Robot 6

‘City of Heroes’ fans raise $678K for replacement game

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The idea of playing as your favorite superhero in a video game world is catnip for comics fans, and the MMORPG City of Heroes was one of the earliest to offer that chance in an immersive, free-ranging world. But after eight years of continuous operations, the studio behind City of Heroes shuttered the game late last year. However, as comics fans can attest, good heroes never die — even if you don’t have the rights to them.

A group of ardent City of Heroes fans recently rallied under the name the Phoenix Project and started a Kickstarter to fund a “spiritual successor” to City of Heroes called City of Titans, hoping to raise $320,000 to create a near-identical home for themselves and other fans of comic book video games. This week, they achieved their goal and then some, raising $678,189. Now all they have to do is make the game.

“When we lost [City of Heroes], no amount of traditional investment would bring it back,” technical director Nathaniel Downes said on the Kickstarter page. “The safe money for MMORPG investment goes to traditional titles, revamped versions of classic fantasy realms, grind-fests featuring pay-to-win, or ones tied to popular role-playing, movie, print or television properties. The Phoenix Project is none of these things. It is a new home for the heroic spirit, but not a clone or replica. We have an opportunity here to build a modern game, respectful of the play style, lessons, and fun of the old game, while taking advantage of the more than ten years of industry development since our spiritual predecessor started development.

Downes describes City of Titans as “a game rising from the death of another,” being built by fans of the original. Organizing under the company name Missing Worlds Media, the key players have some video game experience but as a unit this would be their first title — with an MMO being a large undertaking for any company, large or small. Marvel’s recent MMO, Marvel Universe, took three and a half years and more than $80 million to develop.

“I can understand that people are skeptical, I can understand that many people think this is a con,” a writer for the video game developer posted in the comments section of an article by Polygon. “We at MWM are the underdogs, the longshots, and we all get that. Every man and woman realizes that this is a daunting task, and to be honest it can be pretty scary.” The unnamed writer, going by the screen name of LuchRi, describes several “shake ups” and “ego clashes” in the development of the game, calling it “rather harrowing.” But the writer says the staff, which are entirely made up of volunteers, is giving “everything possible into this effort.”

Despite these seemingly long odds and some earlier Kickstarter video game projects that have failed to materialize, the Phoenix Project and Missing Worlds Media aims to launch City of Titans in November 2015.

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39 Comments

Unless they have boatloads of additional funding, i would be amazed if the end result is anything more than a MUD with a graphical front end.

Relatively simple indie games on Steam get made for this kind of money. For a full blown MMO RPG you are looking at the tens of millions range.

The amount of new games companies that decide they will go all out and make a WOW-killer as their first ever game and end up tanking is quite vast. Even though they appear to be aiming lower than World of Warcraft, they are still taking an obscene risk, and the people who donated their money will almost surely see no return.

Stephen, I could say, “Obscene risks can yield obscene rewards,” but … wait, I guess I did. Anyway, the fact that they were able to more than double their goal is testament that there are people out there that really cared about this game and miss it. Ask a collector of just about anything and you’ll find that nostalgia is a powerful motivator. Many of those kids that spent hundreds or thousands of hours on this game are now adults with disposable income.
Just the fact that this is getting some coverage on comic sites is good publicity. People are doing amazing things with very little capital these days, so don’t count these fans out just yet.

Jason M. Bryant

November 6, 2013 at 5:42 pm

Dedication is nice, but that amount of money isn’t enough to run even one department of the gigantic team it takes to make an MMO.

Besides, there’s already a successor to City of Heroes. When I started Playing Champions, I felt like I was playing a rehash of the same game.

Wow, someone actually chose to quote me? That is… Unexpected.

Honestly I have been trying to keep up on the press about us because, well, press for a project one is working on tends to be awesome. It seems that the one key thing both writers and commentators consistently come back to is the financial aspect of it. Frankly yes, 320K was and is very low for any sort of game. I know for a fact that the financial people hope to find other revenue streams provided they do not compromise the core of what we are trying to do.

