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City of Heroes: Going Rogue and Going Beyond

Today, we heard from some of the minds behind , the industry’s leading superhero MMORPG. They talked extensively about what it means to take a game that was solid at release and keep it fresh and fun over the years. They gave a ton of details on the upcoming “Going Rogue” expansion, as well as some never before seen details on the distant Issue 19.

Since NCSoft picked the franchise up completely off Cryptic Studios five years back, the new Paragon Studios put out the City of Villains expansion which doubled the content of the original game, and are now working on Issue 17, the 17 free expansion. The Paragon team is, in a word, meticulous. They are always looking for new ways to liven up the City of Heroes experience, and they are always adding content that blows away the fanbase. It certainly has continued to impress me.

Matt “Positron” Miller, the game’s lead system designer, credits these plentiful (and dare I mention again, free) upgrades as the key to the franchise’s success. From new power sets and zones, to color customization, to the Mission Architect system that allowed players to create their own missions, this constant new content always does a great job of keeping things fresh. The average video gamer is attracted to shiny things, and Paragon is constantly just rolling them in front of our faces.

So what’s still to come?

Issue 17: Dark Mirror is just over the horizon, and oh is this a treat. City of Heroes

is getting a complete graphical overhaul to catch up with today’s upgraded computer systems. They game will now render shadows realistically, following the sun across the sky throughout each day. This gives Paragon City and the Rogue Isles an unimaginable visual upgrade, as the Studio’s before/after pictures illustrated. They have also done incredible work on reflective surfaces. Now, water and glass will reflect the characters and the world around them, again adding a level of detail. Other subtle changes were made in ambient occlusion. These visual enhancements together are called “Ultra Mode,” and will be available for players with the proper graphical hardware. This will not slow down players on less-than-perfect machines.

In addition, some more content is being included. Moving tails will be available as a costume part, the Positron Task Force will be divided and upgraded for a smoother and more fun game experience, and some more missions will be added. The  Issue’s biggest achievement though is in the doppelganger system.

With doppelganger, players will be able to square off with evil versions of themselves within Mission Architect. These doppelgangers will be customizable. They can be a mirror image of your hero or villain, or they can be a polar opposite. They might just be subtly different, with a different costume, or legs growing out of their heads. Either way, this means an unprecedented level of customization in Mission Architect, and additional replay value, as the same mission played with different party members will result in different doppelgangers and a different overall experience every time.

Going beyond Issue 17, the team talked a bit about , the only paid expansion the game has seen since City of Villains in 2005. In Going Rogue, your hero or villain will be able to change sides, falling into a kind of “gray” area and then progressing to the other faction altogether. Obviously this does a lot for characters’ personal stories, and the relationships between heroes and supergroups as a whole. Most of the information on the expansion is already publicly viewable, but I’ve got a few things here you have not yet seen…

Four new power sets will be coming with Going Rogue. Dual Pistols is already available for those who preorder the expansion. Demon-Summoning will be available at pre-order soon as well. NCSoft will be putting up a video for that on Monday, so keep your eyes peeled. The other two sets were only just revealed at PAX, and here they are. Kinetic Melee will be available for scrappers, tankers, brutes and stalkers. This is a punching-based class that will focus on gathered energy. The final class is one that has been clamored for forever: Electric Control for controllers and dominators.

Even beyond Going Rogue, the team decided to spill a little information on Issue 19, and revealed that City of Heroes will be getting some end-game content very soon (look out, Blizzard). This content comes in the form of the “Incarnate system,” which will add additional and different levels, again more classes, new abilities, new rewards, and new zone events. They were very tight-lipped on what exactly these would be, but we can anticipate ten new levels and plenty to do for those stagnant level 50’s who have lingered at the top for too long.

It never ends with Paragon Studios, but, like a smooth chocolate milkshake, you never want it to. Going Rogue, and everything else to come, will continue adding new depth into a franchise that has shown innovation at every turn. Watch NCSoft’s website for upcoming screenshots and videos of the new content, which they have promised will be available soon.

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