20th Anniversary Q&A Responses! (2024)

  • Any memorable things that you wanted to implement but the tech just wasn't there for it?

    • Many things. In fact, I had a Confluence page for several years titled “Things Tim Wishes He Could Do,” though I did manage to cross off a few by the end.
      Powers had very limited ability to calculate and perform logical effects. For instance, “do X if the target is afflicted by a dot” or “telegraph action X and then perform it” (as you might want a Boss to do) was relatively impractical to implement (though we did leverage a lot of reward tokens and pseudo-pets to try and get there anyway), or a power which impacted the behavior of a mob.

      One of our ultimate goals was to make content that felt more intentional than a bunch of mobs using their powers at random. There were elements of that which emerged (usually via aforementioned hacks) but we didn’t expect we would be able to do justice to them until we had the ability to make an AI behavior or a power execute a server side script, which might have happened within a year or so of closure had things progressed. That would have been the “omni-tool” in the box that would have opened up a lot of possibilities.

  • Superdine or fixadine?

    • Fixadine, I just have more connection to the Praetorian content than the rest since I joined the studio during Going Rogue’s development.

  • Is there anywhere you would of liked to take the Kheldian storyline before the Battalion gobbled them up. Maybe going to some other planets that Kheldians inhabit like with the Dwarfs and Novas? Also, is it morally wrong to consume Kheldians?

    • We did sometimes bat around the idea of doing more “play as character X for a short bit” which might have worked for doing more Kheldian content, possibly in flashback. It would have come up more when Battalion content got developed, it was not very far along when the studio closed.

      If it’s a mature Kheldian of sound mind, you have their consent, and it’s in service of good, then consuming them would not be morally wrong.

  • For any of you who've had the time to delve in and explore this and/or other community servers, what's it like to get to experience the game you worked on now strictly as a player, seeing how it's evolved under the direction of some of the very people you used to make it for? Any favorite new stuff or "why didn't we think of that" moments?

    • I found out that Null the Gull had its powers extended which filled my empty heart with joy briefly.

  • What have you guys been up to? Still working on video games or did you move on to something else?

    • I’m still in the games industry as a technical designer / engineer. My current work is at Schell Games, maker of fun adventure VR games like the upcoming Silent Slayer: Vault of the Vampire which you should totally check out! (/plug)

  • Some gods are actually incarnates and some incarnates are gods. For the ones that aren't, how did they come to be, and what were other planets gods like?

    • Not really responsive to your question I’m afraid, but AFAIK there was never an internally official “this is what Incarnate nature means and how it works.” Everyone is likely to have their own interpretations, so this is just my own:

      An incarnate taps into part of the collective spirit of a community (maybe planet, maybe culture, maybe city, maybe multiverse) and draws power from that community. The part the incarnate “owns” most often looks something like an ideal or a symbol, which becomes so associated with them that they come to share an identity with that ideal.

      That ideal can as the community changes, but new ideals can pop-up all the time as well. What makes the ideal and the collective spirit behind it more or less “powerful” isn’t simply the scale of the collective, but something else.

      The secret is that “incarnate-ness” isn’t a binary switch for a special elect. We only really know the capital-I Incarnates because their amount of this property becomes undeniable.

      But every player character was already an incarnate in a small degree as soon as they started out, of whatever ideal(s) they chose for themselves at character creation.. As their character became “more” within that community, that power they could draw on increased until it too became undeniable and obvious. All of the origins “work” to make heroes and villains of great power, but they only “work” in this multiverse because of this collective spirit.

  • Was the team opposed to creating more power sets with a distinctly magical or technological theme? What were upcoming powersets going to look like, theme and mechanics wise?

    • Since Magic and Technology were both origins, having at least a plausible way to match powerset to any origin was preferable. Some sets like Devices really challenged this rule, though, so it wasn’t outside the realm of possibility.

      I do struggle to think off the top of my head though what we would have done on a powers side for a “magic” or “tech” themed set that wouldn’t also be amenable to being flavored in either direction by the choices of the player and their costuming.

