Friday, August 31, 2012

tearing off pieces of myself just for the time it buys me

(from the City of Heroes album)

Shania 14/N9 was a standard femchild of the Deollian Creche, given doxy training, combat and assassination skills, and basic education. When the Third Wave War came, many of the Creche facilities were destroyed, and the laboratories poisoned the air underground, killing many of the children (now grown). She was one of the few who fought her way free, but she was changed. Now possessing the ability to cast bolts of energy and alter kinetics, she's turned her back on her training to become Heterodoxy.

The only problem? The Third Wave War opened a rift to--somewhere. She's not entirely sure where she is, she's never heard of 'Arachnos' before, and she's fairly sure she's no longer at home.

((RP friendly, ERP tolerant, but not overwhelmingly interested in either.))
She was a bookmark character, in case the name ever became available on Virtue. She was on Defiant. Never played her much, but liked the concept.

(from the City of Heroes album)

Rhett Connery:
La dy Aretta Connery was showing great signs of promise towards getting Madam McKinley's Girls' Conservatory (and Finishing School) back on the map again for athletic excellence. Her archery scores placed them in the top three in the country until that fateful day when the sky ripped in twain and she--and her archery gear--were sucked inside to discover what strange new world lay on the other side of the broken barrier.
Rhett Connery I never found out if the name was taken on Virtue; I was using non-Virtue servers as a place to work out character concepts. But I loved the name, and the look. She was an archer with the trick shot set, though I had been thinking of remaking her with time manipulation abilities.

No real point now.

(from the City of Heroes album)

Telumna Norn:
Not much about Telumna has come to light. She's more of a legend than a being, the sort of tale told around a burning trash fire of things you don't want to see. On that score, no one's sure she does--see, that is, with her eyes sewn shut and all. No one's sure how she talks, either, with her lips secured with black thread crusted with old blood. All the stories will say is, you don't want to hear her whisper your name, however she does it.
Her battle cry? Mors omnibus adversantur. Which is about all I planned to have her say.

I admit, she was pretty much a female homage of the GunWitch from the Nocturnals comic, but I really wanted to play her out. My problem? I never logged into Protector.

She was a dual pistol-wielding shooter with darkness control (of course).

[Broadcast] Elltenia DeIGanus: ((To the end. to the bitter, bitter end...))

Yeah. More later. It's been an intensely depressing day.

only a dream, I know, thinking you'd never go

[NPC] Resistance Runesoldier: You're about to get it all polar bear-style without the syrup, know what I'm sayin'?

No. No, I have no CLUE what you're saying.

Sent in a support ticket:
I realize there's a lot going on today, and I absolutely understand if it takes some time to get back to me on this, but I am curious: my next stated billing date is in February of 2013 for the [mxxxxxxxxxx] account on NCSoft. Are there plans for a refund of funds? Normally, I'd accept game time in another game but I don't PLAY any other NCSoft games, just City of Heroes.
I expected the response to be delayed, considering all the chaos.

It wasn't:

We would first like to thank you for your support of City of Heroes. It is never easy to make this kind of decision. You can read the official announcement at There is a discussion on the forums that you are free to join at

For refunds of unused time or unspent Paragon Points, we will be contacting those players directly with information. Please watch the website for any official updates as soon as they are available.

City of Heroes will be available for at least the next three months. We are working on something special for our VIP and Premium players. As soon as these plans are ready, they will be announced on the website and the forums.

The City of Heroes Support Team
So, I'll wait and see.

Also, as a friend points out--we realize that NCSoft is a company based out of Korea, but to drop this bombshell on Labor Day weekend--threatening the very support team and development team for the game, and making them paranoid about where they're going to labor next--yeah, that's kind of the height of irony.

Again, more when I learn more.
[Update 1: Titan Network tosses their hat in the ring to potentially host CoH.]

forfeiting everything, pointless cries, futile dreams

Farewell, from all of us at Paragon Studios

This morning we announced that Paragon Studios will be taking to the skies of City of Heroes for the last time.

In a realignment of company focus and publishing support, NCsoft has made the decision to close Paragon Studios. Effective immediately, all development on City of Heroes will cease and we will begin preparations to sunset the world's first, and best, Super Hero MMORPG before the end of the year. As part of this, all recurring subscription billing and Paragon Market purchasing will be discontinued effective immediately. We will have more information regarding a detailed timeline for the cessation of services and what you can expect in game in the coming weeks.

The team here at Paragon deserves special praise for all that we have accomplished over the last 5+ years. These developers are some of the most creative and talented people in the gaming industry. By now, we've all been given this news internally, but to anyone who may be reading this message after the fact; know that your hard work and dedication has not gone unappreciated or unnoticed. To any potential studios looking to grow your team; hire these people. You won't regret it.

To our Community,

Thank you. Thank you for your years of support. You've been with us every step of the way, sharing in our challenges, encouraging us to make City of Heroes better, more than everyone else thought it could be. We couldn't have come this far without you. I implore you all, focus on the good things of CoH and Paragon Studios. Don't dwell on the "how" or the "why", but rather join us in celebrating the legacy of an amazing partnership between the players and the development team.

Thank you, and I'll see you in the skies, one last time.

Andy Belford

Community Manager

Paragon Studios.

I...have no words for this. I'm absolutely baffled. The game itself was making a profit, and running in the black since going free-to-play. The problem is not City of Heroes--it's Aion. But, since Aion is popular overseas, NCSoft has chosen to sacrifice City of Heroes--a game, I would reiterate, that is making money for them--in order to save Aion, a game that is losing money for the parent company.

I'll post more when I know more. At this point, though, confused, hurt, and frustrated, because in spite of everything that's happened over the past year for me and my household financially, we have put that $45 (US, not Lindens, for the three of us who live here) on the line each and every month. As have hundreds of thousands of other subscribers.

[Update 1: There's a petition, not that I expect it to change anything.]
[Update 2: City of Heroes will apparently be closing November 30th.]
[Update 3: Paragon Studios, the basically in-house City of Heroes development team within NCSoft, will also be closing down. There's been some concern over whether Paragon is closing its doors before or after City of Heroes itself closes. The devs on the team have no clue at this point whether they're even going to have jobs to continue to go to after today.]
[Update 4: Slim mention here discovered on the possibility of a live in-game event to send the game off. If this is true, no one at Paragon Studio's had heard this yet.]