I could go into the costs we cut by being a volunteer group at the outset. We aren’t licensing anything, we don’t have to kick any money upstairs to executives or parent companies. Our costs and deadlines are all calculated based on our rates of progress and the tools we need along with the taxes the company has to pay. Frankly there is a long list of overhead we have simply avoided because for us it isn’t about making the next WoW-killer or pushing your rig to the breaking point. We want a new game that features the things we loved in CoH, the things that made it unique and special, while fixing and improving the things we find wrong. You don’t need to have every cutscene voiced or the ability to match up against big budget single player titles on the high res setting. Those things are nice, and if you can do that great!

We don’t have 80 mill to blow on development. We may never have that much at one time for all I know. But you don’t need all of the bells and whistles to make a game with pleasing visuals, with compelling gameplay and solid mechanics. A table made out of old barnwood can be just as lovely as a Brazillian rosewood one. It is about time, and passion, and talent. That is what we bring to the table.

i for one, love, love, love, loved city of heroes and am excited for city of titans. i wish i could help out with the writing. -champions online did not feel the same at all, and dcuo sucks. wish they hadn’t shuttered c.o.h. when will this game be in beta testing?

I for one will be happy to play this game. Loved COH and am glad others loved it just as much.

This is really exciting. I’ve missed it since the day it was shut down. I wonder what the odds are that they need a composer?

Good news. I really miss CoH and have boycotted everything NC Soft due to their ‘negligent’ behavior. CoH didn’t have to be shut down but it was. That idiot company could’ve sold the game off but they let it die. All those involved @ NC Soft can go to hell.

This new game may never see the light of day but I’m pulling for it. I really hope they get this game out and improve on CoH. Good luck!

I just found out about this after the funding period was closed. Will there be another one opened up because I’d absolutely love to do anything I could to help this project along.

The thing a lot of people who point out that MMOs take tens of millions of dollars to develop are missing is: A LOT of that “tens of millions of dollars” is going toward the salaries of the people you have working on the project. If you have 100 employees making $30,000 a year, that’s a minimum of $3,000,000 you’re spending a year just in employee salaries alone.

If your staff is 100% comprised of volunteers who are viewing a playable game as their reward for the time they’ve invested, then a lot of the monetary needs go away. Everyone currently working on the game is doing so in their spare time. They are not collecting a salary, or any kind of material compensation for their efforts. They are doing so because they WANT to be involved. And they are doing so because they are angry about the game they loved being closed down for no good reason.

Never underestimate the power of a large enough group of people doing something out of spite.

The money they’ve collected goes toward software licenses, lawyer fees, and other unavoidable early costs. The Kickstarter drive in no way obviates their seeking further funding down the road.

It certainly might take $3M of effort–but that’s not the same as cost. I consulted with someone last night for over an hour, which normally would cost them $150. I did it for nothing, because it struck me as the right thing to do, and it was my time to give away if I wanted to. (During regular business hours, I don’t, mind you.) That’s the entire volunteer angle.

Yes–they might fail to make the 2015 date. Or any date at all. Not to try at all is a guaranteed fail, however–and better to try than not. I chipped in some dollars and I’m standing by to chip in my software development experience and expertise, as well as my masterful command of English for copy editing, for as many hours as it takes to succeed–or fail.

What are YOU doing, Stephen and Jason? Can you say as much?

I agree with Brook completely. I am a software developer of over 30 years, and the tools, platforms and culture available today overcome huge hurdles that would have stood in the way of this happening a decade ago.

From a timing standpoint, MWM is approaching this at an upswing of capital availability and interest in the comic book genre, as well. There’s plenty of evidence that this is precisely the moment in history where the underdog in a milieu such as this could garner the kind of snowballing resources to succeed brilliantly.

As Brook did, I put in my chunk of change for a chance to play a better game (with both my kids this time – my son literally “grew up” with CoH, watching me play from age 4 and starting to play himself at age 7 through age 12 and said to me, when it ended, that he had no interest in either the Marvel or DC franchise games because, as he put it, Superman and Spider-man were *my* generation’s heroes, and he was a Statesman fan) – and I’ll continue to support and cheer from the sidelines and help in any way I can. If there are thousands of others out there ready to do the same, I see bright things in the future for CoT.

Congratulations to the folks behind the Phoenix Project and Missing Worlds Media on an excellent Kickstarter for City of Titans. No doubt you’re all dreading the sheer amount of work in front of you but are reassured by over 5,000 donors!

