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City of Anti-Heroes: Surprise COH Expansion

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. ).

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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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