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City of Villains

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: That's really super, Super Pack

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
So, the Super Pack is out. Not a whole lot has changed in City of Heroes as a result. The skies have not been raining fire any more than they already do on a regular basis (superheroes, you know the deal). People still log in and play and enjoy themselves. And my enormous ranting diatribe still sits in the archives for anyone who missed it the first time or just wants to take a second look for posterity.

My feelings haven't changed. But while launching into a full-on rant was certainly cathartic and managed to hit a lot of good points, there were a lot of good points brought up in the comments that I simply hadn't touched on. So it's time to address some of the those ideas and complaints, both the good and the bad. (Although under the circumstances, it's pretty much all bad in varying flavors.)

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Why I Play: City of Heroes

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Sandbox, Why I Play

City of Heroes
When I first sampled City of Heroes, I was just recovering from a nasty break-up with Star Wars Galaxies and looking for a new roleplaying paradise. What I found after a month was that I had a lot more fun planning my next character using the little booklet that came with the box than I actually did grinding my way up through the levels. That early version of the game... was not good.

Fast-forward a few years to the Paragon Studios takeover and the implementation of the Mission Architect. I fell in love all over again. It took several years (and all the improved content those years enabled), but the game eventually became something I wanted to play.

And I'm going to tell you why.

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City of Heroes launches Issue 22, and it's going to be a killer

Super-hero, Trailers, Video, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play

Alas, poor Statesman!  I knew him, Manticore.
If you've been looking forward to Issue 22 of City of Heroes, your wait is finally over. The new issue, Death Incarnate, hit the live servers just this afternoon. That means the inclusion of new powersets for Controllers and Dominators, a newly revamped experience in Dark Astoria for solo Incarnates, buffs for Stalkers and Gravity Control, and new content for low-to-mid-level characters. In other words, no matter how you want to play, you're likely to find something in the latest patch to get excited about.

Need a little more convincing? Well, there's a lovely new trailer for the update to help get everyone ready to charge into the newfound circus of death. There's also a new developer diary discussing the fine points of Darkness Control, the new powerset included for free for all VIP subscribers. All told, it's a good collection of toys for City of Heroes players, even if it might behoove said players to fear the reaper just a little bit more.

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War Witch conjures up a new producer's letter for City of Heroes

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Patches, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play

It kind of feels like cheating that they're fighting on a beach instead of a bamboo forest.
If you've been missing the wit and wisdom of Melissa Bianco, better known to City of Heroes players as War Witch, then you're in luck. The game's newest producer's letter is penned by none other than Ms. Bianco, revealing that she has just recently been moved into the role of producer for the game as a whole. But there's more to the letter than just revelations about her recent career moves -- there's also more information about what's coming for the game beyond Issue 22.

Masterminds can look forward to a new powerset, Beast Mastery, hitting the Paragon Market at some point in March. Everyone can also look forward to new temporary powers and minipets as well as the conclusion of the current featured story arc. There's also a teaser about something else exciting coming along for the summer, although the letter remains mum on what the next two major patches will bring for the game. Fans will no doubt want to read closely between the lines to see if they can tease out any other nuggets of information, but it's clear that the team at Paragon Studios has plenty of irons in the fire.

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: City of Heroes 2

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
Before the comments light up, I'm just going to say outright that City of Heroes 2 does not currently exist. We've heard no news about it, no announcements, nothing beyond the speculation of many City of Heroes players such as myself. I'm deviating (again) from the set schedule and talking about a purely hypothetical sequel that all of us are kind of expecting but that does not, at this point, exist. But considering all of the recent talk about Guild Wars 2, I think it's apropos.

Let's assume, for the purpose of this article, that Paragon Studios is knee-deep in development of City of Heroes 2 and simply isn't telling anyone. What sort of things would the game need? What would be the best possible route for the game to take? How could it satisfy fans of City of Heroes while drawing in new players? I don't have the absolute answers... but it sure does make for some interesting speculation, based on the things the team has been doing over the past several years.

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Embrace the darkness with City of Heroes' Issue 22

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Patches, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play

Screenshot -- City of Heroes
City of Heroes players better prepare themselves for another descent into the realm of Dark Astoria because in the upcoming Issue 22, Paragon Studios is sending them right back to the twisted realm. Of course, there's a catch: Dark Astoria is being twisted and transformed "into a Level 50 Incarnate co-op zone, with missions that can unlock Incarnate abilities for both Heroes and Villains."

