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City of Villains

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: A critical year

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
It's been a little over two years now that I've been writing a regular column on City of Heroes, and in one sense that still feels very strange to me. I'm guessing that the novelty of doing this for a living is never going to entirely go away, for reasons that really have nothing to do with the topic of this column. But I'm not going to dwell on the more meta facts here; I'm going to focus instead on the past year of the column.

This year was a try for something slightly different in both the tone and approach that I'd been taking with these columns. I finished off one major project, started another one, and along the way, I found that I gathered a very different attitude over time. In relationship terms, the first year of A Mild-Mannered Reporter was apparently still the "gushing" phase of a new relationship. This year has been much more about the flaws that City of Heroes has, both in structure and in design choices.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Issue 22 is all juiced out

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
On Christmas, Ms. Lady and I received a power juicer.

This wasn't a bad present by any stretch of the imagination, but it was a present that left us momentarily baffled. We hadn't asked for a power juicer, we didn't feel a great need for a power juicer, and we weren't even sure exactly what to do with a power juicer. (Make juice, obviously, but beyond that?) It was a great present but one that struck us as so far out of left field that we really weren't quite sure how to use it at first, much less what it would offer us.

Issue 22 of City of Heroes strikes me in much the same way. It's not that the update is bad or unwanted or unnecessary; it's that the entire thing is essentially aimed in a direction away from my own playstyle. I imagine a lot of free players are going to run into the same issue because even though it's being touted as the game's newest free update, there's precious little in there that's actually changed on the free side.

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City of Heroes' Matt Miller answers our questions about the death of Statesman

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Events (In-Game), Interviews, News Items, Free-to-Play

Alas, poor Marcus!  I knew him, Manticore.
Statesman has been the face of City of Heroes since the game has launched. He's been the man at the forefront of the game's lore and the setting-defining hero for players. He earned a lot of ire from some players due to the designer who had chosen him as his avatar, but that didn't diminish his importance to the game as a whole. But after surviving war against the Rikti, the machinations of his rival Lord Arachnos, and the invasion of his alternate self from Praetoria... Statesman has finally fallen and is no more.

Of course, this brings up some pretty hefty questions about the future of the City of Heroes setting, since such a death is about as high-profile as in-game-deaths can be. We had the opportunity to ask Matt Miller a few questions about the ramifications of Statesman's death, the team's motivation, and what players can expect in the wake of his passing. After all, even though the hero is gone, the villain responsible is still out there...

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Be the nemesis

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
I have a nemesis, but it's not a person. It's an idea, and that idea is optimization.

Given enough time (about seven minutes), people will figure out the best builds and abilities for pretty much every single character class in any game. This is great if all you're interested in doing is banging out the best possible character to tackle endgame challenges, but it's kind of disappointing if you like creating odd characters, ones that play strangely or feature under-utilized abilities or specs. That's the sort of stuff that I like, the things I find fascinating.

City of Heroes is hardly the first game to do this, so I've had plenty of time to learn how to fight my nemesis. And so I offer you today the lessons of nemeses, the path to figuring out how to make your bad character into a force to be reckoned with. There are certain rules to being a nemesis rather than simply an adversary, and some of them aren't what you think.

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City of Heroes sets the date for the next Freedom Player Summit

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

First item on the summit, more carnival attire.
Did you miss the first City of Heroes player summit? It's understandable -- no matter how much of a fan you might be, a trip to California in November is hard to swing sometimes with the holidays fast approaching. But perhaps you'll have better luck in April, as that's the announced month for the second Freedom Player Summit taking place (once again) in the San Francisco Bay Area. Specifically, the summit is planned for Saturday, April 28th, 2012.

It's also quite possible, of course, that you did attend the first summit and found certain areas of the event to be sorely lacking. That's something that the staff at Paragon Studios is looking at very seriously; it's made a change to a single panel track rather than multiples and will host more interactive panels instead of static ones. Keep an eye over the next few weeks for more details on pricing and location if you're interested in going; for fans of the game, it's a great chance to get your feedback heard in person.

