One of the greatest MMOs in history (at least according to my beliefs), City of Heroes, was shut down by NCsoft in November of 2012. It was probably one of the saddest days of MMO history because it was such a wonderful game, regardless of the little nuances that needed to be fixed (but isn’t that the way it is with most computer games?). But Paragon Studios (the development house that maintained the game) was a part of NCsoft, and NCsoft had a history of closing down beloved games (it was only a few years before in February of 2009 that they shut down Richard Garriott’s ground-breaking Tabula Rasa). So, it shouldn’t have been much of a surprise that NCsoft was going to be closing down yet another.
The funny thing is that a year or so ago before they closed City of Heroes, I had just gotten back into the game, joined a guild (or whatever they were called in that game) and was playing on an almost daily basis. And then they announced the servers were going to be closing. I was devastated.
City of Heroes was a really unique game. On the surface, you created a custom-made superhero with all sorts of interesting skills, and then you went into the game to stop bad guys all over the city. There were “dungeons” or operations where you went into specific scenarios and fought bad guys. And as simple as it sounds like it was, it was a lot of fun.
A couple of games tried to capture that same kind of spirit (or concurrently attempted to do so), such as DC Universe, Champions Online and Marvel Heroes (remade as Marvel Heroes 2016). A number of superheroes MMOs came along later, but so far, none have matched the fun and complexity of City of Heroes.
One of the things that made City of Heroes (and then City of Villains that came later before it was collapsed back into City of Heroes) so unique was the different levels of play built within the game itself. I don’t mean “easy” or “hard”, but the levels of play designed within the game as in when you’d be playing the game, you might start to discover that there was more under the surface than what you were playing. I discovered this the last time around (I’d quit and restarted in that game a number of times). It’s like the old Everquest where you’d be playing an area for months, constantly grinding the content, only to discover that there was a secret door hidden in a wall you’d been walking by so many times before. And that would open up a whole new way of playing that you didn’t even realize was right there in front of you all along.
City of Heroes felt like that from time to time. You’d be playing along and then suddenly realize there might be more under the surface, and once you found it, your whole concept of the game became that much deeper.
So, for years, we all felt sad as this game was lost to us. NCsoft still makes numerous games that are well played today (I still play Guild Wars 2, another of their titles). So many times I remember reading an essay about how someone wished the game would be remade so we could all play it again.
And then a recent report (see the embedded link) indicated that a pirate server of City of Heroes has been active for years. Keep in mind, this isn’t an official version of the game, but an unauthorized version of the game, maintained by someone who may or may not have been profiting off the game (I don’t know enough about the situation to say one way or the other). And if that’s the case, then there’s a really strong chance that NCsoft is going to crack down on them like Disney going after a company sporting a mascot of a mouse with big black ears or Star Wars after anything involving, well, anything Star Wars-related. Companies aren’t really fond of anyone else using their intellectual property.
So the hope is that NCsoft doesn’t crack down, or even better, realizes that there’s still a strong interest in this game and goes out of their way to give us an updated version of this beautiful vision. But they’re much better at shutting things down, so I’m not holding out a lot of hope.
So, the story is relatively new, which means anything can happen. Which also means that something good can come out of this, and even though the chances are slim, perhaps something wonderful can happen from this.