      In Freedom there was a definite attraction for more visually stunning sets whose animations could stand out, that’s why you saw things like Staff Fighting. I don’t know exactly what was in folks heads, but that was where we were headed.

  • Incarnates. I know they were initially mentioned *way* back when as EATs, and became the system we ended up with. It always felt... a little tacked on, to me, as it was. So, three questions related to that... *was* it kind of tacked on, at what point (if anyone recalls) was it shifted from "EAT somewhere in the way back burners" to "post-50 power and leveling system," and if you'd been given the go-ahead and funding for a COH 2, would you have created a similar system that meshed more into the game?

    • By the time I showed up (Aug 2009) it looked very much like the system we ultimately shipped with, though we did restructure to the tree method of acquisition and not release all the slots at once.

      The different pitches for COH2 differed widely enough that you couldn’t really connect their endgame advancement ideas to Incarnates, but they were all thinking more about what an “endgame” looked like compared to the original, that’s for sure.

      If you want to say the Incarnates looked tacked-on, I think that’s a fair opinion to hold. It was certainly attempting to make an endgame / alternative advancement system that wasn’t part of the original systemic vision with limited resources.

  • Other than the moon 🙂 were there any ideas for expanding the COH world out into other locations- Egypt (yes, still thinking of BotBS,) South America, Antarctica (secret villain lairs!) , Cardiff - or would that have been something that, if done, would have been more of a COH 2 thing - or was it thought of at all?

    • Whatever we needed for “Battalion Worlds” would have been our shot at a truly alien “Avatar-like” environment set, and probably taken most of the resources that would have been available for that.

      I had previously worked on the Stargate Worlds MMO so it’s not out of the realm of possibility that I would have pitched a crossover set - that we would make the Battalion ship interiors look like a high-tech temple and at the same time get most of the way to an ancient temple set in the process. I think that could have been a cool pitch if we figured out a way to make it visually look like “Battalion/COH” rather than a cheap rip-off.

  • What's the one mechanic, story line, enemy, etc... that you wanted to see in the game, but couldn't for whatever reason (unpopular, infeasible, didn't get to it)? Favourite enemy?

    • Basically whatever we would have come up with in 2013. Powers and behaviors able to invoke lua scripts would have been a massive tool in the toolbox.

      I helped a lot of people make a lot of cool things, and we were able to “archaeologically” restore some things which had passed out of living memory in the studio (like superbase items).

      At a certain point the development of the game nearly came to a halt. I came in when Paragon Studios was ramping up, and that was great, but I wonder what would have happened had it not gone down that way.

      In terms of dark horse enemy groups, I really liked the Goldbrickers and the Sky Raiders and their aesthetic. I think story-wise Carnival of Shadows / Carnival of Light always made me smile.

  • With the benefit of hindsight, what is one thing that you wish you had done differently? Whether expanding upon something for the release, changing the implementation, outright not adding in something, whatever the case may be.

    • Hero Merits / Villain Merits. They were the solution to a problem I’m not sure would have ever existed and probably caused more in the process.

      The way Incarnate powers got unlocked with the XP tracks and the Salvage. It better fit the original plans for Incarnate content and when those got downscoped we probably should have revised / reduced these instead of leaving it in as that part was mostly done already.

  • Why was Statesman chosen to be killed?

    • Because if you’re going to call something a “Signature Story Arc”, something rather impressive better happen in it.

  • Given the state of MMO today, do you have opinions on why CoX is such a unique game after 20 years?

    • It came out at a time where player expectations of what a game looked like allowed for implementation of things like the costume creator - you could throw literally hundreds of simple tint, mask, or decals on top of a simple 3d mesh and you could do that *cheaply* and you wouldn’t give your art director a heart attack. Even towards the end of the game’s development the changing tastes of the audience meant that that initial amount of raw customization power & freedom was not something we could deliver to the same degree.

      Every pitch for COH2 like games had to really scope down the character creator process and powerset count because otherwise it would have bankrupted any studio trying to do that to PS4 fidelity. And today? Forget it. As long as you have to hit that idea of “what a 3d game looks like” you’ll never be able to afford making another COX. 3d games just got too good looking.

