In the latest episode of Ten Ton Hammer Live!, Jesse Cox sits down and
talks with Melissa Bianco, Paragon Studios lead designer of style="font-style: italic;">COH/COV about the
expansion, Going Rogue.
Assemble your supergroup and enjoy!
Jesse Cox: I am more than
welcome the lead designer for style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">City of Heroe style="font-weight: bold;">s, Melissa Bianco; here to talk
things style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Going
Thank you! Glad
to be here.
Jesse Cox: Thank you.
Before we begin
to talk about style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Going Rogue style="font-weight: bold;">, I can assume that this isnt
John McCain story, am I correct in that assumption?
You mean the
Sarah Palin story?
Jesse Cox: Oh thats
Sarah Palin is the rogue now, not John McCain. Hes no longer a
I think he
wrote a different book.
Jesse Cox: Besides all
what can you tell us about this? Clearly, style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Going Rogue style="font-weight: bold;"> is the big news. For those who
clue what it is, can you give us a little information?
me back up a little bit and say that style="font-style: italic;">City
of Heroes was a game that we launched back in 2004. It was
great opportunity where you could create your own hero, save your town,
create your costume, and make yourself really unique. Our game has just
thousands and thousands of costume options. You dont have a
cookie-cutter hero running around; you actually have your own unique
character. We launched that back in 2004, and a year later, we launched
our first paid expansion in 2005 when we launched style="font-style: italic;">City of Villains.
If you were tired
of being a hero, you could be a nasty villain. In this expansion, style="font-style: italic;">Going Rogue, what
is were sort of taking the game, City
of Heroes, which is visually
and story-wise, a very fascinating game with really fantastic lore, and
were kind of taking it to the next level. Were taking it
to the next level with innovations in graphics, content, and in the way
were getting the gameplay to the player. In this particular
expansion, what were doing is taking our players to an alternate
universe, and its called Praetoria. You may or may not know
this, but we introduced Praetoria in style="font-style: italic;">City
of Heroes both in the game and in the comic book, and
Praetorians were alternate versions of signature characters from our
game. Maybe your signature guy is a good guy, but as a Praetorian, he
may very well be not such a good guy.
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alt="city of heroes - going rogue pic"
Heres a little quick nutshell background: Hamidon is a really
nasty guy from a villain group called Devouring Earth, and basically
theres a war where he takes over the world. Marcus Cole, who
players may or may not know is Statesman in the primal world, also
exists in Praetoria, but there hes called Tyrant. Basically, he
returns from the Hamidon Wars where he saves the world, and he goes
from war hero to president to emperor of Earth. Well, Praetorian Earth
anyway. Being the center of the universe, Cole has some real strong
ideas on what his idyllic utopia would look like and hes worked
really hard to build it for himself. Around the studio, we started
talking a little bit and we started calling Praetoria Coles
Utopia, but at a cost. Whats great about this expansion is you
recognize a lot of those characters from style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes and
they may or may
not have changed in some way in the Praetorian version. In fact, some
of them might not even exist at all. Thats where our story
starts. You show up in Praetoria and choose a side. You can say,
hey, this Emperor Cole guy, I totally dig what hes saying
so Im going to be loyal to him. As in all games,
theres going to be those people who are going to go,
yeah, thats exactly what Im going to do,
but theres going to be people who question him and theyre
going I dont think I like that. Im going to resist
his ideology and align myself with this rag-tag group that opposes
him. So you have two factions; you have the Loyalists and you
have the Resistance. This leads us to style="font-style: italic;">Going
Rogue. This isnt just an expansion; its a system
in that you choose what side youre going to play. If
youre a hero, you can change your mind and become a villain. If
youre a villain, you can change your mind and become a hero.
