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A Circle of Fifths: Designing the Ultimate Fifth Anniversary Task Force and Strike Force

Updated Wed, May 27, 2009 by Ethec

Bruce Harlick, Senior Designer
City of Heroes / City of Villains

When we started kicking strike force and task force ideas around for City of Heroes’ 5th Anniversary, one villain group immediately leapt to mind: the 5th Column. It had always been intended to have the 5th Column return to Paragon City and the confluence between their name and our anniversary was just too good to pass up. Besides, it gave us a chance to bring back the most requested villain who never actually appeared in game: the Reichsman.

It was important to make sure that the Strike Force and Task Force felt different; the villains should be doing villainous things and feel more active in the cause and effect of the events that would unfold while the Blue side should be heroic and more reactive to the events. And I didn’t want the two arcs to be simple mirrors of each others, with the villains doing something and the heroes stopping it. I wanted the villains to succeed with their plan and to deal with the consequences, and I wanted the heroes to deal with an emerging big problem.

Though Reichsman’s return is a big event, it would start small, just like any other job. The Omega Team time capsule is due to be opened later this year, and it seemed like a good thing to use in the story: What if Hero 1 hid some secret information in the capsule, in case he didn’t come back from Omega Team’s raid on the Rikti home dimension, and what if some enterprising Arachnos agent got wind of this information and decided to get his hands on it? From there, it was a pretty easy step to have this agent hire the villains to go into Atlas Park and get the information from the time capsule, which had been moved to under City Hall. David Nakayama did a fantastic bit of concept art for a reimaged time capsule and Don Pham brought it to life in the game. It’s fantastic work.

A look at the good guys, and did Hero 1 leave something behind?

On that note, I have to say that Ken Morse and the art team – David, Don, Jay Doherty, Chris Bruce, and Keetsie Berbel – did a fantastic job with the art for this. They really went the extra mile to make certain that I had the stuff I needed to make this thing look great, and to make sure that the planned sequences made sense from both an art perspective and a game lore perspective.

5th Column, Reichsman, and other assorted baddies

For the final encounter with Reichsman, I got together with Phil Zeleski to brainstorm some interesting fight ideas. We wanted these fights to be challenging – Reichsman is very, very powerful – and to allow the players to take different approaches. We dragged Floyd Grubb in to give us a reality check and came up with some pretty interesting mechanics. Of course, those mechanics had to be implemented, which is where the programmers came in. Scott Nelson and the rest of the team created some new game play scripts which let us do what we wanted with the encounters with relative ease.

In the end, I believe we’ve come up with a story that’s worthy of the return of one of the biggest threats to ever hit Paragon City and the Rogue Islands.


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