PAX West 2017: Ship of Heroes on exploration, community, and recapturing the magic of City of Heroes

Sometimes MMORPG players might get the feeling that game companies will let just about anything slide in order to keep the most revenue streaming in, but that’s not the case with one particular hopeful City of Heroes successor: Ship of Heroes. Studio Heroic Games is predicating the game on a positive atmosphere, which starts from the ground up.

At this year’s PAX West, I sat down with CEO Casey McGeever to talk about the game: where it’s coming from, where it is now, and where it’s going. We discussed funding, rivalries, community, and the wild backstory about the massive ship that heroes will be living on. After that, I attended the CoH successor panel to hear about the three largest superhero MMORPG games currently in development. Let’s suit up and dig in.

Differentiating from CoH

As much as Ship of Heroes is being built for the City of Heroes crowd, it isn’t City of Heroes. There are some obvious differences, not the least of which is the location: It’s set on a ship instead of a city. OK, to be fair, there is a city in the ship, but the ship itself is a gigantic, 20-level microcosm of a world five centuries in the future. But that’s not all. “We’re going to emphasize and put in a much more advanced crafting system, harvesting and crafting in fact,” McGeever explained. “Crafting and harvesting bring in communities and allow people to specialize, and help create a system where you don’t just go in and bash things, level up, and leave.”

Of course, some things are meant to stay be similar. That list includes superheroes, robust character customization, and the positive community. SoH, McGeever told me, is about enhancing what was had in CoH. As he put it, “City of Heroes was a great game. I myself had 60 Incarnate characters on three servers.” At the same time, he recognizes that the gaming scene has moved on and developed further over the years. Heroic Games wants to take incorporate modern advancements into its title.

Building community over building wallet

Noting the game’s failed Kickstarter from earlier this year, I asked whether the team is concerned about falling behind in development? McGeever rejected the idea. “We are right on target,” he said. “We’ve never missed a milestone yet.” In fact, the game will have a testing phase in September and another in December, thanks in part to a steady stream of donations through its website. McGeever assured me, “We have the funds to push ourselves to beta. We already know that. We know we are going to succeed. We know we are launching.” Although there are no plans for a future Kickstarter, he acknowledged it could happen. For now, the company is sticking with just donations from the community.

The whole reason for making the game is the community. “I’ll tell you what I like the most about City of Heroes that I’d like to recreate in Ship of Heroes is the positive community,” McGeever told me. Noting that negativity seems so prevalent in many places in games and that politeness has gone, he declared, “We’re designing the game with many, many little subtle things to try to bring a more courteous, a more positive community back. We’re willing to be a smaller game to have a more positive community.” These things include a more beautiful environment, 24/7 chat moderation (one level of volunteers, then a level of professionals), and a character and account reputation system.

“I want to create a place where the roleplayers come because they are having a good time, and the crafters come,” he explained. The game isn’t about endgame content; it’s intended to be more about the social experience, a place to go regularly to see your friends. “That’s part of the whole magic of what City of Heroes had.” He said it won’t be just CoH players who come to this game but also “those who have a certain outlook on life, who want to have some fun.” How serious is Heroic Games about having a positive community? “Put it this way: We think people should be unafraid to form or join a pick-up group.”

Speaking of community, when I asked about any possibly rivalry among all of the successor games — Valiance Online and City of Titans, specifically — McGeever said there was none. In fact, he said said the three teams communicate often. Besides, he notes, the pool of players is not fixed, and each game’s launch will only expand the market.

“Each of us is adding to the success of the others,” he emphasized. “It’s not a fixed pie that we’re going to divvy up amongst the three of ourselves.” Or any other superhero game, for that matter! “We have done polling and surveys on this. We already know that for every ex-CoH player who is going to come back to the market that there are two who’ve never played the game.” Indeed, he believes that the most common reason many who want to support and play his game do so because they never played CoH and want to, so they want to give SoH a go.

Life aboard the ship, off the ship

McGeever set the stage for the game, describing the backstory and how the ship will be traversing space, traveling between planets. While in the beginning, the gameplay will be restricted to the ship (and probably only a certain number of levels on the ship), in time that will grow. Eventually, there will be planets and space stations where the ship can dock, picking up passengers (new NPCs!), leaving passengers, trading goods, and conducting all sorts of commerce and exploration.

