; it's a fine line.

The point is that there is no finer time to round up superhero news, especially with the return of ComicsAlliance. So let's move on to the roundup, taking it point by point.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Marvel Heroes' strengths and weakness

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, Launches, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Massively Meta, Marvel Heroes, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

Oh no, you think.  Not again.
Those of you who have followed the column for a while are familiar with the fact that I'm not the biggest fan of Marvel Heroes, though it's more an issue of apathy than malice. Still, early access has started, players are starting to get what they paid for up front with Founder's Packs, and it's time to stop considering what the game could do before testing ends and start considering what it's actually doing.

Leaving aside the discussion of whether or not it fully succeeds at its goals, I think Marvel Heroes has a couple of big positives in the current market and one staggeringly dumb decision. So we're going to look at that sandwich-style. And then let's talk about the future of the column at the end -- if we're talking about Marvel, we really need a shocking revelation at the end or it won't ring true.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Another look at Plan Z

Super-hero, Culture, New Titles, Opinion, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

Please, guys, put out some art so I can stop using this header every time I talk about you.
When life hands you lemons, you build a new life. Out of lemons. The metaphor is a bit tortured, but the ultimate point is still the same: When City of Heroes fans found out the game was shutting down, some decided to band together and make a new game to incorporate all of the best of CoH while not being, you know, shut down completely. It's something that I've discussed a few times now because it's a really neat idea that also has some really big potential pitfalls.

The Phoenix Project and Heroes & Villains are the two big games working at getting themselves together, and they've had about half a year to do so. Both have been moving forward, networking, and putting together everything needed to make the games actually exist. And there's good news and bad news about both, some in tandem and some separately. So despite the possibility of missing an important context clue or two, we carry on with our look at what's going well and what is... less so.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: How Champions Online could get its groove back

Super-hero, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Champions Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter, Player-Generated Content

I believe I can fly!  It's a demonstrable fact!  Hence why I believe it.
It's hard to be a fan of Champions Online right now. The game has not been in a good state for pretty much any of its life cycle, but as I've discussed previously, its woes have really come into focus lately. It's been a long time since the game really sat down and advanced any sort of story, and it's been even longer since the game offered players something new in the endgame. When Cryptic has two other games with lots of ambition and promise, Champions Online is left looking like the unwanted sibling.

Part of the problem is the fact that CO currently has a skeleton crew working on it and a minimal budget. I suspect (without having hard numbers) that it's at the same sort of uneasy place as Vanguard was for a long while -- making just enough money to justify its continued operation while not making enough money for additional development staff. So with all of that in place, what can the game do to prop itself up a bit more without requiring a huge infusion of additional money? How can Champions Online get its act back together?

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Nine reasons for nine years of City of Heroes

Super-hero, City of Heroes, Culture, Opinion, Free-to-Play, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

Bree says this header makes her cry.
This is not timed perfectly to coincide with what would have been the ninth anniversary of City of Heroes. It couldn't be, honestly; trying to do so would have resulted in a worse column. There's also the simple fact that the ninth anniversary did not actually happen, the game was gone before then. Sanctifying the date will not bring the game back, nor will it assuage the fact that it's not there any longer.

Despite all of that, I liked the thematic structure put forth on the Titan boards, nine reasons for nine years. But since I'm incapable of doing things any way but the wrong way, I'm approaching this in my own style with my own nine reasons that I wish we'd had a ninth year. Even if the game comes back tomorrow in some form, it's never going to have the life that it should have had, and here's my nine reasons why I wish that weren't the case.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Super news, super review

Super-hero, City of Heroes, News Items, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Marvel Heroes, DC Universe Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter, Infinite Crisis

Incidentally, I want to visit a screen door factory.
It's been a fairly quiet month on the superhero front, which is the way of things. Some months it seems as if you can't go a day without a new launch; others you realize belatedly that it's the end of the month because another round of bills are due. Possibly including subscription fees. It all ties together.

Of course, the superhero arena has been quiet for a little while now, but we're seeing signs of life cropping up once again. There are titles in development, new content approaching, and a launch in about a month that should really be getting a bit more marketing support. That's a topic for another article.

So as we do once per month at A Mild-Mannered Reporter, it's time to look back over the past month or so and talk about the news stories that have cropped up relating to the genre of men and women in spandex punching robots.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: DC Universe Online's crisis of origins

Super-hero, Patches, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Consoles, DC Universe Online, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

Haven't had time to remake these headers yet.
DC comics has always had a history of patch jobs. It's inevitable, really, since DC is both older than Marvel and replete with characters inherited from other publishers or characters originally designed to work in a vacuum. The fact that we've had multiple multiverse-spanning events that completely rewrite the fabric of the universe within the comics makes it clear that this is not a franchise afraid to retroactively remake an entire character only to change said character back in another remake four months later.

It sometimes makes DC rather painful to read even without the mess that the New 52 became, but that's a different article on a different site. Right now we're talking about DC Universe Online getting in on the whole parallel reality game.

Why the preamble? Because this was always pretty much inevitable given the franchise. That having been said, there's some interesting stuff within the upcoming Origin Crisis DLC that bears discussion, so let's talk about the upcoming DLC and how it ties into the game as a whole both thematically and mechanically.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Grim and gritty vs. light and funny

Super-hero, Lore, Opinion, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

To be fair, any time you see the multi-colored lanterns showing up I think it's a little funny.
A few weeks back, I saw a comment from a reader mentioning that the biggest problem with Champions Online was that it felt goofy. And that's true to a point. Certainly it never gets to the extremes of the Silver Age, but there's a definite feel of larger-than-life heroes battling it out without too much concern for plausibility. I'd peg it at late '70s to early '80s in terms of corresponding comic book eras.

For some people, this is a problem. And it's one that's worth discussing because each of the major titles has approached its overall theme slightly differently. But all of them have hit what I feel is a very important note insofar as all of them are unabashedly games about superheroes.

Superheroes are weirdly inconsistent partly because many of these same heroes have been in stories for nearly a century. It's really hard to reconcile a version of Batman who shoots and kills his foes with the modern incarnation or the modern brooding character with the light-hearted antics of the Silver Age. This is problematic when you have fans of different kinds of Batman all playing DC Universe Online.

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