      I wasn’t in the industry when COH launched, just a player, but it’s a wild and giant place today. Impossibly good things are very common, yet it’s as hit-driven and seemingly unsustainable as ever. Some things are easier tech-wise, but expectations have risen far outpacing technical advancement. It’s never been easier to make a game, and it’s never been harder to make money making a game.

      We had a task tracking flag for “Moonbase” for things we wanted to do, but were not sure if we would ever get to do them or not. It was a goal, but the route to it was not obvious.

  • Was there anything specific you really wanted to add to the game that never got greenlit/was turned down as an idea?

    • I had a wacky plan to provide Masterminds with a pet customization feature by redirecting one of the costume change slots to be used on their pets instead of themselves. It didn’t go anyway.

      After we did the doppelganger work I also wanted a Mastermind set that could target other player characters and summon small doppelgangers of them.

  • Was there anything specific you really wanted to add/change/get to work on just prior to the shutdown of CoH?

    • The lua scripting work was just about to go live. When we heard that we were shutting down, I actually asked if we could just push the beta to live early so we could run lua scripted zone events live – since we had the ability to run a lua script directly from the console buffer, if we had Accesslevel on live we could have done some interesting things in those last months, but it was shot down (for sane reasons).

  • How difficult was it working with the spaghetti code that is City of Heroes and what were some unusual ways you overcame those difficulties to make it do what you wanted?

    • I got very good at understanding the old code and what it was trying to do even though the original engineer was far removed from us. I spent a lot of time hypothesizing how to do “X” with what we had, or the smallest “want of a nail” thing that would get us.

      Vorpal Judgement for example, leveraged the fact that the FX system had the ability to know the enttype of your target when it chose which FX to play. It had to do that so that it could draw the right size of FX for say, a ice hold, when targeting male, female, or huge bodytype. We simply added a single flag to flip that logic from target enttype to source enttype, and boom - Vorpal Judgement could spawn the right “humanoid” FX shadow of “you” when you attacked with it.

      Titan Weapon and Street Justice also did a lot with “buffs” and stacking even though the original system had never been designed to work that way, and lacked a lot of the sophistication you might want in a buff system.

      We had *loosely* speculated that after ending the Battalion arc it would probably be close for the game to EOL itself, and therefore the idea of Ascending/permadeathing/hall of faming characters when they got the end of the story was not immediately shot down, but it was far, FAR from an active plan.

      The simpler answer would be that a lot of the post-Tyrant Incarnate slots would have had a much more impressive effect vs Battalion than in ordinary play.

  • What were you planning on adding to the game before shut-down?

    • More lua scripting. Boss fights and powers which leveraged lua scripting. Digging into Superbase code. Woofers & Null the Gull Task Force.

  • When I first learned about CoV, I thought about a Raid or SF/TF where a team of CoH players would have to deal with certain objectives that would culminate into say breaking into Arachnos Lair with the aid of Manticore, Stateman, etc... All the while there would be CoV players who would be trying to stop the heroes from completing the objectives and ultimately if they failed to do so, it would lead to defending the lair with Arachnos and his team of villains. Think Conquest mode in the Battlefield franchise. Did you all have any planned content where CoH and CoV players were pinned against each other outside of just PVP zones?

    • I’m not aware of plans at the end to look at PVP. Like several other elements of the game, it had no resources or free folks time to invest in it.

      The idea of a competitive level Incarnate Trial might have been something we would have considered as part of the next wave, though.

  • What is the one powerset you guys were mostly against adding but the powers that be pushed it or your least favorite? Which is a powerset that was in the works and you all would have loved to have seen? Lastly, why did you all not consider adding Swinging as a travel power or tunneling?

    • Swinging might have seen life one day as a special flavourful power, but for a game that had a lot of interior map content I don’t think there would have been enough way to do it. Sides of walls had collision, but no navmesh capability, so trying to do “wall crawler” type effects would have required a vast amount of new work and since it wouldn’t be re-usable in many contexts it would probably have never gone forward.