This augurs well for City of Titans of course but the other folk at Heroes & Villains, SCOPE and elsewhere should also be encouraged. The Kickstarter demonstrates there is support and a solid base for the projects people are working on.

Like to respond to one comment above. Jason Bryant states that there is already a successor to CoH in Champions Online. Like many CoH exiles I’ve tried CO (and DCUO and others) and at least for a large number of us those games come nowhere near the experience CoH offered.

Jason M. Bryant

November 7, 2013 at 5:15 am

“The thing a lot of people who point out that MMOs take tens of millions of dollars to develop are missing is: A LOT of that “tens of millions of dollars” is going toward the salaries of the people you have working on the project. If you have 100 employees making $30,000 a year, that’s a minimum of $3,000,000 you’re spending a year just in employee salaries alone.”

I’m not forgetting that at all.

City of heroes took years to make. Those people were working full time. In the video game industry, that usually means a lot more than 40 hour work weeks.

Unless all the volunteers are independently wealthy, they’re not going to be able to work 50 to 60 hours a week on this game for two years. Unless this project start getting the kind of money that can pay for all those man hours, putting out a game by 2015 doesn’t make sense.

If we’re talking about volunteers who can put in a few hours a night after their day jobs, then it will take much, much longer. I don’t see how a game that even approximates City of Heroes can come out in anywhere close to that time.

Jason M. Bryant

November 7, 2013 at 5:21 am

I didn’t like Champions Online much either. Actually, the main thing I disliked about it was that it was too similar to City of Heroes. It had a few nice gameplay differences, but mostly it felt like the same game with a different coat of paint. I’m a little worried that another game trying to recreate City of Heroes would have the same problem.

However, that’s just a personal opinion on one potential problem. Any new game has to worry about things like that, so I’m not trying to make that particular mole hill seem too mountain-like.

Part of the reason “City of heroes took years to make” is that they had no real model – in practice, a lot of their development time was surely spent ‘inventing the wheel.’ The guys behind City of Titans have a model in front of them: City of Heroes.

The kickstarter result was good news.

It mat never eventuate in a successor game. But it just also might. What is certain is that nothing you have said, Jason, will move anyone an inch closer to realising a replacment to CoH.

I played City of Heroes from the week it came out until it went dark. Never had a game held my attention for that long. Since NCSoft (wrongfully) pulled the plug, I have tried other games on both the PC and multiple consoles. Not one even came close to being what CoH was. DC, Champions, Marvel…they all fell flat. I, and many others, want our world back.

And Missing Worlds Media is going to give it to us. What they are attempting is ambitious to say the least, but now they know they have the backing of one of the most loyal fandoms out there. The CoH community was exceptionally strong. I was in the CoH panel at DragonCon following the shutdown of the game and I have never seen a group of people more passionate about a game. This is the same passion that the people at MWM are bringing to the table.

That’s what’s going to carry them through. Those of us that backed the Kickstarter will continue to support the efforts of MWM in any way we can, and no amount of negativity or nay-saying will change that. It will take time, and there will be challenges and trials along the way, but we, the future community of CoT, have every faith that they will achieve what some are saying can’t be done.

Jason M. Bryant

November 7, 2013 at 6:00 am

I worked in the video game industry for several years. Having a model is great, but it doesn’t help as much as you might think. Textures still have to be drawn, buildings still have to be modeled, and moves still have to be animated. They can’t just copy City of Heroes directly or they’d get sued for copyright infringement. So they still have to do the work, try it, and then redo anything that doesn’t work, just like every other game.

@Jason M. Bryant – quite right. But there is more as well. The majority of City of Heroes development time and money was spent in developing a game engine. We chose not to reinvent the wheel, and are adapting the Unreal Engine under license. They had to animate by hand, while today we have affordable motion capture. They had to create most if not all textures themselves while now we have texture libraries coming out our ears. There are companies which exist today that do nothing but produce high quality 3Dmodels which they then sell to companies and groups like ours, a market which was unthinkable back when CoH was created. Even simple things, like the internal chat system, they had to make it all themselves, while we are using an off-the-shelf XMPP solution.

