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City of Heroes Sale and Age of Conan

Jon Wood Posted:
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Editor's Weekly Round-Up

In his second weekly round-up, MMORPG.com Managing Editor Jon Wood gives his opinion on some of the issues from the last week, namely the sale of City of Heroes and the recent announcement that a character from Age of Conan will make an appearance in Playboy magazine.

I would have considered this past week to be a slow week if it wasn’t for the news that Cryptic Studios had sold their part in the City of Heroes / Villains franchise to NCsoft, their former partners in the venture. There are people who welcome this change, there are people who are against this change and there are people who really just don’t care, and I wouldn’t really be sharing my opinions if I didn’t tell you which side I come down on.

City of Heroes / Villains

It’s a good thing. I know I tend to see a silver lining in a lot of what goes on in the industry, anyone who has listened to our podcast can tell you that. It’s not that I’m afraid to say anything negative, it’s that there genuinely is a lot about our industry that I really enjoy. That being said, and not wanting to stray too far from my original point, I’d like to tell you why it’s a good thing:

First – NCsoft is bringing in a lot of the developers from Cryptic Studios to work at their new office in California. The team we see on the other end of this sale isn’t going to be terribly different than it was last week. This means that if you liked the game and how it was handled up until now, you’ll probably stay just as satisfied. On the other hand, if you weren’t a fan of how things were done, you’re not going to be jumping up and down in unfettered glee at the change.

There is no hidden agenda here, in my opinion. City of Heroes / Villains is a successful game for NCsoft and at this point it make sense that they run it 100%. The reason following below:

Second – Cryptic Studios is now able to concentrate fully on what is going to be a colossal development project in Marvel Universe Online. Think about it: Cryptic Studios was responsible for the first, second and only superhero based MMOs out there. It took a lot of time and a lot of dedicated developers to bring CoH / V to where they are today, and any long time player will tell you that there’s still work that needs to be done. Instead of getting bogged down in the future of this game, they are now able to concentrate the bulk of their office to this new challenge which, when you think about it, isn’t going to be easy. How do you create a game that will compete with your first success, that’s based on the same genre as the first but isn’t a sequel, while satisfying fans of what might be one of the most convoluted IPs possible (go ahead, find continuity in the Marvel Universe, I dare ya), and creating a game that is different enough from your first game that people won’t say “It’s City of Heroes except now I can be Wolverine”? Sure it was a run-on sentence, but I think it makes my point.

Third – Maybe, just MAYBE this could provide NCsoft with enough reason to bundle their games together with something like SOE’s Station Pass that allows players access to all of a publisher’s titles at one price. I know this isn’t everyone’s particular cup of tea, and not everyone would see it as a good thing, but I think that if they still allowed single games to be paid for (ie: you don’t HAVE to sign up for everything), then this could be a great idea. Come on: Guild Wars, Lineage, Lineage 2, City of Heroes / Villains, Tabula Rasa, Dungeon Runners… Throw Exteel, Aion and Guild Wars 2 in there for the future, and you’ve got a bundle I might consider paying for.

Ok, so maybe the third one’s a stretch as far as City of…’s acquisition, but it’s still an interesting idea.

Age of Conan

Okay, some guy ripped me a new one on the forums for not mentioning Age of Conan last week. This week, I don’t want to hear it (same goes to you WAR fans, I talked about your game last week /shakes fist), Age of Conan was in under the wire on Friday with some interesting news: One of their characters is going to appear in the December issue of Playboy.

Oh, I can hear it now, the sweet sounds of people rushing to tap away at their keyboards to rant about the childish element that this will bring to the game, and how everyone’s values are shocked. Some people tend to have strong objection to pornography, even the “classy” stuff that appears in Playboy. That’s fair, and I’m not going to argue the merits of porn. Indulge me though, and let’s just leave that particular debate aside. Let’s talk instead about the fact that a lot of people feel that the game’s “M” rating will “bring in the kiddies” and that running promotions like this one in Playboy will hurt the game. Do I have a list? Sure do:

  1. We’re talking about MMORPGs, of course there is going to be an immature element present in the game. You will notice that I don’t say kiddies. Immaturity in online games is by no means limited to people under the age of 18.
  2. Why is everyone complaining about the fact that the game contains some nudity and probably some sexual allusions when the devs have been saying for ages that Age of Conan will have some of the bloodiest, goriest killing blows that MMORPGs have ever seen? I mean, personally, I don’t have a problem with either violence or nudity, but if I had to pick one and point at it as something that should offend people’s values… I think I know which way I’d go.

  3. Funcom has been very, very clear since the beginning that this would be an “M” rated title. The appearance of some nudity, language and violence in the game shouldn’t surprise anyone. It’s not new information. Funcom has also gone out of their way to make people aware of this fact. Now, they’re taking advantage of their “M” rated game by promoting it in an “M” rated venue.
  4. I’ve heard a lot of people complain that there will be kids playing this game, and so the “M” rating is inappropriate and the nudity and sexuality (not the violence, mind you) should be removed from the game. To my mind, Funcom has done and is doing everything that they reasonably can to keep kids out of Conan, and certainly everything that they’re required to do by law. Now, it’s up to the parents, retailers and kids themselves to keep this game for a mature (mature meaning older and not “more mature”, that pun has been over-used) audience only.

The fact of the matter is, to my mind, that the MMORPG industry and community really should be welcoming an “M” rated MMORPG into our midst. It’s not going to be the “cat’s pajamas” for everyone, and that’s cool, no game will be. Still, Age of Conan is pushing the boundaries of what an MMORPG is, and is helping to define MMOs as a well-rounded genre. I’m not saying we couldn’t use a few more sandbox games, I’m just saying that any diversity is good diversity.

Well, I’ve ranted on these two subjects longer than I actually meant to, so I’m going to wrap it up for this week. Hope you enjoyed it.


Jon Wood