When the design team sits down to discuss what is going to be in the next issue for the "City Of" games, we generally have some high level goals that we want to accomplish in that issue. With Issue 8 it was bringing more parity to the games of City of Heroes and City of Villains with Safeguard missions, and Issue 9 was adding a brand new far-reaching system with the Invention System.
With Issue 10 we decided to advance the storyline. Like any ongoing game we have many unresolved plot threads and each is a great opportunity for introducing new game content. Our first thought for Issue 10 was to bring back the 5th Column, a villain group that disappeared when the Council was introduced in Issue 3. But in the end we decided to focus on one of the greatest threats to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles, the aliens known as the Rikti. We had revealed a lot about the Rikti in the past, but there was always the looming specter of a second Rikti War. There were already plenty of missions that involve shutting down attempts by stranded Rikti to contact their homeworld. For current players, Rikti are a familiar enemy and remain a giant pain in the butt.
Sean Fish (aka Manticore) had already determined what happened with the Omega Team who sealed the Rikti in their home dimension to end the first Rikti War, but this was knowledge hidden to the players. They only knew that Hero 1 and a small band of magic heroes closed the portals from the other side, never to be heard from again. We knew that this was a big question that needed an answer for the players, so it became a central point not only to the game, but the comic book we publish with Top Cow as well.
We also determined that this update needed to incorporate both Heroes and Villains working together. The Rikti coming back are a huge threat, not only to Paragon City, but the Rogue Isles and the rest of the world. One thing we needed was a common banner for them to fly under, and that is how Vanguard came to be.
Up until this point Vanguard was only mentioned in billboards around Paragon City with fear-inciting slogans such as "They Are Still Among Us." They needed a bigger presence if they were to be the unifying factor for Villains and Heroes to rally under. I wanted them to be a very compartmentalized organization with each division having a distinct leader, all under a single commanding officer. I also wanted them to have an international flair.
Sean had finished designing a whole slew of Heroes for the Collectible Card Game, and was looking for a way to get them into the game. We poured over the cards and came up with some nice picks to fill out the group and the final incarnation found in the game is only slightly different from that initial draft session. (Dark Watcher was simply too cool not to include, as he would be a non-main character that tied the game, novels, CCG, and finally the comic together, he's like the Wedge Antilles of the "City of" universe.) With the players decided, we then needed to set the stage. We knew we wanted a zone re-work for this issue, and the Rikti Crash Site was the obvious choice. Unifying Heroes and Villains under the Vanguard banner allowed us to create content for all the players as opposed to just one of the two factions, never to be experienced by the other side.
We expanded the level of the zone to 35 and up, allowing us to add a lot of content to the 35 to 39 level range which our players have been enthusiastically requesting. We also gave the War Zone a good facelift like we did with the Faultline zone last year in Issue 8.
We transformed the Crash Site into the Rikti War Zone, adding in the Vanguard headquarters and redesigning many aspects of the zone. Adding Vanguard as a full on "group" allowed them to actually fight Rikti in the zone, meaning that even though the spawns are larger, players could wade in over their heads and get some help from the NPCs fighting near them.
Finally we wanted some cool things to do beyond just the missions and street fighting in the zone. We designed an entire raid-like zone event for the War Zone, and then the huge invasion World Event to kick the issue off. Both of these turned out cooler than we could have hoped, so much so that we tied part of the World Event into the new Task Force that the issue brings. Succeeding on mission five of the six mission Task Force fires off an instance of the World Event in a random zone. This means that players will continue to randomly experience the World Event indefinitely.
All of this hard design work would have been for nothing if we didn't do something to improve the look of the Rikti themselves. Matt Harvey, the original City of Heroes Lead Artist was contracted to create concept art for the new Rikti, and that became the basis of the new Rikti models in Issue 10. The Rikti are a MUCH more visually striking group to fight now. No more naked Rikti running around with surfboard swords!
All in all, Issue 10: Invasion has been incredibly gratifying. We're moving forward an important storyline, and introducing really fun new gameplay in the process. I think we accomplished all our goals with Invasion, and I hope you all agree!