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City of Titans Interview

[Kickstarter page] Since the project was first announced, the gaming community seemed sceptical at first on this superhero MMORPG, City of Titans, which will be helmed by a group of volunteers.

Driven by their passion for City of Heroes, unceremoniously closed down by NCsoft, it seems that this team defied all odds by hitting the USD 320,000 in just days!

Let us now have a chat with the team on their Kickstarter success and what has changed since our last interview.

Q: Congratulations on your successful Kickstarter campaign! Was the speed of hitting the target amount something the team expected? How is the whole team feeling right now?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Well, the stunning effect has begun to wear off. Now we’re still a little concerned about various external factors, but it looks like we’re really going to make it. We had no idea it would reach so far, so fast. But we’re glad, because every backer and every dollar makes our game better.

Q: Being a Kickstarter observer myself, I have seen projects with many bigger names fail to hit the target. Which important factors do you think the team got it right for City of Titans’ campaign?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: I’m wondering if our failed launch on the 8th primed a lot of people who would normally have heard about it on day 15 or 20, to know about the game on launch day. Beyond that, our PR lead, Rae, has been fantastic. We also have the advantage of the community having remained intact through various forums, including the Titan Network.

Q: Let us talk about the team now. How big is Missing Worlds Media in strength now, and if there is currently a permanent office?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: We’re over a hundred volunteers, all over the world, from America to Scotland to England to Denmark and Norway. The company is incorporated in Washington State, but there is no permanent office. We’re fully buzzword compliant for Business 2.0.

Q: Just curious, have any big publishers or game companies contacted the group to express an interest to help with the game one way or another?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: I’m actually not sure how much I can say about that. There have been several unofficial ventures in our direction, and we’re listening, but I suspect official contacts are waiting till the KS ends and our first product, the Avatar Creator, launches.

Q: Why the name “City of Titans”? Is it just paying homage to City of Heroes? Were there any other names considered during the brainstorm process?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: There were dozens. This was not easy. The criteria included, for example, “It can’t suck.” “It can’t have been used before.” and “it needs to not be biased to one side or another.” The middle one was the hardest. One choice we almost went with was registered by someone who had a long history of lawsuits, for example.

Another, Ascendant Online, was proposed by someone who did not know of the prominent player in City of Heroes. We actually reached out to the player, but he had grown sick and out of contact. When we heard of what happened, we felt it would be viewed as playing on his tragedy, and we dropped the name in his honor.

City of Titans was the name that stayed the course. It was one of the earliest options, coming from the Titan Network behind us, but we weren’t sure it was legally plausible. However, given Apple’s inability to trademark prefixes (you’ll notice the various iThings out there not made by Apple) and several other “City of” games existing, it cleared legal. It just sounded right.

Q: In the last interview, City of Titans was going to be developed using CryEngine 3. Why the change to Unreal Engine, and which version will the team be using?

Nate “Doctor Tyche” Downes: The switch was prompted by licensing concerns. CryTek at the time had not yet finished developing the particulars of the license, and we felt that being absolutely certain what the terms and conditions are was worth the switch. Epic has been very approachable, and answered every question we had over licensing terms. We settled on Unreal Engine 3, as it has a proven track record and solid development history, two keys to rapid delivery.

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: The only thing I can add to what Nate said is that there are existing MMOs on Unreal 3, and it is a comfort to know that things can be done. We determined not to match their style, but it’s nice to not be the very first going in a direction.

Q: Has the changing of game engine brought any delay to the timeline? Will the development team require more time to get accustomed to the new engine?

Nate “Doctor Tyche” Downes: We did the game engine change back in March, and yes, it did introduce a delay. However, the ease of use we found with the Unreal Engine has allowed us to catch up to where we were under our original engine rather quickly and we have since surpassed the point we expected to be.

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Indeed. We’ve had far more problems dealing with organizational issues than the engine change. We were lucky to run into the issues we did so early in our work, if we’d gone another two months on Cry, we would have had many more problems switching.

Q: The game’s main place of interest is Titan City. Will the game content be focused just here, or are there other locations planned?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Well, there are villian bases, flying armored zeppelin superweapons… we’ll visit secret underground cities, all kinds of places… but we’ll always return to Titan City. It works for Marvel and DC, after all.

Q: While we know that players can become heroes, will there be an option to be villains as well? How about normal citizens, will they just be NPCs walking around town?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Villains too. That’s planned for launch. It is somewhat simpler to just say superheroes than ‘heroes and villains’ in every sentence, though. Normal citizens? We are planning for a secret ID costume slot, but truly playing out a secret ID in a fun and gameable way is something we have yet to find a way to program.

It winds up being quite a lot of effort for the return to players. We’ve been trying, and we’re going to keep trying. There may be missions or events that use a civilian mode for… well, let’s call it ‘stealth’, though not stealth as Sam Fischer would consider it.

Q: I see that the plans include a really in-depth character/ avatar creation system, with stretch goals for the iOS and Android versions as well. Will characters created here be integrated with the core game itself?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Indeed! This is the plan. We’re hoping to do the same thing for base building and power planning. Work on it at your leisure, upload, and play. We’re even hoping on using them in other portable device games we might make.

Q: Any plans which will see player-created content after launch (other than the Kickstarter-exclusive reward)?

Nate “Doctor Tyche” Downes: Absolutely. It is because of our plans for player-generated content that we felt confident to offer the Kickstarter rewards we did.

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: We have such glorious plans… that we’re only about 70% sure we can accomplish. That’s ignoring things like player-written missions and player constructed bases and costumes. And, of course, player-run content like costume contests or, if we wind up putting a sport in, like Blast Hockey, running a league. We’ve got things in mind we can’t even hint at, because we need to get too many other things working first.