City of Heroes performs 'Death of a Statesman'

Super-hero, Video, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Events (In-Game), Lore, News Items, Free-to-Play

Lore nerds may note who's missing among the pallbearers and who's included.
He's been the face on the package, the man on the cover, the big guy above all other big guys. But today, he is no more. Statesman, the most iconic hero in the City of Heroes lore, is going to meet his end, and it's time for everyone to say goodbye. Episode 5 of the signature story arc is live today, and while the titular question "Who Will Die?" has been answered, it's time to see what happens when Statesman does meet his end.

There's more to do than just go play through the arc, however. A new issue of the Intrepid Informer is available in which Matt Miller discusses why the team decided that now is the right time to kill off the game's biggest hero. And if you need a little more help catching up with the story so far, the final vidoc on the arc is embedded just past the cut, giving players a recap of what the Freedom Phalanx is, what is represents, and what this death means for Paragon City.

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City of Heroes Issue 22 update features heaps of new content

Super-hero, Galleries, Screenshots, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Game Mechanics, MMO Industry, Patches, News Items, Free-to-Play

CoH
Paragon and NCsoft have officially announced the latest update for the long-running City of Heroes superhero MMORPG. Issue 22: Death Incarnate is the title's first major content drop since the free-to-play conversion, and new endgame trials, costumes, powers, and VIP items are on the way.

Chief among the updates are tweaks to the Dark Astoria zone (it becomes a Co-op Incarnate Zone tailored for level 50-plus heroes). Also noteworthy is the new darkness power set for Controllers and Dominators, which should cause a cackle of glee for those of you who relish summoning spectral minions and commanding shadows.

There's also a new trial called Dilemma Diabolique in which heroes and villains must join forces to take down the evil sorceress Diabolique before she makes good on her nefarious plan to rule the world. And that's just the tip of the new content iceberg. More info on Issue 22 is available at the CoH website.

[Source: NCsoft press release]

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: Spotlight on the 5th Column and the Council

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header image by A. Fienemann
There are certain villains that just resist all logic and refuse to go out of style. Case in point: Nazis. Despite the fact that they were a political party in a war that ended about 70 years ago, somehow it's still satisfying to beat them up. That was the basis behind the initial placement of the 5th Column on the launch of City of Heroes... a position that was later usurped, then reclaimed, and now remains in a sort of back-and-forth limbo.

You can't talk about the 5th Column without talking about the Council because the two groups are almost the same. Of course, one is a lot more reprehensible than the other, which oddly makes them far more interesting. Put simply, it's a tangled web of subterfuge and backstabbing, and the two organizations are still struggling for dominance on the streets of Paragon City. They're like a slightly more accessible version of Nemesis for one another.

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Newest City of Heroes video documents the heroes of the Freedom Phalanx

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

We've got tons of heroes here.  They're like rats, but bigger and half of them are on fire.
The Surviving Eight, the members of the Freedom Phalanx, are the most important heroes in the mythology of City of Heroes. But in the not-so-distant future, they're going to be down a member as the game's first signature arc reaches its conclusion. In case you're not totally familiar with the characters in question, however, you're in luck -- the latest video documentary shows off the big eight in all their glory, explaining how they got where they are and what the team hoped to explore with each character.

Narrated by Matt Miller and Sean McCann, the video goes into detail about the powers of the survivors and their roles in the game, from Positron to the now-marked Statesman. It's a useful refresher on the game's lore, so if you're looking forward to the remainder of the signature arc and want to get a refresher on some of the fine points of lore, jump past the break for the video.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: What we need on the road ahead

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
Here we are after the kick, and I have to say, thus far 2012 feels pretty much the same as 2011 but with fewer weather effects. But it also brings the opportunity to ask for a new round of features from City of Heroes, and as I think you've all learned by now, I'm always willing to ask for new stuff for the coming year. Just look at all my requests from last year and you'll see what I'm talking about.

So did I get what I wanted? Well, we got a big new dump of improved content after all, which sort of fulfilled my first request. There's been no word on any new archetypes, and we only got two full issues last year, unless you count the little half-issues in between. Let's call it an even half. But those weren't predictions, after all; they were just wishes. So what do I think we should wish for over the next year?

