Earlier this month, we finally got some hard info on Cold Iron’s Aliens Fireteam, the Alien-franchise shooter that’s been under wraps for six years while the former Cryptic devs who founded it tinkered on the game and teased its MMO pedigree. Last year, the studio was bought out by Daybreak, which itself was bought out by EG7 and appears to have pushed along the game’s development such that it’s finally coming out this summer.
Ahead of that launch, Craig Zinkievich and Matt Highison sat for an interview with IGN to talk about the game – though MMO fans might be more interested in the stuff they say that isn’t about Aliens, given that these two, along with Shannon Posniewski, have always been super likeable devs with a long history in the MMORPG genre thanks to their time at Cryptic Studios back in the day. For example, they’re asked about the Marvel MMO that Cryptic originally announced for PC and the Xbox 360 (I know, right?) way back in 2006, well into the run of City of Heroes. Fans will recall that Cryptic then sold the City of Heroes IP to its development partner NCsoft (and many of the devs stayed on under the Paragon Studios banner). Presumably, Cryptic would’ve devoted its superhero chops to the Marvel MMO, but instead, it was canceled in 2008, and the studio pumped out Champions Online and then Star Trek Online in quick succession instead.
“It wasn’t any sort of hardware limitation,” Zinkievich said about the reason for the Marvel MMO’s cancelation, noting that this was all a long time ago and he’s working from just his recollection. “It was just a collision of a lot of business decisions that were kind of outside the studio. We were really excited to be working on that game. It was fantastic working with Marvel during that progress. Some of the partnerships, I think, on the business side […] didn’t quite work out.” He also references the global financial crisis of 2009 as a factor, and both he and Highison discuss the challenges of getting tons of abilities and MMO interfaces to work on console and console controllers, that it would’ve been a more action-oriented experience than City of Heroes. (MMO fans will recall that Gazillion picked up the Marvel torch a few years later; that MMO was also canceled.)
As for City of Heroes, Zinkievich says he was “overjoyed” about the reception for the game when it launched back in 2004. “It was just amazing to have such a huge fanbase come,” he says.
“There was a lot about MMOs that we really enjoyed, but we really just wanted to make a super-fun superhero game where you can play with your friends and you can adventure and have stories, and we were super excited that people latched onto it. And I think that if I were going to choose between a super passionate, rabid fanbase and a super broad everybody-kinda-knows-that-the-product’s-there [base], I’d go after the rabid fanbase. And City of Heroes definitely has that.”
Zinkievich laughed at this point, specifically referencing all the rogue servers that have popped up over the last few years. “It’s just fantastic to see people still having a great time in Paragon City this many years later.”
There’s quite a bit more to the interview, if you’ve got an hour to listen, including thoughts on work-from home-challenges and the long string of corporate buyouts.