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Paragon Studios
MMORPG | Setting:Super-Hero | Status:Cancelled  (est.rel 10/31/05)  | Pub:NCSoft
PVP:Yes | Distribution:Retail | Retail Price:n/a | Pay Type:Free | Monthly Fee:n/a
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Alcatraz Premiere Report

By Dana Massey on October 07, 2005 | General Articles | Comments

Alcatraz Premiere Report

Ghost Widow and I
Ghost Widow Concept Art
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Cryptic and NC debut the villains MMORPG in style on Alcatraz Island

Alcatraz Island – the perfect setting for a City of Villains press event. On Wednesday, NCSoft flew journalists from across the continent to San Francisco to take part in a City of Villains premiere party. The new sequel/expansion to City of Heroes launches on Halloween (October 31) and with only a few weeks to go, the team felt it was time to start sounding the horn.

“City of Villains was years in the making,” began Jack Emmert, the Creative Director of Cryptic Studios. He went on to explain the core game features, such as base creation, but for those who have followed the development, there was not much new. He did however boast that City of Villains “triples the available gameplay”.

The event itself began with a boat trip from the San Francisco Fisherman’s Wharf area out to Alcatraz. There we were met by a tour guide who gave us a brief historical tour of the famed prison that once housed Al Capone – among others.

Finally, once the tour had wound to the summit, we made our way into the prison itself. Surprisingly, our guide told us that the cells, which are tiny with almost no room between the bed and sink, are actually a foot wider than the cells in modern prisons. At the end of the hall in a puff of smoke, Ghost Widow, the official spokesperson for Lord Recluse, the fictional leader of the primary villain group in CoV Arachnos met us. The theatrics continued throughout the evening with the Ghost Widow actor and Designer/Writer and former drama major Sean Fish delivering several in-character addresses.

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From there, we proceeded into the actual mess hall where prisoners ate for a reception, presentations and a chance to play the game. Their pricing plan for City of Villains was the major announcement of the evening. For $14.99 players can play both City of Heroes and City of Villains, provided they buy the box. This plan, while welcome news for fans, further blurs the question of whether this is truly a sequel or an expansion.

As the evening wore on, we took the chance to explore the medical wing of the building, typically closed to the public. The team had decorated with fake smoke surrounding our feet and eerie lighting to guide us. There, inside cells, the major City of Villains developers held court with the press. I cornered Shane Hensley, the Lead Writer of City of Villains for a brief interview.

We discussed how he built story, not just mindless bashing, into the game. As the creator of the game’s cadre of characters (and personally the real life Captain Mako), he laid out the overall story for the game and each zone quite carefully. Then, quest designers built the missions to tie into this. He explained how they wished to avoid mindless bashing in the PvP areas and instead gave each zone a unique quest.

In one example, the Warburg Zone, players must compete to rescue scientists from a dungeon and gather the launch code. This is a non-instanced quest, which means many players can try to do it from all sides and fight along the way. Ultimately, the group that finishes it launches a missile that goes into orbit. The player can then call it down whenever they see fit – ideally Shane notes as a base-buster in base raids. He also noted that there are many ways to complete it. For example, a group might simply chose to hang back, let someone else rescue the scientists and then ambush them as they exit – stealing the launch codes.

Another neat innovation Shane spoke of is the implementation of an in-game newspaper, a clever piece of subterfuge for a mission terminal. Players can grab newspapers and when opened, they give you some random generated articles for you to grab quests. In a fictional framework, it is justified as you having different interests than the player beside you. Thus, you cannot see the whole paper, only those articles that caught your character’s eye. See an article about a shipment of gold to a local bank? Perhaps it is time to pay them a visit and relieve them of their burden.

Finally, Shane admitted that for all those who have been asking, players who own both titles would be able to change sides. That is right; your hero can become a villain. Will this be easy? No. Will this cost you nothing? No. What are the mechanics? He will not say. Nonetheless, it is quite interesting.

NCSoft and Cryptic Studios put on a brilliant party and we were glad to attend. The game seems to be shaping up quite nicely. Keep your eyes here for more exclusive screenshots, interviews and a preview of the game in the coming weeks.