Thursday, August 30, 2012

take my name and just let me be

[Help] Electro Valkyrie: Man this is an awesome cell phone
[Help] Electro Valkyrie: I'm in Echo: Dark Astoria and it can call through time and space to someone in present day Founder's Falls

Weird, innit?

[Help] Captain Typhoon: The roaming charges are gonna kill you though.
[Help] Dragon Magus: almost as bad as calling from the shadow shard
[Help] Banshee Moth: wait until Montague gives you grave dirt over the phone, that'll blow your mind

Yeah, and that's not the weirdest thing that happens with NPCs in City, either.

(from the City of Heroes album; downtown Astoria)

[Help] Wasurenagusa: And you forgot calling from Cimerora, that's quite the cellphone range
[Help] Electro Valkyrie: I forgot how much I hated old Dark Astoria
[Help] Electro Valkyrie: Can't see my hand in front of my face.
[Help] Densmorou: I loved that about Old Dark Astoria... it was dark

(from the City of Heroes album; downtown Astoria)

Actually, I wouldn't precisely agree. Oh, the whole cell phone thing has always amused the hell out of me--out of all the various ways NPCs with missions have of contacting players, the cell phone trope has only made sense in areas where there's a certain level of technology. For NPCs from Cimerora--elsewise stuck in ancient Rome--it's never made sense as a point of contact. And it's not the only oddity in the calling trope used throughout the game.

(from the City of Heroes album; downtown Astoria)

But no, we were talking about Dark Astoria. Dark Astoria wasn't dark before Mot arrived; it was grey.

(from the City of Heroes album; downtown Astoria)

Really grey. Really, really grey. Like, what's-that-off-in-the-distance grey.

(from the City of Heroes album; downtown Astoria)

Oh, and there were zombies.

(from the City of Heroes album; downtown Astoria)

And there were some deep oddities about the zone--not only was it the only zone in the game that had no story arc of its own, but some areas--like this one--had distinct light-and-shadow patterns from a sun that was never truly seen. Also, all the zombies shot at you, rather than shamble forward and try to eat you. Unless you're a decayed Vietnam-war-era zombie vet in House, why would you use a gun, and not teeth and hands?

(from the City of Heroes album; mourning in Moth Cemetary)

But in the new Dark Astoria? It really is dark. Really dark. Dark red, and largely infected by eddies of black magic and swirling shadows.

(from the City of Heroes album; a run through old Astoria)

Old Dark Astoria? Really wasn't that dark.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

we're lost 'til we learn how to ask

[Help] Ninsusinak: i gotta say. im suprised this game is still around.
[Help] Grandmaster UO Thief: you and me both
[Help] Starpunk: It's because it constantly updates and reinvents itself.
[Help] Ninsusinak: considering the amount of other mmo out there.
[Help] Starpunk: And, again, that whole niche market thing.
[Help] Starpunk: The only two other games that are in this market are "DCUO" and "Champions Online"
[Help] Starpunk: And neither of them are, well, nearly as actively-cared-for as this one

The verbal war between adherents of Champions Online and City of Heroes forever rages; at least once a day we see this surface in either Help channel, or the Looking For Group channel.

Interestingly enough, very few other games are mentioned--none of the games Marvel's done, and only on rare occasion DC's offering for this particular niche market are ever discussed.

[Help] Aqua Net: CO has nifty costumes, though
[Help] Starpunk: It has some nifty concepts I think we need
[Help] Mallyus: Unfortunately that's all it has
[Help] Literal Lass: This is true. They actually have full-on Lolita wear.
[Help] Starpunk: Mostly, I would be happy forever if we had a version of the antagonist system
[Help] Aqua Net: i don't like the game, mind....

We hear this a lot, too. And I'll be honest--while they don't have options that are as detailed, they have more individual options. They include mesh layers that overlay the neck (independently of the shoulders), then elbows, wrists, knees, and ankles (instead of just gloves and boots). There are other examples, but what's more important for me is their color system.

In City of Heroes, we have a choice of two colors--a primary and a secondary--that can tint most of the costume options (though not all). Champions spurned the two-color system in some fairly innovative ways, and it would be lovely to have more than two colors consistently.

[Help] Starpunk: A nemesis system that could invade our everyday missions would be amazing

It's an interesting idea. The concept of Nemesis is so broad, so overreaching, that it's become a joke at this point--more than a few loading screens mention the accomplishments (or failures) of Nemesis, and the two most well known from those say either "It's all a Nemesis plot" or "Not everything is a Nemesis plot".

But he really is the quintessential bad guy for nearly all sides--because he is the binding force (at least, before the evil of Mot arrived) for most activity on either side, and he's been on he edges of absolute power for over a century, easily. Plus, he's got several things other Big Bads don't have:
  1. an entire army of fake hims to distract and disorient anyone searching for him
  2. a regimented army comprised of steampunk fops bearing trombone guns, and their hapless robotic pals--but while their outfits and their armaments can induce giggles, the punch they pack is anything but amusing
  3. a personal history that actually, literally, spans hundreds of years and flashes both back and forward
  4. the fact that, in Paragon's history (and, to a more limited extent, the history of the Rogue Isles), he's been the equivalent of Mussolini, Stalin, and the Emperor of the Americas (a title self-bestowed when, at the end of WWII, he took over the United States)
  5. He was also responsible for the Rikti War, which heroes and villains both fight to this day
  6. and--with the sole exception of the Wyvern commandoes, funded by Manticore (who may, even then, be accepting funds from Nemesis), every other battle mob on every side of the game is funded by Nemesis. The Family. The Circle of Thorns. The Banished Pantheon (which means he's also indirectly behind the scenes for Mot's attempted takeover of reality). The Talons of Vengeance. The Outcasts. Longbow. The Hellions. The Skulls. Indirectly, the Coralax and Leviathan itself. And many, many more.
[Help] Ankhtaruim: Erm, what is rikiti invasion?
[Help] Tyrannicus: Malaise, Alexis Cole, Sister Psyche, Statesman, also Ankh are you serious?
[Help] Ankhtaruim: I am a noob, sorry
[Help] Tyrannicus: Just had to check if you were trolling.
[Help] Ankhtaruim: I understand.
[Help] Tyrannicus: I take it you don't follow the lore at all?
[Help] Ankhtaruim: Though, why people would troll a help channel, is beyond me. No, I didn't, unfortunately. Just jumped into things.
[Help] Captain 'MURICA: 99% of the RP on this server completely ignores the lore...

