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Eric: It's been a long time, so here's a City of Something post. Just accept it and move on.

It seemed like the love affair was over.

Oh, I still liked super heroes. I liked the conventions. The spandex. The pummeling evil. The defeating of evil with glowing green rays coming out of my character's eyes.

However, sometime back in November, I got busy. Very busy. And then Christmas was busy. And January was staggeringly busy. And so I stopped logging in. Days between sessions of punching became weeks. And then months. It seemed like I just no longer cared.

I had fallen out of love with City of Heroes.

I went back to it, finally. Got back together with my cadre of hero pals. But it just wasn't the same. They were still full on synchronized in their banter. They still cared. They still wanted it. But I was running along behind, and kind of yawning.

Maybe it was because all the development love for many months now is going to City of Villains. And the next Issue of free content updates ("Destiny Manifest") is almost all Villain content as well. So going back and trying things out was very much the same old same old.

I thought about canceling. I mean, I wasn't that interested in City of Villains. Oh, I had playtested it. And I knew it was worthy. I knew it was good. But it wasn't for me. I liked playing heroes.

And besides, they were really, really pushing the City of Villains PvP content, and I detest PvP. At least in part because I suck on toast at it.

Hey, I'm honest. Give me that much.

Well. I got together with my friends during the "Valentine's Event," but it seemed like a last hurrah.

And then last week, I made a new City of Villains character. Somewhat randomly, mind. In fact, the whole reason I did it was because I wanted to make a character wearing a lab coat. That's all. So I made a doctor, and decided to make that doctor a Mastermind. Masterminds, you see, control henchmen. They control ninjas. Or robotic minions. Or soldiers. I've played them before, during the playtesting, and they're fun.

Well, I decided to give this character a backstory. I always give my characters backstories. I'm into the whole "role play" thing. I know, I know, you can steal my lunch money later. Anyhow, I decided my character had been a medical student who was badly injured. Said medical student was then reshaped by the vivisectionist known as Doctor Vahzilok -- an archvillain from City of Heroes known for his Frankensteinian monsters and the reanimated flesh he sends out as waves of cadaverous zombies of death. Because my character had a decent amount of money for his "treatments," the character wasn't used as spare parts for an abomination of nature, but instead had organs largely replaced and flesh remade into a super powered wielder of darkness -- what in the game is called a Murk Eidolon.

Well, when Doctor Eidolon broke away from Vahzilok, the knowledge for reanimating and vivisecting flesh went along with. And so Doctor Eidolon commands not only the powers of darkness... but zombies! Better than zombies, even. Science zombies! Mu hu hah hah hah!

You get the idea. It's a role playing game.

Anyway, I started playing the character as a lark. Soloing, instead of teaming. In fact, I'm not even playing this Doctor Eidolon on my normal server.

And I discovered something.

City of Villains is a good game.

City of Villains is a really good game.

First off, I discovered I was able to solo, in a practical way. See, "soloing" is exactly what it sounds like. You're not gathering together with other players, teaming against the forces of... well, whatever. No, you're going it solo.

City of Heroes didn't do soloing well. At all. It could be done, with just the right build... but it was far too onerous. Level advancement, for someone who took missions instead of just hunting the streets and grinding out levels, took too long and didn't give enough rewards. The missions didn't chain together well -- there were "plot arcs," but they were relatively few and far between.

City of Villains, on the other hand, has a vastly more mature system of mission chaining. First off, thanks to the "newspaper" system, you're never without a mission if you want one. After all, we're supervillains. We don't wait to be given a mission. Sometimes, we flip open a newspaper, learn that Doctor Aeon's built a cool new thingammie, and realize "hey, I could steal that and get a ton of money for it on the black market." Or a psychologist releases a new book claiming your antisocial behavior stems from an unhappy childhood, and you get astoundingly pissed off and go kidnap her. Or you just decide to break some heads because you just like breaking peoples' heads.

Do enough newspaper missions, and you get to knock over a bank or a casino or the like. Knock over said bank, and you get a contact, who'll almost always put you into a full plot arc -- sometimes chaining you to other contacts who do further plot arcs.

And the contacts are brilliant this time. In City of Heroes, the contacts are almost cyphers. Sure, they're written in character... but there's only so many upstanding young environmental reporters or public defenders or taciturn men in black you can deal with before they all seem the same. The fight for justice is never ending, but it's also dull.

The contacts in City of Villains, on the other hand, are all over the freaking map. One of them doesn't like to be seen, so your contact is actually his car. His gigantic solid gold Cadillac, to be exact -- you can practically hear Isaac Hayes music in the background when you see him. (His "contact picture" in your list is his hood ornament.") And then there's the radio. See... one of your contacts is a radio. And when you listen to it... it almost sounds like... like they're talking about you. Giving you suggestions. Giving you hints. Passing you messages.

In other words? City of Villains has an entire mission chain being given to you via delusion of reference.

