Friday, April 18, 2014

P is for Paragon City

I thought about Pern and Pelucidar before settling on one of my favorites MMO setting outside of Guild Wars and Guild Wars 2 - Paragon City, home to City of Heroes.

I admit - I was a latecomer to the Massively Multiplayer Online experience. In my defense, I would say I was a little busy, what with working on novels and comics and tabletop fantasy worlds, many of which had tropes and even mechanics that reach their sinuous tentacles into the modern MMO. So I missed Ultima Online and Everquest, but by gum, I got into City of Heroes.

I think part of my love affair with the game was the character generation, or rather, the costume design. NCSoft's Cryptic (later Paragon) Studios went all out on creating a system to recreate the four-color world of comics. Sometimes a little too much, with the abundance of Incredible Sulks and Wolv3rin3s in the group early on.

You know what Paragon City really needed?
A map like the London Tube, showing all the ways of
getting from one place to another. Just saying.
But what brought a smile to my face was the mechanism by which they justified the limited world of the MMO play space. Most fantasy MMOs throw up mountains and other impenetrable barriers around the borders of each region, forcing the player through smaller, more easily handled gates to get from place to place. The conceit in City of Heroes was that the city was the ground zero of an alien invasion (The Rikti), and large reaches of the city were still walled off by huge energy walls that surrounded the various districts. You quickly accepted this,in that you couldn't travel between zones except through underpasses that went beneath the energy walls, or by monorail (and yes, a group of costumed super-heroes waiting for the monorail was amusing, but also a chance to check out other peoples' costumes).

And the "Alien Invasion" trope was apparently deeply embedded into the superhero DNA, such that later games like Champions and DC Heroes went with it. But CoH did it first and best.

I really enjoyed the feel of the game, and there was a joy of movement in Doctor Samaritan leaping from building to building or the Crimson Moonbat sailed over the heads of a grateful citizenry. And I picked up a lot of things I liked and did not like in MMOs, which then influenced my thoughts on GW2.

Problems? Yeah. All the warehouses looked the same on the inside and I was never sure that I got crafting system right. And large battles with myriad effects going off caused me to declare that I was "Fighting the Rainbow" in any multiplayer battle. But in general, I really appreciated the feel it gave me as a nonfantasy world, with enough of the real world mixed in to give it a firm grounding.It was a great world, and I am saddened that it is no more, though a group is putting together its City of Titans, as a kickstarted, crowdsourced, groundswell movement. But it is a tough act to follow, as every other superhero MMO has discovered.

More later,