Hang Up Your Cape: City Of Heroes To Close : (

By John Walker on September 1st, 2012 at 11:30 am.

Coo, those were the days. From 2004, that screenshot.

Snnnniiiiiiffffff. There’s a huge amount of affection for City Of Heroes at Castle Shotgun. Long before RPS was a twinkling of an idea in our collective eye, the original four of us would play CoH together. Kieron, Jim, Alec and I were the core of a team that was joined by many others, spending more time in a game together than before or since. It’s the source of the John Is A Bad Healer meme, it’s where Jim sealed his position as a tank, where Kieron proved he could only play sissy characters that died all the time, and the source of so many anecdotes. And while none of us has played the game for years – in fact, I find it pretty unrecognisable now – it still remains an enormous shame to see its servers will be switched off. And an even greater shame that NCsoft have decided to completely close down the development studio behind it – Paragon Studios.

So there is to be no more development from this moment forward, and the servers will close before the end of the year. There’s no question that it had a good run – eight years is a phenomenal success for any MMO. And it constantly expanded and reinvented itself, trying to keep up with a very quickly changing medium. It managed to defy expectations and keep a subscription model up until September last year, when a free-to-play version was created, with limited play, and an in-game shop. But it looks like that model wasn’t enough to keep the game going, especially with reported subscriber numbers under 125,000 as long ago as 2008.

And you know what – City Of Heroes was better than all the superhero MMOs that followed. Nothing else has captured that sense of an open world that has a depth of place, with the amazing freedom of bouncing, teleporting or flying around just being a superhero. As someone who rarely enjoys playing games alongside others, I really only have incredibly fond memories of a huge number of hours sunk into the cities. Those memories are something we’ll come back to soon.

We wish the absolute best to all at Paragon, and hope everyone quickly finds new work without problems. Thanks guys, for the MMO that’s undoubtedly brought RPS together more than any other game, even before RPS was a concept.

In the meantime, if you want to say goodbye, you can still jump in and play the game for free for now. What on EARTH was my password?

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70 Comments »

  1. Dr I am a Doctor says:

    try “123456″

  2. Mr Chug says:

    Sad news. I sank hundreds of hours in back in the day, and meeting up with a few members of my Super Grip to go to a comic convention still ranks as my nerdiest experience to date.

  3. Was Neurotic says:

    It is a huge shame. CoX could easily have run on and on. My only hope is that this will clear the decks for a CoH 2.0 some time in the future. Many fond memories I have of CoX, and several hundred megabytes of screenies too.

    • Spooner says:

      They did make a CoX2 – it is called Champions Online and it isn’t terribly good :( It kept the character customisation model, but fatally switched to a WoW-style questing system that was in-world, rather than instanced, so you lost the ability to have missions that scaled to party size and picking your own difficulty. Meant instead of being the only game in which you could comfortably play in a full-sized pick-up party from start to end to one where you really have to solo until the end-game D:

      • malkav11 says:

        It also went from easy one button tapping powers with intuitive properties to complicated systems of input and a power design system that although in the spirit of the Champions IP made it waaaay too easy to cripple your character. It’s not awful, but it’s no modern-day CoH.

  4. BooleanBob says:

    Crap, what have I been doing all this time it’s been free? I still need to get my Mastermind to 50!

    Such sad news. They say everyone has (at least) one MMO in them*. This! This was mine.

    *yes, I know no-one says that.

    • Colonel J says:

      Well, it was my first and only MMO too. And it was entirely because of articles that Jim, Alec, John and Keiron wrote about it that I picked it up at all.

      I was there about the time of the launch of CoV in 2005, then 18 months of playing nothing else, so many many hours until a new job made me put it down and I haven’t been back since. Some of my best gaming memories, right there.

    • MaXimillion says:

      My first MMO as well, and the one I’ve enjoyed most. ~5000 hours spent, 11000+ forum posts, a lot of friends and memories. No other MMO has felt the same it did. Only one that comes close to being as great is DDO, but that requires a regular group to be as enjoyable.

      That said, after I quit due to exhausting all the content, I don’t think I could go back.