The world has changed quite dramatically since the time CoH came out. In my “former life” I was in the middle as these changes happened, watching as my old Video Toaster/Flyer became the pathfinder for a whole new industry of 3D systems. I still have that old Amiga, boot it up on occasion, to remind me of where we all came from. And like the Amiga, the old method of making games was “do it all yourself.” Even 15 years ago, the idea of using an off-the-shelf graphics program for game development was radical, fringe. People forget, Blender began as the 3D package for the NeoGeo, a normal step for any game development back then. Nowadays, no studio creates their own solution. We cannot judge a modern game development based on what was done even 10 years ago. The market has changed just that much since then.

Jason M. Bryant

November 7, 2013 at 9:17 pm

I wish you luck.

Great comments so far and I appreciate both sides being vetted. For me though, CoH was my very first MMO and until its demise, my only one. For those that compare Champions Online to CoH, there are some similarities (e.g. UI, some of the sounds, etc) but it is still so vastly different. While CoH represented a vast open world with expansive lore, Champions is a limited zone, Alert-based game with limited content.

The Adventure Packs and Comic Series represent some great writing and action, but since Cryptic/PWE decided it wasn’t worth the investment, there are just a few to play through. So between limited general content, adventure series, and mind-numbing repetition with the Alert content, its like a drop in the ocean compared to the ocean that CoH was.

And while yes, this is an ambitious undertaking, as one of the other posters stated, there is such passion for this effort that we will support CoT through any trials/issues they may have to be able to have a REAL superhero MMO that we can play again which is not tied to any particular historical universe (e.g. can only make heroes in DCUO patterned after the big 3!) or just a reuse of existing characters (Marvel MMO).

When city of heroes arrived, i was exited… playing a game as a super hero was awesome!
I made an “iron man” and played many years… then i tried city of vilains and like this side of the game too… but they decided to stop it.
So this City Of Titans is a great news! I know that it’s a lot of work to do it but i want you to know that i’m with you guys !
knowing that you were players make me feel good for this game. Hold on ! we’re counting on you all.

PS: Sorry for my english… i’m french and it’s been a long time that i learn it… ;p

During many years of ultima online, 7 years of Everquest and alot of Diablo I remember COH being the breath of fresh air that i was looking for ….It was fast paced but could slow down anytime you wanted…plus we were heroes !!! EQ was Slow all the time… Same problem i had with WoW too slow for me . CoT could be good if it works out …. would love to get back into some Slug-fest energy blastin fun. I will be following your Progress with great interest…. Lead on adventurer your quest awaits…..

I started playing City Of Heroes in 2005. I created my main character then. I would play for a few months, and then I’d tend to other things in life, and quit for a while. However, I always came back. Over the last 8 years I re-subscribed at least six or seven times, and played for months at a time. Every time I came back, my main char would be there waiting for me. Eventually got him to 50 +1. I was going to start playing again last week, and I discovered the game had been shut down. I can’t believe it. I never saved my char, and, stupidly, I didn’t have any screenshots of him. I’m glad that someone made the Titan Icon thingy. I went in and re-built my main char exactly as he was, so I can at least have him run around Paragon City again. It’s sorta sad, but…

I will never play an NCSoft game ever again. They did this to me with Tabula Rasa, too. They suck. That company must be a real piece of sh*t. You just can’t do this to people. You can’t have them spend years building and growing a character, and then just pull the plug. I realize it’s just a game, but your character actually sort of comes to life, and takes on a life of his/her own, with a real history and everything. NCSoft can kiss my ass.

Atomic Crab
Level 50 +1 Tech Blaster
2005 – 2012
R.I.P.

Maybe help ChampionsOnline become what you want? Suberb groundwork already layed. Maybe they would let you pay to use their engine or something?

Champions was too bad comic booky for me to find immersive. Also the travel powers you couldn’t use in combat.

In CoH I liked combat jumping with 3 slotted hurdle as it was super fun to be flying around in combat and you could keep the melee people off you pretty well. Hover mixed with speed boosters was nice too.

Champions, the only time you can use movement powers for mobility is mostly out of combat. Boring MMO stand in one place pushing buttons type fare.

The Paragon Avenger

December 24, 2013 at 1:26 pm

Paragon really does need avenging now. I hope that one of the villain groups in City of Titans resemble NCSoft executives.
I can’t wait for this new game. The phantom army is getting anxious just sitting around doing nothing except eating Pringles and watching Oprah.

