Monday, November 19, 2007

I Belong to the City

I did many things this weekend - wrote two proposals, watched the Seahawks beat the Bears, dropped in on a game convention where Monkey King was running a game, and spent some time with my Mom-in-law, who is visiting.

I also re-installed my City of Heroes game and started playing again.

I never really abandoned City of Heroes - rather it abandoned me. I was an early player, and it was one of my first modern MMORPGs (No, don't try to pronounce it). And I enjoyed it greatly. Unlike most of the popular games, like Guild Wars and World of Warcraft, it did not follow the fantasy tropes but instead got into the comic book universe. So you're a hero in Paragon City (with an ornate character generation system so good that Marvel sued them over it), starting out fighting purse snatchers and working your way up to menaces like the Clockwork King.

But eventually, its upgrades got to the point where my machine (less than a year old) could no longer handle the graphic requirements, and I dropped out. And when I got a better machine, I was already in the grip of World of Warcraft and unwilling to spring either in time or price for multiple online addictions.

But I dropped from WoW and played a little with LotRO (Lord of the Rings Online), along with the ever-enjoyable Guild Wars (which is the day job as well), and didn't think about CoH. But now I loaded the darn thing back in over the weekend.

And it took 2 hours at highspeed rates to update the original program. After it was all said and done, it was like going back to your old neighborhood.

Mind you, CoH is now a mature online game, and looks it. There is more color on the streets in the form of signs and shops (relatively absent in the early draft). And there is some different behavior from the crooks. There is stuff that was added post-ship - badges and salvage and an auction house (Whoa! That wasn't there before).

And as as more mature game, things move a little faster at the lower levels. Drops (treasure) show up more often, and it feels like I am moving through the low levels more swiftly (part of this may be because I know the basics of MMORPGing by this time).

On the other hand, I could have sworn there were nazis in this game. Old fashioned nazis with the funky helmets. Did they go away, or was I just dreaming? And the "Lost", a group of the homeless turned supervillains - they seem to be in limited numbers as well - did the economy pick up and they all get jobs, to be replaced by Trolls (because WoW can only hire SO many trolls)?

And they merged City of Heroes with its sequel, City of Villains. I'm not sure what I think about that, but then I'm only just created my first villain, the Marmoset (I can't believe that name wasn't taken).

And since I am writing for Guild Wars, I am really looking at their storytelling now and picking nits. The first time I encounter the Order, I really should get a little more detail. And why is the Boss of that adventure called "Pyre" in the intro text when he is "Inferno" in the mission itself? But these are petty quibbles.

But most of all, the newbie areas do feel kind of ... empty. Most of the rush has gone through now, leaving only the latecomers and people working on their 23rd alt (Alternate character). It remains a fun game (You run around and Fight Crime!), but it also has an old feel, like the primary four-color comics that it duplicates. And it follows that tradition to a great degree, and moves along smoothly, without a lot of pressure. So I'll probably be back in Paragon City for a while.

More later,