Well, sure, but that's because at least 90% of ALL RP, in any game, is packed with folks who either a) don't bother to read up on that game's history, b) have their own concepts and want to stick with them (sometimes to the exclusion of other game tropes staring them in the face), and/or c) just do not care, at all, what the game's core RP is.

[Help] Tyrannicus: Well you don't have to worry about it too much if you just started out. It's an event where Rikti pop up at your feet in all zones for certain frames of time besides Atlas and Mercy.
[Help] Tyrannicus: When I made my character I tried to work in the lore without overly messing with it. But I see all these people who just say "MY SPECIAL SNOWFLAKE IS TOO PERFECT FOR TEH ESTABLISHED LORE DURRR"
[Help] Ankhtaruim: Ah, OK. I see. Thanks for the help.
[Help] Ankhtaruim: As for the lore... I know, I was bad ignoring it. My first time playing the game... wanted to see if I'd get hooked first. I am starting to be, so I guess I should read up!

I actually have to applaud this attitude. There should be more games where people fall in serious like with the game, and then want to know the lore behind it. That kind of curiosity makes good players.

[Help] Toxicburns: lore smore.. I'm just here to kill stuff, anyone have a problem with that let THEM pay my monthly sub and I'll play the game THEIR way :P

Well, and at the end of the day, we're roughly equivalent to an FPS--at least, depending on how close to the backs of our heads we set the camera. There are thousands of people who log in, kill things, and log back out again, and honestly couldn't tell you, if asked, what the difference was between Longbow and the Bane Spiders. They don't care; they didn't come in for that.

And to be fair, these complaints don't address them. These are the guys who come in with the best approximation they can have for street clothes, and just pick a zone and pound on things. They rarely do story arcs; they're not invested in the history of why the mobs are there, in any way. They're going to punch their way to 50, then decide on another outfit, and punch their way to 50 again.

These complaints aren't for those guys. These complaints are for the ones who don't care about the game, yet play anyway. The ones who moan and whine that it's worse since free-to-play. The ones who lack imagination but try to roleplay anyway. Unfortunately, there seems to be a lot of this type of gamer.

[Help] Hexman: There's absolutely nothing wrong with ignoring the game lore when making your Hero (or villain, or whatever)
[Help] Tyrannicus: It feels kind of stupid to just blatantly snub the lore for a role play character though.
[Help] Hexman: You can feel however you like :) That's the beauty of an open ended game like this :)
[Help] Tyrannicus: It doesn't help that most characters who disregard all aspects of the lore are horrendous Mary Sues/Marty Stus

There's that, too. Of course, the key to a Mary Sue character is that they have to be the most perfect, most attractive, most amazing character anyone's ever seen...but they can't say this themselves, others have to say it for them.

But, while City of Heroes has random NPCs that pick up the names of heroes or villains local to them, it's not consistent, and sometimes it's downright unflattering. So in general, if anyone's going to tell the world they're God's own gifts to the game, they have to say it.

Usually they say it in the name. "Goddess" is popular with these types for females, as well as variations on compliments--"sexy" and "babe" and "cute", which in SL is generally made into first names, and in City of Heroes usually has "super" or "wonder" somewhere in the name as well. And for men, endless variations on the devil ("Lucifer" in all spellings, or "Unholy Darkness" or just plain "devil" or "demon" a lot of the I think on it, there's a lot of guys in SL who use the demonic as a character trope, too), or references to how strong, buff, or just plain awesome they are.

I've heard it before in SL--there's no bad roleplay, only bad roleplayers. I don't agree, but I will say that overall, from personal experience as well as talking to friends in SL and City, there's more bad roleplayers in City than in SL.

And that says something huge about the game.

Monday, August 27, 2012

and my love for you is still unknown

I have a few shots of Founders' Falls. But I want to preface them with something I found in the Jordan's Town gallery:

(from the City of Heroes album; All Rights Reserved to whomever's behind the "Shazel" account from Jordan's Town)

So, this was taken three years ago. It shows Founders' Fall by night, but I think it gives a good idea of what Founders' Falls looks like for most, and for me until a month ago.

(from the City of Heroes album; Founder's Fall with full reflections)

And this is a shot I took a couple weeks back. Note the reflections and the sweep of shadows.

(from the City of Heroes album; another shot of Founder's Falls)

This so completely whelms me. Honestly, it's distracting running missions, I keep stopping and staring at things.

(from the City of Heroes album; under the canal bridge)

And--at least so far--there's never been an instance where I duck under a shadowed structure and suddenly stop seeing shadows and reflections. It's been very organic, very--if I can use this word in the context of an MMO--natural, with the movement of the water, the shadows, the way light works with them...Founders' Fall has become a very lovely place.

(from the City of Heroes album; angel statues everywhere)

Even long-distance shots still retain that sense of majesty and scope, and the sweet of shadows from the pillars. Far back, there's not as much shine off the water, but that happens in RL, too.

More to come.

Sunday, August 26, 2012

go, son, go down to the water, and see the women weeping there

[19:44] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: can you play n elder?

Out of the blue I get this IM, standing in Fallen Gods.

[19:44] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: were in some deep rolepla right now

Oh, dear gods. "Rolepla"?? And you want my help with your "rolepla"??

[19:44] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: a warriorprincess findingin her magical powers, her chi, she needs the elder to explain her it
[19:44] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: explaining her how to use the powers
[19:46] Emilly Orr: Elder what?
[19:47] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: a maigcal wizard similar to a god
[19:47] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: leading her way

So let me get this straight. You want a total stranger to take over the role of a divine being, and explain to this chicklet how to use her budding powers...that you apparently gave, save your entire world? How am I supposed to play this for you??