The Paragon Comptroller

December 24, 2013 at 10:12 pm

City of. Titans developers, remember the drink emote. I does needs my liquid assets.

Super Fire Dragon

December 25, 2013 at 4:08 pm

Merry Christmas and a happy new year. Just think a couple years from now and I might be again flying around burning bad guys.

Level 53 willpower/fire tank on protector. Level 53 in Dark Astoria that is.

After reading what people have said about Champions Online, and being very disappointed over CoH disappearing, I thought I’d try Champions Online. Started playing a few weeks ago.

Basically, the game sucks. It’s a buggy, unwieldly piece of crap, and it’s just as Ryan said. Stand in one spot, firing like a retard, and it gets old real fast. The last straw for me was deciding to go to Gold membership in the hope that it would make the game better. You know, the theory being that if I pay, it must get better. Wrong. I respecced my char, and he got gimped bad. Champions Online won’t let you undo what you’ve done without ponying up a lot of money, so you’re stuck. I’m just telling pople: stay away from this POS game. Their customer service is non-existent, and, once they have your money, they avoid you like the plague. Incredible lack of respect for paying customers in a game where most people don’t pay at all. I miss CoH, too, but I wouldn’t go near this garbage game if I had it to do over again. It totally sucks.

I just wanted to say that I’m glad that the city of heros universe fans came together on this project. and I hope that good comes out of it. I really liked COH, and was very sad when service was shut down. I don’t see why though it was so popular. and I knew of many that played.

The only concern I have is the good, and the bad. I would take a healthy mix of the two anyday vs nothing. True fan of the way that this game really brought out super hero genre to mmorpg’s. I look forwaed to the progress, and please don’t stop. I believe in this project, and I hope to see it to the end(creation). Thanks so much for taking the time to read this. and your are very welcome. and your time and patience to make a great game from the ashes of what was the best if much appreciated. thanks for putting a smile back on my face. :)

I hope it all comes to play!!!

I have really missed the game…and although my best friend died during the last months of the game…I would certainly join a new “like” one

I played COH then COX till the end. I still remember the complete feeling of “what the heck do I do now” the day the lights went out. I have spent a small fortune trying to find a replacement. But there is no other game that offers the full time worker part time gamer the opportunity to enjoy a quick mish while you can or an TF for your day off :).
I much like others would do what I can to have the chance to play even the ghost of my toons again.

I miss the CoH community. IMHO, it was the best MMO community. If they believe that they can make a true successor then I wish them the best of luck and wonder if there’s anything I could do to assist.

(50 Rad/Emp Def… not going to forget)

Nuke Doc (50 Rad/Emp Def... not going to forget)

March 21, 2014 at 1:00 am

Oh, and I’ll be there day 1 in digital spandex when they succeed!

I too am at a loss since CoH was taken from us. I played from 2006 and my kids grew up playing it. While my husband was in Afghanistan we would meet in Paragon City and play together, his Blaster with my Scraper :-) We were one of the many married couples that would play together.
I do play Champions but it’s not the same. I dislike the comic book graphics and I find everything else about the game, except the fighting, confusing. CoH was fun to play and easy to understand how to make your guy or girl stronger, the crafting which came later was also very easy to understand. The character creation was awesome. When you invest so much time into your character making him or her look unique is important and I just can’t get into the games where I look around and every other character is a clone of one of 5 types, all dressed the same.
The community was great too. Team play was excellent. I still smile when I think of those level 1’s I’d make then head off into the sewers with a team of 7 other players I’d never played with before and 4 hours later we were best online game buddies. As time went on my friend base got larger and it seemed that there was always a friend online to play with, but if not it was such a friendly game I’d be invited to a team within 5 minutes of logging on. That has never happened again in any other game.
Best of luck to City of Titans and I along with many many others will be eagerly waiting for it’s release.
Give it all you got guys and don’t let go of the dream.

The saddest thing is that, CoH is still a viable game, even today. I do not remember subscriptions waning so bad that it warranted shutting the game down forever. This was one of my favorite mmo’s of all time.

im playing champions online right now. 2 things I note that a are completely bizarre to me. 1 that teamplay is neither rewarded or appreciated by the community – and 2, the game has multiple ingame currencies, yet so little to actually buy. Its devoid of the warmth that COH had. I severely miss the game.

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