As one of the many people affected by the sudden closure of City of Heroes, getting the opportunity for a Ship of Heroes preview was a no-brainer. I sat in with Heroic Games’ CEO Casey McGeever and lead developer Matthew Wilson as I got a quick look at the sights of the game’s starting zone, Apotheosis City, and was able to find out a bit more about the latest City of Heroes successor project before it opens up its Kickstarter.
Ship of Heroes, as its name suggests, takes place inside of a gigantic spacecraft known as the FHS Justice. The craft is made up of 20 different sections that house a variety of locations for people to populate. Inside of the Justice is a variety of superpowered characters: the players and NPCs of the game.
One of the first questions I ask is about how superheroes came to be inside a spacecraft. The answer is a simple one: protection. The superheroes aboard the FHS Justice are the sole protectors of the populace, as well as the ship, from a variety of threats from within and without. Because of this, they’re revered by the general population and looked upon with the same level of adoration as major sports stars. The gigantic statues in honor of the heroes’ valorous acts stand as a testament.
Apotheosis City specifically will be a launching point for new heroes, a location for social interaction, and a place where high-level characters can return for end game activities. It’s the most gleaming example of human habitation and stands as the centerpiece of Ship of Heroes for a good reason; the zone’s nods to City of Heroes’ Atlas Park are there, but in such a way that they feel like an homage instead of a copy-and-paste.
Zones like Apotheosis City are about 1.25 square miles each. With 20 individual levels of the FHS Justice, the ship’s hull, the ship’s engines, immense underground areas and planned Planetfall open zones stated to be larger than ship zones, Heroic Games is building a truly immense title. Regardless of the planned scope, McGeever offered a sense of keeping the project within attainable goals. At launch, two of the 22 zones, one shared underground region, and one planetary area are lined up.
Zones are individually arranged much in the same way City of Heroes’ zones were as well, with hazard areas that will contain dangerous enemies along with more safe regions. Matthew Wilson flies the view over to one such planned hazard zone, a nearby beach area that currently lies blank but will be in development soon. Enemies will run the entire gamut of superheroic fantasy, from rogue robots to magic-powered foes to invading alien lifeforms.
Combating those enemies will be a varied affair, with archetypes familiar to CoH players available at launch, including Support-based powers. McGreever shares my adoration of the Controller from the game, and so similar fans will find that the beloved and often-overlooked MMO playstyle will indeed make a return.
Gameplay in Ship of Heroes will involve the expected modes, including PvE, PvP, raids and group content across all levels, though specifics weren’t mentioned about how many raids or other group missions will be available. The team believes in balance across the board, giving players the option to play solo, form a group with others, sidekick lower level characters or PvP at their leisure, with PvE and PvP stats separated in order to maintain balance.
A hero’s Day Job will also have an effect on the types of missions a player receives. For example, those who take up security as a day job will see missions that are different from characters whose day job is associated with the medical field. It sounds similar to the Paths system of WildStar with a more direct affect on what tasks a player undertakes.
As a result of the variety available to characters, both in Day Job and in character creation, it was impressed upon me that endgame activities won’t be the primary crux of the game. Creating new alts will be heavily encouraged and supported. As someone who rolled a veritable army of alts across both City of Heroes and City of Villains, I can understand the mindset.
On the topic of creating alts, character creation in Ship of Heroes is a deep affair. Currently, the game has three body types, but more are planned later as the game’s sci-fi setting opens up a lot of new potential. Multiple sliders for face shape, hair, and a dizzying array of clothes from armors to street outfits to classic spandex were on display.
McGeever stressed the importance of individuality in crafting your own superhero and gear, or power enhancements, will not get in the way of your look; if every Tanker archetype has to wear a Chestplate of Doom, they can since it won’t actually be visible on the character model.
While the brief demonstration of character creation didn’t offer up many clues about the kinds of superheroes players can create, that information is coming soon. Combat was demoed in a video earlier this week, and more details about the kinds of powers are planned to be revealed as Ship of Heroes leads into its Kickstarter campaign.
Heroic Games is also laying a basic groundwork for expansion as they build the base game upwards. With so many ship levels and a nearly infinite variety of unique planet surfaces that players can explore, new content for Ship of Heroes should be vast. New planets are planned to be monthly affairs, and yes, holiday events will indeed become a reality in the game as well.
Additionally, extra missions in the vein of the City of Heroes cape mission could be in the works, though it was stressed that the developers won’t be parroting everything NCSoft does. It was hinted that unique costume pieces could be offered as a result of completing special Day Job missions, for example.
It all will culminate in a Kickstarter campaign that is set to kick off on Tuesday, April 4th. The final goal wasn’t revealed, but McGeever made it clear that as much information as possible would be revealed in the weeks leading up to the crowdfunding drive.
My brief time with a couple of the folks behind Ship of Heroes instilled the sense of a team that knows what it wants to build. While City of Heroes will indeed inform many of the game’s design decisions, its setting alone helps to make it stand out to me. Apotheosis City is the perfect illustration of where the game wants to head; as a tip of the hat to what was while still crafting its own world.
There are still some details that need to be revealed, but the folks at Heroic Games seem eager to do so. Leading into April 4th, I can’t help but wait in anticipation of what will be shown next. Ship of Heroes could be the next title to watch for CoH vets and MMO fans alike.Related: Crowdfunding, Kickstarter, MMORPG, Preview, Ship of Heroes