10 things I still miss from City of Heroes

cohAs time marches on, the distance between us and City of Heroes’ closure grows ever-greater. However, the memories linger, and today I felt like making a list of 10 things I still miss about that game.

1. The incredible, flexible character creator

Even though it didn’t have every option on the planet, the character creator allowed players’ creativity to shine through an insane variety of costumes and looks. It was genius when you look back at it: by allowing players an agency not just in their power selection, but their very look, the game got people deeply invested in the theme of their heroes.

I loved that I could make body extreme characters, from tiny pixies to hulking masses to everything in between. I appreciated the monster options, the funny accessories, and the fun of picking out colors.

2. Getting lost in Perez Park

Sure, it’s something I hated, too, but that park and its dense, labyrinthian forest had a unique feel all to itself and was downright intimidating, especially before one got their travel power at 14.

3. New power levels

Was there anything so exciting as dinging a level where you’d get a brand-new power? It seemed unfair that those came further and further apart the higher you went, but still, it was thrilling. I’d spend hours while gaming planning out my next power picks and look forward to each of them arriving.

4. Grouping

I don’t think there was ever an MMO where I grouped as much as I did in City of Heroes. It was simply the most economic way to rake in the XP, and besides, the solo game was rather dull. Heading out with a pack of heroes to blast through instances felt epic and was a good way to show off your costume and powers.

5. Impromptu dance parties

Oh the boombox emote. And the dance emotes. Anytime a group would have to wait for someone to get there, chances are that a dance party would soon break out.

6. Costume contests

Few things brought the community together in droves than a good ol’ fashioned costume contest in Atlas Park. I loved to see the fashion on display and always thought that these community-driven events were a sign of MMO devs doing a system right. I don’t think I ever won one, but I felt that I had a couple outfits that were deserving of an award.

7. The Dark Dark Defender

I almost exclusively played controllers, but the DDD was always tempting me into being a defender. It had a pet (sorta) and so many awesome powers with cool smokey visual effects that I felt epic every time I played one. It was the one defender build that didn’t make me feel that I had to be a healbot or shieldbot but still contribute to the team at large.

8. The sounds

One of City of Heroes’ strengths that was rarely mentioned was its diverse and incredibly memorable array of sound effects, particularly with powers. Could have done without a few of them, like the force bubble whines, but such is life.

9. The sheer fun of super-jump

Everyone had his or her preferred travel power, and while I could apprciate the utility of flight or the economy of super-speed, for me it was always super-jump. It was fast enough to get me around, high enough to traverse vertical spaces, and so exhilerating to activate. WildStar’s low-gravity zones reminds me of it.

10. Paragon City

The main location of City of Heroes was as much of a personality as anything else in the game. It may have been a little bland and non-descript in places, but it cemented itself in my memory as a real place. Every zone had a distinct feel, from the prison to the caves to the run-down King’s Row. It was a cool place to explore — and protect.

24 thoughts on “10 things I still miss from City of Heroes

  1. I loved COH, but probably because it was the first mmo I actually stuck with. I made lasting friends I still ha keep in touch with today. We would compete with each other, collecting archvillain kills and brag about our story arc trophies. Of course there were low points too. I was a terrible tank and spent most of my time with stars spinning around my head. I also remember being stuck grinding in brickstown. But the good times were still better. I never got tired of throwing down on Vandal or The Babbage. And being there when Hamidon fell was the high point of the game.

  2. +1 for the D3 love! I was something of a specialist in them (as much of a “specialist” as anyone with 150+ alts can be). Dark/Dark Defenders were ridiculously effective, if a bit complicated to learn. But once mastered, well…the best illustration for me was in a comment from another player after I’d introduced a PUG to “D3 Snaring.” After crushing the third or fourth spawn using that tactic, he said “this is like team godmode.”

    Other stuff about CoH I loved:

    * Character movement. Not necessarily combat animations (a mixed bag), but just the way the characters ran, jumped, reacted to physics, etc. There was a fluidity and realism (realistic for a superhero, that is) to the movement that made it seem less like pixels on a screen than like a real body with mass being acted upon by physical forces. “Kinetic immersion,” I call it, and it made other MMOs seem glitchy and stilted.

    * I’m a roleplayer/immersion junkie, and CoH was SO good at allowing you to create whoever you wanted, placing their story as close to or as far from game canon as you liked. The social tools were excellent, so you could have that character interact with others and form “real” bonds. And the game was right up there in its immersion factor, exceeded in my view only by The Secret World and Fallen Earth.

    * Replayability. There were so many different paths to the level cap in that game! Pure gold to an altoholic like me.

    I want this game back so bad… =/

  3. Every time I see a nostalgia post about CoH, I don’t cherchez la rose tinted glasses. I just feel a little sad that I completely missed this boat. And there’s still no real substitute: Champions Online felt lame and sluggish to me while DCUO, although slick enough, had one of the worst communities I’ve seen in MMOs.

  4. Agreed on all points. And sadly there are no comparable substitutes (yet?). Champions Online, made by the same people, went off on a tangent of clunky designs, and even today the whole thing just feels slapped together, disjointed, and unpolished. City of Heroes felt like a place, Champions Online feels like a crappy game. DCUO did better on the world building, but the limited (in comparison) costume creator, limited power choices, floppy combat, and weapon-based powers just felt lame to me. Plus, no matter how high I turn the settings, the graphics always seem “fuzzy”.

