Looking at the Guest Author Program
Paragon Studios recently unveiled the first batch of Guest Author arcs for its Mission Architect system in City of Heroes. These arcs are written by established authors in various mediums and genres and feature a unique take on their work filtered through the City of Heroes game world. The writers for the first round of Guest Author arcs are Bill Willingham, Scott Kurtz, and the Rooster Teeth production group.
Bill Willingham, today best known for his work on DC/Vertigo's wonderful Fables comic, writes "Quest For Magic" (arc ID 337434), my full review of which can be found here. It's a well-written and straightforward storyarc, filled with rich details and character back stories. It unfortunately also has a pretty obvious plot twist, but if you can get past that (and it shouldn't be difficult to do so) it's a fun arc that I'd highly recommend. The Rooster Teeth gang, best known for their machinima Red vs. Blue series, contribute two arcs to the series. Both of their arcs (arc IDs 337438 and 337436) feature Captain Dynamic and the Great Face, characters they created in a series of live-action shorts for Paragon Studios promoting the Mission Architect prior to the MA's launch. I'll be reviewing the Rooster Teeth arcs in detail in the near future, but for now I want to take a look at the other writer in the inaugural Guest Author series.
Scott Kurtz is the mastermind behind PvP, a web comic featuring a fictional video game magazine company and its employees. Kurtz's City of Heroes Guest Author storyarc, "OMG it's the LOLBAT!" (arc ID 337435) has characters from the PvP strips, not the least of which is, unsurprisingly, LOLBAT himself.
Scott Kurtz Guest Author Review (Spoilers)
I wasn't expecting "OMG it's the LOLBAT!" to be a serious story like Bill Willingham's "Quest for Magic," and I soon found out that I wasn't wrong in that assumption. Fans of PvP either love or hate LOLBAT (there's really no in-between), but no one would argue that he should be taken seriously. Kurtz's arc is filled to the brim with internet memes. There are plenty of purposely misspelled words, lots of dangerous "epic failz" and even some cheeseburgerz thrown in for good measure.
LOLBAT's first mission involves a bank robbery. The crime is apparently being perpetrated by... rats, of all things. One of LOLBAT's enemies, Monsieur Rongeur, is behind the bank robbery. He and his "Rongeur Ratters" (recolored Redcap mobs) have to be stopped. He mentions taking the "first step towards the new society." When you defeat Rongeur, he says that he's not really defeated. We'll see about that.
When you return to LOLBAT, you learn that Monsieur Rongeur has escaped, but at least you got his list of evil plots. You don't have time to reflect on this odd situation before LOLBAT tells you about another of his strange enemies. Croc Pot leads the Culinary Institute of Evil, a group that wants to force Paragon City's citizens to eat healthier. I can think of evil plots with worse ramifications, but I wouldn't let them take away my Big Mac either, so I have no problems stopping whatever it is they're up to.
Stopping Croc Pot and his evil Culinary Institute consists of rescuing a few hostages, including employees and customers of the unhealthy Paragon City Burger restaurant. The customer you rescue apparently is more concerned that he almost had to eat salad than at being captured by super powered villains. As you beat on Croc Pot (think Killer Croc from Batman, only as a cook), he informs you that, as a matter of fact, people CAN'T has their cheezeburgersz. Or have their cheeseburgers. Whichever you prefer.
Having taken care of Croc Pot and his healthy chefs (and finding a recipe for mind-control custard), you return to LOLBAT, who is now surrounded by people eating, of course, their hard-won cheeseburgers. Next up is a fight against the Scrabbler, who wants to take over, or perhaps destroy, the Paragon Newspaper.
This mission is different in that you must figure out the Scrabbler's puzzle traps in order to draw him out and avoid trouble caused by getting the puzzles incorrect. Fortunately, this isn't too difficult since you're given a clue for figuring out the puzzles. The Scrabbler himself is a pushover -- and there's a reason for that. Turns out he's just a decoy to keep you busy while LOLBAT is captured!
You discover a tape recorder when you rush back to where you've been meeting LOLBAT. You hear Monsieur Rongeur's voice when you press "play." He's captured LOLBAT and forced him to eat Croc Pot's mind control custard, turning him into a bad guy! They're planning on using him to make the entire world speak in internet memes like he does! It's pretty diabolical. Rongeur's banking on you not wanting to fight LOLBAT because he's your friend, but he undoubtedly underestimated just how annoying LOLBAT can be. Fighting him, as it turns out, isn't really a problem for you.
For the last mission, you'll need to defeat all the baddies from the arc so far, as well as LOLBAT himself. Monsieur Rongeur, Croc Pot, and the (real) Scrabbler are all here. As in the last mission, you have to find something to lure out the Scrabbler before you can fight him. The real Scrabbler is a bit tougher than the decoy, and you learn that his interest in all of this is that if everyone in the world can't do anything but say LOL and OMG and the like, then he'll be king of board games. Croc Pot and Rongeur are the same as before, and LOLBAT's martial arts skills and funny speech are no match for your L33T skillz. If you know what I mean.
After saving the day, LOLBAT thanks you for your good work by talking... normally. His LOL-speech is gone. Maybe you saved more than just "the day."
"OMG it's the LOLBAT!" is a fun arc, especially if you like making fun of internet memes. Its missions are varied enough to stay interesting throughout the arc, and the bad guys are funny, if (intentionally, I'm sure) cheesy. I really liked the clues needed to lure out the Scrabbler (both the decoy and the real one), but I think it may have been more fun if you weren't given a clue that tells you exactly how to do it. Maybe you should have to figure it out in the decoy's mission and then remember it and apply it during the final mission to lure out the real one. I haven't read a lot of Kurtz's PVP, but after running this storyarc I'll probably try to check it out more often now. I'd definitely look forward to any future arcs Kurtz might do.
Some City of Heroes players have expressed disappointment in this first batch of Guest Author missions, but I think they do a good enough job of presenting these professionals' work to their fans in a unique and interesting way. They're not necessarily the best Mission Architect storyarcs, of course, but they're definitely worth a play or two. If you're a fan of these guys, you'll no doubt get a lot of enjoyment out of their arcs. If you're not a fan yet, maybe you'll be interested enough to check out their other work. The important thing, in terms of the City of Heroes game, is that it's able to attract established writers who want to contribute to the game world.