City of Heroes: Community harassment ramps up as Homecoming counts 91,000 players

    
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What should have been a fun Memorial Day weekend in Paragon City turned into nightmares for some members of the City of Heroes rogue server community. The Reddit-backed Reborn/Pleiades server posted a rather disturbing update suggesting that some of its staff is being harassed, including an alleged swatting incident and an unsuccessful hack attempt.

Developers have since told MOP that they’ve moved away from cloud hosting onto a new server in response and that the hack was indeed reported to police. We haven’t been able to independently verify the SWAT attempt, but we’ll update when we have done so. Update here: We’ve now been in contact with the alleged swatting victim, who says he wasn’t swatted; this appears to have been a misunderstanding over an incident unrelated to City of Heroes, so we’re amending our title accordingly.

The Discord-based Rebirth server suffered some extended downtime this weekend, also apparently due to an attempted breach and harassment incident.

“On further investigation, our sysadmin discovered that one of our routers was breached recently while he was spending time with his family. There is NO indication the breach went deeper than this router – the actual game server was not breached – but the router’s connection information was tampered with so that after the server was restarted for maintenance, connections to the server failed. The admin has identified the vulnerability exploited to cause the breach and is taking steps to correct it. The desktop image of the router was also replaced with a picture of our sysadmin’s front door, taken from Google street view. There is no further evidence of a threat to his personal safety, so he is working to get the server back online ASAP. He has made a copy of the router data in the state he found it in and will be investigating what legal action can be taken. We sincerely apologize for the extended downtime. Our sysadmin is working as hard as possible to get you all back to patrolling and/or terrorizing the streets of Paragon City!”

We asked the Homecoming team whether there have been any recent attacks on their servers; a representative told us, “Our security setup is very robust. As with any publicly accessible service it is, of course, being hammered from many sources, but as of yet nobody has had any success getting through. As for harassment: There’s a reason most of the Homecoming Team is anonymous.”

The sad reality is these kinds of threats and harassment efforts have gone on in waves since the beginning of this rogue server effort; our first knowledge of threats – against SCORE/Homecoming’s Leandro Pardini – came as long ago as April 16th, 2019, along with multiple doxxing incidents in the subsequent weeks. Suffice it to say, there’s still a very dark layer to this community.

Here’s what else is going on around the CoH rogue server world:

The Homecoming team posted a statement this weekend addressing the claim that the team has been unwilling to aid other teams in setting up their own servers.” Homecoming says it has in fact provided advice and support to likeminded groups, but it is very specifically not sharing “any code that’s based off of the original City of Heroes source code.” And it believes it has a good reason:

“The reason for that is pretty simple: The only legal action NCSoft has taken in relation to City of Heroes’ return is a DMCA claim against the original upload of the i25 binaries (which, for the record, did not come from us). They haven’t touched any of the servers. The conclusion we’ve drawn from this is that at least for the moment, NCSoft do not mind the servers being up, but they do mind code (and other files) being shared. And if we now refer back to our prime directive: Sharing code could have put us, and the Homecoming servers, in the (legal) firing line. Obviously, we did not want this to happen, and so we opted to not directly share any code based off the original source, and instead just provide advice.”

The Homecoming team has also outlined the ways that its servers’ players – it has 91,000 now, peaking at nearly 10,000 concurrent over the holiday – can help apart from donations, which will indeed be opened again. The team recommends that would-be GMs and mods strut their stuff in Discord first and that web admins, artists, and programmers post in the appropriate threads. The group says it “firmly believe[s] that i25 (and by extension, i26) is the future of the game” and debunks the rumor that i25 is a “dead end” or “more unstable than i24,” pointing out that since the code is based on SCORE, it’s already had years of tweaks and content – for example, improvements to the Imperious task force and new Market Crash trial. The developers are also working on numeric cooldowns for hotbars (YAY!), coming in the next patch.

The Reddit server has announced that it’ll be celebrating Pride Month through June. “We’ll have details posted at the end of week, but we are planning events Friday, Saturday, and Sunday, every week during our Pride Month Celebration,” the Reborn/Pleiades team writes.