      Tunneling in the sense that you could move around as, say, a ground effect, but ultimately following similar rules to Super Speed would have been doable, but for balance of content you’d still need to be able to be hit during it, which means we would have had to pop you out. So I suppose we would have considered if it was worth it to the players at that point. I don’t know how else we could have conceptualized Tunneling in a way that didn’t add a major core system to the game just to support it.

  • What do you all think of skunks? They're pretty nice animals. More importantly, were there other animal heads, like the monster ones and the piranha/bull/eagle ones, planned for the game? If so then which one was next to be added before the shutdown occurred, and what were long term planned additions?

    • My knowledge of likable skunks begins and ends with Pepe le Pew. Product development / marketing would have been the drivers for new animal heads. My understanding is that we certainly would have done new packs but at a longish cadence to avoid burning out the interest.

  • Since Wells are species/planet based, how does it work for aliens? If an alien character comes to Earth, do they switch to drawing from Humanity's well, or do they still draw from their own? What about Kheldians? Do they draw from humanity's, the kheldian one, or both?

    • In my conceptualization, an alien can either be tied to their original collective spirit well or adopt the community of Earth. Kheldians as well implicitly have that kind of choice, it depends on where the heart is.

      Being the “sole survivor” or a refugee doesn’t preclude one from tapping into the collective spirit well, since those spirits are eternal. Being the single beneficiary of the collective spirit well of a whole species, though nearly extinct, can be quite potent indeed.

  • There was mention about how the idea was the Battalion would go around hijacking other planets Wells. What'd happen to the species they took it from? Would their tech/powers/etc still function, or would stuff start shutting off?

    • Think of it as a metaphysical imperialism. Your ideals become one with Battalion, which results in more and more people thinking that Battalion is right. Your culture is assimilated, your religions syncretized, your tech is “re-understood” to be an expression of the same principles that Battalion uses, your language becomes merely a dialect of theirs, and so on. It’s insidious.

      Some individuals might be able to harbor / safeguard portions of that collective spirit well in them, some remnants of the original uncorrupted power, but now might be the only living tie back to a nearly extinct psyche. At least at the time of our story the process has never been reversed. If you want an example of something similar in fiction, look at how Sanderson’s Mistborn series deals with the idea of a great power “rewriting” reality on a cosmic scale and the terrible struggle to put it back.

  • If all of humanity were to suddenly die off, what'd happen to its Well? Would it still be there, or would it peter off with them gone?

    • Collective spirit wells are eternal. If there were absolutely no living participants it would be cut off, but it would still exist in some unchanging pocket, possibly to be rediscovered some day. If it was truly forgotten and unreachable it may as well not exist at all (see Jim Bucher’s Dresden Files for a treatment of this concept.)

      Why “unchanging”? Because the idea that “the dead do not change” is something of a lore bible concept in the COH universe, and that would seem to apply to the wells of “dead” collectives as well.

      However, there’s precedent for a “nearly dead” well being revived from the small traces it left. See the Circle of Thorns backstory for that.

  • What was to come after defeating Tyrant?

    • The threat of Praetorian Hamidon would have been real once the regime collapsed, so the idea of Praetorian refugees en masse coming to Primal Earth would have been a possible storyline, especially as they interact with the Primal Earth groups. There might have been some novel combinations of Praetorian and Primal situations.

      The main plot would have shifted to Battalion’s introduction and possibly we would have had more “cosmic” or “interplanetary” type of stories happen as a result.

      A living universe where sub-50s are dealing with the influx of Praetorians and 50s+ are fighting Battalion would have been an interesting and potentially viable mix of “low and high” which we were aiming to keep rolling as a concept, so that not all new content was coming out at the top end.

  • Was there ever plans for Infernal Trial? (We never fought him at all)

    • Not that I know of.

  • What was your best accomplishment while working on COH?

    • Really I loved the fact that I was able to do so much to help save time and frustration among so many of the dev team that we got a lot more efficient and creative with our reduced staff right up until the end. We fought very hard to push back against the feeling of “decay” or “futility” that was the budget versus our ideas.

