City of Heroes: Going Rogue Developer Diary

By Kieron Gillen on June 10th, 2010 at 6:00 pm.

Basically, The Being RPS Game.

As previous reported, the City of Heroes is having an expansion about GOING ROGUE involving alternate dimensions and similar. NCSoft offered us this designer diary to publish from John “Protean” Hegner at Paragon Studios. Now, normally it’s the sort of thing we stray upon from, but I actually quite liked the expose of the thinking behind creating the MMO world. I suspect anyone interested in seeing a designer’s thought process will get something from it. And people who like City of Heroes? Well, you’re reading already, aren’t you? Yes, you are.

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“Shaving the goatee off of the Praetorians”

By John “Protean” Hegner

Designer, Paragon Studios

Greetings, I’m John Hegner, designer and mission lead for City of Heroes Going Rogue. While working on City of Heroes Going Rogue I’ve received several questions about how we came up with the signature characters and villain groups in Praetoria, the alternate earth ruled by Emperor Cole, aka Tyrant.

The first step was to take all of the signature characters and shave off their evil goatees, so to speak. Tyrant was the first and obvious choice for this new genesis, and so we went all the way back to the beginning, writing dozens of drafts for his back story. I’m of the firm belief that you need a solid world for your characters to live in before you can start writing for any of them, so reinventing the world of Praetoria, and keeping it working within the given fiction was not only a monumental task, it was essential.

What we knew going in was that we wanted Praetoria to be a world where the players playing the content would constantly be questioning who was right and who was wrong. This was a critical component. Praetoria isn’t necessarily about good vs. evil or right and wrong, it is about order and chaos; freedom and oppression. Then we started looking at dystopian future stories and analyzing the logical method for how other authors explained downward spirals of civilization, either morally or culturally, in their worlds. That’s when we settled on the catch phrase; Utopia at a cost.

About half way through the process of writing up Tyrant and the world’s background, we hit on the pulse of what we wanted. Tyrant needed to be someone that people could empathize with, despite the fact that he was a villain. We made Tyrant into a version of Statesman who believed a little less in the inherent good in people, and a little more in his own. This minute change was all it took for Primal Earth’s greatest hero to become Praetoria Earth’s greatest villain. The people didn’t fear him, they loved him, and he ruled over the world from a throne that he didn’t take from humanity, but one that they gave to him willingly.

The other thing we changed was his name. Nobody in his right mind goes by the name Tyrant, so we decided that was what the Praetorian Resistance called him. To the public, he was Marcus Cole, emperor of the world. With this change everything fell into place. The Praetorians were no longer cruel and sinister psychopaths (on the surface), they were the heroes of their own world, and their ideals were just enough off kilter with Primal Earth’s signatures that sparks were certain to fly whenever they met. Again, the concept of who was right or wrong would not be easy to determine. To quote a certain fictional wise man, “You’re going to find that many of the truths we cling to depend greatly on our own point of view.”

But writing the signatures was only half of the fun in making Praetoria. The other half was in writing the new world and filling it with new characters, as well as radically changed old ones. One of the rules we adopted early on was that we didn’t want everyone to just be a mirror of a Primal Earth character. We wanted the ones who were mirrors to be distinct and shocking. So in addition to a whole new cast of contacts and faces we sprinkled in some Praetorian versions of some of the names and faces you all love (or hate).

Calvin Scott comes to mind as probably one of the most dramatically different characters in Praetoria who has a Primal Earth counter part. In Primal Earth he’s the mild-mannered husband of Aurora Borealis. For those of you who aren’t familiar with the old Calvin Scott Task Force, he was convinced that Sister Psyche’s presence in Aurora’s body was going to kill her. In Praetorian Earth he’s the extremist leader of the Resistance hell bent on bringing down Tyrant’s regime and rescuing his wife from Mother Mayhem (the Praetorian version of Sister Psyche), who has stolen her body. The parallels between the two were so good we couldn’t pass it up.

