Into the Super-verse: How Ship of Heroes is winning the superhero race

    
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We all live on a ship of heroes

When it came to the explosion of spiritual successors to City of Heroes, there’s definitely something to be said about being first on the scene. City of Titans got out there with a Kickstarter in 2013 and raised an astounding $678,189 from fans desperate for a superhero MMO fix. Valiance Online tried its own hand at a crowdfunding campaign a mere year later but had to cancel it as it struggled to clear $35,000. And by the time that Ship of Heroes came onto the scene in 2017, players were no longer turning out in droves to fund these projects. Its own Kickstarter also was shut down before completion.

Yet a strange thing started to happen. This SuperJohnny-come-lately started to close the gap with the other two projects. While Titans and Valiance’s development has lumbered on with – let’s be honest – only brief bursts of meaningful progression, Ship of Heroes set ambitious goals and kept on meeting them. Dev diaries came out on a frequent basis. Plenty of videos and screenshots were posted to help fans envision playing in this world. Limited tests started happening. And now, by the end of this month, a playable character creation system should open up to at least backers, if not more.

While the future dominance and success of Ship of Heroes is by no means assured, I think it’s definitely become the strongest candidate of the three CoH spiritual successors in development. How did this happen? How did this MMO project come into an overcrowded and very niche field with far less crowdfunding – and start lapping its competition?

A game run by quartermasters

I’ve heard it said that armies that win wars do so not because of excellent generals but because of excellent quartermasters. I take that to mean that while strategy is important, logistics and supply can be even more crucial, and this is where Ship of Heroes excels.

Let’s put this up front: None of the superhero MMOs in development appear to have game designers with high-level MMORPG development experience at the helm. They tend to be groups of volunteers, MMO fans, and pro designers who very often worked in other genres. That can certainly explain the slow pace of development for these types of titles. But even though Ship of Heroes has this same handicap, the team appears to be tightly organized and well-supplied from the start to approach this project as smart as possible. That suggests a clear vision, a clear understanding of the resources at hand, and a clear schedule that was doable.

Never underestimate the power of organization! Let’s take a look at Heroic Games. CEO Casey McGeever is claiming not game design but experience in business management, marketing, and helping new companies get off the ground. According to the site’s dev team page, McGeever “brings his combination of business discipline, intensity and creative problem solving to the development of Ship of Heroes.” None of that sounds remotely as sexy as “was the lead designer on the most amazing MMORPGs on the planet,” but it might well be far more important. I can think of more than a few MMOs that could’ve used a heavy dose of business discipline (ahem, WildStar) to keep a project focused and cohesive.

Pics or it didn’t happen

After organization, I think that what is helping Ship of Heroes succeed is simply getting stuff done — and then showing it. The team has been transparent about what milestones it has crossed and free to show and talk about the developing game as much as possible. This means that fans are being primed with spotlights on things like the auction house, travel powers, combat animations, signature heroes, the user interface, its cityscape, the mission difficulty slider, the leveling process, an engine upgrade, and group combat.

Did I mention that all of that is just from 2019 alone? And that’s not even everything the devs have done or talked about?

You see my point here. While we might get a post once in a blue moon from the other game, it’s too often nothing of consequence, while Ship of Heroes is bombarding fans with a nonstop stream of updates on the game’s demonstrable progress. And that type of meaningful communication that adds visuals as well as descriptions builds confidence in an upcoming title — not only that it’s going to happen, but that it’s going to be worth playing. Dev blogs and videos of upcoming games are always making a play for your time and interest because the team knows that if it can win you over, then you’ll start evangelizing it to your friends as well.

Love, true love

One final thing that I’d like to identify as something that’s very apparent from Heroic Games is that this dev team is madly and passionately in love with the superhero MMO genre (and City of Heroes in specific). This team is very vocal and effusive about its affection for the genre and community specifically, and that ends up being infectious.

I think what fans want most of all from a City of Heroes spiritual successor is a dev team that really gets what made that title special. And while I don’t want to disparage the dedication that I’ve seen from the other projects, they’ve gotten much more quiet overall through the years as they work on development instead of outreach, while the Ship of Heroes team is definitely not shy in being proud of its fandom roots. That truly helps to give this game an edge in its credibility as it seeks to establish a new IP with an indie studio.

Listen, I had a lot of serious doubts about Ship of Heroes when it first came on the scene. I felt it was unnecessary and had a wonky premise (a city… on a ship… in space? With superheroes?). But instead of talking big and failing to deliver, the team has set reachable goals and has been plugging away at those to fashion what seems to be an actually fun, full-featured superhero MMORPG that we could be playing sometime in the next few years.