  • What games do you play in your free time?

    • Quite a bit of mystery games / VNs - Ace Attorney, Danganronpa, Zero Escape, When They Cry Series (esp Umineko). Strategy games - lots of Hearts of Iron IV and Stellaris recently. Classic adventure games that I missed growing up. I play some mobile gacha games too, primarily Azur Lane.

  • My question is; How are you all doing? Happy with your current work? Family life good. Health good? I hope yes to all but that's why I asked 🙂

    • I love my current job and I’m grateful to still be doing what I love and helping other people make great games. Still have my health too, which is not a given in this industry.

  • Were their any plans for Black Swan? She was one of the last Praetorians remaining who hadn't had her story closed. I'm aware that Praetorian Fatigue caused a lot of plans being canceled or postponed but if there was anything in the works for that I'd love to know.

    • We left a couple Praetorians on the shelf so we could either kill them off as a way of establishing Praetorian Hamidon or Battalion as a thread or (more probably) use them as a focal point for the Praetorian refugee / re-education storyline.

      There was a sense that once we destroyed Praetorian society, we wanted to at least start down the road of offering something better (at least from the hero POV). If everything we idly speculated about came to pass, that would have culminated (after a very, very long time) in a rehabilitated Tyrant taking up the mantle vacated by the deceased Statesman.

  • Why was Reichsman not given for the position of Champion by the Well of Furies? He seemed to fit the description pretty well.

    • Reichsman was best enjoyed in small doses, imo.

  • What was the deal with Praetorian Hamidon being so much more of a threat than the Primal version? Was he stronger or just more driven or both?

    • I think one plot thread here was that Tyrant had made a deal with the Hamidon early on so that he could exploit the Hamidon threat to seize more power - only to be betrayed by the Hamidon who had used the time to expand its power beyond what Tyrant could actually control. If he had instead fought immediately rather than making a bargain it would have turned out more like Primal Earth’s situation.

  • If you were in a position where you could make any change to the game you wanted, regardless of whether it would make money for the company or be popular or not, total creative freedom, what would that be?

    • Basically doing COH2 would have been the biggest change I would have wanted. I think there would have been a world where COH2 launches and then COH gets all its data and databases ported to the COH2 engine after a time (kind of like what WOW Classic did).

  • Were there more plans for doing things in the Shadow Shard?

    • I think only as one-offs. Certainly would have been involved in Battalion stuff at some point even if only as a place to go for intel.

  • I remember it being noted once that costume pieces connect to a limited number of nodes but a few were empty and reserved for future additions. What update to the costume system do you most wish could have been added to the game?

    • A pathway to player generated costume parts would have been the biggest “magic wand” thing I can think of.

  • Which zone do you most wish got a chance to be revamped and why?

    • Perez Park, because of all the zones it was the single most frustrating one I played as a player.

  • Players have been wanting an arcane/ mystic powerset for a while now. Did you have any plans on making or had planned on making a full magic-themed powerset to accompany the sorcery power pool?

    • Answered a bit elsewhere, but conceptualizing enough “magic” for a full generic powerset that didn’t feel like a reskin of parts of others was a bit of a challenge. It would have actually been easier to some degree to have done a magic EAT instead.

  • When you first heard of Homecoming and the other private servers, what were your thoughts and feelings about your work here in City of Heroes coming back? And what were your thoughts and feelings when Homecoming received its official license? Here we are, twenty years on, and there's a whole lot of us still playing and enjoying your game, what are your thoughts and feelings on that?

    • It was lovely to hear. I think I left the #SaveCOH hashtag on my Twitter icon since the beginning. I hoped that everything would stay positive, which at least from my pov seemed to bear out.

      When NCSoft provided a license I was elated, really. It was very gracious of them to alleviate the risk that the fans were taking. I thought it was a very bold move and I hoped that it meant good things to come.

  • What are you reading?

    • The many, many novels and novellas and anthologies in Eric Flint’s Ring of Fire (1632) series. Can’t recommend them enough for people who like alternate history or history of technology type stuff.

  • Do any of you play Homecoming?

