City of Anti-Heroes: Surprise COH Expansion

By Alec Meer on May 12th, 2009 at 3:59 pm.

Presumably as part of a major fight back against its own upcoming spiritual sequel Champions Online, NCSoft’s venerable superfolk MMO City of Heroes/Villains (I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – still the most fun I’ve ever had in an MMO, even if it’s a rare day that I venture back into it now) has announced a big-ass new expansion, Going Rogue. One that purports to fills in that morally grey gap between hero and villain. I always thought that was ‘politician’ or ‘gym teacher’, but seems as though it’s a little more complicated than that.

Essentially, heroes will be able to become villains, and villains heroes – but not at a flip of a switch. Rather, your choice of missions and actions will gradually affect your moral compass (which sounds as though it’ll literally be a moral compass, amusingly)- you can go to one extreme or the other, or hang around in the middle. Bioware no longer have a monopoly on ethics meters, clearly.
You can even go back the other way again, in case you feel like creating your own epic rise and fall and rise again tale, proper comicky-book style.

Details remain scarce – or, in other words, our attempts at posing questions beyond what’s in the official release are met with only a “more information to come” – but Big Fact #1 is that this isn’t just a free content patch, as with the last 14 major updates. This is a full, price-tag carrying expansion, and quite possibly an attempt to relaunch the game. Fingers crossed for new classes, a raised level cap and crapton of costume options – perhaps even a spot of graphical spit’n'polish.

If it’s pulled off well, this has the potentially to finally plaster over City of Heroes/Villains’ major hole – that strange lack of purpose in the mid-to-late game. If you’re customising your character’s nature as well as his appearance and abilities, there’s that much more personal attachment to him/her/it. It’s a pretty big move, and a rare instance of introducing that offline RPG trope of moral deliberation into a massively multiplayer title – a genre that traditionally only adopts the more surface-level elements of roleplaying games. Let’s just hope this is something far more significant and nuanced than a slider, then.

No screenshots as yet, hence my inexpert Photoshop colour-inversion of my beloved COH character The Entomologist above, but here’s a pre-rendered, gravel-voiced trailer. (Higher res available on on the official site. ).

THEY… WERE WRONG.

Oh, and the full press release. Honestly, you won’t believe how many pointless ™ and ® symbols I had to delete from this little lot:

NCsoft, the world’s premier publisher and developer of massively multiplayer online games (MMOs), and Paragon Studios, the developer of City of Heroes, today announced the development of City of Heroes Going Rogue, the first major expansion for the City of Heroes franchise since the launch of City of Villains in 2005. As the name implies, Going Rogue will blur the line between heroes and villains in the first and longest-running super-powered comic book MMO game.

In the Going Rogue expansion, hero and villain characters will become immersed in the new parallel universe known as Praetoria, which is governed by Tyrant, the evil incarnation of the game’s main protagonist, Statesman. As gamers search for Tyrant and the rest of his Praetorian guard, implacable foes and fierce resistance will arise to face them from all sides, causing heroes and villains alike to question their loyalties.

City of Heroes Going Rogue will introduce a new alignment system that helps players explore the shades of gray that lie between good and evil. For the first time, hero characters can become villains and vice versa, enabling hero archetypes to cross over to the Rogue Isles and villain archetypes to experience Paragon City. Clearly marked missions, in addition to behaviors and decisions made by the player, will move a hero’s or villain’s moral compass, which could eventually change the hero’s or villain’s alignment. Going Rogue will also introduce two primary new fictional characters representative of this alignment shift in the game’s lore: Maelstrom, a pistol-wielding hero gone rogue, and Desdemona, a demon-summoning villain who has been redeemed.

“City of Heroes has brought a fresh new perspective to the MMO stage with its foray into the super-powered hero comic book genre, and we are excited to present gamers with even more innovative content in Going Rogue,” said Brian Clayton, general manager and executive producer at Paragon Studios. “For years, players could choose between playing as a hero or a villain. Now we will present a third, malleable path where players can be affected by the results of their actions, enabling them to further develop, unveil new perspectives, and overcome new challenges.”

NCsoft will share more details on Going Rogue in the coming months. The game is currently in development by NCsoft’s Paragon Studios, the City of Heroes development team that most recently launched the ground-breaking Mission Architect system. The launch of Mission Architect sets a significant milestone for City of Heroes as the first MMO to allow players to create user-generated content. City of Heroes has and continues to set new standards among its MMO peers and player community with its engaging and approachable comic book-inspired universe theme and consistent delivery of concepts that break the standard MMO mold.

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22 Comments »

  1. Colthor says:

    Honestly, you won’t believe how many pointless ™ and ® symbols I had to delete from this little lot:

    You’ll get eaten by lawyers, if you’re not careful. And they’ll charge you £200 an hour for the privelege.

  2. AbyssUK says:

    You lost Karma™

  3. Brant says:

    If anyone wants a more authentic press release experience, here are the symbols Alec took out:

    ®™®™®™™™™

    Distribute them throughout the original copy as you see fit.

  4. Norskov says:

    It would be nice to have a new offline superhero game, perhaps a new Freedom Force..

