The City of Heroes private server team has released its code [Update: The test server is live]


(This article has been updated since publication; updates are at the bottom!)

Well, you wanted the City of Heroes private server code, and you got it.

“It was uploaded onto a Discord server someone started who we don’t know,” a Discord source familiar with the situation just told me. “Like 300 people congregated there and now the files have spread like wildfire. It’s not the character files. It also doesn’t contain the mission files or NPCs, but it’s a big piece of the puzzle for reverse engineering the game that no one but Leo had before.”

It’s all part of a story we’ve been covering all week, as information about a secret City of Heroes private server was leaked across the web and the community agitated for its purveyors to disperse the code to everyone, not just the chosen few. Last night, it became clear that was a real and possible solution to the drama unfolding.

Ahead of the drop of the files, we spoke to the anonymous Discord participants who were apparently given the code to clean up and roll out to the public. Here’s what they told us.

MassivelyOP: Are multiple people receiving all of the files, such that multiple people can independently host the game? Or is this one of those things where everyone’s getting a different thing and only with their powers combined can a server actually be run? Is it going to be possible for anyone to access all or part of these files? Or is it going to be passed only to specific person or people vetted to run a community server?

Everyone will have access. That seems to be the most satisfying approach. We’re not going to make a server either. It’s up to the community to do with it as they see fit. That seems to go along with what Leo would want.

As for the characters, the person holding the code does not have them. Leo still does. It’s just the server code as far as we know. I don’t want to speak for Leo, but I believe personally that he intends to give it back to us in a way that ensures we get our characters and not characters belonging to other people. He’s not really involved at all at this point. I assume that anything regarding the character info will be dealt with at a later date! We don’t have the character database, in any case.

What is being done specifically to ensure that the code remains with the community in some way forever? Like, what if everyone with a copy gets hit by a bus?

Not a whole lot immediately. [The person who received the code last night] was only a random dude.

What is happening to the actual existing SCORE server and the people on it and their characters? Is that over?

[Ed: They didn’t answer this one – I assume since they don’t want to speak for the SCORE folks because they aren’t the SCORE folks.]

How are people protecting themselves from legal action beyond the Great Scrubbening?

As far as the scrubbening, he scrubbed it. We don’t know! It’s really terrifying to be honest. Either way, it should be clear: We are operating independently from Leo. Nothing we say should be construed as an official message from Leo in any way. Dude’s dealt with enough hardship as it is.

We’d like to thank our sources for their candor. To be clear, we are not encouraging illegal activity and advise everyone involved to consider their actions carefully.

Update, April 18 afternoon
Just to clarify here, the file dump is apparently not complete – not plug-and-play, so to speak. It’s missing some content and mission files, according to multiple people poring over the code. It’s for “big kids” to turn into something functional – “something people should have the tools to recreate,” my source told me. Apparently, the reconstruction is 1) possible but 2) going to take a while. So try to have some chill.
Update, April 18 evening
Leandro has commented on the COH Discord tonight about the state of the handover, specifically noting he’s waiting for other folks to provide the hardware so he can get them what they need to get it all running. “I want servers with the specs I listed to get a playable shard out ASAP so the trolls die already.”

On characters: “I am getting lots of pushback about releasing [the character database] both in and out of SCORE because players don’t want ‘their’ characters to be available to anybody. So I’m putting that release on hold until the dust settles and the community at large can come to a decision.”

On servers: “Piggs won’t be there because server actually runs slower if you have piggs; but all the data files that WOULD go into piggs will be there. […] Whatever servers I set up will use the latest binaries and data that SCORE itself was using, internally referred to as Issue 25: Unbroken Spirit. This is simply because it will be the fastest to deploy, since it already has tools for account creation, all the microtransaction garbage like the Paragon Rewards tree removed, and many other optimizations. I am sure there will be a lot of complaints about it not being a “pure” release that will want a lot of changes stripped. Have some patience. It will take much longer to get a server set up if I have to roll back my repositories to early 2013 and hunt down a version of the data files that would play nice with it and does not have massive gaps in content. I don’t even think such a version exists. This was a massive reverse engineering that took months to get something usable.” [Thanks, Sean!]

