Heroes and Villains

By Alec Meer on April 15th, 2008 at 10:26 am.

48 inches of concentrated heroism

A quick note on two two new word-pustules I’ve affixed to the internet’s mottled hide. First, Eurogamer’s new MMO channel is foolish enough to let me celebrate my beloved City of Heroes character, The Entomologist, for 2000 words. In theory I’m talking about how COH’s character editor and class structure offers a degree of self-expression no other MMO can touch, but mostly I’m jaffing off about my 4ft tall, power-jumping energy blaster. I also rope in comments from Jim and Kieron about why their COH characters warm their heart-cockles, and say things like this:

“Alright, so your Level 70 WoW Night Elf means a lot to you. He represents all your time in the game, a visual and statistical incarnation of all your achievements. His armour is his battlescars, a sign for other players to respect or fear him. But he isn’t you. He’s just a template someone else made. The Entomologist is me. I made him. From his appearance to his powers to his nebulous personality and back to a thousand new appearance tweaks later on, Ento is my proudest MMO achievement.”

Meantime, PC Gamer throws up an Aliens vs Predator retrospective I wrote some time back, this one focusing on the game’s dismemberment physics and the timeless nature of the Alien as a foe.

“That’s why playing as the Marine, which on paper seems to be defaulting to a stereotypical FPS experience, is the smart thing to do in AvP. The blip of the motion tracker, the trustiness of the Pulse Rifle, it’s like genetic memory, an experience utterly familiar and all the more effective for it.”

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21 Comments »

  1. Mr Pink says:

    It seems ridiculous to me that the CoH character generator is still so far ahead of every other MMO. As far as I’m concerned, being able to customise my character is just about the most important thing about playing an MMO. Am I alone in this? Surely it’s not that hard to add to a game, and yet it adds so much to the experience.

  2. Ian says:

    @Mr Pink: No, you’re not alone, and I don’t think it’s even just the case for MMOs. Why shouldn’t character creation be this fun in RPGs in general? Not all of them of course, but there are plenty where they could give you a LOT more scope for creating a character you like than they do. I understand there are a lot of games where the setting is the key and your character must fit into that, but for those that try to allow you more freedom why not go the whole hog and let us creating silly characters if we choose?

    Obviously half of the point with City of Heroes/Villains is that others will be seeing it as well, but still…

  3. roBurky says:

    I am intensely proud of my villain character The Unending Sickness, and the journey of ability and costume changes he went through on his way to level 50.

    Playing City Of is telling the story of your creation, refining and developing his/her personality through your experiences.

    Playing WoW after that was bizaare. What was the entire point of the City Of MMO just didn’t exist there. No customisation at all. You were nobody special at all, just completely unremarkable.

  4. Muzman says:

    Funny. As a non MMO player I’d always assumed that they’d all have that sort of customisation, or at least all the big ones would be approaching it. You know, like D&D et al

  5. Delduwath says:

    The City of Heroes editor is absolutely ridiculous. There was never a time when I spent less than an hour on a single character. My very first one was Nigel Whitworth, a mutton-chopped gentleman dressed in a tuxedo, bearing a techy monocle (I’d have taken a regular one, but there weren’t any). He was a British businessman (I’ll be honest with you: most Americans secretly want to be British) who fell into the Thames during wintertime around the turn of the (20th) century, and subsequently froze (please don’t correct my comic book science). Found and thawed almost 90 years later (science origin), he found his gentlemanly physique hardened (super strength/invulnerability tanker), and, noticing the general decline of morals and manners, set out to do his part in remedying the situation.

    In World of WarCraft, I play Zolfel, a troll rogue. He, um. He has two swords? That’s mostly it.

    Coming out of CoH, I was shocked by the lack of customization in WoW. Fortunately, playing a troll gave me access to the coolest hairstyles, and really big tusks. I’m still disappointed that towards the endgame, every character strives to get the same exact armor sets and the same exact cookie-cutter build. But here’s the interesting thing: even though I just gushed about my first CoH character, and couldn’t tell you more than two sentences about my WoW character, it’s my troll rogue who’s near and dear to my heart.

    Maybe it’s that I don’t play alts that much, and spent almost all my WoW-time with Zolfel. Maybe it’s that I only played Nigel to level 18 before I got insanely bored, while Zolfel is sitting at 70. Maybe it’s that while everyone else is raiding and getting powerful gear that comes out of a mold, I hardly have time for groups, and am wearing stuff I’ve picked up here and there, which makes me look unique. Whatever the case, Nigel Whitworth is a character I play, while Zolfel is who I am on Azeroth.

    (I also made a character named Boardroom Viking. He had a business suit, a beard, a horned helm, and an axe.)

  6. Stew says:

    CoH is the only MMO I’ll play for any length of time, simply because it tailors things to your character.

    Sure, anyone can figure out who General Z is and discover the secret of the Sky Raiders. Anyone can discover what really happened in Faultline and kick in three Archvillains.

    But when your character does it, it feels special. Like it’s something that only you could do. Little things help–NPCs refer to you by name, not just in dialogues but at random. Occasionally, wandering the streets at a mere Sprint I’ll hear something like “Did you hear? Iron Frame’s really sticking it to the Sky Raiders!”

