Back in the late 1990s and early 2000s, I was remarkably reluctant to enter into the field of MMORPGs despite being a perfect candidate (a gaming geek who loved fantasy and sci-fi RPGs). All of the reasons that I had at the time for stalling really could have been boiled down to a single word: accessibility.
MMOs back then looked — and probably were — very inaccessible. They had a payment barrier. They required a lot of setup and hardware. Their interfaces were cluttered and their gameplay interactions were obtuse. Frankly, I got the impression that a lot of them were a mess that was only understandable to those who had put in hundreds of hours to decipher the format.
When MMOs started to become more accessible, particularly with City of Heroes, World of Warcraft, and Guild Wars, I eagerly jumped in. Those three titles in particular made giant leaps forward in opening up these games to the first-time player. But that doesn’t mean that MMORPGs have arrived at universal accessibility just yet. Here are ten areas that studios could be improving in order to make their titles more appealing and understandable to outsiders.
Although City of Heroes is not coming back (I think we all need to come to terms with that), many successors are waiting in the wings with their own vision of how a superhero MMO should be. Valiance Online, City of Titans, and Ship of Heroes all have claimed inspiration from City of Heroes and claim that they will be replicating some elements of what made that title work so well.
But what did work well about City of Heroes? Why did it succeed when Champions Online, a title modeled after it and created by the same studio, failed? Why is City of Heroes so beloved, even years after its demise?
Let’s hash it out today in the comments. Break down City of Heroes for us and see if you can’t put your finger on what made this particular MMO fly high.
The MMO industry moves along at the speed of information, and sometimes we’re deluged with so much news here at Massively Overpowered that some of it gets backlogged. That’s why there’s The MOP Up: a weekly compilation of smaller MMO stories and videos that you won’t want to miss. Seen any good MMO news? Hit us up through our tips line!
Maybe you’ll discover a new game in this space — or be reminded of an old favorite! This week we have stories and videos from Heroes of the Storm, Elder Scrolls Online, DayZ, EVE Online, Pokemon Go, Dota 2, City of Heroes, Final Fantasy XIV, Portal Knights, Lineage 2 Revolution, Wizard101, Ingress, and Reign of Guilds, all waiting for you after the break!
What was your first? Not necessarily the first MMORPG you ever played, but the first that made you fall in love with that game and the genre at large? Probably for me, that would have to be City of Heroes, a title which just clicked on all levels and ushered me into a new age of gaming.
I’ll let Katriana tell you hers: “My first MMO, and first MMO love it’s probably fair to say, was EverQuest. I have many memories of my time there, but sadly I don’t have many good screenshots from that time still that aren’t just character selfies. The image below was taken circa early 2003 and is one of the better ones I still have. It represents the crowning achievement of the guild I was in there, the slaying of the first-born dragon Klandicar. It was far from being new or even necessarily notable content at the time, but it was quite an achievement for our little guild.”
Hope your brightly colored spandex is back from the dry cleaners, because you’re going to need them sooner rather than later. The team at Ship of Heroes hinted at a test that sounds like it is going to involve a lot more players than have seen the game to date. The event itself, which will accept sign-ups, is just going to be a “milling around” situation around the game’s signature arch. Still, for fans that will be one giant leap forward from sitting and waiting for the next superhero MMO to take shape.
“We’re working steadily toward a login test, which is a very modest name for a pretty significant event,” the team posted on the forums. “If it works out well, we will have demonstrated that we can put the MMO into our MMORPG.”
Some other projects that the team is tackling include a day/night cycle, playing around with the new PopcornFX toolkit, improving the codebase, and polishing Arch Park. Ship of Heroes’ development was slowed by unspecified “personnel issues” in the recent past, but the team said that it is recovering and even adding new members to the team.
Massively OP reader Sorrior recently sent in a question about raiding, a topic we haven’t discussed in a while.
“I have noticed raiding tends to lead to more homogenization even without PvP and a bigger focus on numbers when making classes as opposed to their feel and style. I also see a correlation with a bigger emphasis on raiding and the decline of community quality. On a personal level, I feel like raiding should be about the joy of taking on foes you cannot defeat alone with allies/friends, but I feel many treat it as a chore or just see the numbers nowadays. Or they are just after the gear, which also seems to bring in a lot of people who focus on the numbers rather than the experience. I thought talking about why we raid and what we enjoy about it as MMO players while discussing ways to preserve the feeling of community might be fun.”
I think talking about that would also be fun, which is precisely why we Overthink it in this column. So let’s do it: This week I’ve asked the Massively OP staff whether they raid now or ever did, what they raid for, and how they feel raiding fits into the modern MMO from a mechanics and community standpoint.
