While at PAX East 2010, Paragon Studios held a standing-room only panel called "City of Heroes: Re-inventing a Superheroic MMO." The panel was fun and informative, covering the history of the game from conception to their plans for the game beyond the much-anticipated lowbie expansion: Going Rogue. While the discussion about the early days of the game were interesting, the real gem of the presentation came when they revealed what they have in store for us with "Issue 19: Incarnates".
In Ultra Mode, shadows will follow the movement of the sun.
To start with, City of Heroes is getting a face lift with what they call Ultra Mode. Releasing with "Issue 17: Dark Mirror", Ultra Mode gives the game far more than a fresh coat of paint. The graphical revamp will allow the developers to mold the terrain and areas in the game in ways they have never been able to before and really bring City of Heroes in line with current MMOGs visually. If you turn the settings all the way up, you'll swear you are looking at a game fresh from its launch date, not one created 6 years ago.
They then proceeded to tell us about the new expansion coming out this July called City of Heroes: Going Rogue. Going Rogue will be the first paid expansion since City of Villains and provide a new player experience from levels 1 through 20. In the past they have let you play a hero, they then allowed you to play a villain, soon Paragon studios will you to walk the grey area between. Set in the mirror universe of Praetoria, players will choose to either support Emperor Cole in his iron clad rule of the land, or fight with the ragtag resistance against him.
Keeping with the imperial vs. resistance theme, Going Rogue will have at least seven new enemy groups, many of which were revealed for the first time at PAX East 2010. The Praetoria Police Department and Seers represent the blindly devoted martial arm of Emperor Cole's autocracy - the PPD patrols the streets hunting those not aligned with Cole, and the Seers (under Mother Mayhem) are Emperor Cole's "thought police." Depending on which side you choose, you'll either fight on Cole's side or join The Resistance against him. Members of The Resistance are almost as likely to fight each other as the PPD - their only common ground is a virulent hatred of Cole and his policies.
In this rough PowerPoint capture, this Hellboy-ish teaser was listed as one of the new enemy groups.
Keeping with the idea of Praetoria as, in Senior Game Designer Melissa Bianco's words, "utopia at a cost," the Praetorian Clockworks do the grunt work of the city - picking up the garbage, cleaning the sewers - but are mindlessly loyal to Emperor Cole and do have offensive capabilities. Representing organized crime, members of the Syndicate represents those nominally on Cole's side so long as they're profiting by his government turning a blind eye. Not much was said of the physically deranged Ghouls, except that they might perhaps be the result of an experiment gone wrong. Finally, a seventh enemy group was portrayed in concept art with a promise that we're learn more about this red-skinned, tattooed hulk in the near future.
At the end of the story, somewhere around level 20, you then decide which you rather be - a hero bound for Paragon City, or a villain headed toward the Rogue Isles. You can only experience the Praetoria content as a new character or, to a lesser extent, via the game's flashback system - players choose sides in the tutorial and while Paragon Studios didn't speak to it, we're guessing that heroes will work the resistance side and villains play the part of loyalists when experiencing Praetoria via flashback.
For existing characters, Going Rogue will also allow players to switch sides for the first time. That's right: if you are a hero and want to become a villain there will now be a series of quests you can take that will enable your fall from grace. The villains get the same treatment, if you wish to find redemption, there will now be a way for you to do so. While it will take some time to make the switch, you can do so as often as you like. Want to play the hero that loses his way for a time, then finds himself and comes back to the light? You can now do exactly that.
For new and veteran characters alike, what's a new expansion without new powersets? Going Rogue brings with it 4 new Power Sets, enough for each Archetype to be able to use one. The first of which, "Dual Pistols," is available to use in game now if you preorder the new expansion. Visually, Dual Pistols looks very cool - like a cross between one of the better John Woo movies and the hand jive. Next is a new "Demon Summoning" set added for classes that use pets, giving them the ability to summon several different types of demons and control them with green fire whips.
For Scrappers, Tanks, Brutes, and Stalkers a new powerset called Kinetic Melee, similar to the existing Force Blaster powerset, will add some really cool effects like knock downs and knock backs to melee attacks. Finally, there is love for the Controllers and Dominators with Electric Control. While we didn't get to see Electric Control in action, we did see purple lightning coursing between characters in a series of cool screenshot.
Kinetic Melee is one of the four new Going Rogue powersets revealed at PAX East 2010.
Finally, Lead Designer Matt "Positron" Miller told us about a few things we can look forward to after Going Rogue releases. Players have been waiting a long time for something to do after level 50, and City of Heroes is now giving it to them. Coming in "Issue 19: Incarnates", players will finally get some endgame love with the Incarnate System. Incarnate gameplay will bring endgame players back to Praetoria, and Going Rogue will actually contain the first of the ten Incarnate levels. The new system consists of new missions, costume options, and rewards for playersand while Miller did not many details given on exactly how the system will work, we were told that there will be special rewards with the new system. One important note: players must purchase the Going Rogue expansion to have access to Incarnates levels.
When the panel finished, one thing was crystal clear: City of Heroes will not be joining the lengthy list of half-abandoned MMORPGs. Continuing the trend begun with Architect Edition last year, NCSoft and Paragon Studios have stood the challenge of Champions Online and are actively fueling the further development of what Matt Miller referred to as the "best selling superhero MMO" franchise of all time. With what they showed us that they have planned for the future, I think I have to agree: City of Heroes is the big dog when it comes to superhero MMOGs and, even after six years, this title is still te center of innovation among superhero MMOGs.
Want more Going Rogue and "Incarnates" info? Stay tuned for a special Q&A with Lead Designer Melissa Bianco later this week!
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