Q: How will abilities be categorized in the game, and how many abilities are being planned now?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: We’ve actually got a very long update about that, update 12. http://www.kickstarter.com/projects/missingworldsmedia/the-phoenix-project-city-of-titans/posts/625583

The short answer, though, is ‘pick a concept, pick a primary, pick a resulting secondary, pick a special effect to modify your whole power set, and then pick and choose as you level up.’  We’re aiming at four different power sets per Classification you pick, and hoping we can do more.

It’s true, some people don’t want classes, just picking powers, but we’ve found that results in tank-mages, and a growing universal similarity rather than having fun with what you choose, so we’ve tried to build a hybrid of the more and less rigid systems, resulting in you having the right kind of powers for what you want to accomplish.

We intend to follow the Trinity-defying methods of our predecessor. There’s much more interesting things for people to do than heal all the time, though we’re keeping that as an option as well.

Q: With Unreal Engine, the scenery is bound to be breath-taking. Is it right to say that whatever mountains and cliffs seen on the horizon, players can actually reach them? Or will there be instanced zones throughout the game world?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Well, there are limits. We can’t build the entire United States of America, and we’re not writing these games on islands surrounded by endless sea. But the war walls are down, and while we may have loading screens at start, those are scheduled to vanish. It’s going to be tricky, but we’re going to build a happy medium there.

Q: How will guilds function in City of Titans? Will there be a secret base, or even quests and missions which can only be done by a full team of superheroes?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Oh, there will be secret bases. Possibly even missions, we’re discussing that. But there are things that CoH didn’t quite have working that we’ve got some ideas on how to pull off. If you played, you know exactly what I mean. We’re working on ways to make it fun.

Q: Are there any plans for underwater exploration and abilities?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Ah, the dreaded Underwater Zone. At the moment, not a full zone, we’re going somewhere else we feel people will like much better instead. It’s a potential expansion for later, we do have some good notes, but it’s not a launch matter. I swear, ever since Mario, the water zone is the one place people both most beg to have and then most hate when it comes out. When we build something, we put the fun in it.

Q: How is PvE being planned now? Will there be instanced dungeons (not sure if it is the appropriate word here) and open field zones just like most online games?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: CoH, as you know, was the first game to really employ widespread use of personal instanced missions. We are following in that tradition, but we’re also planning on following good ideas from other games, like Warhammer Online’s public quests, as well as open missions, zone events, seasonal changes… so many things to cover, but the key is that they all have to be fun.

Q: What about PvE loot? Will the system be any different?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: It’ll be different, but we’re not prepared to talk about that right now. It will be in the spirit of the old game – we’re not gear focused, but it exists. There will be changes that will make people happy. We may work some other things in, but it really requires a lot of playtesting we have not yet done.

Q: PvP, the battle between the good and evil. Any thoughts on PvP? For example, an open world PvP system with body drop, or will it be more likely to be restricted to certain areas?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: I can’t talk too much about PvP, except for one thing: I’ve found that it’s the most fun when you can get back into the fight quickly, and don’t lose too much when you lose. We don’t plan on gear damage – we won’t use that kind of gear model, so we’re looking at fast revives (including partner revives) and no XP debt in PvP, at the very least. (XP Debt in PvE is a debated topic. Some people appreciate the challenge.)

Q: I understand that City of Titans will be using the Buy-to-Play (B2P) model, followed by an optional monthly subscription (VIP) and also a cash shop. Any fears that the “VIP” tag will scare away potential gamers who are not looking to get a subscription?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Well, you do get a number of months free with the box, and I’m not going to lie, I am hoping people will stay on. But the only major difference between subscribed and non-subscribed is going to be speed of access. We will try to not gate things behind subscriber content.

Q: What was the biggest challenge faced over the past 6 months of development, and how was it resolved?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: Personality issues, building a company from a group of fans. People have different visions, sometimes very strong visions, and sometimes the visions don’t work together. We’ve lost people, in two major incidents, and we regret it, but sometimes you have to just say ‘we can’t work together any more, we’ll work better apart.’  Part of the important thing is that a successor to CoH exists. If any of us fail, the hope is not over.

Q: While City of Titans is planned for a 2015 release, I will like to ask at what stage is the current development phase at currently.

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: We’ve got a lot of infrastructure work done, but the graphics end has been waiting a bit for that to be completed. We’re just about completely without special effects at the moment. It’s hard to say, because we’re not able to work on all parts at the same time, so some divisions are planning and designing while others are coding and hammering.

Nobody’s wasting time, but some of the work we do now will have to be redone later. It’s very hard to say an exact stage, because the way things are working, once a certain piece is put in, all of a sudden everything else will just fall into place and it’ll look like we leaped five months forward in a day. But proper planning prevents poor performance.

Basically, we’ve got a good foundation, but we’re still way before anything you could consider pre-alpha. That being said, we’ve had our ‘toss everything and start again’ experience already, and we’ve learned from that.

Q: Finally, what are some of the features and aspects of City of Titans do you think will set itself apart from other online games from both similar and different genres?

Chris “Warcabbit” Hare, Project Lead: The ability to do what you want, be who you want, look like what you want, and have the powers you want. The ability to have the experience you want, as well.

We are doing our very best to let you be anything from a Protector of the city, to an Adventurer looking for the strange and exotic, to a Thug who extorts money, to a Conqueror who wants to take over the world!

And, parenthetically, you might just succeed. For about twenty minutes before someone punches your face in, but this is comics, and this is how it works. Visit the game page for more information about City of Titans and the team behind the project.