I don’t want to give too much away, but Dr. Aeon and I had a lot of fun writing in some familiar faces from Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. Some of them are obvious, but others come completely out of left field. I think the players will really get a kick out of it, especially when they find out who Mr. G is (for anyone familiar with Issue 17: Dark Mirror), or discover the true power behind the Syndicate.

The Praetorians you meet will make you question your own character. Who is the real hero; The Resistance fighter seeking to free Praetoria’s people from enslavement no matter the cost in lives, or the dictator who protects his people by sacrificing a few for the good of the many? My hope is that with each unfolding adventure you will start questioning your own moral fiber, as well as that of your characters.

Welcome to Praetoria.

If you want to know more about how we made City of Heroes Going Rogue, come by our Facebook fan page, where we’ll keep posting more information about the development process. Thanks for reading.

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More details on the Going Rogue site, I suspect. It’s why they have sites, after all.

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8 Comments »

  1. geldonyetich says:

    If Champions Online has yet to produce an adequate “hook” by the time Going Rogue is complete, I’ll likely return to City of Heroes. Although both games rather disappoint in that they don’t have much of an end game.

  2. Choca says:

    This all sounds nice and City of Heroes always had surprisingly good writing but I just can’t take any more of its boring and dated gameplay, honestly.

  3. Tom Davidson says:

    I’m curious why, in this utopia of theirs, Mother Mayhem has stolen someone’s body. As with Bioshock (and Marvel’s Civil War), I suspect we have people who THINK they’ve made the bad guys more sympathetic, nuanced and reasonable than they actually have.

    • Kid A says:

      From Mother Mayhem’s bio:
      “When a freak accident involving an unstable psychic killed Shalice Tilman, the world mourned her death. Courageously, her colleague, Aurora Borealis, took Shalice’s consciousness into her own, saving the woman beloved throughout the world.”

      It would appear to be a symbiotic relationship rather than a parasitic one. A “bad guy” (and that seems like a rather inadequate term for what is being billed as a grey-on-grey match-up between Emperor Cole/Tyrant and the Resistance/naughty tewwowists) who willingly agreed to share her body with a fallen comrade rather than let her slip away forever? That’s a character with more humanity than 90% of video game antagonists, right there.

    • Choca says:

      If I’m not mistaken it went like this :

      Mother Mayhem almost died.

      Aurora Borealis saved her by inviting her to pretty much share a body.

      Mother Mayhem didn’t feel like sharing and completely took over Aurora’s body.

    • Arathain says:

      I would expect there to be a story arc exploring Mother Mayhem, and we’ll learn about how voluntary her body co-habitation with Aurora really is. I don’t expect it to be as benevolent as the Primal Paragon arrangement. The Praetorian Signature characters may have shaved their goatees, but they all have a distincty dark streak to them, from what we’ve seen.

  4. Rhygadon says:

    Hmm. I still pop into CoX every now and then and look around, though I rarely wind up playing for long. It’s not a ghost town, at least on the more popular servers, but it does seem increasingly dominated by kids and teens. The last update included a horrible new interface for the auction market (ugly, hard to use, contains design elements which make it easy to mis-click and lose huge amounts of money instantly), which was the final nail in the coffin for many old-timers (including myself).

    What worries me about Going Rogue is that the devs seem most excited about the story component, which is not something that any but the most die-hard of players tend to care much about. Even the role-players don’t tend to engage that deeply with the existing canon, and after the first play-through of any given arc the story fades into the background. The only thing that can revitalize the game is new play experiences, and so far there’s been disturbingly little indication of that. The “choose to be good or evil” concept is interesting in principle, but the way they’re implementing it seems like it’s just going to blur what little difference there was between CoH and CoV, making the play experience even more homogeneous.

    The new Demon Summoning set is fun (and pretty). But I can’t see anything else in GR that looks compelling enough to bring old-timers back for more than a peek. That saddens me, because I do still miss the game.

  5. Dawngreeter says:

    Can you play as Sarah Palin?