Here’s why everyone’s pissed off about City of Heroes NPCs in NCsoft’s MOBA

Yesterday, NCsoft took the lid off a secret it’s clearly been working on for a while: The company means to introduce a notorious and well-known City of Heroes NPC as one of the characters in its upcoming MOBA, Master x Master.

Here’s the thing. Master x Master is actually pretty well-liked around here. The writers we’ve sent to test it out the past few years came away thinking it was an excellent hybrid PvE MOBA with a lot of MMO elements, a genuinely good entry to the market and something we’re happy to cover. So I don’t think anyone wishes it, specifically, harm.

But NCsoft? I don’t know who told you this was a good idea. It’s really not a good idea.

Down in the comments of yesterday’s news article on the topic, our readers more or less fell into two camps: The “fuck you NCsoft” camp and the “wait, really, NCsoft?” camp. There were very few people sitting on the sidelines. There were, however, some folks confused about why everyone else is either pissed off or horrified or bewildered. Why isn’t this a good thing, they asked. Aren’t they honoring a game we loved?

I’m going to go ahead and give them the benefit of the doubt that honor is what they intended. MxM is akin to Heroes of the Storm in that iconic characters from all its other games find their way into the game as playable heroes. They’ve got the City of Heroes IP lying around doing nothing — may as well use it. I can even believe that out-of-touch execs on another continent somehow thought we’d be excited, thrilled, grateful to see a City of Heroes character brought back to life in some way.

Yeah, no.

Understand that the City of Heroes community is really not over it, nor should we be. The belief that the game was cut down when it was doing well, by suits on the other side of the ocean, is widely held. It’s well-trod ground at this point that the game by itself was modestly profitable on its own, but there’s no doubt the studio’s overhead was excessive as CoH was effectively paying for R&D on Paragon’s second game, still in-dev. Moreover, the way the sunset was carried out was disrespectful and cheap even compared to NCsoft’s history with sunsets, with devs turned out before they could arrange a final patch or event. The community presented a heroic effort to save and buy the game in a way I’d not seen before (and have not since, in almost 20 years). I took part in the daily protests myself. So did several other members of our staff at the time. It was all for nothing.

Well, not for nothing: A small but dedicated group of gamers has been actively boycotting NCsoft ever since. And following the sunset, multiple spiritual successors sprang up. The first and probably biggest was City of Titans, which pulled in almost $700,000 in Kickstarter funding all by itself, just a sliver of how much goodwill money NCsoft threw away when it nuked Paragon.

The people shoving money at City of Titans and the other successors don’t want a MOBA; they want City of Heroes, a robust superhero MMORPG. They don’t want a Statesman action figure in a game they wouldn’t play even if they weren’t boycotting the company behind it.

The fact that the character NCsoft picked to lead off this fiasco is Statesman is just an extra “slap in the face” (commenter quote!) since the developer behind the iconic character actually left City of Heroes years before to build Champions Online and has since vacated Champs too to head up the studio working on DC Universe Online. Consider this: When Statesman was killed off in-game, some CoH players celebrated. Another avatar, as our former City of Heroes columnist Eliot noted, might have been a wiser choice; BABs, War Witch, or Penny Yin would have given the whole introduction an entirely different flavor.

Ultimately I think your level of outrage over this probably hinges on whether you still believed there was a chance players could negotiate for a license to use the City of Heroes IP — or more. That’s exactly what Titan Network folks were doing back in 2014, so it’s not some wild theory. It seemed plausible. It hasn’t gone anywhere publicly, but it’s always been there as a possibility. Anyone who was hanging on to that dream saw it shattered yesterday. It’s highly unlikely NCsoft will sell or license the IP or servers if it’s using chunks of that IP in a brand-new MOBA.

I realize there are also gamers who genuinely believe NCsoft is purposely “rubbing salt in the wound.” I don’t personally believe this is a decision of malice, however; this is a decision of cluelessness. They misjudged the situation and us once again. MOBA players won’t care about freaking Statesman, and we won’t play their MOBA, so what do they get out of this? I suppose now they’ll have the fun of explaining why their new character has sparked mainstream controversy in the western world. Enjoy reiterating your “it’s just business” sunset history to a whole new generation of gamers who prior to this didn’t even know what City of Heroes was!

Surprisingly, there are also people who’ve chosen to see NCsoft’s move as a calculated attempt at reconciliation with the American MMO playerbase, such that posters on several mainstream gaming sites have floated the idea that NCsoft is resurrecting City of Heroes characters as part of a marketing push for a future City of Heroes 2 attempt. I’m not so great a fool as to buy that, but it’s intoxicating nonetheless.

All these years later, NCsoft still doesn’t understand how beloved City of Heroes was — or why. The people who boycott NCsoft games aren’t going to be be mollified by this in any way. All it’s done is reignite a smoldering flame of rancor.

The MMORPG genre might be “working as intended,” but it can be so much more. Join Massively Overpowered Editor-in-Chief Bree Royce in her Working As Intended column for editorials about and meanderings through MMO design, ancient history, and wishful thinking. Armchair not included.
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Thomas McGrath

I have no real proof of this and can’t say who told me because they can lose their job. COH was paid to shut down its servers , why it was killed off when it started to pick up again . Is it true? I don’t know , but to me it would only be the only reason a company would shut down an mmo that was making them money. I’ve been waiting on either a emulator or a standlone version of the game by a group of people. You would think if Earth and beyond has one, COH would too. EandB was offline for almost 10 years I think before an emulator started to work in parts. I just thought COH would had one working “in parts at least”

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Matthias Olander

Yeah that rumor started just a few months after CoX closed (as far as i remember there were even a dev at Paragon doing an AMA on reddit that more or less hinted at such). So it’s not beyond the realms of possibilities that it was actually true.