Go, Ship of Heroes, go! I’m cheering you on, and I hope to see you cross that finish line of release proud and strong.

It’s a bird, it’s a plane, it’s Eliot Lefebvre and Justin Olivetti covering superhero MMORPGs, past, present, and future! Come along on patrol as Into the Super-verse avenges the night and saves the world… one column at a time.

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Golden Ace

Casey is outstanding. He is the driving force behind SoH. the biggest drawback for Ship Of Heroes / Heroic Games is funding. Had our kickstarter been successful we would be much further along. as is we have had to go slow, and use volunteers and be miserly about when we need to hire a specialist to do work. While we have had our disappointments and delays over the years we always overcome them (much like the superheroes we all want to play) and that is 100% Casey right there. I can’t say enough about him. He has a vision about how things should be, but he is willing to listen to his supporters. Many times he has changed things due to input by forum members. Nice article Massively. Much appreciated for spotlighting SoH and all of Casey’s hard work.

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Chosenxeno .

I’ve been saying for Months that SoH is clearly the lead dog…

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Andrew Sammon

Be first, be smarter, or cheat. It’s a hell of lot easier to just be first. But it is going to be very for some of us now that rogue City of Heroes’ servers are up to jump into SoH, or CoV, or Valiance…whenever those titles come out.

Demon of Razgriz
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Demon of Razgriz

I initially gave SoH almost no credible chance because of the initial push of CoT. But seeing that SoH might be the first to market I’ll definitely give them a chance. Hopefully the whole “superhero on a city spaceship” gets explained in-story.

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Utakata

“Listen, I had a lot of serious doubts about Ship of Heroes when it first came on the scene. I felt it was unnecessary and had a wonky premise (a city… on a ship… in space? With superheroes?).”

…yeah it sorta has that superheroes meets Arthur C. Clarke thing going for it. Though it seems to be turning out to be it’s charm in part. O.o

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Does not check email

I like that I do not hear from ship of heroes. Then they drop a well groomed video or statement.

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Witches

I just hope they can move past COH nostalgia and make a good SH game, i like COH but it’s 2019, i want a game that has the best parts of COH, CO and DCUO.

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Zero_1_Zerum

Sounds like they have what Star Citizen needs, good leadership and a clear game plan.

That said, I’m looking forward to all of the CoX successors. There’s definitely a market for new Superhero MMORPGS. And, I wouldn’t mind having more that aren’t bogged down by being Marvel or DC. As much as I like both, I want to be a super hero in a new world.

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Hikari Kenzaki

Welcome to the party, Justin.

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The City

This game is gonna be something special. city of titans is a glorified comic book and other one is glorified vaporware. Good thing that a modern game is releasing because city of heroes did not do it for me. It feels like a dated Champions Online with worst customization. I don’t see why everyone loves city of heroes. champions online is better for any modern superhero mmo gamer.

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IronSalamander8 .

CO does a couple things I like better than CoX, mostly the freeform character template and the ability to tweak how powers work, but otherwise CO never felt as good as CoX. By today’s standards they’re both pretty dated. I like both more than DCUO (barring graphics where DCUO is better than either), but DCUO has so many odd issues like powers and the UI, that hold it back for me.

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Witches

DCUO is a console game, two button combos and button combinations to activate powers are very unlikely to be popular with PC players, the only reason DCUO is on the PC is the DLC and microtransactions action, on console the game is 100% free you don’t have to pay extra for everything like on PC.

The 4 chars i have on COH would cost me 120€(90€) if i wanted them to be freeform in CO, the downside of a lifetime sub, is that all lifers can go play SOH or COT or really anything else for a couple of years, and you’re left asking people to shell out either 30€ for every (freeform) char or 300€ for lifetime for a game with super low population.

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Daniel Reasor

City of Heroes went live five years before Champions Online. Those five years in between were important ones in hardware and software development – Microsoft Windows made the jump from XP to Windows 7 in that time – so it’s natural that Champions looks better, but CoX had a lot of time to conquer players’ hearts before Champions came along. City of Heroes/City of Villains really just had the genre all to itself while players’ formative experiences were being made.

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Roger Christie

Eh. CO looks like a garbled mess to me. With the updates to graphics that CoH got, I like it just fine. Other than the original caves!

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Crowe

Yeah, I never thought Champions looked better. I’m not a fan of the artistic style used in CO though so that will be coloring my judgment. In terms of gameplay, CoH is far superior in my opinion. It was like Cryptic had tossed out everything they had learned and just threw random crap together for Champs. Before the Homecoming servers, I’d try out CO every couple of years… and couldn’t make it more than a couple of hours before uninstalling.