    • Choca says:

      Heh, I was thinking the exact same thing, my dear mastermind will never see the light of level 50.

      I’ve played the game for a long time (my longest run on a MMO with Asheron’s Call I think) and reached max level only once because I was too busy making ALL THE ALTS.

  5. Haplo says:

    Let us see it off in an appropriately RPS manner.

    SADFACE. :’(

  6. Kollega says:

    Let me just say that this is COMPLETELY UNEXPECTED. At least to me. Low subscription numbers would probably explain the part of it, but it’s still something that i didn’t expect and that is sad to hear. Even if i have little interest in MMOs to begin with.

  7. Lakelly says:

    Aww. I didn’t play a lot of CoH, but I enjoyed it immensely. I just wish they hadn’t closed Paragon down… It would have been nice to see another game from them; they had some cool ideas about MMOs.

  8. Choca says:

    One of the best MMOs ever. That’s sad.

    • McDan says:

      What a shame even. Such a great game with so many hours sunk into it, it will be missed.

  9. Arglebargle says:

    Long term subscriber, still playing. It was my first MMO, and I still thank the heavens for that, instead of what it could have been. Great community, loads of fun. Played with a European guild early because I was working nights then.

    Any Aurorae alumnii say hey! I’ll try to spiff up the base some…..

    I fully expect this to have been a villainous bean counter move to doctor a bottom line somewhere.

    Saw an interesting comment about how the early MMO experiance is likely to be historically lost, similar to early films that were just tossed away, vanished, as they were of no consequence.

    There were so many things that City of Heroes did right. Shame to see it go, especially as it was still in the black financially.

  10. razgon says:

    TonyV from the Titan network is looking to purchase the game, in case anyone is interested or want to lend their support
    http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/topic,4877.0.html

  11. ADarkHorse says:

    I played it a lot while I was at uni and it was great then, but every time I’ve tried to get into it since the complete lack of other players has always put me off. You can be the only one in a huuuuuge zone, at which point it stops being an MMORPG and just being a sort of wishy washy RPG. Shame though, I did enjoy it while it lasted!

  12. Chris D says:

    I had some really good times in this game. It was ahead of its time in many ways. The character customisation has never been equalled, the mentoring and sidekicking system should really be standard for all MMO’s, group finding was reasonably painless and it had so much character.

    No disrespect to Company of Heroes but whenever someone uses the abreviation CoH it will always be the city I think of first.

  13. Kirjava says:

    Awwww. I only played for about a year back in 2006-2007, but it was one of those things I always meant to get back into. Guess I left it too long. *superpowered sigh*

  14. CMaster says:

    I never liked CoX, but suprised to see it go, considering it must have been fairly cheap to run and did honestly do a lot of things well.

    Funny that this news comes not long after a 9+ year old MMO, with fewer players than that, with the company that runs it going bust, announcing that not only does it continue, but in fact it is now completely free for both old and brand new players:
    http://www.rockpapershotgun.com/forums/showthread.php?5998-Old-MMO-Neocron-goes-completley-free for more information.

    Neocron may never have been big, or ever even close to perfect, but something about it makes it persist through anything…

  15. Njordsk says:

    So which one of the original 4 is stife?

  16. Belsameth says:

    I spend a godawefull amount of time on it and one of the few MMOs I returned to after I was done playing for a bit. Sad times…

  17. cckerberos says:

    The first MMO I ever played.

    Just out of curiosity, did they ever introduce investigations?

  18. Screwie says:

    “And you know what – City Of Heroes was better than all the superhero MMOs that followed. ”

    This is so true.

    • RakeShark says:

      Absolutely agree.

    • TwwIX says:

      Yep. I agree. Champions Online and DCUO were big disappointments to me. The former was instantly ruined by ridiculous nerfs that quickly came after its release and the latter is just a glorified beat em’ up with not much depth at all.

  19. sinister agent says:

    I never did get round to playing this, despite installing it when it went free. I am crap. But I enjoyed reading about it more than any other MMO, and if I’d had a group of friends interested in it, I’m sure even I’d have had a terrific time with it.