    • Sadly, no, I’ve long since lost the time to commit to an MMO in capacity. I’m hoping to be more involved with the community in the future, though.

  • What powerset would you wish you could add to Homecoming?

    • Clown Summoning

  • What powerset do you think could use an overhaul?

    • All defense sets and Super Strength.

  • Who hated and rejected BRB (Big Red Ball)? It would have been glorious! Did you also tear up when you heard the music for the first time logging back in?

    • I did feel quite emotional when I logged in! I don’t recall BRB at all, though.

  • 20 years.. not all projects are still around 20+ years later.. What do folks think the magic or secret sauce was that resonated with players?

    • It came out at a time when customization could be wild and vast with an IP that didn’t have the same constraints that would come with a major IP. This lets the community really feel like part owners in its existence, rather than simply passive consumers. In some ways, it was the last wave of that entire era of video gaming (at least talking about a non-indie game). It’s never to be replicated no matter how many iterations of the “superhero MMO” is tried. Superheroes as an IP itself is radically different than in 2004, and you can’t put it back the way it was. But COH still exists from that moment in time, and because it didn’t have to be forced to “evolve” in all the ways that matched the trends, it remains something apart.

  • Do you think CoX could have been built in 2024?

    • Hahahhahahaahaha (deep breath) ahhhahahhahahah. No. I have further comments on this elsewhere but no, the idea that you could get funding to build something like CoX today is just laugh-inducing to me (and not in a good way.)

      Heck, there wasn’t the funding to build something like CoX in 2012, and things in the superhero biz have only gotten more mega IP and mega budget driven.

  • To everyone: How did you resist the urge to do "A Little Bit More" on various parts of the game? It honestly astonishes me how you can make something this complete over twenty something releases.

    • I gave into it a lot. I did many things simply because I wanted to prove I could, or to help someone out, or to learn something new. I was young and absolutely overextended myself on occasion.

  • Were there any plans to give Praetorians the option of going straight to First Ward as part of the storyline instead of going to Paragon/Rogue Islands first?

    • I think we always wanted to keep the “landing” arc intact to anchor the eventual resettlement of the Praetorian refugees as part of the storyline.

      Behind the scenes, First Ward had been cut before Going Rogue shipped, and when we were able to put it and Night Ward back in (which would have been definitively the last Praetorian zones for a long time) it was improvisation rather than planning.

      Could we have in the fullness of time moved the “landing” arc to the end of Night Ward? Maybe.

  • Was Officer Daniels in the tutorial a Nemesis plot?

    • Either that or a very, very oblique Star Trek: Enterprise reference.

  • Was going to space ever on the table for the dev team, especially during live days? I always had hoped before Praetoria, that there would be another planet, perhaps similar to the Praetoria direction, but with alien race and new archetypes that would be in direct conflict with both the heroes and the villains in the other factions.

    • Absolutely wanted to do it. Would have been part of the Battalion arc if we had done it. Would there have been the money to do it? /shrug

  • How does it feel seeing how all the work you did when the game was live has been appreciated by so many people and impacted us in such a way that the game was essentially resurrected?

    • Brings a tear to my flinty, salty, jaded dev eye.

  • What feature, power, story arc, content, etc that you worked on are you most proud of?

    • The lua scripting backend which never came out, followed closely by all the dev efficiency improvements that let us pump out interesting content in the last two years.

  • And lastly, the question all of us are wondering: If you could nerf anything in the game as it stands right now, why would it be regen?

    • Having all health regeneration implicitly scale by the size of your health meter was a systemic idea that proved foolish with the benefit of hindsight and has to die.

  • Are there any progression, itemization etc. systems or ideas from other games that you have worked on since or have played since CoH's development that you can see working in City of Heroes?

    • WOW going more heavily into account-wide / account-bound as a concept. COH would have dramatically benefited from more account-wide concepts, given how everyone had a million alts.

  • Do you have any advice you'd give to the current people supporting the game, or things you'd personally like to see, whether as a player or former developer?

    • Stay positive, and don’t add something big until you can think of a handful of different ways to use it in the future (no uni-taskers!)