Are you missing City of Heroes this week, what with the 14th anniversary of its launch and all? We are too. Earlier this month, we wrote about one of the many brilliant homages to the game, Super Entity Game Server (aka SEGS). But instead of being a brand-new game in the City of Heroes spirit or a combat-free (and relatively safe from legal action) client like Paragon Chat, SEGS is a straight up emulator that intends to restore the whole shebang. And apparently, the team is hunting for more folks to help speed up development.
“We want to extend a invitation to those who have some C++ coding skills as we head towards our second release, and would be interested in volunteering to help out,” the SEGS team told Massively OP by email this weekend. “While the internet is a big place, it’s also not as easy to get a message out. Hence why we’re making sure we offer this to anyone who could be interested. As for people who have no coding experience, there is room for you to volunteer as well. By downloading, installing and submitting bugs through our GitHub page.”
What to make of Shroud of the Avatar? The few MMO bloggers who have looked into this recently released but already long-running title have struggled to get a handle on Lord British’s latest RPG.
The Ancient Gaming Noob calls it “retroist hobbyism” and left him wondering. “What is this game that is by turns awkward, finicky, intricate, deep, slow, and clearly a work in progress?” he asks. “Where does it fit into the gaming world?”
Inventory Full found some merit in it but noted the extreme performance issues and other annoyances: “My willingness to struggle on was further undermined by the D&D style random encounters that dragged me into a private instance every time I tried to travel from one adventure area to another. Not to mention the fact that my weapon was broken and I couldn’t remember how the combat system worked anyway.”
Continue on with us in this edition of Global Chat, as we’ll read essays on altitis, EverQuest, City of Heroes, Elder Scrolls Online, and more!
Celebration might not be quite the right word to use when referring to the City of Heroes anniversary, but that doesn’t mean fans don’t want to gather and commemorate the occasion. That’s exactly what the MOP family will be doing. Come listen to favorite stories and memories as the gang hangs out in Paragon Chat. Join us live at 8:00 p.m. to fly, super leap, and sprint back in time to remember…
What: City of Heroes
Who: Bree Royce and MJ Guthrie
When: 8:00 p.m. EDT on Saturday, April 28th, 2018
If you’re feeling the burning desire to reminisce in City of Heroes and hang out with other people who understand why it was so damn magical, today is your day. The HERC crew at the Titan Network have put together their annual shindig, running today from 3 p.m. EDT for about eight hours, so you can swing by as time permits or camp out the entire day.
Organizers say there will be several costume contests again, this time themed around the different origins, as well as a character biography contest.
A lot of folks don’t know what Paragon Chat is, so let me explain a bit: It’s basically a version of the City of Heroes client that you can use to log into a very scaled back version of the real game complete with other people. You can roll and customize characters, chat with other players, fully tour the maps, and make use of some nostalgic travel skills. The main thing you can’t do? Fight. The baddies and combat skills aren’t in there.
It occurs to me that it is very difficult to find MMOs that I have literally never played before in some capacity. There are titles on the list, of course, but it’s a short list. Which amuses me, since anyone who listens to me on a regular basis knows that I have a small number of games that I consider “my” games, and usually there are just two that are fairly consistently on that list. But it’s part of the job; back when I first got this job in the time when dinosaurs roamed the Earth (the late aughts), my lifetime game count was at four. Maybe four and a half, if you want to count the Champions Online beta that talked me out of playing it at launch.
Of course, that’s one of the interesting elements not just of this job but about MMOs in general. You react differently depending on how many MMOs you’ve played, and considering that these games are big, long-term time commitments, that can produce some interesting dynamics. So let’s go ahead and take a look at what your personal lifetime count says about you and your understanding of the genre.
It’s spring cleaning month for Ship of Heroes, Heroic Games’ Casey McGeever has told forumgoers on the official site.
“What we mean by this is that we are reviewing our game code, looking at how it is organized, and then making it quicker and more efficient to compile through a set a changes,” he says. “It’s complex and a bit grindy to do, so we force ourselves to do it periodically.” He says the studio is working on picking the best maps, testing character models and costumes, iterating on animation code to reduce lag, improving buildings on the ship, creating new props, and even working on the new healing powerset.
“Basically everyone is working away at their jobs, and we’re making steady progress,” McGeever explains.
In other SOH news, you may not see many MMORPGs on Instagram, but Ship of Heroes is giving it a go – check out some of the brand-new screenshots it’s put up so far:
Due to the scattered locations of City of Titans’ team members, the devs have long since attempted a modular approach to building the superhero MMORPG. However, this format started to “break down,” and the team stepped back to look for a different approach.
This came in the form of Unreal Engine 4.18, which finally allowed its users to attach plugins to other plugins. After that version came out, the City of Titans team had a path forward and spent a few months restructuring the project to function within this new framework. Thanks to the change, the team said that the pace of development should be much better.
“Now that plugins can work with other plugins, all of the various game components can be plugins,” the devs said. “This means that interdependency and modularity are no longer mutually exclusive — they can be both at once […] Because everything is in the same place, everything — to the extent anything this complicated ever does mind you — just works.”