Redditor The_Halcyon_Kid posted up a nifty analysis of Google trends on NCsoft’s key western MMORPGs, finding that Google searches on City of Heroes have surged in the US in particular since April when news of the sercret server first broke. Guild Wars 2 is still beating it – as we’d hope, given how much money and manpower is behind GW2, right? – but it’s trouncing search interest in Aion, Blade & Soul, and Lineage 2. The whole thread is worth a peek since The_Halcyon_Kid also breaks it down for other countries, where CoH isn’t much of a blip.

The 4chan-backed /coxg/ server pushed out a patch this weekend with some inventory quality-of-life additions:

Update 6:00 PM EDT
The Reddit admin subsequently apologized for the misunderstanding that led folks to think the server admin had been swatted.

Got City of Heroes community news you think we should cover? Drop us a note!
Confused about the City of Heroes rogue servers? Our extensive coverage can be found right here, and we’ve posted a list of all the servers we know about too. The short version is that this spring a leaker exposed a secret City of Heroes server running for the last six years using the sunsetted game’s original code, which was ultimately turned over to the community. There are now multiple player teams working on multiple public and private servers for the beloved superhero MMORPG, with over 91000 people on Homecoming alone. So far, NCsoft has not commented publicly or taken legal action on any of them, and the company is in talks with players regarding the game’s future.
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Denice J. Cook

CoH’s Google search popularity vs all of NCsoft’s live games barring Guild Wars 2 is hilarious, even moreso since they recently all but destroyed ArenaNet.

I wonder how TonyV’s talks are going. Somehow, I have the feeling that “not too well” about sums it up.

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concerned citizen

Everyone’s been nice to me. We all just seem happy to be alive.
Haven’t heard any racism, n00b hating, elitist-ness or trash talk.

Fly-by healings and buffs seem fairly common [kill stealing is impossible].
Removing real life currency from the game has allowed the devs some real opportunities to streamline the leveling process .Way less grindy, at least in my experience.
I have to say I feel like Homecoming is an improvement on the original.
It was easy to download the tequila launcher. I was up and playing in 20 minutes.
Your results may vary.

Say hi if you see me in game, I’m bluecollarman, but my friends call me bcm.
Massively, thank you for your coverage. You are also a part of what makes this community so awesome.

I could go on all day, but,I’d rather be a bluecollarmaaaaan!

edit –
PS- BOYCOTT NCsoft!

bluecollarman's back!.jpg
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Nogs sgon

I remember fondly that players of CoH were always pleasant and helpful. Even if they didn’t like the kinetic speed up power, they were nice about asking me not to use it.

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EmeraldFox

This is just getting bloody ridiculous. Yeah I played city of heroes in the day and got into it just before the sunset and was over the moon to hear of its return but this? This is bloody ridicules. We should be working together to try and keep this alive but instead were about ready to go into a marvel bloody cival war between city of hero’s superhero servers.

Whilst disgusting what happend we should not let this put a paint brush on one whole team of dev’s. its like kids fighting in the playground going “Mr servers better than your server. ” NCsoft has been quiet over this whole thing and I find that funny since they still own the ip which I find funny.

But how do we know that they are not saying everything because they are watching all this drama and someone there is laughing at it all and there just waiting for it all to explode before stepping in and saying that were ruining the image of there product and company before yanking it out of the devs hands through the court and relaunching under there own company claiming they did all the work?

Wake up people. if we are looking for this to succed then we have to work together. FYI for the attention of the homecoming and rebirth admins? I play on both servers and have to say fantastic jobs to you all for all that you have done for us all so far

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EmeraldFox

And yes I know i got a lot of typos but when i speed type its a bad habit opf mine not to notice them untill after i post what i write

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Roger Melly

What is a Swatting incident ? Never heard of that before .

Doesn’t sound pleasant whatever it is .

ihatevnecks
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ihatevnecks

An individual anonymously placing some kind of call to police in another person’s location, in an attempt to force a police/SWAT response into that person’s home.

It’s most commonly done to people who are livestreaming on Twitch/YouTube/etc, so get it to happen on camera. Some will say the point is to “just harass” the victim, but the real point is to get that person injured and/or killed.

camren_rooke
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camren_rooke

Someone on the internets who wants a laugh, calls the police and gives them your address, tells them there is a hostile person in there with a gun who has a hostage or somesuch.