But high-level Incarnate players aren't the only ones getting goodies in Issue 22; a new low-level trial -- morbidly titled Drowning in Blood -- is also being introduced in the update. And who could forget the new powersets? Not us! Controllers and Dominators are being given access to the Darkness Control main powerset as well as the Darkness Affinity and Dark Assault secondary sets (for Controllers and Dominators, respectively).

For the full preview of City of Heroes' Issue 22, just click on through the link below to the game's official site.

City of Heroes lets low-level players go Drowning in Blood

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries, Dungeons

Okay, it's more like drowning in vines and gelatin, but that isn't as evocative.
Designing a low-level instance is a challenge that's rarely discussed. High-level challenges are of course the marquee elements of any game, but the low-level content needs love. How do you introduce the concepts to players? How do you make the rewards meaningful while still making room for later improvement? City of Heroes is tackling precisely those problems with the new Drowning in Blood trial, a level 15-30 trial in Bloody Bay coming with Issue 22.

In a recent developer diary, world designer Cord Carney explains how the team tried to balance both storytelling aspects and gameplay elements, keeping the second lower-level trial as engaging for new and returning players as the recent introductory trial Death From Below. Carney also explains how the trial will offer players a chance at obtaining a buff that lasts up to level 30, giving everyone a reason to participate with lower characters without unbalancing the endgame. It's an interesting look at making lower-level content engaging, epic, and fun.

City of Heroes announces Spring 2012 Player Summit

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Events (Real-World), News Items, Free-to-Play

It's called a Pummit, people. Get with it.
City of Heroes players, have you ever wanted to meet with the Paragon Studios devs and spew your ideas at them? Of course you have. Well, your chance to do just that is on the horizon, as City of Heroes' second annual Player Summit (or Pummit, for short) will be taking place on April 28th of this year at Dinah's Garden Hotel in Palo Alto, California. Tickets are on sale now via Brown Paper Tickets for the discounted price of $40 US. Tickets will also be available at the door for the slightly higher price of $50 US. The price of admission includes access to the event (durr), a City of Heroes t-shirt, dinner, and "a promo code [that the studio will] announce at a later date."

The Pummit itself will be chock-full of events that are sure to pique any CoH player's interest, such as a variety of panels, workshops, and -- most importantly -- cocktail hour with the development team. Between the Design a Costume Set and Design a Power Set workshops, the story and endgame panel, and booze and karaoke with the team, players of all types are bound to find something that tickles their fancy. For the full details on City of Heroes' 2012 Pummit, just click on through the link below to the official announcement.

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: You owe me for this

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Business Models, Opinion, Free-to-Play, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
In a subscription game, the developers have a certain degree of built-in obligation to the playerbase. You pay $15 a month, and while some of that goes toward the simple logistics of running the game, some of that also goes toward keeping the game in development. When you're putting down money, there's a tacit understanding that you are owed something in return. Strictly speaking, we know the only thing we're owed is access to the game, but even that is something.

City of Heroes has entered the realm of free-to-play, though, and that means the expectations of what players are owed has become all kinds of skewed. There's a huge pile of content available to players who haven't paid a cent. What do free players actually deserve in this environment? What do paying players deserve? Where do you draw the line between what should be free for everyone, what should be free for subscribers, and what should just plain cost money?

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City of Heroes' newest Incarnate Trial learns from past mistakes

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Previews, Free-to-Play, Dev Diaries

City of Heroes
Incarnate Trials have proven to be some of the most challenging -- and interesting -- endgame content in City of Heroes to date, and players who have enjoyed them are undoubtedly anxious for the latest one, Dilemma Diabolique, which is coming with Issue 22.

Senior Designer Chris Behrens wrote an informative dev diary in which he outlines five lessons the studio's learned from past Incarnate Trials and how these lessons will affect Dilemma Diabolique. These lessons include adding rest periods between fights, giving players clear information, keeping trash mobs from exhibiting super-powered (more so than usual) abilities, delivering attractive rewards, and tuning special mechanics so they don't overwhelm players.

Dilemma Diabolique looks to be a quicker trial than its brethren, although Behrens sees this as a virtue: "We feel that the faster pace of the trial for maxed Incarnates is reward in itself, since it makes accumulating Empyrean Merits for our most dedicated Incarnates a faster endeavor."

