NCsoft has officially granted a City of Heroes server license to the Homecoming crew

Following years of negotiations and delay


City of Heroes fans are in for a treat today – or a shocking surprise they were convinced was never coming, depending on their level of cynicism. Readers will remember that back in 2019, players leaked the existence of functioning City of Heroes rogue server, using code handed to a player by a former Paragon developer and kept more or less secret for the (then) six years since the game’s abrupt and frustrating sunset back in 2012. The revelation and then confirmation sent the still-angry City of Heroes community into turmoil as would-be community leaders fought for control and ownership over the code and the players themselves. Ultimately, the the secret server released the code to everyone, and more than a dozen emulators sprang forth, some of which have continued development ever since.

The largest of the groups – the one rooted in the original – is called Homecoming, and it’s not only extensively developed the game as funded every month by the playerbase but also spent its first years of existence telling players that it was negotiating with City of Heroes’ corporate owners, NCsoft, for the legal right to do so. For nearly four years, NCsoft has tacitly allowed the servers to exist during the negotiations, with minimal objections and regulations that served largely to codify Homecoming as the core server group more than anything.

But the big news today is that Homecoming has finally done it: NCsoft has finally officially sanctioned the Homecoming team as the official licensee of the City of Heroes IP, meaning that everyone playing on Homecoming’s multiple servers is now officially playing a legal version of City of Heroes once again.

NCsoft and Homecoming made the announcement official as of this morning, though players who downloaded the new EULA or read the new TOS were likely already been tipped off to the news.

On Homecoming’s forums, the groups stress that while this license allows Homecoming to legally and openly host and develop the game, the ownership still belongs with NCsoft itself. The player-led group, which claims a “positive and productive” relationship” with NCsoft, will continue to fund using player donations as it does now, with the same strict transparency rules and a higher target to build up a “recovery fund” in the event of a downturn. In fact, it will finally be completing its original plans to register as a non-profit organization. Either way, don’t expect a sudden sub fee. There also won’t be any server resets, nor will NCsoft be given access to Homecoming players’ data, although going forward, the team will support only the Homecoming launcher.

Most notably, Homecoming won’t be going open source, and its newly acquired license does not extend to other server groups. “Other servers are out of scope,” Homecoming says. “Our hope is that our license will help us consolidate our userbase with City of Heroes fans from other servers.” That said, Homecoming’s FAQ says that it will be “forming a new leadership group” called the City Council, which will include Homecoming leaders along with “representatives from the other servers [that Homecoming admins] have been working with.” There’s no public list of these servers yet, but we gather it’s not all of the servers in existence; it is our understanding that the non-sanctioned servers will be allowed to continue without interference or license as they are now, provided they don’t make too many waves or bring infamy to the game’s IP.

We’d ourselves noticed that Homecoming had been surprisingly quiet throughout 2023, but Discord rumors suggest that the team has been holding back content during the last year as negotiations – which presumably stalled during the pandemic and then again during the mass layoffs at NCsoft West last year – had resumed. That means players can likely expect a large chunk of content to roll out sooner rather than later, although we still don’t have details. Furthermore, the studio says it “will be expanding the development team” to furbish up its content stream, although these positions will remain unpaid as they are now.

We dispatched a round of questions to Homecoming this morning; specifically, we’ve asked more questions about long-term funding, the license itself, server load, dev compensation, which servers will be included under the council umbrella, and of course, when we’re getting all the banked content. Stay tuned! [Update: That interview is now live here.]

Source: Homecoming
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