Superhero Shorts: City of Titans
Ok, it’s not entirely a traditional Superhero Shorts, there is a YouTube clip involved, but this is really about an upcoming independent game that was inspired by one of my favorite games of all time, City of Heroes. If you haven’t played City of Heroes, you missed out because it ran for many years before being shut down about a year ago now. After the shutdown announcement, there was an almost immediate push by a group of players to create a new game inspired by the old one we loved so much. Eventually that group of players split into two groups, and only a few days ago one of them, Missing Worlds Media, have gotten to the point where they were able to launch a Kickstarter campaign to secure funds to finish the game, and they were also able to take a little time out of their busy schedule to answer a few of my questions about the project. You can visit and contribute to the Kickstarter campaign right here which is running until November 4th, 2013, and you can also view the kickstarter video below.
Since City of Heroes has shut down, I’ve tried a handful of other games, but I’ve yet to find one that really captures the same kind of feeling and especially the character creation of CoH. I also think that one of the best things about City of Heroes was the community, and proof of that is obvious when you look at both the passion that this group of volunteers has for this game. They have come so far in just one year of working in their spare time alongside their full time jobs. Not only that, but the rest of the community stepped up to the plate when the Kickstarter was launched and the project has already reached its initial goal of $320,000 in a mere four days. That is an impressive community right there, not only that, but it’s a community that hasn’t forgotten its roots. It’s still out there, waiting for the right game to come along, and I really do hope that this is that game. It’s still a long ways off from completion, but I absolutely wish it the best of luck and I hope things keep going strong for this Kickstarter campaign and for the rest of the future of Missing Worlds Media. But enough from me, let’s hear from the great people who are out there making the game.
Bubbawheat: Support has been through the roof since launching the Kickstarter campaign, I know City of Heroes fans have always been a loyal bunch, but how does this compare to your expectations going into this?
Sara Quinn, company president: I am absolutely in awe of this community. I knew people wanted to help. I didn’t realize they were on the edge of their seats waiting for the chance.
Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: I am floored, flabberghasted, and humbled by the response. I had no idea of the response we were going to get. It changes nothing. My goal, one dollar or one million, is to make the best game I can, to match the vision of the city, and to make it live. The only questions are how fast it gets made, and how much of it we can make.
Nate Downes, technical director: Very humbled by this. It is easy to lose track of the outside world when you are nose-deep in code. It tells me that we are doing something right. Ultimately, it are those people who make this possible. We are but the chisel, they are the artist.
You only have a couple stretch goals to release mobile versions of the Avatar creator not too far above your 320k goal. Let’s go pie in the sky, what’s something that could possibly be on the table at a 1M stretch goal?
SQ: We actually have many more, but we’re going to be showing them as the lower levels are reached. note: they have already announced a new 500k goal of adding bonus auras and travel powers.
Our stretch goals are all about content at launch, because more resources will allow us to to things faster.
My personal pie in the sky goal, which would be at considerably over 1M, is to get to tell everyone on the project that they can quit their day jobs and focus on this. We have people working all manner of cruddy jobs to earn a living. If they could focus full-time on this… it would be glorious.
CWH: Pie in the sky? It’d be well over 1M, but there’s one thing I want to do, and have a plan to do, but we can’t budget in at the cost of the rest of the game. “Atomic Batteries to Power. Turbines to Speed.” But I won’t make promises I can’t cash right now. That being said, we have stretch goals above those displayed, and we’ll reveal them as we get closer.
ND: Our stretch goals boil down to more content at launch-time. Code-wise, I’m not worried. Writing, no fears there either. It is the artwork which will be the major hang-up. The more money we get, the more options for launch content becomes available to us as we can then tap middleware, freelance artists, etc. We have the mobile apps listed as our first two stretch goals as we will need the tools for the artists to make mobile-friendly versions of our front-end, for instance.
BW: I would like to briefly mention the other CoH successor, Heroes and Villains via Plan Z studios. They are also slowly making progress, and share many similarities to City of Titans, such as several references to both Phoenixes and Titans. Do you think both games can co-exist, or might it dilute the playerbase causing both to fail?
SQ: The shared references are due to shared origins, which I think is just fine- the concepts are ancient and well-known enough that they can’t really be trademarks for anyone in the modern day. I think there is room for multiple games, if they are well-done.
CWH: “They make the same references, because we spring from the same source, the Titan Network (Home of the Paragon Wiki and Mids Hero Builder). We chose to disagree over several points after the project started, but we developed several points of lore together, and agreed to share them at that split point, including the name of the city. If you look at our first Kickstarter Video, you will notice [Heroes & Villains' lead] Golden Girl’s name actually appears in the chat of the early shot of Multiverse Times Square. We feel there’s enough out there for both of us, and it is possible we could partner up where the opportunity presents. We are open for negotiations.