The missions themselves are delightfully villainous -- in a "high villain" style. You're not killing schoolchildren or selling peoples' daughters on the street for drugs. This isn't real evil. This is supervillain evil. You're taking nasty peoples' money and shutting down the generators to the television station before they can broadcast their exposé. You're picking sides and factions and playing them off each other. You're sneaking off to Paragon City and destroying their efforts to rebuild the war-torn sections of town so the "city of heroes" has to stay on the defensive. You're going back to Paragon City and blowing up some of their freaking superhero statues just to wipe the smug look off their smarmy little hero faces.

In City of Heroes, after a solid week of solo play, you'd be lucky if you had four or five plot arc "souvenirs" of your heroic exploits. And there's only so high a level you can become without teaming up with other folks or being really good at soloing.

In City of Villains, I and my undead horde of science zombies have been soloing for a week. And I've broken level 21. And I have twelve souvenirs of my exploits. Including a hat from when I went back to Paragon City's prison (which you break out of to start the game) and busted out a bunch more villains. And a report faking my own death and falsifying my involvement in an affair where one of the leaders of the corrupt military used me as a freelancer to take down some of his rivals. And a drawing of me from the future, that implies that the true horror of that future was born in my bloody, bloody hands. And a golden hub cap. Because everyone should have a golden hubcap on the wall of his trophy room.

I'm having fun. In a way, with my solid pack of zombies, I'm teaming by myself -- acting in a support role for my own characters. The zombies are freaking cuisinarts, too -- whirling dervishes of total death, though squishy enough that I have to stay close to heal them and weaken their enemies or else they'll be cut down and said enemies will want to eat my head, instead. I just recently got the power to take a dead zombie -- well, a zombie that's been hacked up. I mean, it was reanimated flesh to begin with -- and tear out his very soul and put it against my enemies. Think about it. Not only am I taking a dead man and making him do my twisted bidding... but even after that dead man is hacked to pieces, I'm ripping its spirit back out of its eternal reward and shouting "Hey! Get back to work! Being killed twice is no damn excuse!"

The graphics are lush and only get better. The ambient sound is a quantum leap ahead of City of Heroes. The opposition -- whether other villains, the horrific result of villainous activity gone awry, the police, superheroic paramilitaries or superheroes themselves -- is well designed and thought out. Clearly it would scale well if I were in fact teaming with other villains, but soloing is a joy, straight through past the current half-way point in levelling.

And I look back at City of Heroes, and I sigh a bit. It's showing its age now. It got some graphics tweaks when City of Villains went online, but that's not the same thing. And of course, all the new content has been going to City of Villains, so it hasn't really had anything exciting added to it since the "Forest of Dread" update (issue 5) last August or so. Really, at some point they're going to need to do a heavy overhaul of the mission trees and chains, to bring it up close to the level of City of Villains, and to be honest, it would probably make more sense to do a full on City of Heroes 2 instead.

I don't know.

City of Villains isn't perfect. For one thing, their constant drumming on the PvP bandwagon has gotten a small contingent of PvPers who've appeared, and who level up to the point where they can PvP, and then go do that -- PvPers who make the low level zones less pleasant than we're used to from City of Heroes, and not in a grand villain way. (I remember one particularly odious player stood next to the Quartermaster in Port Oakes and literally said "joing team]" over and over and over again, so anyone who showed up to buy or sell something got flooded out with requests to have someone pick him up and powerlevel him. (And why wouldn't he want to powerlevel. He was clearly just trying to get to the point where he could jump in the PvP zones. Man, I wish they had their own server or something.) For another thing, while the missions are meaty and fun, a lot of the time you really are just fighting other villain groups. I'd like a lot more bank heists and followup contacts -- maybe even a place where you can sell ill gotten loot. (There's a salvage system for bases, but there's no pawnbroker where you can buy and sell pieces of salvage, so you lose that chance to fence your goods.) And, weirdly enough, the NPC citizens of the Rogue Isles can be snarky to your face and you don't get to send your zombie hoard out to eat their sassy little brains before your eyes.

But that's minor. All I know is, I may have fallen out of love with City of Heroes, but there's a new obsession in my life. And that makes me very, very happy.

My girlfriend? Somewhat less happy. For the record.

Posted by Eric Burns-White at March 6, 2006 3:25 PM


Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 3:35 PM

I have to agree. I was ready to quit CoH, but CoV sucked me back in. And I've really enjoyed playing Scrapper Jack (my Brute).

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 4:19 PM

A few random observations:

If you intentionally choose to fail the "destroy the generators" mission, you get an entirely different souvenir. You don't get the end-of-arc XP reward, but I actually like the souvenir (a bootleg tape recording of a news broadcast that ends in Arachnos soldiers breaking into the studio and dragging the newscaster away) better than the "successful" one.

Heist missions will be replaced in issue 7 by "mayhem" missions, where you can destroy essentially everything in the zone—and, if you feel like it, rob a bank while you're at it. Also coming in I7 will be "empowerment stations" where you can turn a piece of salvage into a temporary power-up for yourself, which will be the next best thing to selling it.

Masterminds are great, aren't they? I've played a Robots/Dark to level 40, myself, and written a guide about it. You might find some interesting tips on the Dark side of it.