[19:47] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: teaching her how to use her magic I gave her from my pride

I have no idea what that means.

Did I mention this guy was thin as a rake in a zombie skin? We'd been trying with various people to win them Fallen Gods' new "Depth" Lucky Fortune skin, and then HE drops in from the roof with this ridiculous request.

[19:47] Emilly Orr: If I know nothing about the structure you're trying to instruct her in, I'm less than useless.
[19:47] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: in hope she might be the warrior prciness rescuing the kingdom

I'm assuming you already have a "prciness" in mind. And gods help her if she spells like you do.

[19:48] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: a chi , magical powers, she learns how to heal, how to use her powers to destroy opponents, summoning mighty helpers, and were here to tell her how she does it, smething like...if you do these movments, or close your eyes, and move your hands during you think abotu speficif things
[19:48] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: something like that
[19:48] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: be spontous :-)
[19:48] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: im invisble.

Suuuuure you are.

And while we're on the topic, how the hell do I--completely extemporarily--tell someone I don't know how to cast all these spells and ground with the energy of the whatever and destroy her oppressors with her new prided magics and...I mean, this is HUGE! Also stupid, but mostly huge. This needs prep! Scripting! Costumes!

Me not being an android at the time, if I'm supposed to be this elder god!

Then she showed up. Frilly little thing in a pink mesh dress, white pumps, and a rather attractive bob. This is the warrior princess famed of ages past. This.


[19:49] Emilly Orr: If she's the one in pink, I'd say your kingdom's toast. She's got about as much warrior in her as a cake sponge.
[19:49] Dxxxx Fxxxxxx: she just found out she is, dont be bad with her
[19:49] Emilly Orr: have you read her profile?

Seriously, the sum total of her bio? "yo its me". Three damn words. And NOTHING else. Two store links under picks, nothing under RL...And then he told her to talk to me.

Oh, the hell, you idiot. I haven't agreed; I haven't changed outfits--or skins; in point of fact, I've said it's a stupid idea. But like an obedient poppet, she walks over and stares at me.


[19:50] Emilly Orr: Kxxxxx, I know nothing about your gods, your pride, or your chi. Good luck.
[19:50] Emilly Orr: Try not to die.
[19:50] Emilly Orr vanishes.

Honestly, what was I supposed to say? The hell, people!

Also, this may be the single scariest mesh thing yet created for Second Life. That is all.

Saturday, August 25, 2012

and her cold voice sings a melody

(from the City of Heroes album; floating destroyers)

There is a mission towards the end of the game where a megalomaniac makes several surgical strikes on named heroes--and villains. One of his maneuvers was to seize control of several destroyers on patrol in the Atlantic. This is how military ships look when they're lifted and tilted into the air.

(from the City of Heroes album; more floating destroyers)

This is the shot of them rising from the sea into the air, partially trapped in the bubble of force holding them up.

(from the City of Heroes album; Lord Recluse on the ship)

It always weirds me out a little to stand next to a major villain in the game. As a villain, I've dealt with Recluse, Captain Mako, Ghost Widow, and some of the others--but as a hero? Our paths are not supposed to cross as easily.

(from the City of Heroes album; Lord Recluse on the ship)

Oh dear gods, is he staring at me? Look away, look away...Don't look in his eyes, I'm not here, I'm not here!

(from the City of Heroes album; Mako on the ship)

Another shot of the ships rising from the sea. Captain Mako's on my right.

(from the City of Heroes album; Mako on the ship)

And no idea why the chosen color for the mystical hovering stones, and their metalwork lattice cages, was bright neon pink...but they were oddly pretty.

More to come.

Friday, August 24, 2012

oh pretty girls, you're too good for this

There are many places in Dark Astoria that are just disturbing--the prevalence of wandering undead; the presence of Mot pushing its way into the world, in protrusions of bone and fang and flesh; the corpses lying unburied on the city streets; the amount of crashed vehicles scattered about that have never been carted off.

The fact that the power's still on in the buildings that remain, but they radiate a green eldritch light, instead of normal incandescence.

(from the City of Heroes album; Moth Cemetary statue in Dark Astoria)

Still, there are sights like this--one of the mourning statues. She's very tall, taller than she looks in this image, but there is such an utter weariness to her, an abject suffering. Even her bouquet looks wilted, but I'm fairly sure that's just the textures used, and not the artistic intent.

(from the City of Heroes album; Moth Cemetary statue in Dark Astoria)

Still, the fact that the minimal light that strikes the street in Dark Astoria is dull and red; the fact that even the moon rising behind the War Walls looks dipped in blood; the fact that that sun never rises; all of these and more make Dark Astoria an eerie and unnerving place.

(from the City of Heroes album; MOAR EFFECTS!)

Remember what I said about multiple, overlapping effects? This is another aspect of it: with so many particle effects going off, they tend to render participants cut-outs limned in light.

This particular image is, in the main, no different from any other effects shots I have, I just liked the way the giant battle-axe seems the center of the action.

(from the City of Heroes album; light through the Eye of Thorns)

Sometimes, the simplest effects in a game can be the most powerful. Finding pyramidal structures underground, with golden glowing eyes...there's nothing complicated about it, but it does capture the attention.

(from the City of Heroes album; demons reading)

Moving through various underground caverns on this particular mission, all four of us stopped dead, staring at the outcropping one island over in the cavern we found ourselves in.

We had never seen this before. Any enemy mob has a chance to run through any of the standard animations in the game. Mostly, they default to things like looking stern, sneaking around, throwing air punches, fidgeting, or looking bored.

These guys? They were all reading. We almost felt sorry having to do them in; obviously, they were more interested in education, not destruction...

(from the City of Heroes album; the summoned Seer essences)

Oh, and while we're talking effects--part of the fun of being an Incarnate (what City of Heroes calls the endgame, which is level 50 and everything after) is that, once the Lore experience slot is unlocked, we can build our own pets (whether we had them or not). (Oh, and we're not talking literal pets, we're talking robots, psychics, floating giant eyes, storm elementals, and over a dozen others that may have started out human, but are now summoned shades bound to our will. "Pets" is simply what the game calls them.)

