Four years and seven months. That's how long I was a paying subscriber for City of Heroes. Looking back, I enjoyed most, if not all, of my time with the game. I've forged and strengthened relationships within the community that I never thought I would. City of Heroes is the best MMORPG I have ever played, and I am very sad to see it go.
Even though it was five years ago, I can rather vividly remember picking up City of Heroes on a whim in EB Games. Hell, I even still have the (very outdated) manual! You see, my friends and I had been playing Final Fantasy XI for a while, but had stopped for no particular reason other than our interest had faded. I remember talking to my friends during high school gym class about how great the character creator was. I even remember going over to their houses, installing the game, and letting them see for themselves.
It didn't take long after that for us all to be playing together.
The Birth of a Hero
At some point, my cousin Dennis got the game and created a character he has always had in his head, "D-Man." He had used this moniker in other games and always thought of it as his superhero alter-ego. With my severe lack of creativity, I decided to ape his idea.
P-Dude was born.
His design was far from great: green t-shirt (my favorite color) with the letter P on it, shorts, sunglasses, and my haircut. After all, it was supposed to be me. He was the Controller archetype, with Earth powers as his primary set and Force Fields as his secondary. I didn't know it at the time, but apparently this was a very uncommon combination. What I also didn't know was that it was an incredibly effective combination.
Towards the later levels, I could literally lock down two entire rooms at once, all while protecting my teammates with Force Fields. Players who scoffed at my inability to actually heal other players (a more popular Controller trait) soon shut their little faces as they had little to no incoming damage headed their way. It was damn good time.
Sketches by Alex Dai, "imagesbyalex" forum member
A Dangerous Duo
P-Dude was the first character I reached the level cap of 50 with. But I didn't do it alone. My good friend Justin was alongside me about 95 percent of the way. He had a Fire/Fire Blaster named Kosmos111 (his common moniker). We teamed constantly as a duo. My Force Fields and ability to lock enemies down combined with his pure damage output was a dangerous mixture.
We both have marvelous memories of street sweeping in Peregrine Island for hours while singing the Cheers theme song over Ventrillo (we went slightly insane that night). Remarkable recollections of farming Riki Monkeys on "Monkey Island," before the aggro unit cap, for pretty much no experience but having a hell of a time. Fantastic flashbacks of us both hitting level 50 within the same mission, and posing for the camera to get the perfect screenshot. Unfortunately, that screenshot was about two computers ago and is now lost.
Art by Alex Dai, "imagesbyalex" forum member
A Community Worth Sticking With
City of Heroes was a fundamentally sound game. It was tons of fun, but what kept me subscribed for so long wasn't necessarily the game itself -- it was the community it fostered. Never before, and not since have I encountered a community as kind and as great as the City of Heroes player base. Even on the last day of its existence, I received /whispers from people I met years ago, happy to see me back on.
I would spend most of my free time browsing the forums, mostly staying around the Comic Culture forum, since it was the nexus for all things comics, anime, and videogames. Users like Shonuff and FatherXmas will always stick in my mind, since they were so frequently seen posting on that particular forum.
Then there's my IRC homies. A long time ago, someone started an IRC client for our server, Victory. For years now, even after I stopped playing, I've woken up, turned on my computer, and joined the IRC channel. I don't talk much in it, but it has become part of my daily routine. The other regulars: Satanic Hamster, Kong-Fuu, Magnarsh, and Viking are almost always there and have become some great friends over time. I've never met them in person, but that hardly matters at this point. I can't imagine a scenario in which I'd stop visiting the channel, and I hope I never do.
It's not fair! It's just not fair!
I can't say that I'm not sad. There are MMORPGs with half the entertainment value and player base of the "City of" franchise that continue on to this day. I mean, people can still play EverQuest or AION, why can't City of Heroes keep on truckin'? The last I heard, the game was still profitable -- just not as profitable as NCSoft would like.
Oh well, I suppose NCSoft has different priorities. sigh…
This is Atlas Park, the starting area on the Heroes side, the day before the servers went dark. Normally, this area is exploding with people: costume contests, new characters, dance parties -- whatever. Now there's not a hero in sight.
I don't play MMOs much anymore. I played Star Wars: The Old Republic for a few months, but that was sort of it. I'm very much looking forward to the new-and-improved Final Fantasy XIV, but deep down I know that it won't scratch the same itch that City of Heroes did.
In fact, no game will ever be quite like City of Heroes. Champions Online shares (or at least shared) some of the development team, but it feels more like an empty shell. DC Universe Online is nice, but still not quite there.
Just being a superhero MMO isn't good enough. It needs all the ingredients to be the perfect MMO -- the premise, the gameplay, and most of all, the amazing goddamn community.
Goodbye City of Heroes. And thank you.
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