Comment from: Robotech_Master [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 4:25 PM

The one really annoying thing about CoV, which is probably less annoying to non-roleplayers, is that you don't get the same sort of latitude in terms of mission outcome as you get in City of Heroes. In City of Heroes, it's all about "defeating" the bad guys, "kill skuls" notwithstanding; whether you send them to hell or just to the Zig is a matter of your personal conscience, it makes no difference either way.

But in City of Villains there are a lot of times where you're told explicitly, "Leave no witnesses", "kill them all", and so forth. Which is all very well if your character is eeeevil, but if you want to play a more Robin-Hood or Lupinesque character, who's into robbery but not actually taking lives, it's a bit harder to rationalize.

Of course, this is by and large the sort of thing that only RP'ers worry about, and that causes non-RP'ers to think we're weird. :)

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 4:27 PM

With Scrapper Jack, I just play it as though he finds the job distasteful, but freelancing is like that...

Comment from: Eric Burns [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 4:45 PM

I just figure that my villain would see it as hyperbole.

Well, other villains I play. Doctor Eidolon sees it as potential spare parts...

Comment from: Christopher B. Wright [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 4:47 PM


Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 5:39 PM

I wandered into EQ1 a while back, just for old time's sake, and had the same feeling you describe about your pre-Villains visit. Ho hum, yes, yes, I remember this, but it's not grabbin' me as it used to.

Mainly because I can't solo there anymore. My main is a paladin, and SOE has poked and prodded at 'em til they just can't solo for squat past 45 or so, and even before that it's impractical. Blech. I *like* to log in, run over, kill Bad Guys, and feel like I've accomplished.. something.. even if I've only played for half an hour or so. Sometimes, I like to solo just 'cause I don't wanna be social, after a full day of bein' nice under fairly high stress, etc.

It's too bad, too, because I had soooo many buds on EQ1, but it's just not home anymore.

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 5:41 PM

Sorry for double-posting....

I thought about Villains, but .. uhm.. did I mention the Paladin thing? I have never found a truly evil character I could play with glee. Zombies? I would worry about the ethics of rippin' their souls out, cause that'd be wrong.

Granted, in WoW my main is a Tauren Shaman.. but she's not *evil,* per se, even though some of her allies are. The paladins in WoW are very playable, but oh. so. yawnsville. le sigh.

Comment from: Ford Dent [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 5:49 PM

Hey, don't knock the joy that comes from playing a pirate-turned-paladin!

Yes, I'm one of those RPers, what of it?

Comment from: larksilver [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 6:01 PM

I'm not knocking it. I have a paladin on the 3 servers I use (Uther, Khaz Modan, and Gorefiend, if anyone cares). There's just something missing from it.

Shoot, let's talk RP. My EQ2 (human) paladin is the namesake of my original half-elf paladin from EQ1, complete with a very rational explanation of how this came to be. RP'ers have more fun, in the long run, I think.

Comment from: alschroeder [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 6:23 PM

Oddly enough, given what kind of comic I create, I've played neither CITY OF HEROES nor CITY OF VILLAINS. The reason's very simple....

I'm afraid I'll start to play it, and never stop. Or at least not come up for air for weeks and weeks....

I know at least one fan has used a masculine version of Mindmistress, though, as one character.--Al

Comment from: cartoonlad [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 7:03 PM

The reason why I don't play CoH/V? The I6 upload/preload snafu that kept me from logging on the server for several days (as well as crashing my machine several times). This was with a limited time trial account -- when I asked their customer service if I could get an extension of time on the trial so I could actually try out the game, they refused. I wasn't happy with either their technical or customer support. I decided if they really didn't want me to give them my money, I wouldn't.

Comment from: arscott [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 6, 2006 11:53 PM

You know, of course, that it's only delusion of reference sometimes. Sometimes it's another supervillian trying to manipulate you, as in "A Lonely Place of Dying".

Comment from: gwalla [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 7, 2006 3:04 AM

I've been thinking of getting into CoV with a female character with poison robots. I would put her in a nurse's uniform, with a red-cross-in-slashed-circle logo, and name her Nurse Ratchet.

Comment from: Meagen Image [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 7, 2006 6:40 AM

We're all RPers here, dude. It's okay.

I've had CoV since shortly after it came out, but I just can't get into it. It's not wasted money, not exactly, since the bases have been very nice to have hero-side (and I'm looking forward to using some of the new costume pieces for my heroes).

I've made a few villains. The Mecha Mistress, my earliest one, is still only level 21. Running around saying "My robots will stab you in the face- with LASERS!" is quite fun. I'm also partial to Dominators. The zones are quite impressive, and the storyarcs interesting. But for some reason, I can never get *into* it properly.

Heroside, my main character (started playing in June last year) has just hit 40, and I've had my first taste of the Shadow Shard. (To borrow your expression, Eric: Dude.) Yeah, the Shard is about a year old, and everyone's like "been there, done that", but it's new and interesting to *me*.

Or maybe I just suck at being evil...

Comment from: Fishdinner [TypeKey Profile Page] posted at March 10, 2006 3:09 PM

So, I know I'm coming in a bit late on this, but what servers do you guys play on? I'm on Champion, m'self.

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