A boisterous crowd of City of Heroes fans filled one of the smaller panel rooms last Saturday at the Penny Arcade Expo 2010 in Seattle, Washington to talk about the recent release of City of Heroes: Going Rogue and to give a preview of what’s to be expected as the game evolves. Moderated by Community Guru Eric Cleaver, the representatives from Paragon Studios included Producers Eric Johnson and Nate Birkholz, Lead Designer Melissa “Warwitch” Bianco and Lead Systems Designer Matt “Positron” Miller.
The panel began with a PowerPoint recap of the Going Rogue expansion’s features, in particular the new ‘neutral’ city of Pretoria that was created as an area to grow the City of Heroes and City of Villains experience. In Praetoria, Heroes can now explore their dark side though a series of missions and moral choices and become Rogues, while Villains can discover a sense of principals and become Vigilantes. And new Ultra Mode graphical setting now improves the game’s dated visuals, taking into account the improvements in graphical processor technology that have been made since the game’s original launch. Miller then proudly announced that the expansion’s August 16 launch went smoothly, and so far the feedback has been positive. He then announced that a look into the game’s stats show that ‘going good’ has been the overwhelmingly more popular stance than the reverse so far.
Nate Birkholz talked about some challenges in the development of this major expansion. "Going Rogue had too much content," causing problems for their QA and support teams, although the game required only minor tweaks and iterations from the initial version. Birkholz then recognized that there were some challenges ahead to improve balance, maintaining their high quality level, the need to do a better job explaining to the player the ‘expanded point of view’ offered by Going Rogue and some technical issues like glitches with glowing interactive objects, called “Zowies” and improvements to the “Sonic Fencing” used to section off zones. Although Birkholz maintained that they were still a better option than the “War Walls” found in the original game. He sums up the release experience in three bullet points, first a focus on doing "a few awesome things," rather than "a ton of average things," secondly to continue to respond to user feedback and finally to stick to the core concept rather than succumb to feature creep. Johnson took a moment to complement the game’s design staff on the new ability for objects in the environment to reflect images and the new capability to see across zones.
Melissa Bianco took over the presentation to describe how the new factions system was built around the new game area’s totalitarian government, where villains are aligned with the leadership and are known as loyalists while the heroes make up a resistance force. She then told a story of how an idea to create factions within these factions, for double agents and undercover missions, was conceived over late night brainstorming sessions was discarded as ‘feature creep’; it was then implemented anyway with new intra-mission moral choices and targetable non-aggressive and/or neutral entities.
On the subject of new content, Miller announced Issue 19: Alpha Strike, which will deal primarily with the Incarnate system for maximum level characters. These Incarnates can develop their Alpha Slots in a new story arc that will expand on the role that Incarnates, and teams of Incarnates, will play in the game universe. There will also be more of the tip missions and that the fitness pool with now become inherent, an announcement that brought applause from the appreciative and understanding crowd. Issue 19 will be out this fall. Miller continued that the Incarnate System will now be expanded in every issue from now on, but for now will be focused on the new Going Rogue areas.
The last big announcement was that the closed beta for Issue 20, inducing a test for end game content will start the week of September 6, and will be under the strictest security. No release date for Issue 20 was announced.
Cleaver finished by announcing that older, original game heroes will be able to enter the new areas with Issue 19, and then the floor was then opened to questions.
Q: A graphical update to the old zones to match the look of the new ones?
A: A plan is in place to refit the old bulidings, and there is a mission map update coming.
Q: Cross-faction team ups?
A: No confirmation at this time.
Q: Holiday events with the opposing factions teaming up?
Q: Open up the Supergroup feature to all?
A: It’s on the developer’s radar.
Q: Attack Longbow in Paragon City?
Q: Will all new classes be available for the Blue and Red sides?
Q: Change characters without logging out of the server?
A: A conflict with the coders has delayed implementation, but it is on the wish list
Q: Attack storyline characters?
A: In the Incarnate End Game
Q: Casual path to Incarnate level?
A: Yes, it will take longer, but it will have its own rewards and system to encourage casual group play.
Q: Independent finger movements?
A: No, that would take way to long to do.
Q: Save client visual settings to individual system rather than to the server?
A: Birkholz: That’s a good idea (he then types it into his smart phone)
Q: More costume options?
A: We plan to continually update those options
Q: Will the old War Walls finally come down
A: Their continued existence Is a bit of a running joke, but its being worked on.
Q: More Aracnos missions in Paragon City?
A: Sure, why not, we can do that.
Q: Auto-Team finder like in WoW?
A: Try using the global servers, but we’ll look into it.
Q: Have you ever visiting other NCsoft offices?
A: Been to Carbine and ArenaNet, the former inspired the Going Rogue concept.
Q: Dirty Fighting power pool?
A: That’s interesting…
Q: Time Travel Missions?
A: It would be doable if we didn’t have to rebuild the game world for different time periods.