My main character, being as she's the Uber-Squishy (AKA, she's a Psi/Psi blaster), built two Seer essences as pets. To be frank, they rock--one of them beams psychic healing at me, the other beams psychic attacks at my enemies. Which they do while floating and wearing blindfolds--because Praetoria keeps their psychics blind.

More to come.

is this as hard as it gets?

I think I've brought up the War Walls that some folks find so unattractive in City of Heroes. There's this impression that War Walls are only found on blueside, and that's just not true--there's at least one that's off the shore of Grandville, which is a higher-level zone on redside.

But Dark Astoria, as usual, takes the concept and makes it creepier:

(from the City of Heroes album; the War Walls in DA)

See the skulls? At some point, I'll likely take a pic of Steel Canyon's War Walls, say, for comparison with a non-me-containing shot of Dark Astoria's walls...but in the meantime, the "traditional" Rikti-technology force walls around the city have been not that damn subtly changed. Just like the sewer water, the walls have gone red, and they're corrupted by moving skulls and screaming faces instead of simple lines of force.

This also does a great job at intimating just how total a grip Mot has--because he's so pervasive as an entity, he can make an alien race's technology craze across when he's near.

(from the City of Heroes album; under Paragon City)

This is the main Cathedral set, in Oranbega. Oranbega is more an Undercity, not a city on its own--it's accessible only via a series of storm drains and natural cave systems under Paragon City.

Populated largely by the Circle of Thorns and their minions, on my former system the graphics were on the dull side, to be fair. But this shot--the banners glow, the air seems charged and expectant with floating dust, and even the colors of the banners are brighter and more vibrant.

(from the City of Heroes album; Cimerora under attack)

I swear, this entire set reminded me so much of areas of Second Life. Here's the breakdown for what non-players are looking at, though:

Part of the Mot arc involves infestation of Cimerora, which is an alternate Rome containing many of the same signature heroes and villains--only in ancient times. Even with that, though, this was impressive--an entire field of broken ships and reaching tentacles. And the most amazing thing of all--rain.

Flash back to the first time seeing rain in Second Life--it was astounding, it was phenomenal. It was different. Well, as in SL, it doesn't rain in City of Heroes--save for this patch of infested sea.

(from the City of Heroes album; Cimerora under attack)

Of course, City of Heroes has one major disadvantage from Second Life--you can't swim in the oceans. In fact, about all you can do is tread water, and that's if you're lucky--most of the oceans you can simply walk in, because they're no more wading pools than anything.

Which makes sea-based activity--from submarine transports to this ocean scene with sinking ships--bizarre, to say the least.

Still. It looks impressive.

(from the City of Heroes album; Cimerora in the rain)

And the rain...I must have stood there on the prow of that ship for ten minutes, just watching the rain. It reminded me of the first time it rained in Rivula, back when the Enigma was still open.

Rain makes everything better.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

longest night I've ever known

(from the City of Heroes album)

Now, I'd explain this one better, but I'm really not sure how, because this particular billboard is seen throughout the game, in various iterations.

In Praetoria, it's propaganda to watch for the Resistance, and to be good little programmed Loyalist drones. In the Rogue Isles, it's more an indication that Arachnos may be watching--somehow--and will test our convictions. In Paragon City, it may be a reference to the Rikti, who frequently send in shock troops in (usually aborted) attempts at land grabs.

The latter, for this one, is likeliest true, considering that Crey Industries set up much of Astoria in the first place, and work closely with Peregrine Island's Portal Industries. The problem with that theory is that now it's Dark Astoria, home of Mot and his minions.

Now, this sign has a different--and a much darker--meaning. They could be anyone...even our role models. Because in the end game, one by one heroes and villains both lose to Mot, and turn.

(from the City of Heroes album)

It's taken me a little bit to figure out why group fight scenes are so dizzying and dazzling. In City of Heroes, each individual player can pick the colors of their effects, and there are two effects assigned to each one. Even if I'm fighting with nine other people who have all chosen blue and white as their powerset effects, that's still my chosen colors, plus each particle effect as selected by those nine others. They multiply, bloom, and radiate, depending upon the powers themselves.

If we add to that the fact that any ten random people on the server will not choose the same two colors, this is what we get: a wildly coruscating, dizzying blend of particles and light beams, in a thousand blended shades. Okay, there are times where the spiffy new graphics card and the flat-screen monitor have drawbacks.

(from the City of Heroes album)

There are moments in the Mot story arc that contain things that happen nowhere else in the game. In a sense, this is by design, because if our games don't have specific content for the end game, content we can't access anywhere else, then why are we going to level to 50 and not just walk away?

But much of that content, given the nature of the Dark Astoria arcs, is profoundly disturbing. Membraneous veined winglike structures that stretch across sewers. The sewer water itself replaced with gelid blood, not swampy water. Bits of Mot thrusting through streets, through fields...the very air in Dark Astoria charged and deeply red.

It's also one of the few places in the game where heroes and villains mingle. Aside from Pocket D--which is simply hero and villain players mingling--in the final Dark Astoria arcs, signature heroes and villains help us out (depending entirely on our choices).

This image features the Dream Doctor, the villain Scirocco (who has the coolest male hair in the game, hands down, and it's annoyingly NOT available for male characters), and Celerin, the metal speedstress (Celerin being another player, not a signature hero)...all standing in a pool of blood in the Mot-tainted sewers under Dark Astoria.

(from the City of Heroes album)

Completely random in-mission shot. In the game, the circles of light beneath the chest spin and hold the chest up, with the chest itself ever so slightly bobbing up and down.

(from the City of Heroes album)

A mystical wall...thing...from the same mission. I'm sure it does something in terms of story, but I have no idea what that would be. The violet streams of lightning crackled and spat, and were very, very animated in...doing whatever it is they do, other than look cool.

(from the City of Heroes album)

And on this one, I just thought the glow effect looked cool. This is another shot of Dark Astoria...I'd say Dark Astoria at night, but that really has no meaning. It's always this dark in Dark Astoria now.