  • The Well is the source of not only immense power but also endless questions. While I have some head-canon of my own I'd like to compare it to the "Official Version".

    • I only have my own head canon, as it happens. I have no idea how close it is to the Official Version.

  • According to Prometheus the Well is a person, and a man. Who is that man?Is there a Well for each multiverse, or does one Well serve up power to humanity across every dimension?Do alien races have Wells of their own or is it a uniquely human concept?

    • In my head canon this is somewhat misleading, as the power is ultimately coming from the collective spirit, but it manifests in individuals. Power pools in the collective spirits, and “the Well” taps into that giant metaphysical aquifer. But there are many pools like it.

  • When news first surfaced about a City of Heroes private server in April, 2019, what were some of your initial thoughts? What was your first reaction to the news?

    • “About time!” Well, no, it was more along the lines of “great!” And holding my breath that everything would turn out okay for them.

  • With Homecoming and other servers coming online, did it surprise you the level of support City of Heroes received from old and new generation players alike?

    • Not necessarily the people interested in playing, but the amount of time people donate to develop and manage has vastly exceeded my expectations.

  • Did you create accounts instantly and join us in grinding through the Sewer Networks / Death From Below—and we didn't even know that we teamed with you?

    • Sadly, no, I stayed far away early on to make sure that I didn’t complicate any situations. I feel better about contributing now, for sure.

  • By now, wouldn't Boomtown and Galaxy City be rebuilt?

    • One of the reasons for floating the “Echo: X” mechanic was to let us do just that. But when I left Galaxy City had just gotten smushed so it would have been a lot longer imo.

      I think it would have been a cruel joke if we fix Galaxy City but its level is 45-50, and people are like “why?” You go there for the Galaxy City Reborn ribbon cutting event and it’s interrupted by the arrival of a Battalion ship which flattens the neighborhood once again.

  • What are some of your fondest memories during your times at Cryptic and Paragon Studios?What were some of the more challenging obstacles?What major creative breakthroughs, disagreements, and funny/amusing memories do you have during the building of CoX?

    • It’s a bit cliche to say the people, but really the players and my fellow developers were the favorite part of the development experience. I had the chance to go to the last “Hero Con” event and later the “Player Summit” which were both great moments to connect with the players. In terms of my day to day, every time I solved a mystery or saved time for someone else on the team was the most rewarding.

      In terms of “best development moments” I have plenty to reflect on, so I’ll try to stick to only a few:

      We realized that quite a few of the badge titles didn’t quite fit once the player switched sides in Going Rogue, so I came up with almost all of the “alternate” titles and descriptions for them quite late in development. Some of which were very silly.

      I accidentally introduced a bug (also a Going Rogue side effect) which caused supergroup base turrets to attack villains. I rapidly advocated to fix the bug and we got a patch out real quick to live… but all the patch did was make the turrets attack both villains AND heroes instead. Everyone wanted to take more time before rolling out the next patch which ultimately fixed it.

      Bugs with Oil Slick Arrow had plagued Trick Arrow since its debut, and were still occasionally being reported. I spent a good deal of time trying to figure out what it was (at this point a 6 year old bug) until I finally decided to simply reimplement the thing without using a particular feature that I suspected was the root of the problem. I did so, we shipped the new version, and (don’t dispel my bubble if this isn’t true) it never broke after that.

      We had ideas for several quality of life features that would make players' lives better and were frequently requested, and while we knew how to script them, we had no developer time to build a user interface so they could be set by the player. That’s when I had the (terrible) idea to make an NPC in Pocket D called “Null the Gull” (after a bug that took place during one of Andy Belford’s community events) and rig up those features to the already existing dialogue system interface on it. It was a wacky idea, but somehow I got it approved and it did go live!

      In terms of other things that I somehow got permission to do, I remember coming with Jeff and pitching Robert Anderberg on expanding our scripting capabilities for designers that ultimately led to me experimenting with integrating lua into COH - which I did! It was a lot of fun, and would have really unlocked the door to a whole universe of new power and content possibilities once design had access to an honest to goodness scripting language for the whole game. Sadly, it was only in beta at the time of the shutdown.