    Random people on the street talk about me and how good I am at kicking things in. No other game gives that impression of really being an individual, remarkable part of the world.

  7. Rob Merritt says:

    This news item is making me want to play City of Heroes again… Bad, very bad.

  8. J. Prevost says:

    I love making characters for CoH/CoV!

    It’s really too bad I can’t enjoy playing the game nearly as much. :)

  9. Delduwath says:

    I don’t understand why this comment thread hasn’t become a CoH/V character show-and-tell yet.

    In my CoV trial (never did get the full game), I made Dr. Werewolf. He was a werewolf who achieved his life-long goal of becoming a scientist. He wore a labcoat, and shot radiation beams out of his eyes.

  10. Marcin says:

    I made it to 50 in CoH, I had showcase pages for all my heroes and villains, I spent a lot of time just superjumping around. In fact, any game with superjump in it has become an automatic buy for me since Paragon City.

    By contrast, my WoW druid has been stuck at 63 for a month (I’ve been playing since launch, off and on – mostly off) and has a little avatar pic to his name. However, there are still new things to see and do in Azeroth; in Paragon, not so much :/

    Looking forward to Champions quite a bit.

  11. Leeks! says:

    Wow, I wish I could pass off interviews with my friends as legitimate journalism.

  12. Svenska says:

    Is CoH still going on? I always wanted to play it, but never actually did. This article kinda makes me want to start…

  13. Alec Meer says:

    I don’t imagine I’ve fooled anyone into thinking it’s legitimate journalism, Leeks. It’s just turning the camera onto fellow geeks.

  14. Glazius says:

    CoH is still going on. Drop me a line at glazius.falconar@gmail.com and I’ll hook you up with a free trial. They’ve been going on a skeleton crew since basically the launch of City of Villains but since the sale to NCSoft (who always had a hand in the game – Cryptic is focusing on salvaging Marvel Universe into Champions now) there’ve been new offices, new staff, and new money, and things are looking brighter.

  15. cullnean says:

    recently got a work colleage to start playing, as i have re-started my sub hopefully get a few more into it

  16. AbyssUK says:

    They should try and revive it some what CoH/CoV and add in a higher user base by making it free to play surely by now. It would also serve as a great advert for champions.. its a perfect game to have modern day adverts etc in the game on billboards etc

  17. Andrew Doull says:

    I’ll publically shame myself to say that I won a free trial from Eurogamer and never unwrapped the box… will do so now.

    And I spent year doing Marvel RPG play by email.

    >hangs head<

    I’m surprised that CoH/CoV don’t invest more in user generated content.

  18. Arathain says:

    It’s a great time for character customisation in the game at the moment. They recently introduced weapon customisation for characters using drawn weapons like swords and guns, leading, in my case, to the birth of Shovelman, an ordinary workman who got thoroughly sick of the Clockwork stealing all his supplies and grabbed his trusty spade and went to fight crime (Tanker, Willpower/Axe). The next expansion g ives each Archetype a primary and a secondary they previously didn’t have access to (Axe and Mace brutes! Psi blasters!).

    My show and tell would include:

    Dr Ohm, a man whose out of control bioelectric field generates enormous heat from the natural resistance of his body. Will he master his powers before he burns up? Or will his pain fueled madness kill us all? (Brute, Electric Melee/Fire Armour).

    Ant Farm, a giant humanoid ant. Nuclear experiments on Pacific islands caused a certain species of ants to mutate, greatly expanding their collective intelligence and symbiosis with local plant species. Ant Farm has been created by them and sent to destabilise humanity so the ants can take over (Dominator, Plant/Thorns, with gorgeous insect wings).

    Sorry to go on. Like the RPS crew, I’m very proud of these (and quite a few other) characters. The game really goes out of its way to make your character feel special, with customisation, with really powerful feeling abilities, and that awesome thing where random folk on the street talk about your amazing deeds.

  19. Kevin Lee says:

    My first hero was Caine Longshot (inspired by Caine “the” Longshot from Trigun; this was when names had to be shorter). He was a technology Assault Rifle/Devices Blaster. He basically looked like a steampunk Cowboy.
    My villain was Longshot, an evil version of my hero. He was a Robotics/Traps Mastermind, which was interesting, because it felt like I was still playing my blaster vicariously through my robot drones.
    My roommate is big into writing, and he once wrote an epic fanfic of our characters and our friends characters with our hero’s duking it out with our villains.
    CoX really let you feel you were making your story, not just being told it. I’m really looking forward to CoX 2 (i.e. Champions).

  20. Torgen says:

    This article popped up in the “Revisit an Old Story” box, so I thought I’d mention that CoX has just announced open beta for Mission Architect, the first player-made content for a mainstream MMO.

    Make your own mission arcs, and even custom enemies, and publish them in-game for others to play and rate. The more people that play your missions, the more “tickets” you earn to buy in-game stuff for your characters. You also earn tickets for playing user-created content (instead of the “drops” you get for playing the official content.)