    This written thing about it from years back is what first put it on my radar: http://www.1up.com/features/memoirs-urban-vigilante-1 . Some of the imaginative player-designed characters alone are enough to make it stand out.

    Is there any word on what the rationale behind closing the studio is? I’d suspect it’s a simple case of letting it go so everyone can move on to other things, but it seems a shame.

  20. Film11 says:

    This was completely unexpected and absolutely shocking to me. The devs were even announcing upcoming content *the same day* as the shutdown announcement! NCSoft really must have dropped the hammer on them with no notice.

    What worries me immensely is that the reason given for this was a “change in direction” within NCSoft. What does this mean for their other titles? What change in direction are they going for? I can only imagine that it will involve more insiduous cash shops and that makes me wonder about the future of GW2′s Gem Store.

    I almost wish I hadn’t bought that game now.

    • malkav11 says:

      Yeah, this really doesn’t feel like the game failing to me – it was obviously still viable right up until free to play, and free to play usually makes MMOs -more- profitable, not less, and since it continued to be actively developed afterwards… I smell a rat.

    • Phantoon says:

      “dropped the hammer without notice”

      Yeah, that’s apparently EXACTLY what happened. As in the team showed up for work to find they had been locked out and fired.

  21. porps says:

    HMmm, you do make it sound quite good but im not really sure i could bear to go back to a tab-targetting-roll-your-face-across-the-number-keys style mmo after playing tera. Maybe i’ll check it out when my tera sub runs out.

  22. Torgen says:

    This is a total shock. My only published game writing gigs have been most of the Controller set in the original Prima guide and in the first Prima update. I think we will never see another game that will let the players express themselves as well as CoX did. It was a treat sometimes just to stand around and watch the different character designs run past.

  23. Cam says:

    Sad. Very sad. COH/V was my favorite MMO. There’s just something that feels quite rewarding about making your own character from scratch, and seeing them level up before your eyes. Over time, they made you feel like you were really in control of your characters, from their powers and looks to their origin stories.
    Considering Paragon studios has still been adding plenty of content lately, this must have been a sudden decision by someone in NCSoft.

    City of Heroes is what I would most want to get a sequel, like guild wars 2. I hope something like that could be possible.

  24. Shana says:

    Nooooooooo!

    This was my first MMO. I loved it so much. At one point I setup a website feeding directy from the directory where the game put snapshots, and became the Paragon Photographer; I’d go around taking pics of everyone and they could see them immediately on the website. I think I may have to put those online again…

    I don’t remember having as much as fun as with my claws regen scrapper jumping into a ton of bad guys and getting the aggro off of the blasters who kept sniping and dying!

    And just jumping from building to building (no flying for me, thanks!) and looking at the gorgeous scenery and fighting the huge octopus monster thingy in the river and and and…

    sigh

    There was never another superhero MMO like it.

    I’ll be enjoying again for how little time it has left, although I don’t expect it to be the same, it needs many heroes to really come alive. But Domini the claws/regen scrapper will be there, doing her bit, with perhaps some pics along the way.

  25. Josh W says:

    I’ve heard so many good things about this game, over the years, that I feel like I should play it, just to preserve the game design insights embodied in it!

  26. Torgen says:

    Okay looks like last day is Nov 30.

    What a shame.

  27. Drake Sigar says:

    I played CoH for up to 2 years after release. I don’t regret moving on, but nor would I take those wonderful years back. It was a privilege to be involved with that community. Even the RPers were nice.

  28. geldonyetich says:

    I guess I played out CoX, in that my recent attempts to get back into the game met with so much inner apathy that this is something I’ve done to death already, but I don’t think there exists another game in which I’ve documented over 1600 hours playing and (probably at least half again that, off the meter). Yet, only two level-50 characters. So much alt-a-holicism under the bridge… the combination of archtype/primary power/secondary power somehow created a game that was more fun to roll up an alt than keep playing.

    I suppose if the game were to be said to deserve this ignoble fate, it’d be because the community (at least on the forums) has festered into a lot of stat-slinging elitist assholes. Their tears shall be delicious: reap now what you have sown by being so unfriendly, spawn of comic book stores. Not to mention my roleplay server of choice, Virtue, grew to be a bastion of TinySex, with “mature” guilds openly advertising for members. I don’t think that’s how the words “roleplay” or “mature” were intended to be used. Online games need new blood, driving them off by being rude or openly perverted is a bad idea.