ND: There is a third successor as well, which started a few month after both CoT and H&V, that being Valiance Online.
Unlike both CoT and H&V, VO is using an already existing MMORPG system, a modified Unity developed by Silver Helm Studios for their game Legends of Etherell. We keep a friendly relationship with Silver Helm, and are keeping the option on the table for future partnerships where they can arise.
The key to all three efforts is that none of them duplicate the others. They each have taken a different focus. H&V is, from their descriptions, aiming to be as close to the original CoH as possible, a “drop in replacement” as Amanda called it not too long ago.
Valiance Online is utilizing a similar set of mechanics to CoH, but is using a different kind of comic book setting, one closer to V for Vendetta, Judge Dredd, and Marvel 2099, still super powered heroes, but in a future reflection which opens up new opportunities for development.
City of Titans is aiming for a next-generation game design, one which evolves the systems we are familiar with, learning from other games as well, with a heavy focus on player-created content. Each one has a different target, and there is plenty of opportunity for overlap between the three, along with growing the overall market.
BW: What is the one element of City of Heroes that it got so right that you want to be absolutely sure to bring it to City of Titans, aside from the two obvious choices: the community and the character creation?
SQ: Stories. In City of Heroes, there were actual stories, not just a series of kill targets and hunt quests. I haven’t seen that in any other MMO that I have tried. They have plots, but they’re more like backdrops than anything you got immersed in.
CWH:When you exit character creation, you are already super, taking on three or more enemies with every fight. Not one rat. You. Are. The. Hero.
ND: The idea of the players ability being independent of how they look. I hate how in virtually any other game how my player looks determines how well it plays. I don’t even know why most games bother with a character builder when their look will be wiped out before you ever leave the tutorial.
BW: What do you think is City of Heroes’ biggest misstep that you want to avoid with CoT?
SQ: Division of players into discrete, non-interacting groups. Originally Heroes and Villains, then after those were merged, the division between the core and Praetoria. It made players have to choose between exploring the new plotlines and being able to easily play with their friends, in a game where community was a massive draw. The result was a sad underuse of some really good content.
BW: I do admit that Praetoria had some amazing content, but it was practically a ghost town, and the increased difficulty made it harder to solo.
CWH: Two of them come to mind. One technical – baking in colors, locking out options. We’re doing our best to make everything modular we can. Proper Planning Prevents Poor Performance. The other one, though, was a concept issue. The Iconic Characters – Statesman, Recluse, their crew, were, until the very end, the paragons you could not aspire to match. We’re writing things a little differently. Our Iconics will be like you. Eventually, you’ll be better than them.
ND: For the era, CoH did a lot of things right. They could not anticipate where the market went after they launched. Their biggest misstep was not in their game, but in their marketing.
They were doing remarkably well in marketing, with their comic books alone selling over 200,000 copies a month. With most comic titles pulling in less than 20% of that, the comic books remained a fantastic marketing tool.
But they stopped paying for the artists, the quality diminished, and they were phased out. And you can see the direct drop of subscriptions as this downward slide as a result. I suspect their publisher saw the comics as a profit source, when they were properly marketing.
BW: Since changing to this name, are there going to be extra Circle of Thorns easter egg references for fans of CoH?
CWH: While I’m a fan of using obscure historical sects like Theosophy and Edgar Cayce’s Mu, we’re being rather careful about using any IP from City of Heroes at all, even easter eggs. Things will work out as they work out. However, it is possible there will be sinister cults doing rituals on rooftops in low level zones that you just can’t quite figure out how to get to.
BW: And finally, something I ask everyone I talk to for my site, what is your favorite superhero movie?
SQ: I’m really bad at favorites; I am usually lucky if i can narrow it down to a top 5. I have liked most of the recent crop, but I have been too busy to watch all of them yet.
CWH: So many choices. So many, many choices. Can you read my mind? Do you know what I’m thinking of?
ND: Watchmen (the directors cut) to me is one of the best movies ever made, Superhero or not. It deconstructs the entire genre and lays its soul out bare.
You can find elements in it which reflect in every other superhero movie made before or since. In the end, it shows that every hero is a flawed human being, even Dr. Manhattan. And that is what the entire superhero genre needed. I firmly believe that without Watchmen, we would not have the comic book hero movie golden age we are getting now.
Thanks again for talking with me, and at this rate there actually is a chance that you could hit your 1 million as in my “pie in the sky” goal. Can’t wait to see what happens in the next couple years. Here is the Kickstarter link once again so you can check out the updates and contribute to it yourself. Until next time, this has been Bubbawheat for Flights, Tights, and Movie Nights.