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On the City of Heroes forums, a player asked, where did the game go wrong? Here's my response.

Where did CoH go wrong? I don't think it did. I liked it for what it was.

Still, it's interesting to consider paths not taken.

The founders of CoH (Rick Dakan, Jack Emmert, and others) indicated that they had played the Champions pencil and paper roleplaying game, and that's what inspired them to create a superhero MMO. When CoH was released, its strengths included character creation, travel powers, and strategic combat (all big parts of Champions). I told a friend about my initial impression from playing CoH, "It's a great superhero combat simulator."

But, for me, that was largely the extent of CoH's appeal. I played for the first month's subscription that came with the game purchase, and then I canceled my account.

At the time, I had played several other MMOs and was tired of their conventions. I didn't like the emphasis on gaining experience points and levels. Much of CoH's gameplay, such as hunting Skulls in Perez Park, seemed mindless and lacking in charm. I wanted more of a story and a more complete roleplaying experience.

A gaming friend whom I had met while playing Ultima Online commented that he had tried City of Heroes as well as many of the other MMOs of the era (Everquest, Asheron's Call, Dark Age of Camelot, and so on), and, despite the technological advances in the later games, he had never found a roleplaying environment that was as sophisticated, complex, and involving as UO.

UO was created by Origin Systems, and their slogan was "We create worlds." Their approach was very different from CoH. I had friends in UO who enjoyed playing the game by managing a store where they sold player-crafted goods; they rarely bothered with combat. Others roleplayed as elected town representatives in a player-run political system. A chess or checkers board could be placed on a tabletop as a decoration in a player-owned house, and when clicked on, a window opened showing an enlarged board with moveable pieces, allowing players to play chess or checkers.

CoH offered comparatively little in terms of roleplaying environment. For example, we could make up secret identities with a civilian occupation; but, besides Day Jobs and multiple costume slots, the game didn't provide mechanics to support it.

The basic concept--there's a coastal city in Rhode Island that's the focal point for heroes and villains in the world--was acceptable for an MMO at the time. But, the premise would be rejected as nonsensical by any editor of a comic book or producer of a movie or TV series. (Unless it was a metaphorical setting, like "the city" in The Tick.)

CoH provided the opportunity to dress up as a hero and go fight bad guys, and that was good enough. Casual play was a strength.

I returned to CoH after a friend told me that a lot of good stories had been added. He was right. The game constantly improved, particularly after the staff increased from 15 to 80. Toward the end, the latest wave of designers provided fresh, new approaches to storytelling.

Still, I would like to see a superhero MMO or single-player game with more of a roleplaying environment.

However, I doubt it will happen. Industry trends seem to be going in other directions, more towards casual play on mobile devices for mass appeal.
On the City of Heroes forums, another player posted an observation about the Going Rogue expansion: I see Praetoria as sort of this game's version of Star Trek's "Mirror, Mirror" universe.

Here is my response.

Creating an expansion based on an alternate reality with a new starting point for players (and directing new players to start there) is an odd design choice. It's like, if someone created a Star Trek MMO (hypothetically speaking, of course) and players were directed to start in the Mirror, Mirror universe and play there for the first 20 levels.

With Star Trek, players already know the primal universe from the TV shows, movies, novels, etc. But, with CoH, new players might not know about Paragon City, the Freedom Phalanx, and everything else. So, being directed to start in a goatee universe could be confusing and dismaying to them.
On the City of Heroes forums, a player asked, why aren't you using Architect Entertainment? Here is my reponse.

Before AE was released, my CoH-friend and I were excited about the description we had read, where you get to create your own missions and share them with other players. We began to plan stories that we wanted to tell; but, we didn't know how the system would work. It was a surprise to learn that AE is a holographic studio, like Star-Trek: The Next Generation's Holo-Deck.

Trying to fit a preconceived story into AE mechanics was frustrating. While the interface was relatively easy to use, it also seemed quite limiting (compared to other game's similar systems, such as Bioware's Aurora toolset). Almost invariably, I found the AE mechanics would not let me tell the story the way I wanted, resulting in unsatisfactory work-arounds.

Eventually, I adopted a different approach to developing a story for AE. Instead of first imagining a story and then becoming frustrated because I couldn't find the right maps and events for it, I looked for maps that I wanted to play on, villain groups that fit my desired level range, and events to fit the maps and foes. In this way, the maps, villains, and events inspired me to develop a story that strung them together.

At first, I created several story arcs just for my friends to play, featuring our custom characters as NPCs. Later, I created an arc that hopefully any CoH player can enjoy.

I've played many great story arcs created by other players, exhibiting wonderful storytelling skills and a lot of hard work. (I've also partially played many other story arcs--before quitting them--that were, well, not so good. I'll never get back those wasted minutes of my life... but, I digress.)

Yes, AE has negatives as pointed out by other posters. In particular, the copyright filter deserves to be called out. Did you know, if you choose "Black Scorpion" from the standard list of villains, the filter will flag your story as invalid--presumably because "Scorpion" is a copyrighted Marvel Comics character? Note that "Black Scorpion" is CoH intellectual property and provided in AE's interface as a standard pull-down menu option--that is, not a player-created custom character name. So, choosing a standard menu option will cause your story to be flagged as invalid. Clearly, the copyright filter is myopically misguided.

