Updated Wed, May 18, 2011 by Ethec
Having never played City of Heroes, Benjamin J. de la Durantaye got his first taste by playing side by side with an all-star dev team. How does the new Incarnate Trial of a seven-year old game stack up? Find out in our exclusive hands-on!
I'll admit it! I didn't play City of Heroes since its launch in April, 2004. I'm not proud of it. I was just preoccupied with other things in my life and to be fair I wasn't working in the MMOG space at that point either. As the years passed by and I eventually joined up with Ten Ton Hammer I still didn't play CoH. It wasn't that I was disinterested, it was more a matter of which games I was focusing on at any given time.
I knew that CoH had made its impact on the MMOG world. I knew it offered character customization to such diversity that it had been unmatched in any other game. I knew it empowered the casual gamer. I knew it was action-based combat that many found revolutionary. I knew it was the first game to provide "sidekicks" which was a way for high level players to group up with their lower level friends. I knew all this, but I still didn't get a taste of it.
That all changed recently. With the recent global server merge in City of Heroes and the game's 7th anniversary last month I got the chance to try out the game for the first time. I was accompanied by the game's lead designer, Matt "Positron" Miller; Tia "Avatea" Paraurahi, Assistant Community Manager; Hosun Lee, Brand Manager and Nate Birkholz, Lead Producer. If there's a group of people that know CoH, this was them.
Having a unique IP like City of Heroes can be quite the boon. In short, there are no constraints, so the team is free to really have fun with the title, as long as the developers remain true to the story they're writing. As such, Paragon Studios has a "Design Bible" which contains all the collective writings over the past seven years. In times of doubt, the team turns to the community and checks the various wikis and websites that fans have created in order to make sure they don't contradict a past story or bit of lore. This makes for a seamless teaming up of both community and developer which is a rare, but happy relationship.
With several other super-hero themed titles on the market today, I asked the team what they felt makes City of Heroes stand out. The answer came quick and short: Seven years. Admittedly, with seven years of content, patches, expansions, updates and lore, it does stand to reason that the game could very well have a larger, more complete game world. But I still hadn't played it to try it out for myself.
So the team decided to remedy that. We all logged onto an array of laptops and booted up the game. To whet our appetite we were taken into the new Incarnate Trial, the Lambda sector.
Now, I don't know how or where the Lambda sector fits into the lore or universe, so my experience was solely playing through it with a large team of players and experiencing my first dose of CoH. So for those of you reading this who have been CoHing it up hometown since launch, you'll have to forgive my newbishness for the rest of this column. (But hey, I bet you never got to play side by side with Positron, now have you? It was bound to be a sure win.)
After logging in I found myself a little overwhelmed. The UI was clean, but I had no idea what most of it meant. Lucky for me, I had a team of devs ready to show me everything I needed to know, so I was ready to go in short order.