More to come.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

you used to be mean, you used to be cruel, but you were laughing then

Part of getting the new monitor--the whole new machine, to be honest--has been adapting to the fact that I can use better graphics settings on everything I play. The "Ultra" setting on City of Heroes, for instance, gives me the shadows and the intensity that people have been talking about for so many years on SL, at a fraction of the processor drain.

There's a down side to this: I've been taking pictures like crazy, but at this point, I have very little context for any of them. So--because I want to post many of them--I'm just going to go for it in the next few entries.

And then hopefully get back to Minecraft shots. If I can remember what happened when...

First, though, an example of what I mean that I've posted before:

(from the City of Heroes album; the superhero "Siege")

So, this was taken by one of the City of Heroes promotional team to link to a wiki article. Considering the storylines at the time that I remember, I'd peg this as taken maybe four years ago? Note the angular appearance, the 'blockiness' of the mesh itself, and the desaturated color palette.

(from the City of Heroes album; the second male character I've ever pulled up.)

So...yeah, this was the best example I could find--a character I pulled up tonight for....I have no clue. We were playing with a random name generator and it threw out "AngryBlob RhinoAnimal".

So I had to make him up.

Don't look at me like that.

The important point is, a similarly-sized male character to Siege now has much more color and vibrancy (in game or out), more rounding to the mesh, and in general looks a whole lot better, start to finish.

Well. Putting aside that I dressed him like that. And that I named him "AngryBob RhinoAnimal"...

(from the City of Heroes album; under Atlas Park)

From the ridiculous to the...disgusting? City of Heroes is yet another game with an absurdly large sewer system running underneath the entire world, it seems some days. It's stupidly spacious, considering, and more than a little repellent, but on the new monitor, the water's not sludgy and olive, it's very nearly emerald in spots (not that that's necessarily good, either).

What kills me are the reflections. Prior to the new monitor (and graphics card), the waters were dull and flat. Now? I'm watching this fledging hero run to the street access tunnel, and watching her reflection in the water run, too.

(from the City of Heroes album; the zeppelin in Atlas)

At the risk of upskirting (which, I assure you, was not the intent, metallic party frock or not), I had to capture this shot one day when I happened to be looking up. Forget that things look better; on Ultra settings in City of Heroes, not only do objects that never glowed before glow, or objects that were static become animated, but things like this show up. I have friends who say the airship was always there.

All I can say before is I never noticed it.

(from the City of Heroes album; a shot of the Antikythera device)

Towards the end game (so, talking between levels 45 and 50), there's another cooperative mission traveling back and forth in time. One of the plot points involves an Antikythera mechanism--or its nearest visual simulacrum, considering the limits of the game. Still, I was fascinated that it was actually mentioned--in this instance, as an object that could program time vortexes, as I recall.

Still, I was enthralled. I took several shots of the device as the NPCs chatted over details of the story arc; this was the best of the shots I took. (Oh, and while I no longer remember the legs of the fellow on the left, the legs on the right belong to Positron.)

More to come.

Tuesday, August 21, 2012

failing that, she wanted lies and vivisection (pt. II)

And the second part, picking up where we left off:

[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: Also attacking role players on Virtue, the role play server, is like attacking PvPers on Freedom.

*laughs* To be fair, it is rather ridiculous, considering Virtue server holds the bulk of RP, and Freedom holds the bulk of PvPers.

[Looking For Group] Accalon: I can tell you exactly what happened to end CoV: Masterminds can be heroes.
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: because the way people whine to keep the RP together and have it easily available lead to Going Rogue

They've obviously dealt with vastly different RPers than I have. Because this just makes no sense to me.

[Looking For Group] Trix Lupescu: Accalon: So, why can't a good person build robots to help fight crime? Why must all robots be evil?
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: which then lead to just slapping all the classes accpet certain ones in both sides

Spell check! Look into it!

[Looking For Group] MUCHO MAS:
[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: That is...amazingly stupid to say.
[Looking For Group] Techenos 3: Frankly, I play Redside MORE now that I can have Rogues/Vigilantes that are free to go between sides.
[Looking For Group] Accalon: The point is not story. The point is that we as Villains had a bitchin' AT that was one of the few reasons anyone actually set foot into the Rogue Isles.

Again, I don't think that's the issue. Sure, giving anyone the right to make Corruptors, Dominators, Brutes, Stalkers, and Masterminds--whether they were a hero or not--that drove up the total character population on blueside. But that doesn't mean OMG no one plays redside whine whine whine is the answer, either. Want more content on redside? Turn in suggestions. Find a good supergroup. Find friends. Make your content.

After all, that's what folks on blueside do.

[Looking For Group] Janna Fortune: They mught be better written... but the problem with red side.. the problem that's always existed... is villian motives and what sort of villian you wan to play (thief/assassian/world dom whatever) isn't as easily supported

I think Janna's right on this one. Villains are murkier characters. Do you want there to be a thread of sympathy? Do you want them to be unrelentingly evil? For the most part, we make up a superhero, it can pretty much be a single aspect of us, with very little effort involved. For example, one of my characters controls time, but also gravity. She shrank when her powers came on, so she calls herself "Eternitwee".

And literally, the whole character is in the name. She's pale purple, she has a wolf tail, she has big furry ears, she's very cute--hence the name. She's dead easy to play, pretty much zero effort involved.

Conversely, Influenza Annie is my main bad guy. She's a living virus, brought to her own form of mutating life by a scientist bent on world domination. Her favorite trick? Hover overhead and set things on fire.

And while the actual killing-things business is routine and commonplace, some of the missions really make me ponder. What would a living virus do if asked to kidnap someone? Or help someone? Take me as the player out of it--what would Annie be motivated to do?

I like both characters, or I wouldn't have them, but playing Annie is definitely the more challenging role for me.

[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: they removed all of the Incentive to be a villain

See above. I disagree.

[Looking For Group] Trix Lupescu: Accalon: If Masterind was the only reason you played red side i'm sorry. I love red side and it has nothing to do with being a villain

Me too.

[Looking For Group] Techenos 3: Masterminds were by no means the only incentive to play a villain.