Even so, I am glad AE is part of CoH. Could it be better? Yeah. But, still, it's a really cool feature, one that I enjoy using periodically.
On the City of Heroes forums, a player asked for advice on playing a kinetics defender. Here is my response.

I have a level 50 Kinetics/Energy Blast Defender named Kid-Kinetics. He's based on my 11-year-old nephew (if he lived in Paragon City and had super powers).…

When I play the character, I like to team with a tanker, brute, or scrapper. I shadow my melee partner close enough so that my Transfusion power (with a radius of 20 feet) can heal him/her.

This also means that I'm close enough to our opponents to take some damage from their area of effect attacks or even some stray aggro that my partner can't direct away from me. Fortunately, Transfusion heals me, too.

In between heals, I'm busy spamming buffs, debuffs, and even attacks. It makes for a very active, involving, and intense play experience.

When teaming with a partner this way, I opt to toggle off Repel because it would knock back opponents out of melee range. In contrast, when I play solo, Repel can be a lifesaver. Of course, many aspects of solo play can be very different from teaming for a Kinetics/Energy Blast Defender.
On the City of Heroes forums, the Player Event Resource Committee sponsored a story-writing contest. The rules were to "write the beginning story of your character" in 1,500 words or less.

I wrote the following story about my character, Red Dragon. It won the contest, and I received a generous reward of in-game currency. (I'm not sure, but I suspect my story might have been the only one entered and so won by default.)

Inside the Skyway City community center, in a corner of the recreation room where martial arts classes are taught, a young Caucasian man kicks and punches at a red leather target ball suspended from the floor and ceiling by white elastic straps. Clad in a karate uniform consisting of white top and pants with a black belt cinching the waist, he bellows with each bare-footed and bare-handed attack, perspiration flying from his neatly trimmed, wavy, brunette hair. Successful strikes knock the ball away, until the elastic straps snap it back; however, several blows miss the elusive, moving target.

Pausing to catch his breath, he resets himself in a fighting stance. He leaps upward, pulls knees toward chest, and turns in mid-air, looking over his left shoulder, and kicks his left leg—but completely misses the ball and lands on his feet awkwardly, stumbling to regain his balance.

Undaunted, he repeats the advanced technique; but, his kick is poorly aimed and hits the elastic strap beneath the ball. With his left foot tangled up in the strap, he hops once on his right foot, arms pinwheeling, and falls backward onto his rump.

Unknown to the young man, across the room, a large, muscular, middle-aged African-American man, dressed in casual street clothes, watches and chuckles at the pratfall. Smiling, he turns to a small, frail, elderly Asian man standing beside him and says in Japanese, "He is one of my students."

The Japanese man, clad in a traditional Eastern, loose-fitting, black suit, nods and smiles. They resume watching the young man practicing.

Now back on his feet, he playfully strikes a theatrical pose, with hands held at shoulder level and index and pinky fingers and thumbs extended, imitating Bruce Lee in Enter the Dragon. He shouts, "Huaaah-yaaah!" and repeats the jumping, spinning wheel kick. This time, his left heel strikes the target squarely. With a momentary facial expression of triumph, he watches the ball violently rebound—smack!—it hits his forehead, snapping his neck backward.

Rubbing his stinging forehead, he hears booming laughter from behind and turns to face its source.

"Hey, Doug!" shouts the laughing African-American man. "Are you alright?"

"Yes, sensei."

"Good! Come on over here and greet our guest."

The young man runs across the floor and stops before the two older men.

"Master Midoru, this is Doug Andrews," says the African-American man. "When he's not in my martial arts class, Doug is an undergraduate student at Paragon University. Doug, let me introduce Master Hiroshi Midoru of Tokyo, Japan."

Doug straightens himself with his heels together and arms at his sides and bows at the waist. "Sensei Byam told us that you would be visiting. Welcome, it's a pleasure to meet you."

Master Midoru returns a short bow and extends his right hand. As they shake hands, he says in broken English, "Please… to meet you."

Sensei Byam explains that he must leave for a while to finalize arrangements of Master Midoru's itinerary, and he asks Doug to host their guest until he returns.

After Sensei Byam leaves, Doug asks Master Midoru, "Would you like a beverage? There's a water fountain nearby."

"No. Arigato."

"How was your trip? Did you travel by plane?"

"Yes. Plane… and green line."

"Great! Well, let me give you a tour of our dojo. It's a multi-purpose recreation room. Before class, we roll out our tatami mat."

"Os. My English… bad. Sorry."

"Your English is much better than my Japanese. Our class has learned a few words. We can count in Japanese: ichi, ni, san…"

"Os." Master Midoru smiles and gestures toward the tatami mat.

"You want to go on the mat?"



They walk to the center of the mat, and Master Midoru turns to face Doug. For a moment, Doug doesn't know what do. He asks, "You want to give some instruction?"


"Thank you, sensei!" says Doug, bowing.

Master Midoru returns a slight bow and says, "Hajime."