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City of Heroes looks to take players on a magic carpet ride

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

Tell me, princess, can I steal a lift?
Travel powers can show you the world as you level through City of Heroes. Unfortunately, they've long been limited mostly to powers that come from within each individual character. But that's changing -- first with the Rocket Board, and now with the newest addition to the game's travel power library, the Flying Carpet. If you've long wanted to use decorative surfaces from your home to explore the dark alleys of Paragon City, your wait is finally over.

Running 600 points (around $7.50) in the Paragon Market and available to characters starting at level 4, the rug is similar in function to both the aforementioned Rocket Board and the magical rugs found in games such as World of Warcraft and EverQuest II. If you're attracted to the idea of levitating upholstery but still on the fence about the money, there's a trailer showing off the latest addition to the game just after the cut.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: 2011, year of freedom

Super-hero, City of Heroes, City of Villains, Events (In-Game), News Items, Opinion, Free-to-Play, A Mild-Mannered Reporter

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
It's just about time for us to bit 2011 a fond farewell, something that I'm sure some of us will be glad to do. And just as I did last year, I thought now would be a good time to look back at the five biggest stories pertaining to City of Heroes over the last 12 months -- including the very obvious one. But there were other stories, some of which might not be about the game proper do but still impact the market.

I will definitely say that last year seemed to have a larger number of stories that shook up the status quo in the game. In comparison to last year's various major changes, Paragon Studios took this year in a bit more of a low-key route, the huge shift in the game's business model notwithstanding. But it was still a year of changes, just like every year, so let's take a trip down memory lane at my picks for the top five stories.

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A Mild-Mannered Reporter: The story's the thing

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
Story is important in the superhero genre. For most people, stories are what originally makes the genre interesting over the more ubiquitous fantasy or science fiction options. And for every superheroic comic with lackluster execution you can point to, there's something else you can point to that provides some fascinating new takes on the archetypes and ideals.

OK, maybe that correlation isn't quite one for one, but the point is made. Stories are a big deal, and as a result, the way story works in City of Heroes is worth examining, especially since another game has recently come out with an emphasis on storylines. So, doubly relevant.

If you're only going to read the introductory blurb here, though, I can bottom-line it for you without the rest of the column -- the approach is pretty schizophrenic. The game has some moments of brilliance and some moments of idiocy, and there are also some near-choked with a general apathetic vibe. It's kind of what you'd expect from a story told by hundreds of people over seven years. The times when it's on, sadly, are somewhat scattershot, which makes it hard to say, "This is worth playing just for the story."

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City of Heroes opens up friend referrals once again

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

I get by with a little help from my friends and their enormous weapons.
Are you the sort that gets by with a little help from your friends? How about getting a free month of game time with a little help from your friends? City of Heroes has rolled out a revamped version of its referral program, giving players goodies for successfully referred players, whether the person in question has never picked up the game before or has just been a lapsed player. And if your referral target subscribes, you both get a bonus.

Any player who does not have an active City of Heroes account or has an account that's been inactive for 90 days is eligible for the referral, which can be processed through the official site or via the in-game market. Assuming your target subscribes for at least one month, you receive an extra month for free, and the referred player receives a bonus of 500 Paragon Points in the market. Paragon Studios, meanwhile, gets another player. So really, everyone wins.

A Mild-Mannered Reporter: The power reset

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

A Mild-Mannered Reporter header by A. Fienemann
Respecs are a powerful tool in MMOs. They're a way for you to feel confident that no matter what choices you make when developing a character, you can make better ones further on down the line. Instead of worrying with each character decision that you're locked in to something you never wanted, you know with confidence that you can always back out if turns out that your abilities are actively causing you to die in horrible and unwanted ways.

And in City of Heroes, you get three of them.

This is the sort of thing that raises a few eyebrows, since having a limited number of choices to rectify your already-limited number of choices is not something to inspire confidence. And I'm not going to lie to you: It's certainly not the brightest decision in the world. But the hard limits on the total number of respecs you get doesn't actually mean you're forever locked in to terrible decisions. The fact of the matter is that for a number of reasons, you won't really care.

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