Breaking the Silence

It’s been a little over a month since the announcement that City of Heroes would be shutting down for good, a day that players of the game have been referring to as Black Friday. For the most part, NCsoft had been silent since that announcement. The only official things that players heard were how those who had unused subscription time would be refunded and what events would be held in-game leading up to the end. Everything else was left up to speculation, or third party back channels. We knew that there were some negotiations going on between NCsoft and what was formerly Paragon Studios in an attempt for the latter or someone to acquire the game from the former. On Monday, NCsoft broke its silence.

City of Heroes® Players and Fans,

We wanted to let you know that your voices have been heard and your concerns have been taken into serious consideration. We appreciate the overwhelmingly constructive and positive messages in the emails, notes, and packages you’ve sent in support of the game. It has not been an easy decision for us to close Paragon Studios® and prepare to shut down City of Heroes. We’ve exhausted all options including the selling of the studio and the rights to the City of Heroes intellectual property, but in the end, efforts to do so were not successful. City of Heroes has a special place in all of our hearts, and we want to ensure its reputation and the memories we share for the game end on a high note.

Once again, we will be holding events throughout the process of preparing for the game’s end, and we encourage players and fans of the franchise to join forces and enjoy their time in a game that we’ve enjoyed supporting for more than eight years.

The NCSOFT® Team

Almost immediately, the response from City of Heroes players, almost unanimously, was this: We don’t buy it. Well, it probably wasn’t worded as nicely as that, but you get the point. Most seem to think this was some sort of public relations effort to quell the outcry against NCsoft (There are people who have taken to refer to the company as “the MMO Killer”.) and to placate the City of Heroes player base. What do I think? I don’t really know what to make of it. I don’t know anything about the negotiations that were supposedly going other than what I’ve been able to read on the Titan forums, which was basically that there were negotiations. What I do know is that it served no purpose other than to seemingly throw a ton of gasoline on the fire.

While no doubt there are people who took this announcement to mean that this is it for the game (and there are some who took the original closing announcement as such), I don’t think I’ve seen the resolve of the players higher than it has been in the wake of this latest announcement. Within hours, countless new members made their first post on the Titan forums, proclaiming their readiness to continue the fight to keep the game alive. It was quite interesting, and exciting, to see the rallying of the players again.

So, where does that leave things now? Well, TonyV, the man leading the charge at Titan, addressed the players gathered there in the immediate aftermath of the announcement, as well as NCsoft itself. The main thing that I took from the post to the players was that Tony feels that the efforts of Titan should now be fully focused on reverse engineering the game engine. Up until this point, the main goal was to try and preserve the game as is, as well as much of the Paragon Studios staff as possible, outside of the NCsoft umbrella. While there is still a chance that NCsoft could still change its mind, that outcome seems tremendously unlikely at this point. The reverse engineering effort seems to be the way to go now. That brings up the question of the legality of such an effort, which Tony addressed a few days before the latest announcement. It seems like a legal venture, but one not without its hurdles to overcome. Titan has done some great things with the game already, including the Sentinel+ Extractor, so it will be interesting to see what the team put together (or pull apart as the case may be) with a little under two months left to go in the game.

Yesterday, Jessie Lawrence, one of the few people left in the Paragon offices and the one who has the unenviable task of being the main liaison between NCsoft and the community at this point, hosted a stream on Twitch.tv to communicate with the players. As most of us probably suspected, he couldn’t say much about the NCsoft announcement. Also present in the chat for the stream was Matt Miller. He was also quite limited in what he could say about the announcement and the state of things, but he did mention that they were required by California state law to be given 60 days notice, so in effect, their working contracts with NCsoft will be up on October 31st. Matt hinted about a new project if he’s not hired by then, which should be interesting. Despite their limitations, it was nice of both Jessie and Matt to take the time to talk to the players.

That’s where things stand now. Titan is hard at work attempting to crack the code, so to speak. Many of the players are stepping up their efforts to convince NCsoft to realize that not all options have been exhausted. Still others trying to plan various aspects of an entirely new superhero MMO game (being referred to as Plan Z) to rise from the ashes of City of Heroes. What am I doing? Well, for starters, I’m planning to enjoy City of Heroes as much as I can in the next couple of months, just in case it is indeed the end. Aside from that, I am offering my platform to the City of Heroes community. Consider this an open invitation to the players of City of Heroes. Within the next week or so, I would like to do an episode of the ION GameCast dealing with City of Heroes. If any player would like to join me to discuss the game, or any of the efforts to save it, let me know and we can try and work out the details.

-Al Basler, ION Game Corner

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