A Year Without CoH, Part 1   1 comment

One year and a week ago, we lost City of Heroes.  That’s old news, sadly.  I’m looking forward to both City of Titans and Heroes And Villains, and I continue to hope that NCSoft will come to its senses and sell the IP.  But in the meantime, I have to ask myself… what have I missed this last year?  By not having access to City of Heroes, I’ve had a lot more free time this year.  And this question assumes that this year would have theoretically contained some method of keeping myself online (I’m not quite at a year without Internet yet, but it’s getting close.)  Let’s ignore the obvious things: with City of Heroes I would have arrested a ludicrous number of Skulls and Hellions, I would have gone on a number of task forces, and I would have taken the Crafting tutorial any number of times because it’s just wrong to have a character that doesn’t have the Inventor badge.  All of that goes without saying, of course.

To really work out in my mind what I would’ve missed out on would require me to think about the hypothetical 2013s of at least three characters: one I was very comfortable with, one I was just about to get into, and one that I hadn’t made yet.  Some special mention should go to the annual events of the year as well, since I’ve felt a pang of regret whenever their proper time’s come up.

To begin with, Sastra Vidya was a character of mine that I was very comfortable with.  Sastra was a Natural Stalker.  I don’t mean to say that Sastra had a natural talent with or inclination toward stalking people.  She was a character with the Natural origin, which means that all of her ‘powers’ were the result of personal training, natural abilities that had been pushed to and beyond the limits of regular people.  Her primary power was Staff Fighting, and her secondary power was Ninjitsu.  As a stalker, the Ninjitsu power set would let her literally be invisible to all but the sharpest of eyes, giving her the ability to slam her unsuspecting target with her staff’s Assassin Strike.  Generally speaking, she could take out any one minion or lieutenant instantly and any truly strong opponents would go down soon.  Any other nearby adversaries might run over, but some quickly dropped caltrops would slow them to a crawl, and a quick flurry of the bo staff would knock them down long enough to either finish them off or escape to prepare for her second attack.

Visually, she was usually wearing dark blues and greens.  She had a hood over her head and strangely glowing eyes.  She had a strange skull and skeleton motif on her costume, but I never felt that it was there as part of a theme that she was trying to embody.  It always seemed to fade in to the bigger picture of her costume, either as a way to represent the danger she represented to the criminal underworld, or possibly even as a method of mocking The Skulls, the most pervasive gang of criminals in Paragon City.  In her back story, I’d written that Sastra Vidya had been called Totenkopf by some of the criminals that she took down before Paragon City became fully aware of her, likely due to the skulls on her costume.  She ran a small legal office in Talos Island, and learned her martial artistry from monks in Tibet.

As a side note: the references to her story might seem a bit off focus for this article, but it needs to be mentioned.  Story was an important part of the game to City of Heroes players.  Tycho Brahe of Penny Arcade fame once noted that even the “serious gamers” who shunned roleplaying entirely had a habit of crafting intricate backstories for characters that anyone could read, and that it was sometimes fascinating to just pick a spot in the city and click on the heroes or villains that ran/flew/jumped/teleported by so that you could get a number of quick stories that at times did more to describe some aspects of the game than the designers did.  Being my first MMO, I was eventually  saddened to see that other MMOs didn’t include this as a feature and, in fact, was seen as a strange notion by other games.  World of Warcraft’s bizarre lack of player-made information (combined with the terse details given for quests) contributed to my leaving that game after four months (only one of which I’d paid for.)  When you’re used to seeing bios on nearly every character it’s hard to settle for a game that doesn’t give you the option.  So, it’s not really about Sastra Vidya, but I’ve missed out on a year of 1000-ish characters of story from hundreds of people that I might’ve clicked on.  Some would’ve been silly, some would’ve been intriguing, and some would’ve contained little more than the player’s notes about how they play in RP (or even “I don’t write bios, sorry!”)  But the vast majority of them would’ve been original, and now they never happened.