  5. Bobsy says:

    This is the thing. Having experienced the current state of CoX on their free weekend (lovely idea by the way – didn’t have to reapply or anything) the game just seemed like a mess. The many free expansions they’ve released over the years sit uncomfortably on top of one another, but they rarely compliment each other.

    It’s a lot of good ideas lumped together, making for a rather incoherent and clumsy whole. A great testbed for Champions, but they really ought to have the good grace to step aside and let the younger, leaner competitor have a go. If they really want to see themselves as as rivals (and, with the flashy rendered trailer there, they may well) it could get a little unpleasant.

  6. Torgen says:

    I just wish the zones looked as good and as detailed as that shot on the Statesman ObservoTron.

  7. Mejwell says:

    Where does alleged trademark infringement and registration violation fall on the moral compass of villainy/righteousness?

  8. EvaUnit02 says:

    Yay, go Spock with a beard.

  9. Rei Onryou says:

    LOOKS…CAN BE DECEIVING.

  10. Robothobo says:

    They mention “Maelstrom, a pistol-wielding hero gone rogue, and Desdemona, a demon-summoning villain who has been redeemed.”

    Since it sounds like they’re meant to appear as characters who have swapped sides, that might imply that Pistols (hero-side) and Demon Summoning (villain side) will be new power sets.

  11. Tei says:

    EvaUnit02® made a interesting comment here in RPS™: “Yay, go Spock™ with a beard.”.

    I think one of the problems of CoV™ and other games where you play as evil, is that is not evil enough. You are still saving cat’s and killing rats™. I want to a change to kill cats, and save rats™. Or maybe something completly different™, like poisoning the water sources with LSD™, creating zombies out of normal happy people, planting bombs on buildings, and other evil stuff. And profit!… people that just is evil for the sake of evilness and don’t get more money from it are not better than these “good people”™.

    On the new video parlance… I want true dark black evil!… the supposed dark that CoV give, is not enough dark to me…. more like gray. Gray can be cool, but withouth true black, is just another shade.

  12. Mortis says:

    Re: Tei
    There is a contact Villain-side whose missions are just completely reprehensible, things like destroying books for orphans, etc. Two problems though, one, these missions aren’t until the extreme lategame, and there’s maybe, I dunno, eight of them from this guy. Two, the vocal forum player-base HATES this stuff. “It’s TOO EVIL, my villain wouldn’t do this.”
    Sad.

  13. DK says:

    @Tei, if you think CoV isn’t dark enough you haven’t seen all the arcs. There’s some comic book villainy (okay, there’s a lot of that), but also some truly disturbing ones.

    On the actual news – hurray! Although I’m a little sad they went with Tyrant and the Praetorians vs Statesman and Freedom Phalanx, probably because both teams are archetypes for evil and good respectively yet have atleast one team member who’s dabbled in the other side of the fence.
    I would have preferred they brought out the Reichsman-led 5th Column they promised a year ago.

    Edit: Nevermind the 5th Column comment – it seems they’re doing it in Issue 15. Smashing Nazi-supervillains season is back!

  14. The_B says:

    LOOKS…CAN BE DECEIVING.

    I’M SURE THAT WHEN YOU’VE TRIED IT, YOU ALL WILL BE BELIEVING!

    Oh wait, wasn’t that Power Rangers: The Movie?

    …I… I feel I just crossed some sort of acceptable Nerd boundary with that.

  15. Torgen says:

    @Tei,

    That has always been my knock on “redside” in the game. It feels like Blueside 2. You’re spending most of your time beating up Arachnos. Take a look in the Mission Architect forum on the official CoH site, though. Players are coming up with some downright reprehensible story arcs.

  16. Arathain says:

    The devs are pretty open about why red-side arcs aren’t as evil as they might be- they want to keep their Teen rating. Still, the evil is there- Westin Phipps in Grandville (the guy mentioned above) is the most often mentioned, but Peter Themari in Port Oakes has some nasty stuff as well, as does Dr. Creed in Mercy.

    The Architect exists in part to provide the players with the sorts of arcs they want to play thus filling in these gaps.

  17. Rei Onryou says:

    @The_B: Go and stand in the corner and think about what you’ve done!

  18. Nurdbot says:

    Interesting, Guess I’ll be sticking around COX for another year.

  19. Ian says:

    @ The_B: On the upside, I now have the Power Rangers theme in my head, so it could be worse.

  20. Anthony Damiani says:

    I note a suspicious lack of features announced.

  21. Sanjassi says:

    Lovely. If this turns out to be a real gamechanging expansion like CoV was then i’ll buy it and resubscribe for a bit.

  22. Darkauthor says:

    Re: Bobsy
    They ARE rivals. Cryptic sold the game so they can focus on Champions. The new company took the development of new content up three or four notches so that Champions doesn’t plow them over with its shiny newness. And seriously, step aside and let Champions have a go? Sure! The developers of CoH don’t have kids to feed or desire to keep their jobs. Then afterward they can all sit down and play patty cake and live happily ever after. Seriously. What world do you live in?

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