Its not just a quick switch; its a lot of choices you
Jesse Cox: It sounds
awesome the way
you describe it. Heres my question: you say that you can start
anew. If youre a hero, you can become a villain. If youre
a villain, you can become a hero. When you get there, can you say,
Oh, I like this group, but halfway through, decide no and
then switch on them or are you following one path once youve
moved to this alternate reality?
didnt tell you is that with this expansion, were
reintroducing the starting player experience, level one to twenty kind
of content. You can start out by aligning yourself with Cole and
deciding to be a Loyalist, but you will have the opportunity, through
your level one to twenty play, to change your mind if you decide that
its not for you. In fact, you could probably change it again if
Just to give you a bullet point list of what were going to put
into the expansion: We have the level one to twenty content with a lot
of mission content that tells you the story of Praetoria, as well as
the Resistance and Loyalists, and back and forth. We have new zones. I
didnt mention this, but we did a major graphics update with
Issue 17, and everything in Praetoria is built with that in mind.
Nearly every aspect you see is brand new. We have the style="font-style: italic;">Going Rogue system
and we have
these great new costumes coming in. Theres new emotes and some
killer new powersets that players are going to love, like Demon
Summoning, Dual Pistols, Electric Control, and Kinetic Melee. We
basically cover every single archetype in the game; theyre all
getting something new. Of course, you get access to your first
Incarnate slot, which is end-game content which will be coming out
after the Going Rogue
expansion. Im sure that Im forgetting some things.
Jesse Cox: No, no, no.
touching on a million things. You talked about the graphical revamp.
Just on a personal level, I cant imagine redoing an entire
games cosmetics. How do you plan and plot for such a thing? It
would seem that it would take years to redo something like that.
is Praetoria, which is a new world. Everything that you see in
Praetoria has been built with this huge graphic overhaul in mind. On a
side note, if you havent upgraded your video card, you might
want to go ahead and do that. Anyway, it just makes sense that in
Praetoria, where Emperor Cole likes things really pretty, it makes
sense that therell be reflective surfaces, glass, and this
modern futuristic feel, with enough historical touches to give it a
really cool look. Cole has this tower in the heart of the city where
all his Praetors meet and keep an eye on things. His cold birds-eye
view has to be really pleasing, and especially in the Magisterium,
which is the hub of Praetoria itself. This is where it all happens,
where all the decisions are made. So you would think that all that
stuff would be beautiful too. Emperors Cole primary color is
gold, so it makes sense to line the sidewalks with them here and there.
Honestly, you really cant do that with the graphics we had in
the game. We pretty much had to start from scratch.
Like you said, how big of a job is it? Its huge. The short
answer is you bring in a lot more environment artists and you have to
know exactly what you want from an early stage in the game. The longer
answer is what I had to do from the very beginning, when Joe Morrissey
and I sat down and began to talk about what Praetoria was going to be,
including Ken Morris, I sketched out, really badly I must say, a quick
concept drawing of the rough shape of Praetoria. Remember, this is
starting from scratch, and basically this was how I wanted one
neighborhood or zone to connect to another one. Kenneth Morris and I
went back and forth getting a feel and a tone that would really work
well. Yeah, Emperor Cole is a tyrant, but he has pretty good taste.
Thankfully, as Chris talked about, hes one of our world
designers, he came on board and took my ideas and fleshed them out much
more thoroughly in photoshop and that became the basis for the world.
Like I said, every single aspect from the mailboxes to buildings to
signage to road pieces, if you can see it; like they say, every single
prop on a movie set is deliberate. Well, its the same way
in-game; you have to know exactly what you want before you even start,
because if you forget it, it dont get built. Needless to say,
story really drove Praetoria and it does drive Praetoria. We had a
really strong vision of how this would feel and began bringing in
manpower and they started building. It is amazing. I cant even
tell you; you have to see it. So go and buy it.
