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Going Rogue with City of Heroes - A Q&A with Melissa Bianco

Updated Mon, Feb 22, 2010 by mattlow

Ten Ton Hammer has been very interested in the upcoming Going Rogue expansion for City of Heroes/City of Villains. While not only adding new zones for players to adventure in and heightened graphics, players will have the ability to go from hero to rogue or vice-versa. Needing to know more, we employed our super-secret Kidnap Ray (patent pending), which netted us the person of Melissa Bianco, Paragon Studios’ lead designer of COH/COV. Questioning her under our Truth Ray (patent pending), she revealed many interesting nuggets of information.


Ten Ton Hammer: Pre-purchases for Going Rogue offers Dual Pistols and Demon Summoning power sets.  Can you tell us about these new power sets?

Melissa Bianco: Both of these sets are visually amazing.  Dual Pistols, which is available to Blasters and Corrupters as a primary power set and Defenders as a secondary power set, is unique:  you can not only choose what kind of gun you want (and customize it), but you can swap out your ammo as you go.  It’s also the power set of choice for Going Rogue’s Maelstrom.  Demon Summoning is a Mastermind-only power set that allows the character to summon elemental demons.  However, the trademark feature of this power set is the ability to attack enemies with a hellfire whip that deals fire and toxic damage.  It’s also the power set of choice for Desdemona, the villain-gone-good signature character.


Ten Ton Hammer: What was some of the most challenging aspects of developing “Going Rogue” and how did you overcome them?

Melissa: Well as you may know, I only recently stepped in as Lead Designer. My immediate challenge was to transition out of my World position, while still being accountable to the World team I’ve led up to this point, and at the same time familiarizing myself with the my role as Lead Designer and all the responsibility that comes with that. I did a lot of reading, talking, and asking questions.  Mostly, I just had to jump in with both guns blazing and deal with every situation as it comes.  I am glad that I’ve been working on City of Heroes/Villains since 2002 because I have had to tap into that legacy knowledge several times.

The biggest functional challenge was with respect to Praetoria.  I needed to implement a distinct universe that was familiar yet unique enough to interest our players.  When you create a new landscape (like the Rogue Isles or Praetoria), there are a lot of things to consider.   I had to ask the question, “What does it mean to be Praetorian?”  It sounds simple enough, but there are a lot of details:  What kind of currency do they use?  What kind of culture exists?  What is the “tone” of the landscape?  How do I parallel functional systems in a unique way?   There is a LOT involved in something like this and it was my job to figure out how all of the pieces fit.  So I referred back to everything I’d learned and experienced as we created City of Villains and used it as my general starting-off point for Praetoria.  From there, it’s just been a matter of identifying issues and solving them, one by one.

Ten Ton Hammer: What’s the process of becoming a Vigilante or Rogue?

Melissa: Well, if you should decide that being a hero and rescuing citizens from purse snatchings is no longer your cup of tea, there are ways of moving towards a less pristine image.  Those ways involve taking on missions that let you choose to take a morally questionable approach to handling the situation.  If you continue choosing the morally ambiguous way of ‘saving the day’, you essentially move the pointer away from Hero and closer to Vigilante..  Eventually there will come a point when you’re clearly a Vigilante.  Although technically you’re still a Hero, you can now walk the razor’s edge between light and dark by taking missions on the other side to see if the villainous life is truly what calls to you.  If you find the life of a nefarious villain is up your alley, you can ultimately choose to take the plunge! Now, having said that, there’s no law that says once you’re a Villain you’ll never have the opportunity to do right by society.  And for that shiny new Fallen Hero, well, old habits tend to die hard…

Ten Ton Hammer: With more competition on the super hero genre, what sort of things will Going Rogue offer players that they may not get in other games?

Melissa: The title of the expansion says it all:  you can go rogue.  Not only that, but you can access a new universe that we’ve alluded to in previous City of Heroes missions and the Top Cow comics, and you have access to some pretty cool costume and new power sets.  And though it’s not part of Going Rogue, we have several years worth of content and systems to draw upon from Mission Architect to Ouroboros to Super Sidekicking and Inventions.


Ten Ton Hammer: What other content does the expansion offer to players who may not opt to “Go Rogue?”

Melissa: You can still do many of the missions associated with the Going Rogue system, and just not take the plunge and change your alignment when presented with that choice. You will also have access to the new power sets, costumes, and of course all the Praetorian content as well.  There’s plenty of content there, even for players who don’t want to change alignments.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you’d like to tell our readers about Going Rogue?

Melissa: Praetoria was built with the graphical upgrade, Ultra Mode, in mind. This means these visual improvements were the key focus of how we built the majority of Praetoria’s environments, and it will be quite a change from what players are used to.  As I am working with the zones of Praetoria I sometimes forget that this is City of Heroes.  I think the new villains, missions, environments, badges, powers, mission sets, and costumes will make for a very fun expansion.  I also think that since we’re looking at Praetorian versions of some very familiar faces, it will be exciting for the player to figure out who they are and how they may have changed.  For those players steeped in the lore behind City of Heroes, there are a few surprises in there, for sure.

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