Considering that according to the storyline the ship has been in space for 200 years by this time, McGeever reminded me that its history would logically include raids from other ships, counter raids, visits and trading with other planets and ships, and so forth.

“Given all of that, it would actually be sort of unusual if some alien lifeforms had not gotten loose on the ship,” he says. “And they have. So there are places on the ship where alien lifeforms have sort have gone native.”

The ship will turn this into a blessing, transforming one of the levels into a massive habitat called the Harvest Pit; it contains the most valuable but dangerous plants and animals there for players to go and harvest. This harvest room is also part of the economy of the ship as it has materials to trade once it docks into a port.

So yes, the life will go beyond just the walls of the ship. McGeever described how the plan is for the ship to travel the galaxy, making port on various planets. These planets will be varied — some very developed, some agricultural, some newly colonized, etc. It will take a long time to cycle through all the planets. And each time the planet can have a larger explorable area, offering more content. If players miss one chance at a certain planet, it will cycle around again in a number of months when the ship returns.

McGeever then described how this cycle can affect the story and play on the ship. There are hundreds of mercenary bands that players will discover and interact with, both on the ship and on planets — including NPC superheroes who may have been exiled from their Freedom ships for inappropriate behavior. Think of the depth of story possible there!

CoH successor panel

One of the panels at PAX was a gathering of the three titles that are all making new homes for the CoH players who lost theirs when NCsoft took it down five years ago. Ship of Heroes, Valiance Online, and City of Titans all had a representative there to talk a bit about their games and answer audience questions. You can watch the entire stream below, and check out the Ship of Heroes timeline above that includes dates for the planned alphas.

Massively Overpowered was on the ground in Seattle for PAX West 2017, bringing you expert MMO coverage on Ashes of Creation, Ship of Heroes, Dual Universe, and everything else on display at the latest Penny Arcade Expo!
SHARE THIS ARTICLE
Code of Conduct | Edit Your Profile | Commenting FAQ | Badge Reclamation | Badge Key

LEAVE A COMMENT

19 Comments on "PAX West 2017: Ship of Heroes on exploration, community, and recapturing the magic of City of Heroes"

Subscribe to:
Sort by:   newest | oldest | most liked
Reader
urgan

Re: crafting…
Noooope! That’s an endgame excuse for “we want you to farm & grind” instead of bothering with stories. The stories are a large part of what made City of Heroes/Villains special.

Reader
Doubleplusgood

Plus the community itself was what also made COH special, which grew from people having fun role playing super heroes and showing off their character concepts. Crafting wasn’t needed to keep people playing. Super heroes are too busy saving the world for that!

Reader
Cyanpill

CoT just uploaded the video they wanted to play at pax: https://cityoftitans.com/content/where-we-stand-pax-west-presentation

Reader
Doubleplusgood

For the me that magic of COH was the costume creator and the power sets. You were not limited to just your standard super hero looking characters and the power sets were lots of fun to play. If they can make something similar I’m sure I will like it. But the huge amount of options the COH costume creator had will be hard to duplicate!
I am not so sold on the crafting. I can see how it helps build community, but I guess it depends on how optional it is. I remember one of the selling points the devs of COH tried to push was that it was a game that you could log in, do your missions, have fun and then log out. Which really suited my game style. I cant spend hours playing games like I used to so I try to keep my game time as grind fee as possible. COH was great for that, no gear grind, no inventory management. Which is the opposite of what Ship of Heroes wants from reading the article. So I will have to see how much time investment is involved with crafting and how required it is. Plus I dont really think of super heroes as crafters….well not all of them.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

I loved COH, but my fear with this and the others that are coming is that they all look “Like” COH (and I don’t mean mechanically but visually) and as good as it was it was dated visually when it was out.. by todays standards ridiculously so. We need an awesome COH’esque game but that looks like a modern game.

MagmaFist
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
MagmaFist

Don’t laugh but I understand if you do then take a look at an example of one of VO’s contracted animators videos using Unity. I did not think that engine was able to push particle effects/animations like that. I always thought it was the ‘good enough’ engine if a developer was looking for the cheaper option.

Does VO have anything close to this right now? Nope. Do I hope they can get that quality into the alpha sometime in the next few months? Yep. Am I hopeful they will in my timeframe? Ehh.

