Into the Super-verse: A heroic year of superhero MMO development


As we get ready to tuck 2020 into the annals of history and venture into the wilds of 2021, it’s a good time for superheroes to kick back, down some eggnogs, and reflect on how their MMORPGs have fared over the past 12 months.

For the most part, this year didn’t shake up the status quo. Games that were already out continued on as usual, up-and-coming games meandered at varying paces through development, and an official deal between NCsoft and the City of Heroes’ new caretakers remained in limbo. But that’s not to say that everything was at a standstill, and in today’s Into the Super-verse, we’re going to go around the Super-verse to recap 2020 for each of these games. Up, up, and away!

City of Heroes

As I said at the start, if you were holding your breath that a legal agreement would’ve been hashed out between NCsoft and the rogue servers out there, you’d probably be dead by now. So streamers continued to remain locked out of broadcasting this title, and my personal hopes to see this actually become a thing diminished.

Fortunately, the various rogue servers did a great job keeping the actual game alive — and even improving it along the way! We saw the first anniversary of City of Heroes’ revival this past spring, with players clocking over 47 million hours into Homecoming alone. Homecoming’s big additions this year included asymmetrical costume parts, the Electrical Affinity support powerset, and Issue 27 with new story arcs.

There was a new “security-centric” City of Heroes server called Sunrise launch this past September, and the SEGS reverse engineering project made headway on getting an alpha to the public. If you’re shopping around for a CoH rogue server, by the way, we posted a comprehensive guide to the ones out there!


DC Universe Online

Most definitely the biggest news about this MMO was the early December revelation of DCUO’s numbers following Daybreak’s sale to EG7. It turns out that this superhero MMO is by far Daybreak’s biggest title, with 419,000 monthly users, 40,000 subscribers, and $26.7M in bookings.

The title had an action-packed ninth year of operation, too, with an episode that tied into the Birds of Prey comic book series and the mighty Wonderverse story arc. It even hopped around in time, thanks to November’s Long Live the Legion update. Add on regular events, and it was a pretty happening year all around!

Champions Online

It was a much slower year for the long-running Champions Online, but by no means a dead one. In February, heroes tackled the new Red Banner Ruin event, which was quickly followed up with the Serene Abyss serial story, a Wild West alert, and the ability to link accounts to Steam that same month.

Cross-game chat got killed in all of Cryptic’s games, including Champions, in early March, which was a bummer. But things got a whole lot better in April, thanks to the studio giving away free $30 freeform slots due to the coronavirus epidemic. Other 2020 happenings included a revamped Therakiel’s Lair in May, gender swapping costumes in September, and news that the Midnight Depths serial story was going to be delayed into 2021.

Valiance Online

While Valiance made some noise about wanting to launch this year, obviously the title didn’t even get close to making that happen. At least we got a few weeks of open beta (really, early alpha) time in August. Of my time in the game, I said, “Valiance has a genuinely pretty frame that’s still being built, but make no mistake — this one’s a while off from inviting the next generation of heroes to play for good.”

The team apologized in November for its “radio silence” for much of 2020, promising that work was still being done on the title.

City of Titans

This project didn’t see a lot of traction this year, either, which was a bit of a shame. City of Titans did show off its Alexandria beginner zone back in January, worked on its avatar builder, gave players a high-level overview of its city, and prepared to shift over to Unreal Engine 4 for development. Hey, if character builders are your thing, at least you got to enjoy the eye candy that the team put out in October!

Ship of Heroes

While we didn’t get a Ship of Heroes launch (when WHEN!), this year was jam-packed with good stuff from this team. The project upgraded to the latest Unreal Engine in January, demoed the martial arts, twin swords, and street fighting powersets in the spring, and sprung a “surprise beta” in March to help with COVID lockdowns (which attracted over a thousand people). Another public test happened in August to see how the game’s invasion mechanic functioned.

Really, it was just great to see so much communication from the dev team over the course of this year, including a look at the mission creation process. The best news? It looks as though Ship of Heroes is on track to launch in 2021!

Into the Super-verse

As a final note to today’s column, I thought I’d present to you all of the Into the Super-verse columns to date — you know, just in case you’ve got the cravings for superhero MMOs right now:

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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