Back to Sastra Vidya: over the six years I’d played the game before it shut off, I’d been enjoying some of the casual roleplaying that could be found, but for the most part it was more casual than I was interested in (and some of the things that happened in Pocket D on weekends gave the Virtue server a truly bizarre reputation.)  Most of the RP that I found was small scale, generally only featuring three or four people that I would meet early in a character’s career.  Sastra Vidya changed that in my last year of playing, however, since I finally found myself in a really, really nice RP community: The Dawn Patrol.

Named for an in-game organization, The Dawn Patrol was finally what I’d been looking for in terms of superhero RP: a group of characters, all with different backgrounds and motivations who acted out incredible stories.  In addition to teaming up for playing through the game once or twice a week, the stories were intricate and fun on a level that was hard to get when only roleplaying with two or three people at a time.  Naturally, right when I find a group like that City of Heroes has its closure announced.

(The good news on this front is that The Dawn Patrol has other groups in other games, and the City of Heroes element of it all is still there in a fashion through the group’s message boards.  It’s not the same, and my lack of Internet access over the last year has meant that I’ve not been able to participate in any big way, but I’m glad that we haven’t dissipated as a group just because the game did.)

Sastra Vidya was a bit unusual for me in that she was a character that I enjoyed playing more than I enjoyed leveling.  The last week or two of the game she was sitting at level forty-nine with enough experience to hit the game’s level cap of fifty, but I was too busy seeing the sights and making ground in other ways (not to mention playing my other characters.)  When I realized about thirty seconds after being ejected from the game that I’d never actually gotten her to level fifty I was a little upset by the simple oversight, but I’m kind of glad about it now.  She still feels “active” as a character, as opposed to the first two characters that I’d gotten to fifty, characters that I didn’t play as often after finishing their primary progression.

On the last day of game play, I went through one of the Shadow Shard task forces.  I’d avoided them the entire time I’d played City of Heroes because people told me that they were horrible.  I made sure the one that people unanimously declared to be the worst task force in the game (designed in a time when the focus was on grinding rather than story telling), and instead selected one the involved the Circle of Thorns being able to bind Faathim The Kind, the only sane and non-evil facet of Rularuu The Ravager’s god-like personality.  It felt truly heroic to go through that mission, though, especially since the seven other people who signed on hadn’t done it either.  Shattering Faathim’s crystalline prison and seeing him turn on the Circle of Thorns cultists to help us at the end was a wonderful moment, and I’m sad that there were still other task forces and trials in the game that I’d never gotten to see.

So when it comes to what I’ll miss in the coming year?  Sastra Vidya would have brought me lots of stories.  Both in terms of seeing what the other players of the game brought to the table (even if it was just in their characters bios), and in terms of what the game had to offer.  There were any number of “classic” task forces in the game that I was never able to see, and new task forces and trials were always on their way.  The Magisterium Trial will be forever out of my grip since I wasn’t a VIP player the day they announced the game closure (I’d just gotten a pay check and was prepared to renew my VIP subscription the next day.)

Sastra Vidya represents the stories that I’ve missed out on this last year.  The good news is that Heroes And Villains and City Of Titans are on the distant horizon, and these stories may be returning in a fashion.  Furthermore, I was able to recreate Sastra Vidya very easily in DCU Online, and The Dawn Patrol itself has set up offices in Champions Online, so these stories are continuing quite nicely.  As soon as I regain my Internet access, I hope to pick them up again (assuming I ever get said access back, of course.)  In some ways, that’s the most optimistic aspect of the tragic loss: a lot of these great stories are things that we can pick up again.  And the communities that were created in City of Heroes can’t fall apart if we don’t let them.

That’s all for now.  Next time, I’ll talk about a character I was just getting ready to play in earnest: Captain Blastoff!


One response to “A Year Without CoH, Part 1

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  1. Pingback: Poker Night at Pocket D | Crater Labs, Inc.

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