City of Heroes

Recently I had the chance to speak with Rick Dakan of Cryptic Studios about their new game, City of Heroes game. With the demise of many super hero games such as “Agents of Justice” fans have been clamoring for a super hero game that delivers the goods. I would like to thank Rick and Jack Emmett for their time and help with this interview.

GVK: Describe how the idea for the game came about.

RK: Our lead designer, Rick Dakan, was intrigued by the idea of a superhero RPG for quite some time. Comic books, in general, were a medium filled with story potential; Rick wanted to marry this potential with the nascent MMORPG genre. Cameron Petty, our CEO, Bruce Rogers, our CTO, and Matt Harvey, our Art Director, had been independently working on a MMORPG of their own. After extensive experience in the arcade industry, they were interested in a new challenge. That’s how City of Heroes came about.

GVK: Going into this game, what were the main objectives you wanted to achieve in regards to content and gameplay?

RK: On a very practical level, we wanted to create a thrilling, exciting game that captured the spirit of the modern super hero. We needed to deliver the sort of epic storylines and foes that super heroes face day in, day out.

GVK: What were the biggest obstacles and success stories that you encountered
when you were creating the game?

RK: Creating a living, breathing city is no easy task. And then there’s creating all the super powers, and balancing them appropriately. Those have been, and continue to be, challenges. Our greatest success has to be the look of the game. The costume options for players are just phenomenal – and our villains look truly evil.

GVK: In regards to content, were there features you wished to include but were
unable to do so, and if so what were they?

RK: We would have loved to create player villains, but that just wasn’t feasible within the development time. And although Paragon City is full of adventure and excitement, we naturally wanted to flesh out the rest of the world. That will need to wait for the expansions. Lastly, we couldn’t work player vehicles into the first release; that also will need to wait.

GVK: What are some of the powers players will have, and can they increase their powers and game new ones during the game?

RK: There are 40 major powers and 150 sub powers – that’s a lot of variation. And yes, players can increase their powers during game play and they can also purchase new ones. But every origin type has a finite number of powers; players need to make their choices wisely, because once they’ve chosen a power, it’s their’s for good.

GVK: In regards to the multiplay, what are some of the game play options for this mode?

RK: Players can team up and take on missions to foil the plots of Paragon City’s villains. Players can also enter Hazard Zones and attempt to clear them of threats. Teams can also pool resources and rent an HQ. Teams will have access to more equipment and facilities than a single hero will.

GVK: What are some of the things a player can do to gain money, and can they lose money?

RK: Heroes will gain money by accomplishing missions or defeating foes in a Hazard Zone. Heroes spend money on their insurance plan that ensures they will teleport out of dangerous situations, when the heroes on the brink of death, and into a hospital. Heroes can also spend money on equipment for themselves and their HQ.

GVK: How large is the city map, and will players have the run of the map?

RK: Let’s say that Paragon City is the size of any large U.S. city. Heroes will have run of everything but those Hazard Zones that have certain fame and experience requirements.

GVK: Will players have to guard a secret identity as well?

RK: No, this is not included in gameplay.

GVK: In regards to the Alien invasion, will the Aliens play a part in the game and future series?

RK: Yes, the Rikti have a huge part to play in the storyline

GVK: can players destroy objects such as buildings in the course of their combat?”

RK: There will be some of this in missions and Hazard zones.

GVK : Will players be able to edit and create their own missions?

RK: No, not in the first release.

GVK: Of the villains, is there a group that will stand out as more dangerous then others?

RK: Each villain group has a number of minions and “bosses” that vary in power level. So no group at the moment stands out as more dangerous than others. Each one has the same potential to wreak havoc. As a hero grows in power, the hero will face more powerful minions of each villain group.

GVK: The game engine seems to be an ambitious effort to blend cutting edge graphics with stable online play for large numbers. Have you had to make sacrifices in order to increase the online play ability?

RK: Sure – our first design ideas were way too ambitious. We wanted to flesh out the entire planet – not just Paragon City. That quickly became unfeasible! We soon learned that we’d need to focus just on the city itself. The same with powers – we started off with a ton of super powers, but soon realized that a few would present such difficulties that it would be impossible to make the game in our schedule. So we needed to cut down the list to a more manageable level; players need not fear, however, because we’ll be returning to these powers at a later date.

GVK: In terms of the online play, how many players can be in a game at once, and what is the planned cost to play?

RK: We’re planning on 2000-3000 players concurrently on a single Continuity (i.e. server). Missions will support up to 8 or 9 heroes teaming up.

GVK: Is there a solo play mode as well?

RK: Sure. A hero can take on missions and enter Hazard Zones all by himself. He can use his resources to build his own HQ.

GVK: What is the present development cycle of the game?

RK: 2 years.

GVK: Will there be an add on pack or a sequel?

RK: Yes. We have plans for several expansions.

GVK: What are you working on now?

RK: We’re all working towards “feature complete” and the beginning of private testing. Public Beta will be around the corner…