    Going F2P probably would have given the game an unlimited lifespan, but they kinda screwed up the implementation. F2P players were denied freedom of speech (not allowed to get mail or post on the forums or use open broadcast channels) and were allowed a total of two characters without a full choice of archetypes. Returning players discovered they suddenly couldn’t access most of their heroes unless they shelled out for more character slots. It was a F2P system designed to perpetually pressure the players into a monthly subscription: that’s not how F2P is supposed to work. Part of the reason why they went this route was, again, they allowed their community to bully them, maintaining a “long-term subscriber elite tier” that the new blood felt very keenly.

    But, the chip on my shoulder having been aired, ’twas probably not any one particular aspect that brought down the beast other than the aspect that will bring us all down in time: age. City of Heroes is over 8 years old; in technological terms, that’s well over a lifetime. Here was an engine initially developed to run on 56k baud modems and under 1Ghz processors. It succeeded gloriously, a magnificent piece of software engineering, and the effort was spent scaling it up over time to modern systems and bandwidths. However, artifacts seemed to remain no matter how much they revamped it. Take a walk in Perez Park if you don’t believe me: the zone has been largely untouched since 2004, and it shows.

    Would that Champions Online were a worthy successor, but unfortunately the casual-friendly balance of the game ultimately killed its depth and thus long term appeal. City of Heroes had something far deeper than that, and it’s ever a cruel twist of fate that Bill Roper – fresh off his last brainchild (Hellgate London) bombing, and probably wholly out of big name association with prominent Blizzard titles – ended up masterminding Champions Online’s game design instead of Geko, who did such a marvelous job on CoH.

    I think I’ll need a stiff drink. Even played out, with a community I grew to hate, and rationalizing CoH’s closure with the knowledge all things must pass, I haven’t felt a demise of a game so keenly since EA canceled Ultima Online 2. Even knowing the game was not entirely undeserving of this, NCSoft will not escape this decision unscathed in many players’ opinion of them.

    Then again, maybe this is all a Nemesis plot.

    • RakeShark says:

      I was a Virtue player myself, made Siren’s Call my home. Loved the PvP combat right after CoV came out, the kinetic nature of the PvP system made it very fun. It was a hell of a challenge to make a stone/stone brute viable, but it was very rewarding once I had it figured out, sending folks fleeing who were usually untouchable. It encouraged experimentation with power sets and tactics, and positioning/awareness was a skill that was always tested.

      The RP was pretty fun too, before the “mature” phase set in like an ingrown toenail.

      Then they had to screw it up, psi powers ruled PvP, and all the interesting combinations disappeared. That’s when I left.

  29. Berzee says:

    How wistful =|

    And a bit worrisome = mostly because I think, what if the same happens to Asheron’s Call? Then what will happen to ME!?

    (I haven’t played it in years, but I want to again…either to single-handedly prevent this from ever happening, or else to see everything I can see before it is toooo laaaate. May it never be so.)

    • AngoraFish says:

      The only way you’re going to save anything is by playing it.

  30. running fungus says:

    Hrm. I was just commenting on the GW2 thread that returning to City of Heroes once it had gone subscription-free was a mixed experience. It was great that the core (now free) game hadn’t been cut down — there was the play I’d found compelling, same as always. Then I shut it down, resolved to play again “some time” and never did. After all, it was always available. Why not tomorrow?

  31. Phantoon says:

    Am I the only person that felt like CoV wasn’t anything like a worthy successor expansion? I was hoping that playing as a villian would have me pick and choose my own missions into the city, busting up banks for money to pay for things like henchmen and my secret lair. Instead, you don’t need to rob banks or do anything evil to level up. You can just fight other villians all the time. And there’s no point to robbing banks either- they were just quests.

    Did that ever get changed? I haven’t played the game in years, and because of this news, won’t ever again.

