City of Heroes has been around for six years now, and first players clamored for a way to play villains which gave rise to City of Villains and PvP play, then if you have the good guys and the bad guys, what better next than to be able to switch sides? Thoughts of that particular game play feature has been fomenting in the game design team for a long time it seems, and finally, it will be available to players in the next update of City of Heroes, Going Rogue.
"Going Rogue is a journey your character goes on," said City of Heroes Lead Designer Melissa Bianco, "a journey exploring the shades of grey."
How it works is this; after level 20, players who are Heroes or Villains will get "tip" drops in games. These tips allow players to play special pivotal missions in which they make choices which affect their alignment. These missions eventually lead to a solo morality mission which will tip players over to the other side. Heroes become Vigilantes and they can remain there in the grey band or move totally over the other side to be a Villain, and Villains become Rogues and Rogues can become Heroes.
At Comic Con, Melissa was showing off their "new" city, Praetoria. I say "new" in quotation marks as Praetoria is an alternate universe that veteran players will recognize as it has shown up in game before. Now, it's fully fledged, populated with NPCs and missions, available for full play. Praetoria was built fully with the new graphics engine and looks sleek and slick. The graphical update is showcased in the robot-like clockworks as they move around the city performing tasks, their shiny body parts reflecting the scenery and sky. The sonic fencing that protects Praetoria is also revamped. "No blue walls," grinned Melissa, as she showed off other nifty graphics, like the open vistas and shimmering water in the fountains.
Ruled by Marcus Cole, a Praetorian version of Statesman and also known as Tyrant, players will also run across other alternate universe versions of other iconic NPCs in Praetoria - where the good are now evil and vice versa. Some names are diametric opposites, like Siege to Citadel, some are punny, for example, Synapse is Neuron in Praetoria.
Praetoria also provides players a new level 1 to 20 experience. In Praetoria, you are building a neutral character, neither Hero nor Villain, so all power sets are available, i.e. all 10 archetypes. Additionally, NCSoft is adding four new power sets: kinetic, electric, dual pistols and minion/demon summoning.
Emperor Cole built the capital of Praetoria into a safe haven where the citizens of the Empire can live in peace and prosperity. Under his iron fist, two factions have arisen. The Resistance and the Loyalists. The Resistance is bent on disrupting the smooth flow of the governance of Praetoria, and the Loyalists are keeping the Resistance at bay.
Entering the world, the tutorial leads you to making a choice between the Resistance and Loyalist factions. Until you make that choice, all NPCs are neutral - your targeting reticule showing yellow. The Resistance is basically an underground movement in Praetoria, and your faction is not broadcast, allowing you to play co-op missions with other players. You will take group missions with other players without knowing what their factions are. The group leader determines the direction of the mission, however, these group missions do not add faction points, and only your solo missions do. After level 20, is when your career segues into Going Rogue, where you decide where you are going or if you are going to stay murkily in the shades of grey between good and evil or if you will fully move into one faction or the other.
Praetoria and Going Rogue is what NCSoft is doing to step up the game, along with the graphical update to keep it fresh with new missions, dialogue trees and content. For a six year old game, the environments and characters in Praetoria still looks pretty darned good.