  • What's your favorite thing you worked on that never made it live? And if possible, can you tell us why it didn't happen?

    • The lua scripting, and simply ran out of time.

  • What is that one thing that you really, really wanted to finish developing for the game but ended up not working out in the long run?

    • Anti-exploitation for Mission Architect. I think there was a great deal of interest in this, but I think that it just might have been a cursed problem.

  • Do you have a favorite old school in-game memory that you wouldn’t mind sharing with us?

    • When my friends and I (one of whom also became a game dev and the other became a game streamer) first got access to travel powers, we would invite random people in the zone to our team and Recall Friend them off the edge of a tall building. Loads of fun!

      Also when a zombie puke debuff bugged out on my friend’s Skull Man Broadsword / Regen Scrapper and he had flies around him for something like three weeks. Also very fun.

  • Can you tell us some about the various challenges encountered by the powers team as they developed things like zone pvp, arena pvp and the short lived base-raiding pvp? (Follow up question, is it true that the fiercest pvp was typically on the forums?)

    • Forum PVP was the most engagement driving of the lot and also the cheapest to implement.

  • What happened to the rest of the world during the Rikti invasion?

    • What rest of the world? (Just kidding)

  • Which cities, besides Paragon, were the hardest hit?

    • Leeds.

  • Did different nations fight back against the Rikti in different ways?

    • I think it was established that conventional arms would have been ineffectual, and there was a real risk that if things went too hot that nuclear arms would have ruined the planet, so the frontline remained with the heroes.

  • Were there other portals to the Rikti Homeworld in other cities, or is the one in Paragon City the only one?

    • There was also one in Leeds.

  • If you could design a power set, what would it be and for which AT?

    • Clown Summoning, for Masterminds and Moderators

  • What was the original distinction between Hazard Zones and Trial Zones meant to be? The in-game explanations of the difference between those zones is a little vague. I got the impression that one is meant to focus more on "larger crowds of enemies" and another on "more dangerous enemies" from a mechanical standpoint, and that story-wise one is just "generally dangerous area" while the other is "defining story moment area", but comparing the zones to those definitions doesn't always make it clear. So, is this a thing where the definitions changed over time in response to how the players interacted with it? Was there an endpoint that the zones were going to transition to, or did the definitions stay basically the same, but the distinction between what they meant mechanically was more of a background detail?

    • IIRC it was basically just expected team size - Hazard being 3-6 and Trial being 6-8. All zones had spawndefs which scaled to the number of players triggering the spawndef, but Hazard and Trial zones did not go all the way down.

  • For people interested in game design, a lot of people point out that you don't actually want a perfectly balanced game, because perfect balance stops being fun. But we also kind of intuitively know that you still want to shoot for a "balanced level of imbalance". So for designing powers in City of Heroes (or maybe even other games) is there a certain benchmark you use as a general guide for "the right level of overpowered" when working on a power conceptually before you push it to beta testing? (And on that note: to what degree should a power be built around the "fantasy" (this is the Grenade power set), and to what degree should it be built around the "mechanics" (this is the Knockbacks And Fire Damage set)?

    • It varied over time. It is completely fair to say that after a certain point we lacked the resources to balance anything beyond “rule of cool” / “vibes based” balancing. There was a core formula that related recharge time, damage, and end cost, and we tried to stick close to that in most circ*mstances. Overall animation time cost for chains of attacks also featured in general, but mostly when designing mobs.

      When it came to Incarnate powers and the Premium Powersets, we wanted something interesting and flashy, and if it felt “a little bit broken” that was just fine on the first pass. We also wanted a short communicable “high concept,” but really that was just following in the footsteps of so many powersets which already had established many of the conventions we were drafting off of.

      Fantasy usually drove the show, except in the specific case of “we built mechanic X, how can we reuse it?” I think Street Justice existed because of a brainstorm about reusing the tech underpinning Titan Weapons in a different way, and the idea of something fighting-game inspired appeared to us.

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