  32. Lord Custard Smingleigh says:

    Hey, RPS commenters! What’s your hero/villain name from City of Heroes/Villains? Preserve your wit and mastery of epic sounding names here!

    • Underwhelmed says:

      Super Pirate (Sword/Invuln scrapper with leaping)
      Penny-Dreadful (Force/Force blaster with flight)

      It’s been so long I can’t even remember what some of the other characters I had were. I played this game almost non-stop the first several months it was out, and then just visited from time to time every year or so.

      This was the most fun I ever had with an MMO, nothing since was nearly as engaging.

      • Arathain says:

        My first 50 was an Electric Melee – Fire Armour Brute called Dr Ohm. A villainous type whose body was unable to cope with the current and was burning up. AoE focused melee happiest blasting into big crowds. Overstretched and died? Rise of the Phoenix says no worries. Delighted by the change in the way difficulty selection was done, and thereafter often seen taking on mission content meant for eight people.

        The only other 50 I had was Ms. Brightheart, a Dark Miasma – Dark Blast Defender. A very cheerful, pleasant young lady, who found her mutant ability to summon and control the black, cold, soul sucking, terrifying void somewhat difficult to deal with, but tried to keep a good attitude. Great team support character. I always felt if I had to use her heal more than onced in a while that I was clearly slacking. My efforts in a busy team tended to be subtle (terrified cowering notwithstanding), but I lived for the complements of knowledgeable players.

    • Chris D says:

      The Heroes:

      Nightlamp – Archer and Inventor, somewhere between Batman and Green Arrow
      Sky Angel – Daughter of a time traveller and pirate queen, winged law enforcer from the future
      Magic Monk Number One – From Tibet to Paragon city
      Alicia Haven – Airship engineer, stranded from a parallel dimension with steampunk technology
      Dexter Nine – Former space test pilot, granted powers from over exposure to solar radiation

      The Villains:

      Jason Destiny – Crimelord who studied the secrets of the Thugee sect
      Heart of the Dragon – Reincarnation of an ancient dragon, currently trapped in human form
      Dangerzone – Mercenary who stole an experimental electrical generator based on a miniature black hole
      Wolfwind – Power over ice and wind, went insane after being rejected on a TV singing contest
      Kazemde the Jackal – Ancient Egyptian warlord with a body of living brass

  33. Lemming says:

    “Snnnniiiiiiffffff.”

    When you write it like that it doesn’t sound like you are sad, it sounds like you are doing a line of cocaine. Just FYI.

  34. Jerakal says:

    While I always feel a small amount of sadness any time I hear of an MMO I used to play closing down, this really was inevitable. The game did very little to change with the times, especially once it’s competitors showed up, granted none of them really managed to get the same level of success CoH briefly enjoyed, but I think this was mostly due to the fact that it was the first of it’s kind.

    It’s certainly true that none of the other superhero games managed to grab my attention for quite as long as this one did, but that certainly isn’t because it was a better game, simply that at the time it was the only one of it’s kind, and no other game let me fly around and appreciate a world from the eyes of a superhero.

    The game itself had boring, randomized missions of the typical MMO ilk, (Go to this warehouse, kill X dudes from gang Y) And despite being a superhero game, the combat still managed to make me feel like an underpowered weakling more than half the time. Really, the ability to fly, and the above average character creator were the best parts of it, and other games have done that since, and better.

    It’s sad to see it go, but it doesn’t have a lot to offer players anymore. I will remember it as the first real superhero MMO, and for that, it has my eternal gratitude. Now let’s just hope someone gets it right one of these days.

  35. Dowr says:

    Goodbye City of Heroes – you shall be missed old friend.

  36. Jraptor59 says:

    CoH was my first MMO, also my sons first. We used to play this together and had some great times. When I found out it was closing down, I called him and we reminisced about our time in game (he has grown up and moved out in the past 8 years). We recalled many fine moments and laughed a bit. Overall this announcement makes me sad. I raise a toast to the first and one of the best, City of Heroes!