No, the incentives to playing villains are in the story arcs, crawling through abandoned buildings, fighting off naga, rotting corpses, Eidolon, other Arachnos operatives, various spiders, Coralax, Family, and a slew of other problem children that must be continually beat down to gain breathing room. There's also some really pretty scenery on villain side, surprisingly.

[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: except for better missions, more believable characters, better looking zones etc


[Looking For Group] Wrath Talon: if u need incentive for people to make a villain then... idk that in itself is not going to work

Or put another way--playing villains isn't for everyone, and that's okay. In fact, that's rather the point.

[Looking For Group] Magitek Knight: guys, i know it's late on a saturday night and we've probably all had a few beers, but can we make, say, a "Virtue" chat channel and take the convo there... or just go to help.. or the forums

Gods, if only this were to happen.

[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: the reason people dont play the redside now is because its empty. and the reason its empty is because they removed any real incentive to stay there

No, Grandmaster. You're wrong. You're wrong on both reasons. Redside isn't empty, it just depends on when you go, and there are lots of incentives to stay there.

[Looking For Group] Wisp Rider: ((Anyone wanna do a mish team Redside?))

I rest my case.

[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: It's not empty by any means.
[Looking For Group] Master of the Fates: Please guys your killing us here who are trying to use LFG to build teams

Yeah, really. The Looking For Group channel is I even have to say this out loud?...looking for players to form temporary groups with. For missions, for strike forces, for simple leveling, for AE excursions...whatever, whenever, that's what it's for.

It's not meant for anything else.

[Looking For Group] Lightning Brenden: And the reason it emptied in the first place was due to the devs turning redside the cold shoulder.

When? Seriously, when? When did this happen?

[Looking For Group] Wrath Talon: maybe people simply prefer to play a hero

Yeah. Because as previously stated, heroes are easier to play.

We could even put it in fandom terms: ANYONE can play Captain Hammer. He's self-involved, overconfident, conceited, pretty capable at beating things up--he's just this big dumb guy, you know?

But it takes a special soul to play Dr. Horrible and make him likeable. Here's a guy who wants two conflicting things: the love of the girl of his dreams, and world domination. World domination is going to involve killing people. Can we, as players, play that conflict out, can we kill without remorse? And remember, we're doing it in a setting where the strong survive, and the weak perish. In Paragon City, as heroes, we're attacked by gang members, but rarely by our own fellow heroes (Flambeaux notwithstanding).

But in Mercy Isle, Sharkhead, Grandville? We are not safe. In fact, that's part of what makes villain side challenging--that at any moment, you could be set upon by gang members, huge mutated snakes, or your fellow Arachnos soldiers. If Arachnos thinks it can take you out, it will--and it will keep trying until you kill them, or die yourself.

That in itself is a fascinating dichotomy, but that's also why City of Villains is somewhat more rarefied as an experience. It's not as approachable, and that's by design. Not everyone's going to be good at it; not everyone's going to succeed at it.

[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: and its not like this just on this server
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: its like this on almost al the servers
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: the red sides are dead
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: in a situation for every 100 heros there is maybe 20 villains on a good day
[Looking For Group] Seer Tournoux: The reason people play heroes has nothing to do with the game. Most people just don't want to be the bad guys.

It's a fair point. But City of Heroes wanted to provide players the option. Options are important.

[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: i go to the blue side because i actualy like getting a group together and not having it take 20-30 minutes due to a lack of people

And I've had moments where it's taken twenty to forty-five minutes to coordinate a group on blueside, so it happens everywhere. Just depends on when we play.

[Looking For Group] Doc Eldritch: I have never likes Arachnos and that's all there is to villian side really, you can't escape it.

And if a player really doesn't like Arachnos--well, yes, that would make redside less enjoyable. If you don't like spiders, if you don't like black and red as a nearly universal color scheme--stick to blueside.

[Help] Techno - Destructo: I think if there was more than just an aesthetic difference between blue and red side more people might play redside. we fight all the same bad guiys basically.. you can fight the same ones blue side

....but there is more than an aesthetic difference. Look! I took pictures!

[Looking For Group] Trix Lupescu: So go to a higher population and NOT an RP server. Especially with the stuff you've said about RPers being the problem, you're insulting many of the very people you are trying to get to agree with you. After saying we're the problem

The difficulty with this argument on Virtue in a nutshell. It goes like this:
  3. ...oh.
[Help] Tyrannicus: The thing is, you don't exactly do *much* evil in CoV

How so? You beat up the good guys, break legs, infect cops with an untested mutagen, poison food supplies for the poor, destroy educational materials...and those are just in various story arcs, not personal RP strains, Architect Entertainment missions, or strike forces. How can you call any of that 'not doing evil'?

[Looking For Group] Victory Viper: I'm sure you all can find a better place to talk about this than cluttering the LFG channel, right?
[Looking For Group] SPICE GIRL: This is the "Looking for Group" Tab [[[ Not a CHAT line ]]] Hello

And lo, it's been said, many times, many ways...

[Help] Grandmaster UO Thief: well last time ic hecked having villain only special classes made people gravitate to the villain side
[Help] Grandmaster UO Thief: and even then they can switch sides
[Help] Tyrannicus: Going rogue was not made to please one faction of the fanbase.
[Help] Grandmaster UO Thief: i remember people made villains so they could play a new cool class such as a mastermind
[Help] Supreme Champion: more people makes more people, I hear everyone always say they like red this or that better, but play blue since red is empty

...and we're back where we started. Honestly, this conversation happens twice a week. Haven't we hashed all this out already?

Monday, August 20, 2012

failing that, she wanted lies and vivisection (pt. I)

The perpetual complaint in the global channels surfaces again--namely:

[Looking For Group] Wrath Talon: way too much players on blueside
[Looking For Group] Mr Nullify: cos zones more cheerful better on coh side
[Looking For Group] Trix Lupescu: If they locked it to each side they'd just have even MORE people grinding DFB to get to the side they want to play on and ticking them off that they have to do it
[Looking For Group] Mr Nullify: cov so dark/dull graphics

I don't think that's entirely it, though I'm sure it plays a part. I think I've mentioned this before, but there are--currently--three major zones in City of Heroes: blueside (heroes), redside (villains) and Praetoria (which is occasionally called goldside, but only very occasionally).