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alt="city of heroes - going rogue pic"
Jesse Cox: Best sales
pitch ever right
there! You were talking about how you revamped the graphics and all
these different things, but you also mentioned storyline and how that
played a big role. Speaking of storyline, is there going to
be clearly, theres going to be a connection between, and
I hate to say this, the real world and this alt-verse,
will you be travelling back and forth as a player? Will there be story
ramifications for the world that the players have come from?
start in Praetoria. Its like if you were a hero, you would start
in Paragon City or if you were a villain, you would start in the Rogue
Isles and that kind of dictates your environment. Now, you start in
Praetoria, but you dont stay in Praetoria. Eventually,
youll go to Primal Earth. Yes, you can go back to Praetoria. Did
I answer your question?
Jesse Cox: In a way. Im
that players with characters already, what role would those characters
play in going to Praetoria?
Well, right now
the way to get to Praetoria if youre a Primal Earthling is to go
through flashback. If youve been born a Praetorian and you
leave, you can always come back, no problem.
I forgot a point when you mentioned on how big of a job it was, so let
me wax on that for a second. Story drove a lot of the landscape, as you
know. Cole has his fingers in everything; I mean that he even approves
the signs that go on billboards. Hes got his eyes and ears
always paying attention, so its a perfect canvas for him to put
his stamp on everything. It just solidifies the story that the fact
that Cole is watching what youre doing, not totally 1984ish, but
it does a little of that vibe to it. The emperor of the world should
have a say in what the newspapers say, shouldnt he? That just
makes sense. Or what kind of advertising is shown in public;
thats just logic. So when it came to us redoing the cosmetics of
the game, it kind of fell on me to go, ok, heres the world, now
come up with everything that youll need. Luckily for me,
Ive been with City of
since 2002, which is a very long time, and I have been a world builder
for 8 years. I was the one who populated Atlas Park back in 2002 and
2003 before we even launched it. It was really handy for me to have
that kind of experience because not only did I launch style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes, but
I launched City of
Villains as well. When it
came time to do this expansion, that knowledge came in handy because I
had data on how things worked still stuck in my brain that we
havent used since City
Villains. So I remembered the pieces and order, and as
designer, I had to take it to a whole new level because I was
responsible for it all, and thats not scary. It was quite a
challenge, I got to say.
Jesse Cox: Earlier, you
about the Incarnate system. Can you please tell us more about that,
because Im getting a lot of requests to find out what that is
still really deep in development on that feature, so theres not
a whole lot, specifically, I can tell you at this time, but I can give
you the bare bones of the system, which you may or may not know.
Basically, its end-game content for level 50 players.
Weve been out for six years now, and to let people know, it is
not a level cap raise. It basically makes level 50s more powerful
because theyre going to need to be more powerful for what
theyre going up against. I know its kind of vague, but
thats what I can tell you for now.
Jesse Cox: Earlier, you
said that style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Going Rogue style="font-weight: bold;"> contains the first ten Incarnate
was curious where and when the rest come in, if there were any?
actually contains the
first Incarnate level.
Jesse Cox: Oops about the
Positron this question directly, and I believe his answer was one word,
so when you ask where and when the other levels come in, he
said after. He said some were coming in with Issue 19, but
were not really committing to where and when exactly
theyre going to happen.
Jesse Cox: I guess the
then is that you have a new graphic system, theres something for
everybody in this game, people can start over, and people can go and
cause all sorts of trouble in alt-reality and just have fun. I guess my
question is for those who have never played style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">COH style="font-weight: bold;">, how do you draw someone in
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alt="city of heroes - going rogue pic"
Melissa Bianco: Thats a great question. Theres a
few ways that are more logistical, such as marketing and PR, but word
of mouth is a really great way to introduce the game to new people,
because we have some really, really impressive fans. Not only are they
loyal, but they are really passionate about the game. Theyre so
passionate about the game that they create their own player events,
like these costume contests in Atlas Park or they do mentor project or
they do stories and mission architects where they tell their own story.
These guys are really our best advertisement for the game. Yes, we
could advertise on Facebook and Twitter and all those social gaming
sites, but a lot of that comes from the mouths of our players. If
theyre championing our game and screaming that its an
amazing game, then their friends and family are going to try it out.