  37. Hatonastick says:

    I’ve spent thousands of hours playing MMO’s and CoH was one of my first (I missed the EQ phenomenon as I was still playing MUDs), and probably the one I’ve spent the most time in (LOTRO probably coming a close second). I made quite a few characters (maxed slots on Virtue — and that’s after they expanded the number of slots you could have via the shop) but never actually managed to get one to 50. I think I enjoyed creating characters and their background stories slightly more than I enjoyed playing them. :)

    Anyway I’m shocked but not surprised, if that makes any sense. Basically I’m not NCSoft’s biggest fan. They closed down Auto Assault shortly after I bought it (cmon, they must have known they were closing it down so why could players still buy it shortly before it closed down?) so I never got to play it and of course never got a refund. They also closed down Tabula Rasa in a rather underhanded way. Sure it was a bug ridden mess, but boy was it fun to play in short bursts (especially base defence/assaults, it was also fun to just wander looking for fights). As a result, even though I’m probably missing out, I wont be touching Guild Wars 2 with a 50ft barge pole.

    Sorry rushed post. Hope it makes sense. :P

    • Torgen says:

      I was one in the large chorus in beta BEGGING NetDevil to put an auction house in the game, and they flat refused. They had the most awesome crafting system ever, and killed it with no way for crafters to sell their stuff except face to face in a trade window. The whole ability to experiment by adding random material to the recipes was fantastic.

  38. TwwIX says:

    That’s a real shame. This was my favorite MMO after SWG. It had a great community and it put great emphasis on team work. The sewer runs at Atlas Park alone bring back a lot of good memories. After SWG was hit by the NGE, i needed a new refuge and this game’s community welcomed me with open arms. Well, there go all my wonderful 50′s and veteran badges. Goodbye, Freedomites!

    Rest in peace, Beelze Bob! http://img339.imageshack.us/img339/3936/bobcoh.jpg

    /sniff

  39. Yglorba says:

    I never played it, but I heard so much about it that it’s sort of weird to picture it gone.

    This also makes me nervous about the whole games-as-service thing. In a decade, are we going to be reading about how the Diablo 3 servers are shutting down? I mean, it’s a decent run, sure, but the original Diablo or Diablo 2 are still classics and still available any time I want. The fact that games like City of Heroes or Diablo 3 can just vanish like this, forever, and nobody will ever play them again? That makes me a bit sad.

  40. ghoststalker194 says:

    Terrible news. I’ve clocked almost 400 hours into that game. I absolutely love it.
    I feel awful.

  41. killuminati says:

    It’s been the best Heroes MMO to date, no other game let you chose between so many and fun archetypes to mix and so many options to customize your avatar. I’ve palyed it when it first came out, then left it for WoW. I came bach to CoX last year and enjoyed the month I played and payed the syb (was not worth it as FTP, as someone mentioned already). Sad to see the game shut down but the engine was far to obsolete, not saying the graphic mind you, I think is still more enjoyable than DCUO ofr example. My main problem was the camera at top notch speed movement, mainly.

    Well farewell CoH it’s been nice being there!

  42. microo97 says:

    :( 1 of the best games i ever play :((

  43. Bahoxu says:

    City of heroes was a game that i would return to about once every year, play like mad for a month or so (having a blast) and then suddenly lose interest in.

    To hear that it is closing is stunning to me. There should be a city of heroes.

    I feel like crying.

  44. Hmm-Hmm. says:

    This seems like a shame. It’s a pretty decent game and I’d expected it to keep on trucking for a good while longer than it has.

  45. ghoststalker194 says:

    I just keep coming back. I still cannot believe it. It’s like I’m losing an old friend.

  46. armeros says:

    Indeed, the community is hard at work trying to save City of Heroes and the great staff at Paragon Studios! I hope folks will take a moment to sign our petition on Change.org. Help us save City of Heroes. We are doing our absolute best to get the message out that this is vibrant and exceptional community and that this game still has plenty of legs. While the newer superhero based MMO’s may be more visually attractive, City of Heroes stands alone as the best superhero MMO! I am including a link to an article showing how this community is rallying around the game and the gang at Paragon Studios.

    http://massively.joystiq.com/2012/09/12/a-mild-mannered-reporter-the-fight-to-save-city-of-heroes/