City of Heroes takes to the shadows with new Darkness Control info

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Previews, News Items, Free-to-Play

Screenshot -- City of Heroes
It's time for yet another issue of The Intrepid Informer, and this time the spotlight is on one of City of Heroes' upcoming new power set, Darkness Control. Darkness Control does exactly what it says on the tin, granting players dominion over the powers of darkness in order to subjugate and control their enemies. With a number of roots, debuffs, and even a couple of pets, the Darkness Control powerset is sure to please Controllers and Dominators of all varieties. But wait, that's not all. In addition to the Darkness Control power set, Paragon Studios is introducing two new secondary power sets: Darkness Affinity for Controllers and Dark Assault for Dominators. All of these new power sets will be free to VIP players, though premium players will have to purchase the Darkness Control set on the Paragon Market. Oh, and before we forget, be sure to drop into City of Heroes March 16th to 19th for a double XP weekend.

For the full details on the new power set as well as some handy tips and tricks from the designers, just click on past the link below to the City of Heroes official site.

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Assume I'm making a pun about the Super Pack

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
It doesn't seem that long ago that I was looking back on my past year of writing this column, mentioning how negative I had gotten overall and sort of quietly wishing that I could spend the next year being more positive. I don't really want to write a column on City of Heroes once again that winds up being full of complaints.

But if Paragon Studios is going to do something to induce rage, I'm not really given many options. Case in point: the Super Pack.

I don't need to tell a lot of you why this is a bad idea. I shouldn't even really need to say this is a bad idea. This is one of those ideas that shouldn't have ever made it past the conceptual stage. The moment it was suggested in a board meeting, everyone else in the room should have rushed for the person who suggested it, driving him or her into a closet for safety. That this did not happen speaks volumes.

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City of Heroes introduces the super pack, players respond with rage

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, News Items, Free-to-Play

I feel like everyone is staring at us.  And not in a good way.
It's the latest craze sweeping the free-to-play marketplace -- the grab bag! Pay money, open it up, and roll the dice to see what you get. City of Heroes is getting in on the action with the Super Pack, a random grab bag containing a chance at pieces from a new costume set, special Enhancements, and various other gewgaws for players to purchase. Or more accurately, for players to hopefully purchase, seeing as how the grab bag is totally random and may contain nothing of use.

Do you want to pay money in a store for a chance at getting valuable rewards for your in-game character? Judging from previous community responses, we'd guess the answer is "no." However, the reaction from the City of Heroes community has been... well, still "no." While some players are reporting that the drop rates aren't too bad on a whole, there's a definite discontent about this grab bag among the players. Even if it does contain neat new pieces, the addition has a ways to go to win over the hearts of the players.

Ask Massively: We do not play games for a living edition

City of Heroes, City of Villains, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Opinion, Ask Massively, Miscellaneous

Total paycheck for this bit of roleplaying: $0.00.
One of the most persistent misconceptions about what we do here at Massively is this idea that we play games for a living. Allow me to be perfectly clear in this: What you're seeing right now? This article? The one I wrote? Writing this is what I do for a living. I write about games, and I enjoy games, but if I decided to not write any of my columns for a month and just play Star Wars: The Old Republic, I would be fired. That is not my job.

Now that we've gotten that out of the way, it's time for another installment of Ask Massively, this time featuring questions about gambling and the latest City of Heroes cash shop offering. If you've got a question you'd like to see in a future installment of the column, mail it to ask@massively.com or leave it in the comments below. Questions may be edited for brevity and/or clarity.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: The obligations to the useless

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Game Mechanics, Opinion, Free-to-Play, Humor, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
I'm going to let all of you in on a secret. Actually, it might not be a secret; everyone might have figured this out by now independent of any admission on my part. But here it is, just the same.

I'm not actually a very good City of Heroes player.

I mean, I'm "good" in the sense that I play the game, enjoy it, think about it, try to improve my character appropriately... but I'm not actually very skilled at the game. My rotations look awkward, my slotting is usually sub-optimal, and my ability to recall important data is pretty paltry. I understand the mechanics just fine, but when it comes time to log into the game, somehow I wind up as the guy who just subtly makes the entire team worse. I'm not terribly skilled. And for all that I'm going to be playing the game for some time to come, I don't think that I'm ever going to reach the point that I say I'm really any good.

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