Dark or Light

New Lead Designer Interview

Garrett Fuller Posted:
Interviews 0


Melissa, first, congratulations on your recent promotion to Lead Designer on City of Heroes. That is a huge accomplishment for you, and the entire City of Heroes community should be excited as well. What are your thoughts on your recent promotion and what will the job entail?

Melissa Bianco:

I'm excited about the new challenges as Lead Designer on City of Heroes. It's been a wild ride these last few months, full of big personal changes and growth, so this new opportunity promises to be quite an adventure for me. For those of you curious what that means from a work perspective, I will be transitioning out of the World arena (so much for my Queen of the World title) and into a more global position as Lead Designer.

In a nutshell, the Lead Designer guides the Design team and steers the overall direction of its focus and the initiatives for the game. The Design Department conceives and spearheads features and content and works with Art and Programming to implement these features, so there are a lot of creative and administrative challenges in this responsibility. The Lead Designer also evaluates risk vs. reward, cool vs. lame, and attempts to incorporate ongoing feedback from the players about what features they want and what we, as a studio, can do from a technical or scheduling standpoint.


There have been a lot of changes to the game lately, how have these changes been received by players?

Melissa Bianco:

Change is good! Our players are nothing if not smart, loyal, and resilient. I think that the majority of our players are pleased with the direction that we are going because many of our decisions are based directly or indirectly on player feedback.

Powers Customization was a huge factor in that. Mission Architect has been a huge advancement and learning experience for us and I attribute a lot of that to Joe "Hero 1" Morrissey and Sean "Dr. Aeon" McCann. Joe designed and led the implementation of Mission Architect, but we didn't stop there. Sean McCann picked up the ball and continues to infuse the system with more contests, community involvement, guest authors, and dev choice awards all the time.

Players are never going to agree with all of the decisions that we make, nor are they going to be happy with our timetable (it sucks to wait), but they know that we have always listened to them and our main goal is to make them happy with City of Heroes today and moving into the future.


How has the development of "Going Rogue" been?

Melissa Bianco:

Going Rogue" is a big project and we have set some very high expectations for ourselves in terms of internal process, quality, and pure awesomeness given our time frame and resources. We've had the usual development ups and downs. We all want "Going Rogue" to be the best it can be, to establish Paragon Studios as a company that puts out great work and keep City of Heroes fresh and interesting for years to come. No pressure there.

Paragon has grown significantly over the last year or so, adding some great new talent with a fresh perspective, which is a good thing. I love this quote because it's true: "If you always do what you've always done, you'll always get what you've always got."

So it's been, quite honestly, hard work. But anything worth doing well requires effort, so we're cool with that.



Do you see player created content as a future staple in MMO design?

Melissa Bianco:

I'd like to. Have you seen those player-created missions in Mission Architect? It's incredible. There's some real talent out there! For Sean McCann, not only did Mission Architect provide him an outlet to create missions in a game that he loves, but it got him a job with us. Not everyone can say that.

Players have really responded well to the Mission Architect system. To date, nearly 40,000 players have submitted about 350,000 Arcs, of which over 60,000 have actually been published. And amongst all that content, we've found a lot of real gems. If you have a chance, you should check out "Do-It-Yourself Laser Moonbase Project" by @Twoflower which is a Hall of Fame arc, a Developer's Choice winner as well as a two-time Community Choice winner.

Players infuse passion and creativity into a game, and an excellent way for them to do that is banding together in supergroups, roleplaying with each other, showing off their unique characters by look and background, and creating environments for themselves that reflect the kind of game that they want to play.

So yes, I think player-created content is going to be a big part of the future of the genre, and I'm proud that City of Heroes was the first MMO to successfully integrate real player-created content into the actual game.

  • Pages: 
  • 1
  • 2


Garrett Fuller

Garrett Fuller / Garrett Fuller has been playing MMOs since 1997 and writing about them since 2005. He joined MMORPG.com has a volunteer writer and now handles Industry Relations for the website. He has been gaming since 1979 when his cousin showed him a copy of Dungeons and Dragons. When not spending time with his family, Garrett also Larps and plays Airsoft in his spare time.