Big Game Wednesday – City of Villains

Last week, I discussed City of Heroes, the Massively Multiplayer On-Line Roleplaying Game featuring superheroes. And before I get to City of Villains, the sequel, I’d like to revisit something I mentioned, but don’t think I emphasized enough.

My attraction to the game was two-fold: number one, the superhero aspect was well executed. Character creation and superpower animation made for an amazingly fun experience. And number two, because the game was on-line, the world of the game wasn’t limited to what the developers could fit on a single disk or your computer’s storage capacity. The world was huge, with hundreds of places to explore.

What did not attract me to the game was the multi-player aspect. In fact, for years before I started playing City of Heroes, I kept reading articles in gaming magazines where they would mention that the future of gaming was in multi-player, or reviews where they would castigate a game for not having enough multi-player options. Solo gaming, they said, would soon go the way of the dinosaur.

And this both mystified and disheartened me, especially after having read stories about MMO’s like Everquest, which had huge problems with player-killers. It was one reason why I refused to play MMo’s for so long. I spent enough time dealing with tools and douchebags on the job all day long. The last thing I needed when I got home and booted up a computer game to escape from all that was to be ganked by some 13-year-old skidmark with nothing better to do than play games all day long and screw with other people’s good time.

Luckily, City of Heroes kept heroes from being able to attack each other except in designated PVP zones. Even better, most of your missions occured in what were called “instances,” small autonomous zones that only you and your team (meaning, usually, just me) inhabited. It was almost as good as playing purely solo. Of course, although people love to sing the praises of multi-player and PVP, in practice, when given the option of not playing PVP, most people didn’t.

It was apparently so bad that Cryptic had to add special incentives to lure people into the PVP zones, like special badges and missions. One of the coolest missions in the entire game was located in a PVP zone, which would have really sucked if there were anybody interested in PVP in that zone. As it turned out, with only one or two exceptions, the only other people I encountered were folks like myself intent on beating the mission and not interested in PVP at all. Suck it, gankers.

So then a couple of years after City of Heroes came out, Cryptic released a sequel game, City of Villains. The twist on the new game was that it was actually an extension of the same game. Not only would City of Villains give you the opportunity to play a bad guy featuring the same incredibly versatile game mechanics and costume creation as the original game, but it would also add new functions to City of Heroes, such as the ability to design your own headquarters.

City of Villains also gave you some new mission options designed to keep you from getting stymied when you ran out of story arc missions and were left having to grind street gangs for several levels before becoming eligible for the next arc. There was a radio which would give you random missions, and there were things called Mayhem Missions, in which the goal was to destroy as much stuff as possible within a given time limit. Fun.

The interesting thing about City of Villains was that, in order to keep from turning gamers off, the villainous missions were never actually all that villainous. Which is to say, you never really took part in missions against innocents. Pretty much all the missions were attacks on rival villainous gangs, so that you were really fighting the same types of enemies as in City of Heroes (and even some of the exact same organizations, meaning lots of Family–yawn). Even the robberies were usually stealing from the other bad guys.

My main villains were Dark Meta, my “evil twin” version of Metatronic, my main hero, and Metalord, a mastermind who led a group of evil robot followers (I later recycled the name for my ferrokinetic character in Sargon’s RPG). I don’t have any screen caps of Metalord, darn my shortsightedness, but here’s Dark Meta, along with a look at how the fog seemed to float a couple of feet above the ground.

And here’s Metatronic in the headquarters he built with the game’s additions to City of Heroes gameplay.

But as much as I loved playing the game (and I really loved it a lot), eventually I had to bow to the economic reality that I couldn’t afford the game’s $15 a month subscription fee, especially once I separated from my wife and had to pay all the bills on my own. So my superhero gaming jones went mostly unfulfilled for a while.

Until I joined Facebook, anyway.

Next week, Superhero City.

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