City of Heroes Fifth Anniversary Interview with Matt "Positron" Miller

Posted Tue, Apr 28, 2009 by Cody Bye

Five years is a large stretch of time for the average human. Even for a centenarian, half a decade is a twentieth of their life, so to watch a fledgling MMO studio create the world’s first super hero MMO and release it to resounding success has been a privilege. This week, City of Heroes celebrates its five year anniversary, and the Ten Ton Hammer staff sat down with Lead Designer Matt Miller to have a very honest discussion about the best and worst moments in the franchise, the future of the brand, and how the Paragon Studios team plans to remain competitive against the two newest contender to their super hero throne.

Ten Ton Hammer: It’s been five years since the original release of City of Heroes. Obviously a lot has changed in that amount of time, but what do you think were the most important moments of the City of Heroes franchise? What defined this game?

Matt Miller: I think the decision to let the players have full customization of their character’s look, before they even start playing the game, was the best decision we could have ever made. That, and the sheer number of possible powerset combinations and builds within those combinations meant that almost every player was playing a game they could find appealing nearly immediately. And the receipt of our recent Mission Architect game system from our players has been nothing short of mind-blowing. We knew we were onto something special when we came up with the idea, but only when you see how something is received is when it really hits you that this is ‘real’.  

Ten Ton Hammer: Looking back, were there any horrible “Oh s&*#!” moments during the initial development and/or after launch? If so, how did the team handle the situation and what kind of resolution was there to the issue?

MM: We had an Influence (money) dupe bug that was reported within 48 hours of the game going live. The player who reported it didn’t tell anyone else about it, and wasn’t looking for anything in return. It was because of his noble efforts that we created the Bug Hunter badge in order to have something to hand out to upstanding players who know when something is severely broken and let us know without abusing it themselves.

Another moment would be the Winter Lords that went out with the first winter event that we did. We had just created new reward splitting code for Giant Monster-class entities which looked good on paper… in practice however it was possible to get a character from level 1 to 20 in under an hour fighting these things. I remember making a frantic call to our Producer at the time begging him to shut off the event early, but I was just a lowly designer back then, and the long-story-short is that event ended when it was scheduled to.

Ten Ton Hammer: A large number of gamers still remember the end of beta events that the CoH devs held just before the game went live. What sort of special events are planned for the anniversary? Are we going to see any crazy alien invasions popping up or maybe absurd rifts in time?

MM: Players logging in on the 28th will definitely see their fair share of special events going on. We’ll even have the winter Ski Chalet open if players want to earn the race badges. I know a few of the Devs will be hanging out in Pocket D on the Training Room that evening, so if you are so inclined, stop on by and say “hi”.

News from around the 'Net