In order of cleanliness and, well, order, it goes:
  • Praetoria, where Emperor Cole rules with a tightly gloved fist. His vision of utopia features precisely groomed landscaping, a veritable army of service 'bots, and a combination of Seers (who scan all thoughts for subversive intent) and police (who arrest anyone who is not vaguely smiling and moving in a directed fashion from structure to structure). Powers Division is the place where the super-powered register, but there's also an active faction of Resistance who stand against Emperor Cole's rule.
  • Paragon City, the coordination of several zones that the Freedom Phalanx patrols and protects. Think of Paragon City as New York, and each zone as one of the boroughs. Of course, in this fictional universe, it's actually located in Rhode Island.
  • Rogue Isles, another multiple-zone area that is fictionally located northwest of Bermuda. It's actually based on a chain of small islands that generally meander from above Bermuda to the US East Coast.
This is Praetoria:

(from the City of Heroes album; Nova Praetoria from the air.)

Note the palpable sense of organization, design, utilitarianism. Just about everything is compulsively ordered, precisely laid out, and the streets are clean enough to eat from--not that anyone would.

This is one of Nova Praetoria's hospital wings:

(from the City of Heroes album; Nova Praetoria's slightly green-tinged hospital bays.)

This is Nova Praetoria's hospital. It's also Spartan and clean, organized, lightly but permanently staffed.

This is Paragon City:

(from the City of Heroes album; Wentworth's Consignments, just off to the side of the train station.)

This is Wentworth's in Atlas Park. I really wanted to take all these images during the day, but still, you get a good idea of what Atlas Park is: striving, populated, lots of office buildings (and office drones). There's some clutter, and the greenspaces aren't as obsessively groomed. There's some upset around City Hall, both from gang activity and protesters who feel overwhelmed with the number of refugees from Galaxy City that Atlas Park suddenly has to deal with.

This is the hospital in Atlas Park:

(from the City of Heroes album; upstairs in the treatment pods of the hospital.)

It's slightly blue-tinged (just like Praetoria's hospital wing is slightly green-tinged), and is generally much more bustling than Praetoria's facilities. There are more doctors, there are generally patients getting treatment for something, and while everything's kept up and sterilized, there's still more evidence of daily use.

This is Sharkhead:

(from the City of Heroes album; Black Heart Hospital in Sharkhead Isle.)

Sharkhead's an interesting place. While there may be better zones to show off what villain-side really looks like, Sharkhead's a good intermediate. And immediately the differences show up: Sharkhead's grimmer, darker, dirtier. The hospital seems vaguely menacing, over a place of healing and support. The buildings--the ones still standing in the midst of various wars--look as if they've all seen better days. There's trash in all the back alleys, which are patrolled by corrupt cops and even more corrupt Arachnos operatives.

This is what the inside of Black Heart Hospital looks like:

(from the City of Heroes album; Black Heart Hospital in Sharkhead Isle, "healing" bays.)

This is not a subtle retinting. Dim lights only enhance the grim unease in the surroundings. On villain side, we occasionally find surgical tools stained with blood on filthy metal trays. We find body bags in some bays. We find doctors who are uncaring, nurses looking for a way out, and disturbing substances on the walls. It's not easy to make the leap of intuition and think not every patient who walks through the doors (or is carried) comes out again.

[Looking For Group] Ambi Moonglow: at least on villian you don't have annoying blue swirling walls all around
[Looking For Group] Goddess Loth:  not better, just cleaner to reflect hero ideology
[Looking For Group] Wrath Talon: i be honest i really hate the zone walls in blue side

[Looking For Group] Ambi Moonglow: oh I notice the swirling blue mess of a zone wall

The zone walls--on blue side--actually serve an in-game purpose: they're remnants of the Rikti Wars--in that (for the most part) they keep Rikti out of the main zones.. I will admit, they are somewhat distracting, but they've become such a part of the entire game for me, I note them, accept them, and move on with my life.

[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: i just wish they would stop adding shit to this game based on what the RPers bitch at them for
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: its because of that that the red side is now dead

How does that work, exactly? Roleplayers may want certain things, but if you're drawn to be a hero, or a villain, and you want to RP those opposing states--well, you're going to. Flat out. You may suggest things to the devs, but ultimately, I don't see NCSoft caving to a lot of roleplayer requests over actual developed game content requests.

[Looking For Group] Victory Viper: You say on the RP server
[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: There's still plenty of people on the redside
[Looking For Group] Lady Lernia: What did I miss about adding stuff that caused redside to empty out to blue then?
[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: we're just a minority
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: have you looked at the villain side recentrly?

Yes, actually, I was on earlier today. Here's the thing--while it's harder to do certain things (power-leveling, mainly, some task forces, depending on the week), what limits the population on any side is far more linked to what time it is (especially in north America and Europe) than it is to people fleeing from redside.

[Looking For Group] Harper Fletcher: Did it ever occur to you that there's more on Blueside because... people just generally gravitate to heroes MORE than villains?

Well, fair enough, there's that too...because heroes don't require as much thought as villains. To be a really vile villain requires much more creativity than to be even a mediocre hero. Them's the breaks, but it still doesn't mean redside is empty because people like blueside more.

[Looking For Group] Wrath Talon: r u saying RP are responsible for lower population of redside?
[Looking For Group] Tyrannicus: Yeah, it's still healthy, we're just 25% of the server population.
[Looking For Group] Grandmaster UO Thief: but now why would they do that when they could just pay a corruptor on the hero side or somethign liekthat

First, learn to spell. Second, why would we play villains, if we can just play the same kinds of characters on hero side?

The problem with that theory is that it assumes that everyone wants to draw up an evil zombie Mastermind, say, and terrorize the that on blueside, you really can't. You can wander around all day and beat up gang members, but you can do that on redside, too. The only way to get the experience that comes from beating up good on redside. That's just a fact.

Originally published as one entry, but I hit tl;dr pretty fast, so splitting it. Look for the second part here.