Friday, March 08, 2013

City of Heroes Update: Next Year in Jerusalem!

If you're reading this, you might very well share my interest in 'City of Heroes', and my frustration with the shutdown of the game last November. (If you're not reading this, then you have no taste in literature and you probably hunt puppies for sport. So nyeah.) I've been following the efforts of various fans to restore the game in some form or other, and thought that those of you not in the loop might appreciate an update on the matter. Because, of course, I totally have a bigger audience than the Titan forums and it entirely consists of people who don't know how to use Google.

There are three basic plans being advanced at this point. The first, which is probably the most desired outcome, is a plan to purchase the property from NCSoft, rehire the most essential Paragon Studios staff, and restart the game. This is probably the plan with the lowest chance of success, as everyone involved is aware, but it's not hopeless by any means. Acclaimed fantasy author Mercedes Lackey, who was a long-time member of the community almost since its inception (she even wrote a short story set in the CoH universe) is using her contacts in the science-fiction and fantasy industry (and within the former Paragon Studios) to craft business proposals that actually stand a chance of being listened to. The current target is Google Play, who have already expressed some tentative interest in the idea. We should know more on this in a month or so.

The second plan, which is probably the most likely to see results first, is a plan to "reverse engineer" the servers using the data from eight years' of gameplay and the client saved to the hard drive of each player. The idea behind this is that while NCSoft owns the intellectual property, and they own the code on the servers, each player owns the software that they bought and paid for and still have on their hard drive. So if you can make a server that uses none of NCSoft's code or IP, and people interact with it using a legally-purchased copy of 'City of Heroes', then you can make a CoH clone and NCSoft can't do squat about it. (Of course, some people have pointed out that frivolous C&D letters are a common tool of big companies, but it's at least worth trying to follow the copyright laws in a situation like this.) The coders involved have already made big progress; you can apparently log into their server and move around the first city zone, albeit as a translucent ghost-person who skids around through the air like you're sliding on invisible ice. But for three months of work, that's hellishly impressive progress.

The third plan, which is in some ways the most interesting, is what started as "Plan Z". It's an attempt to create an entirely new game from scratch, one that retains no aspects of CoH's code, mechanics or IP, but retains a similar "feel" in its gameplay and theme. There are currently two projects going on under this banner, "Project: Phoenix" and "Heroes and Villains", and while both of them are still in very early development and unlikely to be playable even in an alpha state anytime soon, they are both moving and could result in an embarrassment of riches if they turn out to be as good as the game that inspired them. In short, while this is a frustrating time to be a fan of the best superhero MMO ever, the future does have a little bit of light at the end of the tunnel!


Unknown said...

John - Is there an address to the site mentioned in your second option? My wife and I love this game and miss it every day. We played it together from the start before we married and then after we married. Our six-year-old daughter and three-year-old son have now created characters and played them before its demise.

Z.N. Singer said...

You know about MWM's Kickstarter right? The first and biggest of the Plan Z projects is now collecting funds for City of Titans.