It was fourteen years ago on this day that the first-ever superhero-themed massive multiplayer online role-playing game was launched.
“City of Heroes” was a unique online experience, allowing players to create their own superheros from a variety of archetypes, powers, and costumes. The sheer amount of customization set the game apart from all others, in addition to its superhero theme and setting.
Set in the fictional city of Paragon City, Rhode Island, “City of Heroes” allowed players to begin a career as a superhero amidst a city still recovering from a devastating extra-dimensional invasion that fragmented the city into several zones surrounded by massive walls. (The kind of walls that Donald Trump wishes he could have.) As you progress in your “career” as a registered hero, you gain new powers, including special abilities like being able to fly or run at super-speed or leap extraordinary distances.
As the game developed over the years, the level of customization became legendary.
With the launch of “City of Villains” in 2005, players could become villains and begin their own criminal careers in a system that mirrored – and later merged with – “City of Heroes”. This system also allowed players in both systems to join together to create superhero or supervillain groups and design their own headquarters.
In 2009, “Mission Architect” allowed players to create their own adventures, including their own custom characters, that they could then publish and have other players take part in and critique.
A year later, “City of Heroes: Going Rogue” joined “City of Heroes” as an expansion pack that not only introduced players to a completely new universe, but also allowed players to change alignments, going from heroes to villains and vice-versa.
Sadly, for reasons that still cannot be truly explained, the parent company of “City of Heroes” made the abrupt decision to terminate the game. Despite months of pleading with corporate officials and endless protests, the MMORPG shut down just after midnight on December 1st, 2012.
There are clearly other MMO games online. “Champions Online” is now the longest-running MMO, designed with features the original developers could not bring into “City of Heroes”. “DC Universe Online” is the first cross-platform MMO, being accessible through both PC and game consoles, and using legendary characters and settings in the world of DC Comics.
However, when people think superhero MMOs, they still think “City of Heroes”.
Although the game servers are shut down, “The City” is still remembered not only through the numerous developers that are trying to create “spiritual successors”, but also through talented people like the City of Comic Creators, who keep the stories going through the downloaded software and an MMO process called demo-recording.
At Battlerock Comics, we salute the developers and the thousand of players of that game that was first online in Paragon City fourteen years ago. Without them, Battlerock Comics itself would not exist today.