The cops send police in and its all just a big gag when they get there and everyone has a big laugh.

Oh wait, no, people have gotten killed. :(

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EmeraldFox

Just takes one cop and one really itchy trigger finger

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Skoryy

Saturday, I was musing over possible ideas for a Staff / Dark brute after perusing the Homecoming forums. Sunday afternoon, I finally came up with an idea. Tonight, Phantom Lass dinged 30, has brought me a few positive tells about her costume and background, and I’ve even picked up a couple of new global friends!

This is the one thing that I really haven’t been able to replicate in Guild Wars 2 or anywhere else. Trying to be in-character while on an adventure usually requires having guildmates along for the ride. In CoH, I can just hop in on any group, start a bit of light roleplay, and we’re off! I missed that.

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Bruno Brito

Welcome, you all. To the TRUE world of private servers.

Now, in all seriousness, the CoX community has a fame of being one of the most awesome communities ever. There lies their chance to prove it, by squashing those harassments, and saying a big “NO” to the people trying to ruin their fun.

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Leandro Pardini

I just got home so I missed on commenting on this story, but the “hacking attempt” most likely is because COH runs on Windows servers, and two weeks ago a very nasty vulnerability was patched in the Remote Desktop service going all the way back to Windows XP. It’s going by the nickname “BlueKeep” and every single Windows server out there is being hammered with attempts to exploit this; this is not relevant to COH. As long as you keep up with standard security practices (don’t use standard ports, firewall ports not in use, keep your operating system up to date) you’re fine.

More info: https://www.zdnet.com/article/intense-scanning-activity-detected-for-bluekeep-rdp-flaw/

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Etharion Ethie

This right here. I make no claim one way or another as to the details of said hacking event, but recently there have been a lot of really nasty security vulnerabilities popping up. Make sure Chrome is up to date if you’re using it, and keep your Windows updates active if you haven’t been; it’s getting pretty unpleasant out there this year.

I’m just glad I’m in a Discord for a streamer who did a lot of work in IT security in the past so he keeps us apprised of exploits like this the moment they came up. Saved my bacon more than once…

(Thanks Ferret!)

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Tobasco da Gama

Gee, I wonder why that one team didn’t want anybody to know about their private server.

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Dug From The Earth

people are unpredictable. This could have happened on the private server. All it would have taken is for one player to get disgruntled and be an inbred sociopath.

Sure, as the population goes up, so does the chance of something like this happening. Its like how there are more murders in big cities (usually)

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TheDonDude

I may have overdone it with City of Heroes this past weekend.

Three Impervious Task Forces, a Citadel TF, more radio groups than I can count, a full 10 hero Alignment Tip mission group, the Summer Blockbuster, the Penelope TF (where’s Sister Psyche at???) and about four Rikti raids (so good for merits!). And frankly that’s only a tip of the iceberg.

My main (Rad/Rad Defender) is a beast, gettin’ into the Incarnate stuff and grabbing all sorts of set bonuses. There’s always that little whisper in the back of my mind that asks if he would have been more powerful as a Corruptor, but I tell that voice to shut up.

Meanwhile, I’ve been working on my Claws/Bio Stalker. omg they completely redid Stalkers, and removed all the suck! Now Stalkers are… good! Both solo and in teams. It’s really phenomenal. He started as a villain but went rogue (the good ol’ fashioned way. None of that that Null the Gull cheat for me!). The CoV arcs are amazing.

He will be a worthy second character, able to tackle blue or red content as needed.

Annnnnyhow, Homecoming is pretty great. Far less lag than before, and the upcoming changes look nice. Cooldown timers? Sign me up!

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ogged451

where’s Sister Psyche

Play the first of the signature story arcs. It’s called “Who Will Die?” I think the first part starts in Skyway for heroes. The whole arc has seven parts.
At the end you’ll learn who of the “Surviving Eight” isn’t so good at surviving anymore.

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TheDonDude

Oh man, more content I need to go through. Hope it can be solo’d ok.