We stopped by the Naga Theater at the Hynes Convention Center to check out the City of Heroes panel, "Re-Inventing a Superheroic MMO" at PAX East this weekend and we've got quite a bit to talk about! The panelists included: Senior Design Lead Matt "Positron" Miller, Producer Jesse "Ghost Falcon" Caceras, Design Lead Melissa "War Witch" Bianco, and finally City of Heroes Art Lead David Nakayama.
The panel kicked off with a bit of a Cryptic Studios/Paragon Studios 101, going back over City of Heroes' storied history as far back as the inception of Cryptic Studios. Of the original launch team, four members are still around. Curiously, they mention that when Cryptic Studios sold off the IP most of the original CoH team decided to stay with City of Heroes over at NCsoft instead of sticking with Cryptic, yet only four members are still a part of the City of Heroes team. Perhaps many have left since then? Or perhaps they are working on a super secret project on another team? Hmm!
Following the discussion of the game's history, the speakers got right into the topic of the panel: keeping their MMO fresh. In order to accomplish this, they ran through a number of the features the team has added to City of Heroes since launch. They went through features such as: capes and auras, weapon and power customization, and the innovative Mission Architect. Ultra Mode was then discussed, shifting to features that are on the horizon (Ultra Mode is part of Issue 17: Dark Mirror, which is in Closed Beta currently). As many of you know, Ultra Mode will include realistic shadows (shadows that react to the time of day), self shadowing, which doesn't really need an explanation, planar and reflective cubemaps (enhancing the reflective surfaces in the game to reflect the world around them, including water and costume parts), and finally, ambient occlusion, which is a subtle effect that adds shadows to corners that allows objects and surfaces to pop out a bit more.
The team then gets right into the meat of Issue 17: Dark Mirror, discussing the revamped Positron Task Force so it no longer "sucked," as well as a re-balance of XP rewards from the Mission Architect so that they scale with the difficulty of the critters being defeated in player created missions. This means that enemies that players can normally steamroll will be worth less XP, while harder enemies will reward players with more XP. The major determining factor here is the type of powers the enemy has access to. An enemy with a dangerous combination of powers is going to be worth more. Auction Houses will see a bit of a UI update, and players will finally be able to send items through in-game mail.
Matt "Positron" Miller then discussed one of the more mysterious features of Issue 17: Dopplegangers. He mentions that the team teased fans by stating that we'd be "facing an enemy you've never faced before." That enemy, it turns out, will be yourself. The work done on the Mission Architect, which required going through every power in the game so that it could be attached to an enemy, enabled the developers to bring the Doppleganger feature into the game. The system will create mirror images of party members on the fly while they are in missions; the dopplegangers may have the players' original powers and look or may have an entirely different array of powers, or even an opposite costume.
At this point, the crowds had heard enough about Issue 17, it was time to get into the good stuff: Going Rogue, and boy were there some surprises! Matt began by talking about the entirely new 1-20 storyline content that will be available in Going Rogue, which has been crafted using all the bells and whistles and other tech that the team has created for the game over the past six years. Players will be able to create a new character in Praetoria, that character will start his or her career as a neutral character, neither hero nor villain. As players progress through the new 1-20 content they will make choices that determine whether they are a loyal to Emperor Cole or opposing him as a member of the Resistance.