Part 2 of an interview with City of Heroes Lead Designer Melissa Bianco. Will there be a City of Heroes 2? Are future graphical upgrades coming? What can she tell us without killing us?
PCGE: City of Heroes has done something few other MMORPGs has done by releasing the Mission Architect mission editor, so players can make their own missions. Why do think other MMORPGs haven’t followed suit to create more mechanisms for community-made content?
MB: I can’t speculate why other games do or not do things, but I do know that a huge feature like this takes a lot of work, can be very tricky to implement, and is only as successful or unsuccessful as those who utilize it and how they utilize it. We are blessed to have a player-base that loves to tell stories and we’ve also been quite successful at incorporating industry heavyweights as part of our Guest Author program.
PCGE: City of Heroes has done an outstanding job of continuing to add new animations, power effects, costumes, and other content to their character creation system. But visually the game is definitely showing its age. Will we see future visual improvements?
MB: Part of the joy and frustration of creating a visual style that is bound in “heightened reality” is that as graphics capabilities adjust, they are the new bar to which you are measured. Stylistic games, by definition, are not bound as heavily by this restriction so they have much more leeway in this regard.
So to answer your question, yes, you will see future visual improvements. We’re always looking for opportunities to upgrade, which was the whole reason behind Issue 17 “Dark Mirror” and the Going Rogue expansion. Praetoria is breathtaking and it utilizes all of the new graphics technology we implemented, which was the whole point of our graphics engine upgrade; it was the tip of the iceberg to constant graphical improvements which we’ve been implementing ever since.
PCGE: Will there be a City of Heroes 2?
MB: Oh, I love saying this: No comment. Until we officially announce something, I do not speculate on it. I have seen the rabbit hole where that leads and it’s cavernously dangerous so I am choosing to side-step.
PCGE: Your Alpha Slot and Incarnate System add more ways for players to advance their high-level characters. Interestingly, City of Heroes has never increased the level cap in the game throughout its long history of updates. Why did you choose to introduce the Alpha Slot/Incarnate System instead of just increasing the level cap for the game?
MB: City of Heroes dances to the tune of a different drummer. Yes, we can just add a new level cap and players hit it (for some people, it’s a day) and then they’ve hit the ceiling. But with the Incarnate System it’s more than just a level cap, it’s an entire basis of your character’s abilities and provides an incredibly challenging experience that feels more rewarding than just attaining another level. Yes, they become more awesome, but it has much more meaning. The incarnate system also allows us to explore the whole story behind the Well of Furies and how your character ties into it, which is something we can’t wait to share with more people.
PCGE: What can you tell us or tease (without having to kill us) about future City of Heroes updates? What ‘s on the horizon?
MB: We’ll be expanding on the world of Praetoria and we’re hard at work on the Incarnate System, which will be an ever-expanding system. We have some amazing content coming that players have been begging for and there are always the long-term goals we’re working on.
PCGE: Are there any plans to follow a Cataclysm-like mold and just blow the whole damn world to hell and ‘re-write’ old regions of the game?
MB: We’ve already been doing that, to a degree, with revamping of zones like Faultline and Rikti War Zone. But yes, it’s come up that wouldn’t it be fun to completely redo Boomtown into Baumton again. Or bring back Woodvale. Or decimate Atlas Park. Are there any hard-core plans on that score? I’m not saying.
PCGE: Any plans for new giant monsters?
MB: Absolutely. There are always plans for new Giant Monsters and we always have something in the works. They’re cool, players love them, and there’s nothing like watching a massive entity coming at you with vengeance in its eyes as you pool together a few Heroes or Villains to take it down.
PCGE: Issue 19 makes the Fitness Power Pool inherent, which seems like a long overdue change (as is merging all the monorail and ferry lines). Even 3-5 years ago the ongoing wisdom was always to take the Fitness Power Pool and pretty much max it with enhancements. Why did it take so long to make the decision? Were there technical limitations that needed to be addressed first?
MB: We’ve had 19 free issues since launching and we try to put in as many quality-of-life improvements as we can in each issue and we’ve done a great job doing that. As for technical limitations, that’s always a factor in any major change, but we wanted to make this work so we worked through it.
PCGE: Going F2P has clearly been a winning move for Turbine. Dungeons & Dragons Online and Lord of the Rings Online have both benefitted heavily in terms of subscriber numbers from switching to this model. City of Heroes already has an in-game store. Will City of Heroes eventually go completely F2P?
MB: I won’t even begin to speculate on something as big as that. But I will say this, we want the game to be fun and enjoyable for our players and we always want them to feel like they’re getting “more” than their monthly subscription hence free issues every few months. That philosophy has never changed so we’re always looking at ways to incentivize their continued loyalty while at the same time making ourselves accessible to new players.
[That’s all Melissa had time for this time around, and I just arrived in sunny Maui for a little vacation time. Rest assured we’ll be talking to the City of Heroes folks again!]