Personally i suspect that NCsoft started closing down MMOs to release funds and developers for their (now failed and canceled) EQ Next.

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Peter George Stewart

No NCSoft I am not going to play your s****y MOBA just because you put a CoH character in it. In fact I decided back in, oh let’s see, 2012 I think it was, that I’m never going to play anything published by you ever again, until you either restore CoH, or sell it, or let people make emulators of it. Get lost.

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Thomas McGrath

I agree. I will never buy another game made by or supported by ncsoft . every game I’ve played on theirs have been closed down and I bought guildwars when it came out, and after stop playing it for a few years they removed it from my account. I called their CS and they said my account never had guildwars on it :/

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James Barton

So I had no clue what this was, and man can I tell you how excited I got to see statesman. I thought, could it really be coming back? Could there be a revival or a COH2? Nope, just a big slap in the face.

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Lynx Raide

Could I be devil’s advocate here in that they could be considering resurrecting CoH? May be wishful thinking, but I dont think they would be making a crossover MOBA without having something active behind the IPs they are using

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Ken from Chicago

PREACH IT, BREE! AfrellingMEN! The REALLY stupid part of all this NCSoft could have done BOTH! They could have added City Of Heroes IP into a moba ala Heroes of the Storm AND kept CoH running / kept CoH in maintenance mode / licensed it out to City of Titans.

I didn’t think it was possible for someone to “top” for mmo cluelessness Smedley’s claim that, what’s now known to be H1Z1, the zombie mmo, would be the game former Star Wars Galaxies could “come home to”. Bad enough TPTB failed to take advantage of City Of Heroes demise to step up to make Champions Online the obvious benefactor–but nooo, but this?!

I find myself agreeing with Bree. This is not a crime of malice but one of cluelessness–which in some ways is worse. At least if this was intentional, it would be a backhanded recognizing CoH’s importance, but causing such emotional damage without even realizing it? It’s galling.

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Seiichi Himura

I can’t believe that NCsoft are so dumb it makes a monkey’s IQ look better than them. They cancelled a game that created harmony. Think of the chance if they still had City Of Heroes. They could get 700,000$ and they could enjoy and they didn’t get it. And they never deserve it either. Because they cancelled City Of Heroes for no reasons to explain but did it because they were too dumb to understand.

They still have other way to get love and wealth IF they bring the game back in two options.

1. Sell the IP to a company or someone so they could get the love back.

2. If they introduce The New Statesman in MXM. Then they should bring City Of Heroes back.

If they follow one of those options. They may have the ability to get what they wanted, wealthness, and being loveable again. If they fix their small brains before they lose brain cells each time they make a dumb excuse for their apologize like. Bring Statesman to a new developed game to make fans happy.

They are wrong. In many shapes of ways they are wrong. They still have the chance. If they want to bring it back or the community can create a internet war and debate against NCSoft’s lies of tricking the crew’s deal to get City Of Heroes back. But decided to bring Statesman to show they still own IP which a total dick move for them to do. Which makes NCsoft the real villain.

And yet this war and bringing back the game itself has been on like almost 5 years. This proves that NCSoft have to bring the game back or this will continues for sentries without end until they game itself is back. Only if they just think smart. They may have the chance to get 700,000$ or more. Although other fans are enraged by the cancellation of the game and start making spiritual sucessor of the game like City Of Titans, Heroes And Villains, Valiance Online, and now Ship Of Heroes.

This is insane! 5 freaking new making superhero game for what? Because they cancelled a good MMORPG game for no reasons. So this is just now creating a war between NCSoft and City Of Heroes Communities. So NCSoft must hurry and bring the game back or this will continue without end.

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Paul Cole

So as usual a little late for the party.

While I rolled my eyes, seeing Statesman in a MOBA, honestly I get it. Statesman is not there for the CoH fans sadly. Not meant to be a jab at us from the CoH community. It wasn’t done out or ignorance, malice, or just as a big Middle finger to player/fans. The key thing here is timing.

It’s coming up on 5 years since anything for the characters in the IP has been done. Why is that important? In most countries 5 years is the deadline for trademarks. If something is not done or used after 5-10 years depending on the Country’s laws that trademark gets released and can be copied. It was self preservation on NCSofts part. If they do not do this they risk losing the naming and character rights to any would be party who decided to squatter it. So NCSoft couldn’t even develop CoH 2 use Statesman or any other items and the IP is basically less than worthless as it wouldn’t be allowed any potential without license from the new trademark holders.

It could also be a testing ground. If Statesman is heavily played it could lead to looking into some type of development of another game a relaunch if you will. Does not mean those people who were not hurt by the sudden shutdown shouldn’t be bothered by old feelings. Just means NCSoft is again doing what it does best, trying to keep afloat by whatever means the deem necessary.

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Johnny

There is no such thing as MMO elements as MMO only stands for the amount of people playing online together. Therefore, its an MMO or not. There are no “elements” to an MMO other than quantity.

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J

I already actively avoid NCSoft. Things like this only solidify my hate.

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Emperor Caligula

I am always amused to see, that Devs and Suits not understanding their player base is not the exception, but the rule.

I understand at the time CoH had come to an end, it was just super outdated. But just letting it fall without starting a worthy follower was sad.