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Submitted by Jon Wilcox on October 6 2006 - 12:07

It's a busy time for super-heroes and super-villains alike as TVG speaks to the Lead Designer of NCsoft/Cryptic Studio's City of Heroes...

Since it's launch in North America back in Spring 2004, NCsoft and Cryptic Studio's super-hero MMO City of Heroes has continued to gather strength, not least from the release of City of Villains in 2005 and regular content updates. Recently, TotalVideoGames spoke with the Lead Designer of City of Heroes, Cryptic Studio's Matthew Miller, about the game, the next update "Issue #8", and how he thinks its developing two and half years after its launch.

The "City of..." franchise has been running since April 2004, has it developed the way that Cryptic Studios and NCsoft originally planned, and how did the introduction of City of Villains increase the depth of the experience?

It allowed us to explore the full breadth of a super-powered world. Once we had a major villain group to craft stories with, along with a personal foil for Statesman in Lord Recluse, we opened up a whole new dimension in which we could tell stories for both heroes and villains.

The release of Issue #8 "Protect and Serve" will see the introduction of the Veterans Reward Program; can you outline what the service is and why it was felt that the program was needed?

The service is basically a "thank you" to our players for the time they have invested in the game. I wanted something that would give them some nice non-gamebreaking rewards like costume pieces and convenience powers for their time played.

I feel the program was needed so that the players realize that they are what makes these games great. City of Heroes and City of Villains would be nothing without their support. This system allows us to remind players that we recognize their efforts, and in return for their patronage, we have some nice, oft-asked for, features added.

The Faultline Zone will be re-tagged a City Zone in "Protect and Serve", with NCsoft promises lots of new surprises; can you give us a glimpse at what subscribers can expect?

New missions and new contacts for one. In addition Overbrook was the site of many of the old Supergroup Bases from before the Rikti War. After the war and the earthquake, those Supergroup bases have been sealed off and deemed unsafe. Of course, Supergroups were always collecting powerful technologies and artifacts for "safe keeping"... and Arachnos realizes this, and the treasure trove that exists beneath the rubble in Faultline.

Police Band radio missions will also be a new feature for Heroes in "Protect and Serve"; how do they differ from the usual sort of quests on offer?

This is sort of our "random mission generator". If you run out of missions, or simply tire of doing the missions your contact has offered, you can check the Police Band to see if there are any crises that need to be handled.

Unique events occur at regular intervals throughout the course of an MMO's lifespan; which has been your favourite in City of Heroes and why?

I would have to say the Council/5th Column war. We wanted to progress the 5th Column's storyline in a new direction, and the Council's coup d'etat was perfect. The fact that the 5th Column was so entrenched in the zones of Paragon City meant that the coup couldn't take place entirely "off panel", so we set up the various wars in the zones where the 5th Column were found. Groups of Council would attack the 5th Columnists who were not flipping, and in the end, after the smoke cleared the Council had established their base on Striga Isle and the 5th Column was no more.

What do you put the success of the City of Heroes franchise down to, and how do you see it developing in the years to come?

I like to think that instead of creating an MMO, we created a comic-book game first, and an MMO second. We wanted comic book-like things like story arcs and sidekicks and then figured out how they would work, exactly, in the context of an MMO. In the end we found ourselves innovating a lot of systems, and that innovation paid off with the games' success.

In the coming years we have a big story arc that is going to change the play dynamics for both heroes and villains, as well as a bunch of cool end-game content. Stuff for your Level 50's to do is a big goal of mine.

How far in advance does the team work on future Issues of City of Heroes/Villains? When can we expect news of Issue #9?

We are usually working 1 to 2 issues ahead. We are getting assets gathered for Issues 9 and 10 right now. Our plan is to have some solid Issue 9 news very shortly after Issue 8 gets to the live servers.

Do you feel that City of Heroes/Villains could ever make the move to the next-gen console platforms successfully, following Square-Enix's experiments with Final Fantasy XI? Are consoles a viable platform for the MMO genre?

I think that consoles are a natural extension of the MMO market, and Cryptic is fully behind anything that will make the MMO market more accessible to end-users.

City of Heroes was Cryptic Studios' first title; are there plans to spread the "City of..." universe to other genres? Perhaps as a way to break out onto consoles?

Cryptic doesn't want to be known as just the "Super-powered MMO maker", and we are pursuing ideas and designs for a myriad of MMO genres that are crying out for good games to be made.

Actors always say that it's more fun playing a villain, so do you find that most subscribers fall under Lord Recluse's spell and fight to take control of Paragon or is the split between Hero and Villain fairly balanced?

Actually Hero population has a very slight lead, simply because that game had an 18 month head start. In the end, I think the sides are being equally represented, and now the onus is on us to make sure that one side or the other doesn't get ignored.

TVG would like to thank Matthew Miller for taking the time to answer or questions on City of Heroes; the City of Heroes/City of Villains Good vs. Evil Combined Edition is now for sale. We'll have more on the super-hero title in the future.

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