The past couple of weeks has been wild as we dispatched writers to GDC in San Francisco and PAX East in Boston to gather up and bring back everything they could on the MMORPGs large and small on the spring convention circuit. In fact, as I type this, we’ve got Brendan in Reykjavik for EVE Fanfest too! So for this week’s Overthinking, we’re rounding up our coverage and then reflecting on the best and worst as we pick out what most excites, surprises, and disappoints us: First the roundups, then our thoughts. Read on!
city of heroes
Official Site: City of Heroes
Studio: Paragon Studios/NCsoft
Launch Date: April 27, 2004
Sunset Date: November 30, 2012
Genre: Superhero Hybrid Themepark
Business Model: Hybrid F2P (Optional Sub, Cash Shop)
Platform: PC, Mac
With a combat alpha under its belt, the superhero MMORPG Ship of Heroes turns its attention to the challenges that lay ahead. The team has posted up a detailed roadmap that included a visual plan of the first half of 2018, including what’s to come over the next three months.
The aggressive development schedule for the near future includes a login and network test, more enemies, more powers, more costumes, a day/night cycle, the addition of PopcornFX, an initial look at Controller powers, and better outdoor lighting are all on the table.
Past that, the team hopes to accomplish a raid test in the third quarter and then move out of alpha testing into the beta by the end of the year. Ship of Heroes’development plans and a talk with its lead designer, check out our PAX East interview with Casey McGeever.
Video games have always been a remarkably insular field; that’s the nature of development. Someone produces Super Mario Bros, and a few years later Sonic the Hedgehog sounds like a really good idea for some reason. But then you have games like The Great Giana Sisters, games that don’t try to just copy parts of what made the inspiration good but just copy the whole thing with one or two changes.
For normal video games, this can work out decently; a game that just doesn’t get much traction still sells some copies, hopefully. Just because Croc wasn’t Spyro didn’t mean that no one bought the former. But for online games, these trend-chasing games are almost always dramatic failures that litter the landscape. Why is that? Well, there are pretty good reasons, and today seems like a good time to talk about that.
At this year’s PAX East, I discovered that my mental picture of Casey McGeever did not match the actual man in person, but that was a positive thing; meeting the man himself, he projects an aura of warmth and earnestness that’s almost impossibly infectious. Not that it should be all that surprising, as he’s spent so much time talking about the strength of community when it comes to building up the base behind Ship of Heroes as a whole.
McGeever and I had an opportunity to speak about a number of issues surrounding the City of Heroes-inspired superhero MMO, starting with some talk about the game’s roadmap moving through the remainder of the year. The roadmap covers the past few months and recent known developments, but it had to be delayed slightly while the team pushed through the early stages of pre-alpha, engine upgrades, and the associated tasks. Now we’re into April, and it’s time for the community to see what’s on the docket for the next three months.
Former City of Heroes players have plenty of options to try to fill the void of their favorite MMO. There’s a chat shell that uses the original client, there are superhero MMOs out right now, there are multiple superhero MMOs in development, and now, there’s a City of Heroes emulator for those who don’t mind walking on the grey side of legality.
The project is Super Entity Game Server (or SEGS for short), which allows fans to run their own City of Heroes server. SEGS has just put out its first public release and compares itself to SWGemu in focus and goals. Right now the client is fairly limited, allowing players to make characters and walk around Atlas Park, but the team hopes that it will be expanded to include all of the content that City of Heroes had when it closed down.
Ship of Heroes just got a bit better looking.
Heroic Games announced that it upgraded the upcoming superhero MMORPG from Unreal Engine 4.17 to 4.18 to keep it within striking distance of the latest version of Epic Games’ graphic engine. This also means that the developer can utilize PopcornFX to jazz up some neat-looking special effects. The studio is looking ahead to version 4.20, which it says should be “better-suited” to building an MMO.
“It is important for a dev team to keep upgrading, since the engine developer makes hundreds of improvements every time they upgrade,” the studio said. “Eventually we will settle on a version to launch the game in, both because it is technically complex to upgrade to new versions, and because we plan to make changes to the engine itself to deliver the MMO that our community wants to play.”
