The Torch is Still Brightly Lit for City of Heroes

I’ve made no secret of my love for the MMO Game City of Heroes over the years, and even wrote a piece back in 2012 lamenting its then upcoming demise at the hands of a seemingly indifferent company.  Business is business though and NCSoft can shut down anything they own if they feel it isn’t turning the profit they wish, or if they simply feel they want to go in another direction.  That’s a danger anyone can face when their beloved game relies on a batch of servers somewhere and not a physical disc or download, someone can shut it off.  However, NCSoft’s decision to never sell the property to the myriad of interested parties always rankled me, despite it being their prerogative to turn down whatever offers they wished.

City of Heroes has a strong community even today though.  A weirdly strong community, our game has been shut down for nearly two full years now and we still fight to bring it back to life.  Some fight harder than others.  I merely write about it every now and then or lament its passing.  Others, like the folks over at Missing Worlds Media, have taken it as a charge to return us to the game in at least a spiritual capacity with works like the successful City of Titans Kickstarter.  Now though, there may be something entirely different coming down the pipe if all goes well.  Perhaps the return to City of Heroes may be less Spiritual and far more concrete!

Here is a blurb recently posted in the forums of Titan Network by Nate Downes, President of Missing Worlds Media copied word for word for ease of relay (Link to original HERE):

For those unaware, my name is Nate Downes. While I am the President of Missing Worlds Media, Inc, I am also a member of the City of Heroes community, and an advocate. A series of circumstances put me in to a unique position, to reach out to NCSoft, not as the company president, but as a member of a small group with the goal to acquire the older property in some form or another.

Early on, this group, which included a few people from MWM as well as other members of the community, made the intentional choice to not directly involve CoT in the negotiations. There are a few reasons for this. It prevented the discussions from negatively impacting the project should they go wrong. It also prevented them from distracting any development. And, most importantly, if this should work out, it would be incredibly unfair for only one segment of the community to benefit.

How it began.

In September of last year, I had lucked into a chance meeting with a few people who worked for NC Soft, including a manager. They advised me then to come back later on to talk with them. While I’d kept the dialog channel open, the general consensus was that no, the company would never sell City of Heroes complete and intact.

Then IronWolf posted the idea of buying up part of the game, but not the entire thing. This prompted me to ask my contact people, who through several discussions eventually advised me to talk to a single person, NC Soft’s Business Manager Jae Soo Yoon. In addition, we had some other people who were ex-employees and ex-partners suggest the very same person.

For those who do not know Korean business methods, it is considered highly rude to directly email someone, but to instead get an introduction from a third party business associate. This meant we had to find someone who was not part of NC Soft to formally introduce us to Mr. Yoon. Fortunately, we had two people who could do just that, a former NC West employee and a former co-worker of mine who had started a media company which works with NC Soft on developing properties for the Asian market.

Introductions in place, we made the leap from US-bound people to members of the Korean firm. This was very carefully done, very slowly orchestrated. By July, we had gotten to the point that Mr. Yoon had passed us to Sangwon Chung from NC Soft’s Strategic Partnership Development Team.

For those who are unfamiliar, this is the group which handles things such as partnering with an existing studio or the development of new partnerships. This is the group we have been working with since early July. It is a very slow process, and still will take a long time to conclude.

The proposal as it stands right now (this is not a final form, just the current proposal on the table) is this:

The CoH IP would be spun to its own company, to handle licensing. This company would itself license the existing engine from NCSoft for the creation of a maintenance mode, using a binary copy of the i23 server.

The existing user database and characters are not part of this arrangement at this time, nor is the source code.

An arrangement is to be made to license the trademarks to the various Plan Z projects, CoT, Valiance and H&V, to create a family connection, and to allow each to drop the “Spiritual” portion of successor. This means they can make references to the original game if desired, and to enable the expansion of partnerships. This could be expanded for any of them, should the desire be there.

An arrangement is also to be made for the Atlas Park Revival project. As part of the informal agreement we have with them, they would be given an official stamp of approval, and the CoT game build would be licensed to them, to create a kind of “CoH 1.5” and migrate people off of the classic game engine before it finally becomes unsuitable (we expect this to happen around when Windows 9 is released, due to binary compatibility). This can be done because both APR and CoT run on Unreal Engine 4.

By being its own firm, the licensing company can also pursue other avenues which were unavailable before.

Why this group?

Because we approached them like another Korean company. We respected their company culture. And most importantly, we were patient. We had periods where we heard nothing for weeks.

The group itself began as three people. It has grown, some people more connected to the inner workings than others. Some former Cryptic and Paragon employees have given us advise on things ranging from what is needed to run the old server binaries to how the Paragon Market worked.

So, why come forward now?

Back in March, we were advised to wait until after August as a show of good faith. It is now September, so here we are.

Since we could not give full details to anyone without jeopardizing the whole thing before now, a lot of misinformation, rumors, and flat out wrong ideas got out there. To correct them could have broken the request, and therefore the trust, built up. So we had to let them stir, and do minor nudges to fix when we could get away with it.

So where are we now?

Right now, still discussing terms, ideas, limits. The challenges we have been given we stepped up for and handled. Likely there will be discussions and adjustments right up until the moment the deal is signed. The whole thing may fall apart. For all we know, everything done so far has been nothing but a delaying tactic so they can say once again that they tried to work with the community to no avail. But until such time that becomes clear, we will continue forward in good faith.

They could have ignored us from day 1, but they did not. They may not operate at the pace we would like, but they are at the pace they are comfortable with. At this point, the ball is in their court.

Ultimately, it is not the dozen folk here who have been in talks with are important here, but all of you. Those who said what you wanted, what you’d hoped for, who did not give up. We’re still not there, may never make it there, but we are not even close to giving up. And whatever happens, we can do it together.

Thanks to all of you.

So there we have it.  If all goes well the City of Heroes IP may actually be resurrected! Granted the post by Nate is laced with a healthy dose of “Don’t get your hopes up” but this is still the best news we’ve heard since City of Titans funded.  Looks like we may still never get to play the characters we spent hours leveling up, but honestly at this point I want back in for a return to the game-play and community I loved more so than the things I “owned” there.

Many gathered on the steps in Atlas Park days before City of Heroes shut down, hopefully they can once more.

So keep a lookout for more information folks, I know I will.  Maybe one day I can Superjump across Atlas Park once more, maybe even recreate Melvin Maddock my Spines/Regen Scrapper!

Until then,

/LFG Melvs

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