Update, April 18, night
Last update from us tonight: Leandro notified us that folks are getting very close to getting a preliminary server online. It’s expected this evening, possibly within the next few hours. Gonna be honest, I’d love to be there to watch it, but I rather desperately need to sleep before I fall over, so instead, if you’re up and want to see some weird history, you can go watch it yourself in the #build-compile-discussion channel on the CoH Discord.
Update, April 19, morning
We’ve updated the “unicorn” article with a very brief summary of our chat with the person who claimed to be facilitating discussion with NCsoft. (No matter what you believe, please stop harassing him.)

Information about the continuing work on the various projects can be found on the Titan Network forums and Reddit.

Update, April 19, late morning
We’ve posted our promised Lawful Neutral column on the legalities involved in playing on rogue servers. Once again, we cannot advise doing anything illegal.
Update, April 19, afternoon
A kind player on Discord let us know that there is a screengrab of an “article” that superficially appears to be from Massively OP, supposedly reporting that NCsoft is investigating the private server. While we have no doubt NCsoft is aware of the community’s efforts right now, the article itself is an absolute fake. We did not publish that article, and I’m guessing our regulars can easily spot the formatting and prose errors that mark it out as such.

According to public Discord chats, work on an initial server is continuing. We cannot link directly to the site, but we’re pretty sure you can find what you’re after on Reddit. :)

Update, April 20, evening
The test server is live! With a highly silly name!

No, it’s not my screenshot and I’m not running the server; they’re just messing with us. Thanks to the lovely lady who sent it to me. :)

Once again, we cannot advise doing anything illegal – and yes, this stage of the project is going to continue getting harder and harder for us to cover, but it’s not because we don’t want to, please understand. Information about the server can be found on Discord and Reddit.

Completely confused? You’re not alone. Here’s all of our coverage to date:


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I have to admit, I came out of the podcast convinced that the right thing for the community to do would be to delete the code.

Everyone wants city of heroes – more than one team has dedicated themselves to recreating the experience, both legally and illegally.

But somewhere, a developer is out there who risked his or her future to give others the opportunity to play this – likely without thought to the consequences. Maybe the right thing to do, then, is to sacrifice the game we really, really want so we can protect the authors of the things we enjoyed.

The community would survive, perhaps even unite and thrive. We’d already started making the legacy of CoH our own and writing its next chapters ourselves. It wouldn’t be easy, knowing that the characters we thought were dead are out there and choosing to hit delete for good. But the right thing is rarely easy, and we should protect our devs even when it’s hard – perhaps BECAUSE it is hard, which is what makes choices truly heroic. There wouldn’t be any game – and more importantly, any community, without them.

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Geoffrey Tillman

I’m watching positive gamer stream it and it looks like ge is going to cry. I may be tearing up a bit too

IronSalamander8 .

The server is having some issues but I did get my old main made and waqs working on the ‘Isolator’ badge in the outbreak tutorial before the servers got taken down. It’s going to have some teething issues of course, but it was nice how easily I fell back into it, a testament to how well designed the controls are.

Brendan Wallach

I don’t mean to be that guy .

Once again, we cannot advise doing anything illegal

so posting an article about an illegal server will be common now ? hope this doesn’t become a common thing.
that reddit link above is a how to set up your own server.


They’ll post one everyday and twice on Sundays!

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This night I have walked the streets of a vanished city. I have heard voices long stilled raised in song. And I have whaled the bejesus out some street thugs as of old. Truly a good night. Except for street thugs.

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Chris Neal

Thus, Bree was officially canonized in Paragon City lore.


Bree, I want to point out that I saw Leandro say in the discord it was the recent podcast specifically that helped him realize just how bad he’d fucked up, and he named the current server after you. I think in the end your work had a huge positive impact here.

Art of Raw Gaming

To be able to run through the sewers of Paragon, or traverse the apocalyptic landscape of Boomtown, once more would be a treat unto itself.


Maggie May

Interesting, considering the community, the number of projects already planned around the game and the way this particular incident is going down, as well as the company owning the rights to the code … what could possibly go wrong?


I’ll tell you what’s going to get wrong:
A number of people, especially Leo, are going to need to consult legal representation soon.


They can’t do that. No company can do that. It would be a blanket invitation for anyone to steal their property and put it on the internet.

“Everything should be free and belong to the fans” might feel good but it’s a pipe dream.

The only “nice” option they had was to not sue Leo if he agree to shut down the server and not distribute their property. By doing this latest move, NCSoft now has zero choice in their response.


You’re confusing copyright law and trademark law. Trademark has to be defended or potentially be lost. Copyright does not.