Doug had heard this command many times before, when Sensei Byam instructed the class during full-contact sparring; but, now, he hesitates.

"Punch me," says Midoru.

Doug drops into a fighting stance and steps forward, throwing a straight right-hand punch at Midoru's solar plexus. Surprisingly, Midoru moves forward, into the line of oncoming force; he intercepts the attack and redirects it; Doug's body twists to his right, legs flying up in the air, and he lands on his back—so fast that Doug doesn't know exactly how it was done.

Midoru smiles and says, "Again."

"Yes, please, show that to me again," says Doug as Midoru helps him up.

Doug faces Midoru, awaiting his command. "Faster," says Midoru. "Hajime!"

Doug bellows and begins to move forward; but, before he can throw the punch, Midoru blocks Doug's right fist with the palm of his left hand.

"Matte!" commands Midoru in a hushed voice that conveys: stop moving and be silent. Midoru's head snaps to look over his right shoulder.

Perplexed, Doug sees and hears nothing unusual. Then, surrealistically, black-clad figures emerge from the shadows wielding swords, staves, and other traditional Asian weapons—ninjas.

The foremost ninja speaks in Japanese to Midoru, "You journeyed far in pursuit of us, Red Dragon. Only to meet your doom in this foreign city."

Doug exclaims, "Aw, this is a joke, right? Those are the guys from my class, dressed as ninjas!"

Master Midoru replies, "No joke." Barring his right arm, he pushes Doug behind him.

The ninjas launch shurikens, darts, and other deadly projectiles at Midoru; but, amazingly, the white-haired man either dodges them or deflects them with metal wrist bands.

A ninja hurls caltrops at Midoru's feet. Instantly, Midoru grabs Doug's body and executes a combined hip toss and leg sweep to send Doug flying an incredible distance across the room; even more astonishing, Midoru travels in the air with Doug, performing an aerial walk-over acrobatic maneuver to land gracefully on his feet—and place Doug safely on his feet.

Ninjas close on Midoru, striking with blades, staves, fists, and feet; but, their opponent moves with incredible skill, quickness, and economy of motion, routing the assassins with a mastery of martial arts techniques that seems super-human—even magical.

One ninja felled by Midoru lands on his hands and knees in front of Doug. Wanting to help Midoru, Doug kicks the ninja in the face; but, the ninja barely registers the blow and looks up at Doug, enraged. Midoru intervenes, side-kicking the ninja in the ribs with such astounding force, the assailant is knocked across the room and crashes into a wall.

Midoru turns and faces Doug. For a moment, Doug feels relieved; but, the grave expression on Midoru's face indicates, the danger persists.

Following Midoru's gaze, Doug turns to his right and gasps—a stealthy, silent ninja crouches with his sword tip pointed at Doug's chest, inches away.

In Japanese, the ninja taunts, "We could not defeat the teacher, so let us defeat his pupil!" The ninja thrusts his sword at Doug; but, Midoru moves faster, shoving Doug out of the way and palm striking the ninja's chin, defeating the last foe.

Alas, Doug sees a horrifying silhouette: the sword impaling Master Midoru's torso, through the heart.

Doug helps Midoru lie down on his left side. "I'll go call for an ambulance," says Doug.

"No," says Midoru. His right hand firmly grasps Doug's left wrist. "Stay."


The dying master reaches to a red cloth belt around his waist, unties it, and hands it to Doug. Accepting the belt, Doug notices it appears to be ancient—ornately embroidered with gold thread.

"Wear it," says Midoru.

Doug feels compelled to obey. He places the center of the belt beneath his navel; wraps each end behind him and back around to the front; folds one end over and under; and the other end over and around, forming a knot. The technique is different from how his community center class was taught to tie a belt; but, somehow he feels instinctively it is the correct way.

Doug pulls on the ends of the belt, tightening the knot; a flash of red, magical light emanates from the belt, engulfing him. When the magic of the belt subsides, Doug is clad in ancient, arcane, red garb. Moreover, he feels imbued with the wisdom, skills, and abilities of countless generations of martial arts masters.

Doug looks down and sees that Master Midoru's body is gone. Reaching out to where the body was, he senses that Midoru is now with him, along with all the other masters.

Doug lifts his head, feeling an evil presence approach. More ninjas emerge from the shadows.

Their leader speaks in Japanese, which Doug can now understand, "So, the eternal Red Dragon lives. Once again, passed from teacher to pupil. But, the cycle ends now!"

The ninjas attack, and Red Dragon leaps at them, somersaulting and twisting, kicking and punching, in a devastating whirlwind of attacks with amazing, super-human skill, speed, and strength while bellowing a fierce battle cry!…

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muttly5 Featured By Owner Sep 23, 2015  Hobbyist General Artist
i love all of your DA page!
DoctorSoull Featured By Owner Aug 7, 2013  Professional Digital Artist
Its good to see that The Spirit of Paragon is still going. I like your character sheets.
ladyansha Featured By Owner Dec 7, 2012  Hobbyist Digital Artist
Thanks for the :+devwatch: :)
Battlewraith Featured By Owner Nov 30, 2012
Thanks for the watch :)
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