With GDC 2018 in the bag, Casey McGeever is back from showing off Ship of Heroes and has a few reflections about the experience. Among many observations, McGeever talked up PopcornFX, which he said will be used to upgrade the visuals of Ship of Heroes’ effects.
He shared many takeaways from his meetings and panels, including “a move back toward subscriptions for MMOs,” a push back against toxicity in gaming, and efforts being done to put more players on the screen in online games.
And regarding his own project? “I did not see anything that suggests to me that a niche game like SoH will not succeed,” he said.
Of course, you could also get our take from meeting and talking with McGeever about this upcoming superhero MMORPG. We urged you to “keep your eyes” on this project and its scrappy team.
On this week’s show, Bree and Justin recover from an avalanche of expansion news, including announcements from Elder Scrolls Online and Star Trek Online. Also, did you hear that Bless Online is coming this May? Oh, they did, and they have many words to say on the matter!
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Let me be upfront: I’ve never gotten into a superhero MMO. I love comics; outside of work, it’s probably the only fiction I willingly read these days. It’s just the people I play with never got into hero MMOs, even when some of us finally tried DC Universe Online.
But I read all about them. And I know you superhero MMORPG players have been kicked around.
Heroic Games President and CEO Casey McGeever’s passionate about the need for the genre because of that, and that’s precisely why MMO Ship of Heroes was conceived. We’ve got superheroes everywhere these days, but as hot as the Avengers are, we’re largely given steaming piles of brown from their gaming-ignorant parent companies. So I sat down with McGeever to talk MMOs, tech, and a ship full of heroes during GDC 2018.
If you’re a City of Heroes fan – or any kind of superhero fan – then you’re gonna want to check out the brand-new and never-before-revealed early-game Ship of Heroes map that Heroic Games just sent over. Remember, SoH is literally set on a starship, but it’s so massive that it fits all kinds of real-world zones inside.
“Every new MMORPG gets to the point where they can begin sharing the current version of the persistent level with their community,” Heroic Games writes. “Ship of Heroes is at that point right now. The map below is our first viewable version of the map of Apotheosis City. While every part of the city has not be allocated to a zone yet, it is clear that there will be about a dozen zones in the first playable level.”
MassivelyOp reader Bryan recently wrote to us with a fun question about emulators, a topic that will simply never die as long as MMORPGs do.
So let’s tackle the emulator question in this week’s Massively Overthinking. Have you ever played on an emulator? Under what circumstances? Which ones are you OK with, and which ones do you stay far away from? Are you OK with emulators raising money, and for what purpose? And have you ever donated money to or spent money on an MMO emulator?
Last month, Ship of Heroes ran its first alpha combat test with backers, and it was a blast (literally). With enough time to process the test, the studio put together a dev blog that shared what it has learned from the combat alpha to use in development going forward.
There are many critical notes that the devs provide, such as this one: “Enemies should attack relentlessly. We have already begun an enemy AI upgrade. This upgrade will be affected by the poll results you’ve given us on this subject. Our goal to is to add a new level of challenge to the AI.”
Heroic Games said that it will be polling the community for several decisions that need to be made about adjusting the combat. There’s nothing like seeing it for yourself, so check out February’s combat alpha highlights after the superjump!
As an amateur historian and an MMORPG enthusiast, I generally applaud efforts by the community to resurrect, preserve, and even reboot sunsetted games. While there are legal issues to consider, especially over intellectual properties, I want these games to continue on in some fashion. If a studio is not willing or able to do it, then having the community pick up the slack is an acceptable solution in my book.
But this past week I was wondering if there are cases where fan emulators of these MMORPGs might not be worth pursuing. Is keeping City of Heroes operating as a ghost of itself in Paragon Chat helpful to a community that maybe should move on at this point? Do some of the smaller emulators that lack funds and development talent end up doing a disservice to the original title?
What are your feelings on this? Are fan emulators of dead MMOs worth developing, or should we let the deceased rest in peace?