City of Heroes

Bringing Back Paragon: An Interview with Nate Downes on City of Heroes

As Meticulous Meta I had the opportunity to interview Paragon Studios employees, uber fans, and do so much more. I spoke briefly at the Atlas Park 33 player rally and lead campaigns to save the city we so loved. None of that compares to the awesomeness that Nate Downes has accomplished. You may know him best as the director of Missing Worlds Media, the folks making City of Titans, just one of several spiritual successors for City of Heroes. But recently he unmasked himself and revealed himself as the man leading the current efforts to buy City of Heroes from NCSoft. It may not have been quite as epic as Tony Stark’s announcement that he is Iron Man, that’s only because Nate doesn’t have a theme song, yet. But the announcement left a lot of unanswered questions. So I put on my Meticulous Meta hat once again to find out the answers to some of our burning questions.

What is it about City of Heroes that has had so many people fighting for it?

It was the right game at the right time when it came out. It formed a highly loyal community around it, thanks to its easy to understand systems, engaging plot, and its reliance on internal social networking even before the phrase became a buzzword. It became a measuring stick by which people measured other games against, the gold standard as it were, of online comic book themed video games. To ask people to just let that go? Nonsense.

It is the same issue as you found with Star Trek fans in the 1970’s, Battlestar Galactica fans in the 1980’s and 1990’s, Doctor Who fans in the late 90’s and early part of the past decade, or Firefly fans today – solidly loyal fanbase tied to a particular property which was not allowed to fully develop and mature before its untimely shutdown. I recall in particular the news of Battlestar Galactica’s revival, and how it energized a community which had built around the classic 1970’s show.

There is a phrase for this phenomenon, fandom. City of Heroes does not just have a community, it has a solid, and loyal, fandom.

City of Heroes

Why did you decide to come out now before anything was really set in stone?

We, being what TonyV calls “Task Force Hail Mary,” were informed that a media outlet was preparing to do a big reveal, having discovered who was doing the negotiating. We made the decision to go public, accepting that this was the only practical way to control the story.


Are you concerned that City of Heroes being back will have an impact on the successfulness of the spiritual successor projects?

An impact for the better if anything. Having the legacy server would help keep the community from further fragmenting, a concern I personally have had for a long time. It also means that the successors would have something real to be measured against. Without it, they are being measured against a ghost, and it is difficult to measure up against that.


Are we going to see City of Titans turn into a City of Heroes 2?

To try and bolt on the City of Heroes material to City of Titans, it feels almost heretical to both the original game and to the effort that the Titans team has done. The decision was made that no, if and when this happens, there would be no “City of Heroes 2” effort, instead the various successor projects would be free to develop in their own manner.

City of Heroes

How will this purchase affect the work on City of Titans?

Should it go through, the biggest advantage for CoT would be the ability to license existing art assets, like models, textures, sound libraries, etc. We have plans to license art anyways, so this does not change that plan beyond who we license it from. It would also mean cross-licensing opportunities for the City of Titans technologies under development.


If it doesn’t succeed, how will work on City of Titans progress?

The same as ever. Steady progress, building upon foundations laid down, ever onward and upward.

Can you tell us anything about the negotiations with NCSoft?

They have been very polite, and courteous. Beyond that, it is a slow but steady stream of progress.


What are your plans for City of Heroes? Will it remain open forever?

The initial legacy server is a time-limited item, due to several factors out of our control. That is part of why the proposal is to make a “CoH 1.5,” which in other games would be considered a “mid-life kick” or engine upgrade. Several popular games have done just that, such as Everquest, Ultima Online and Anarchy Online. In this case, the MLK has a bit of a leg-up, thanks to the efforts of the Atlas Park Revised effort. Once done, it should be able to stay open for a long time to come, barring any unexpected upheavals. Zombie apocalypse happens, sorry guys, we will likely need to shut down the servers.


There are a few things that there seems to be a bit of confusion on, could you clear them up for us?

Will there be any character or account data?

As it stands right now, no. If this changes, we will let you know.


Will the game get updates in the future?

Once the 1.5 effort, the engine replacement, is done, then updates can be done.


What will be available in the game? Is there anything big that won’t be there?

No changes are planned to the game itself.

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Will NCSoft have any control over City of Heroes?

The answer is “depends on how you define control.” In no scenario are they completely out of the picture. They spent many years developing and supporting it after all. The goal is not to have NCSoft managing City of Heroes by any means. But they may have some areas of influence still, depending on the particulars of the agreement. As this area is still under heavy negotiation, I cannot go further into details.


Ultimately if successful, who will own the rights to City of Heroes?

The IP rights, that is the trademarks, copyrights, art assets, metaplot, writing, and any associated rights, would belong to the yet-to-be-set-up holding company.


Where is the money for the purchase coming from?

Early on we were approached by several financial sources. Each one has their own conditions for financial backing, so we are now focused on finding out the final framework from NCSoft before we know what is the right answer for the final deal.

City of Heroes

What do you think of the reply/rebuttal from Valiance Online?

They are doing what they think is right, and nobody can complain about that. It may be a bit premature, as the final shape of this deal are not yet set, but it can be readdressed when the time is right.


Toxic Communities come up in conversation about online games a lot recently. How is the team handling the legacy community from CoH?

Relying heavily on the community managers who have been rallying people since City of Heroes shut down right now. We will need to start coordinating them however.


Is there any way the community can get involved?

At this point, not really. This is the “smoke filled room” period right now.


Finally, is there anything else you’d like to say to the community?

You guys have been the real heroes here. I stand in awe of what you guys have accomplished.

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About Shannon Doyle

Shannon first discovered MMOs in 1999 when she picked up the newly launched Everquest. This started a lifelong love affair with online gaming that has taken her around the world and brought her to While she still pines for the streets of Paragon, the City of Heroes, today she spends most of her gaming time walking across Tyria in Guild Wars 2, roleplaying with anyone who says hello.