For example, if my brother or niece loves the game, Im going to
check it out because theyre telling me its great. Maybe
Ive heard of it, maybe I havent, but if theyre
singing its praises, and I truly believe with this expansion coming
out, even our loyal players will be going, oh my gosh! What an
amazing game. You have to check this out. We want to get people
excited because they will pass it on to their friends and family, who
may have not played before.
Weve always tried to listen to our players and innovate our
game, kind of in a back and forth that we got in our relationship and I
honestly believe that City
has got the best relationship with its community of players than in any
other MMO. Ive read our forums and Ive read other
games forums; maybe Im biased, okay Im biased, but
I believe that our fans are the most respectful, passionate, and
really, really I want to say opinionated in a good way, because
a lot of what they request is either stuff weve already thought
of or stuff that is a great idea and maybe, in some way, it goes into
The other thing that we do is that our game is great for casual
players. Its not like you have to have this seven day ramp up
where you figure out what youre doing. One of the things we did
when we designed this game was, alright, throw me a tutorial and I just
want to start playing. We started it very simply so that just not the
hardcore power gamers could enjoy it, but allow wives, girlfriends, or
teenagers or younger kids to play the game. Thats where
youre successful, when all of the demographics can play it.
Thats kind of why we did what we did, but the great thing about
our game and is one of the selling points to friends and family, is the
customization. When we put out our game and you got to see thousands
and thousands of options for your costumes, you didnt look like
a cookie-cutter version of an npc that youve already seen in the
game. Players just dug that; they grabbed onto that and just ran with
it. You keep seeing these videos popping up on youtube, of player made
videos that theyve turned into music videos and stuff like that.
What else weve tried to do, and not only has it translated into
other games that has sort of adopted some of the systems weve
incorporated, like the sidekicking system for example, but weve
always tried to innovate with systems like mission architect or power
proliferation or costume customization. All that kind of stuff
weve done, not to only keep the players that weve got,
but to expand the game as it progressed. I cant even give you
the huge list of things that weve added to the game over the
years, but its a really long list. One of the really cool things
that were doing is, and new players will appreciate this, with
our six year anniversary contest, were giving our fans to have
their billboard or graffiti show up in Praetoria. This is no small
thing, right? Who doesnt want to see their own stuff in a game?
Its a fantastic opportunity and its definitely going to
reach beyond our own player base, for anybody that has their own
artistic style or interested in our world. Im pretty excited.
Jesse Cox: And thats
think sells it the most. The best part of the answer was your
excitement about the game. I kind of feel stupid asking you this, since
you have said so much about it that Im sure that any player who
has played the game or hasnt played the game is now online
playing the game and turned off the interview, saying, screw it.
Im going to go play! Is there anything else you wish to
say to the listeners who are considering style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Going Rogue style="font-weight: bold;"> with you guys?
see Im really, really happy to be a part of this team.
Im really excited with what weve done with Praetoria, and
I think that even our customers who have seen the fantastic work that
weve done on zones like Cimerora, which kind of takes you back
to old Mediterranean or old Roman days, to fantastical worlds like the
Shadow Shards, which kind of blew their minds, theyre going to
be gob-smacked. Theyre going to be very impressed, and these are
players who have played the game already. Im really happy to be
working with the team that we have. Weve got a great vibe here;
theres a great collaboration. Its such a pleasure to come
in to work every day. Weve seriously taken it to the next level.
With City of Heroes,
is about innovation, content, and gameplay. With this graphical
upgrade, theres a real reason why City
of Heroes is probably the most
popular superhero MMO out there, because we really listen to what our
players want and we try to innovate and give them the best product that
we possibly can. They have been really loyal to us. I guess,
considering that weve just had our six year anniversary, the
only thing I would say is, wow, thanks for playing and tell your
friends! Because we do it for them, and they make it all worthwhile.
Jesse Cox: Well, Melissa,
thank you so
much for coming on the show.
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