As far as CoT, some of their videos hint at much better graphics(at least as far as zones) than CoH so I am not worried it will look dated. If any of them still look the same when in beta then I will worry.

Reader
justin something

eh, the graphics are in UE4, in fact pushing some of the boundaries of UE4 working closely with Epic Games. It doesn’t have all the polish it will have at launch as a pre-Alpha game, but the graphics are already better than CoH (if you look at old videos, as opposed to memory which i find tends to adjust for expectations of new technology.)

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

Just look at the screen shots visually it looks very much like COH did, which looked dated. Just because the engine used is up to date does not mean the visual design chosen is. lol

I mean don’t get me wrong Im not saying the game will be bad, im just saying visually from what we’ve seen so far it just looks COH like i.e dated.

Just to put a bit of context on this another super hero game was made recently using the Ue 4 engine called Injustice 2

I think its safe to say visually despite the fact they use the same engine one looks modern and one doesn’t and the one which does isn’t Injustice 2 ;) Admitedly different genres, but still visuals matter.

MagmaFist
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
MagmaFist

But how do these projects afford these graphics artists on their pitiful budgets? Even if all 3 projects combined resources they would come nowhere close to being able to afford 3 or 4 experienced artists to work for a few years building this level of assets.

Is there some way to achieve this level of visuals without tons of money? Some up and coming student, hire one good artist to teach others or lower our expectations? I just don’t see how they can compete if someone expects AAA quality on an indie budget. They will always fall short no matter their accomplishments.

But yeah, I was watching some gameplay of Destiny 2 and watching the Titan I think it was with the shield and was thinking wow, I hope one of the successors is watching this and getting inspired when creating powersets. Beautiful animations and particle effects.

Edit: I wanted to add in the spirit of the article that I did find some of SoH’s interiors pretty awesome looking so again I’m not worried about it looking dated.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
NeoWolf

I imagine they do what other kickstarter games do, they use the funding to make the game as best they can then they find publishers etc..who can see the promise in the work done so far to fund the rest of its development and get it to the quality they want.

Choosing to go it alone, may well hurt this game because of the visuals and that would be a shame as the MMO market has huge gaping holes in it where the Supers Genre is concerned.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

“in fact pushing some of the boundaries of UE4”

/chuckle

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

This game looks like blatant attempt to copypaste CoH and try to reap cash from its old players. I mean look at its logo and compare it to CoH’s logo. Anyone really expects to see something good and creative from people who just copypaste everything? Even graphics looks exactly the same. Seriously, when CoH was released, like 13 years ago?

Reader
justin something

Copy and paste what? the CoH source code that A. NCSoft would not part with no matter what, B. NCSoft in fact no longer has, C. Would be so ridiculously outdated as to be unworkable in UE4, which is what SoH is being developed in. What is being copied here? Everything they have shown is custom developed.

One moment people are grousing the idea is too new – being on a generational starship 500 years in the future – next calling it too similar. it’s a progression, not a copy. mainly trying to recapture the spirit of the old great game. watch the ten demos they have of stackable pieces that build toward a workable game on youtube. you can just hate all of it i guess, but there is a lotttt of progress to show in actual playable elements, including things that are “good and creative” in my opinion. though it’s still a work in progress.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

This whole ship thing is a joke. Just an excuse to say “we are different in some way afterall” . In reality you get the same old hero city, that they told you grows on the boat.

What is being copied here? The real question is: what isnt?

Reader
justin something

wow, hard to argue with the ironclad strength of that logic. well, it’s not the same. but you don’t have to play. let me know how your game is going… the totally amazing original one you have in you. i think SoH will be pretty rad.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
BalsBigBrother

WOOOOOOSH!

um on the off chance you are actually being serious. That is kind of the point all of them are throw backs to CoH made by people who played and enjoyed that game. They are supposed to make you think of CoH in looks, play style and feel. Though if you dig they are all doing things a little different in their own way.

I didn’t play CoH because I thought it was clunky but I am interested in seeing the 2.0 versions that these games are aiming to be.

camren_rooke
Reader
camren_rooke

Still think the name is odd but I’m game to give it a go. The last few videos have really piqued my interest in it.

Good luck fellas and thanks for the interview.

wpDiscuz