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NY Comic Con Panel Report

Michael Bitton Posted:
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The Paragon Studios team came out to the Big Apple for this year’s New York Comic-Con and put on a panel that drew quite a crowd. It came as no surprise that we ended up with a full house for a panel focused on the original superhero MMO City of Heroes at a convention focused primarily on comic books, and these fans didn’t leave disappointed either.

Paragon Studios’ Melissa “War Witch” Bianco, Jesse “Ghost Falcon” Caceres, and David “Noble Savage” Nakayama were on hand, and they brought the goods, fielding questions from fans and making a number of first reveals on Issue 19: Alpha Strike at the panel.

The panel kicked off with a bit of a history lesson on the progression of City of Heroes, all the way from the game’s launch to the release of the game’s latest expansion, Going Rogue, this summer. Jesse explained that City of Heroes and City of Villains stirred debate within the game’s overall community as to what was better to play: a hero or a villain, and Going Rogue essentially bridges the gap by allowing players to switch sides. The next few minutes of the panel focused some more on what Going Rogue brought to the game, from the improved tutorial experience, to the graphical upgrade (yay SLI support!), to the new powersets. Paragon Studios was pretty surprised at some of the statistics they’ve documented since the launch of Going Rogue, such as the fact that the split between Loyalists and Resistance aligned players was pretty much down the middle.

Soon, the real meat of the panel came into focus: details on the just announced Issue 19: Alpha Strike. Issue 19 will introduce players to the end-game Incarnate system, which allows players to earn a number of different slots that can do all manner of things for a character (forgive the vagueness, they aren’t saying much!). The first slot to be introduced is the appropriately named Alpha Slot, and players will earn this slot through a new story arc centered on Ouroboros, where players will meet Mender Ramiel, who wants to fast-track your foreseen ascension to becoming an Incarnate. The developers were still a bit tight-lipped on the process, but they promised that players who earn their Alpha Slot and subsequently whatever sort of upgrades that can be placed in it will be significantly more powerful.

In fact, the upcoming Apex and Tin Mage Task Forces in Issue 19 will all but require Incarnate-powered characters in order to complete it. At this point, we were treated to a new trailer featuring the Apex Task Force, which was explosive to say the least, and featured the appearance of giant enemies of a scale never before seen in the game, as well as what looked like new, perhaps temporary (or Incarnate) powers. One of the powers appeared to be telekinetically controlled swords that floated around the character, think Kreia’s lightsabers in Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II.

Zone events will be coming to Praetoria in Issue 19 as well, and they’ll be making use of new UI elements that were made possible due to the fact that the programmers have finally given tools to the designers, as zone events were previously done almost entirely by the programmers. One zone event in Praetoria involves a protest and like everything in the expansion players can take a stand, either aiding the PPD in quelling the protest or joining alongside the protestors. The second event, which takes place in Imperial City, involves the Syndicate who have taken over Agile Corp, and again players can make a choice to aid the Syndicate or help defeat them, ending with a battle on a “really cool rooftop”. The final event, dubbed “the Great Escape”, takes place in Neutropolis, and involves the Ghouls faction who have escaped from the lab. In this event, players either aid the PPD in securing the Ghouls and bringing them back to the lab, or investigating the Ghoul situation. Melissa Bianco also noted that the rewards are commensurate with your participation in the event, and the game will take note of contribution for healer and support characters as well. The developers also emphasized the events’ replayability. Players won’t simply want to get their badge for the event and move on, they’ll want to replay the events as the rewards are being touted as being pretty worthwhile.

Melissa then took an opportunity to make note of the fact she was following through on her promise of delivering more content when she became lead designer of City of Heroes. To that end, Paragon Studios will be adding new story arcs for both heroes and villains that focuses on post-Praetoria content (level 20-29 range) and also focuses heavily on moral choices. In addition to the new arcs, Issue 19 will expand on the Tip mission system introduced with Going Rogue, adding new Tip missions from 20-50. Finally, as far as new content goes, Paragon Studios is also adding to the Mission Architect, allowing players to use the new powersets, mission maps, and factions introduced with Going Rogue in their own creations.

On the art side of things, David Nakayama noted one of the stand-out features of Issue 19: alternate animations. Previously, Paragon Studios has allowed players using melee power sets to select alternate animations for their powers, for example, one could choose to use kicks for martial arts instead of punches, and Issue 19 will expand on this feature by allowing players to select alternate animations for the more blaster-y powers. In short, you’ll be able to shoot fire breath from your hands if you want to. To get a better idea of what this means, think of Champions Online’s power emanation point feature.

New costume parts and auras are also coming to City of Heroes in Issue 19, including costume parts from the Imperial Defense Force, as well as new Fireflies and Snow auras, both of which accidentally leaked into the game at one point, so they’re going ahead and giving ‘em to everyone anyways. Yay auras!

The developers began to wrap the presentation up at this point, noting a few other highlights of Issue 19, including: allowing level 20+ characters into Praetoria, adding Notoriety contacts to Praetoria, the return of the (Primal Earth) Calvin Scott TF, the addition of gurneys/field hospitals to hazard and trial zones, Ferry and Train route merges so players can get around the game world even easier, and inspiration dispensing nurses in hospitals, and this marked the end of the presentation. Q&A time!

Q&A’s are my favorite sections of panels. It’s always fun to watch the developers field questions they may be totally unprepared for. City of Heroes fans are usually pretty good at coming up with questions totally out of left field, but the questions at the Q&A were fairly focused. One of the questions regarding Fitness becoming an inherent power in Issue 19 did get a little testy, though. The person in question seemed to want extra slots since Fitness would essentially allow players three to four new power picks for most players, to which Jesse Caceres responded that they definitely would not be adding 12-16 new slots as a result of this change. The majority of the other questions were generally answered vaguely or with what essentially amounted to “maybe”.

Issue 19: Alpha Strike is set to hit closed beta sometime this week. Stay tuned to MMORPG.com as we plan on bringing you full video of the panel in the near future!


Michael Bitton

Michael Bitton / Michael began his career at the WarCry Network in 2005 as the site manager for several different WarCry fansite portals. In 2008, Michael worked for the startup magazine Massive Gamer as a columnist and online news editor. In June of 2009, Michael joined MMORPG.com as the site's Community Manager. Follow him on Twitter @eMikeB