    I certainly needed a break from City of Heroes, but I got a much bigger one than I’d like 😛

  5. I totally agree with everything you said, on top of that it was my first MMO so it always held a special place in my heart. Yes WOW pulled me away from COH but I still miss it!

  6. DDD ❤ – Also did the Dark Ninja Mastermind which I played even more than DDD

  7. Is and was the best superheroes mmo out there.Played almost every online pc game out there,none are in the same league as coh.I came from freedom and glob name is Deathultrablade

  8. Perfect World take note. Bioware take note. Funcom take note. NCSoft take note. All a ya all…take note. Syp is dead on target.

    I see a lot of games…Secret World, Never Winter, that have these amazing facemakers. But then you find either the body scaling or the costumes very limited.

    Guess what? It’s a small part of the body. People are likely to be in motion. Not many see and no one is impressed.

    Other games give you 8 skin tones, 8 hair colors, 8 hair styles, 8 eye colors and three outfits and they somehow think people will actually play.

    Or they make appearance class dependent.

    Seriously, if you’re going to create a mmorpg, you’re going to need to look at CoX, and you’re going to have to create an avatar creator that has more options and more freedom, and doesn’t pauper people at the in-game store.

    There are companies who will say “We’re not trying to impress you with your character’s look, we’re trying to impress you with our world.”

    Stop right there. If that’s the case, then commit yourself to using only the avatars the players use. What? It’s too limited? You say you want to do a child or a grandmother or a slime elf and the avatar system doesn’t allow for it? It’s too narrow to let you express your world? HOW DO YOU THINK WE FEEL?

    But worse, that position, spoken or not, is The Catechism of The Loser MMO.
    It’s the surest way to be sure we never actually make it as far as the tutorial zone.
    It’s the surest way to achieve same-day-uninstall.

    When your players ask for an avatar creator that is CoX quality or higher, they are NOT asking you for the moon. They’re asking for the MINIMUM.

    Basically, to do less is to say “We’re are so inept at what we do that we can’t equal our rival. An entire decade has passed, but we still can’t equal them.”

    MMO companies would love to think they define the quality of the industry, but it’s the customers who set the standards. The economy is tough and getting tougher. If you’re putting out an, for heaven sake…please…stop with churning out game after game that is well below par.

    It’s not good for your customers, or your wallet.
    Invest in a great avatar creator with awesome body scaling, cool glow effects, lots and lots of outfits, many hair styles and shades.

    Make sure your players can look like a robot, an elf, a cowboy, a knight and an angel in spandex.
    It’s nothing new, and it’s nothing special. It is, however, what your customers will pay for.

  9. Great post, but I have to take issue with this part: “Make sure your players can look like a robot, an elf, a cowboy, a knight and an angel in spandex.” In some games, character/costume options can be violently at odds with the game world. A wide-open approach worked for CoH because the comic book superhero world is one in which pretty much anything goes (and the bar for suspension of disbelief is set very low). In a game like TSW, on the other hand, truly absurd options can be horribly immersion-breaking for other players. They can be every bit as bad as the idiotic character names one sees all too often (you know the kind I mean…FPS game cliches, dick jokes, etc.). TSW already has some issues in this respect with the huge number of “comedy” costume bits available (I hate ’em).

    But yeah…within what is appropriate for the game’s setting, the more options, the better. We want to become invested in our characters. The ability to make them look like what our mental image of them is like is a huge boost to that investment.

  10. The full freedom to actually create you imaginary super hero self that you as a kind always dreamed up with the color schemes and powers. Was just to awesome for words like many others I really miss playing that game.

  11. The mere fact this blog post exists is a testament to what a great game CoX was. It is still the only game that managed to hold my interest for longer than a few months (I played it on and off from 2006 right up to the closure).

    The one thing you missed from your list was the Atlas Park plaza music! If ever I had a break and came back, the first thing I would do is go pay Ms Lib a visit just for that music. Always gave me a feeling of being back “home”.

    If we’re talking about favourite power sets, mine was Stone / Fire brute. Honourable mentions to Bots / Dark MM and Ill / Rad ‘troller. (I played on Union and occasionally Defiant in the EU)

  12. I loved playing a controller! No other game I know of allows you to just say “Get ’em, boys!” and then sit back and listen to the mayhem. You felt like a boss not getting your own hands dirty.

  13. These are my 10 things I miss from CoH/CoV… 1. theme song 2. costume designer/power set 3. grouping(calling for a team 4. Saturday’s night at Pocket D 5. sewer mission all throughout Paragon City 6. holiday missions 7. Rikti/Vangard/Task Force missions 8. getting lost in the Faultline 9. my heroes – Sucaba, Kidlat, ActiveX, Canadian Front, Geo Girl, Micron, Sinclear, Star Phoenix and Emerald Maiden 10. my villians Mandre, Dark Ako, Dark Fibre, Madame Bon Fire, T-Pain… Since it’s untimely demise I have not been able to wrap my head around another MMO… I was there in the beginning and there at the end…

  14. Costumes independent of stats, 8 person teams (why is 4 the magic number in all other MMOs?) the Rad or Kin Defender (hell the Emp Def had healing an unmatched array of healing…Absorb pain…)and RECALL FRIEND….just a few of the many things I still dream about in current MMOs. And the super groups…Safe Harbour forever!

  15. I miss my Thugs/Dark Mastermind. 3 minion pets, 2 lieutenant pets, 1 boss pet, perma-fluffy, between 9 and 13 temporary pets from Gang War, and 2 temporary pets from my Lore slot. So many pets!

    I remember one time leaving my computer to eat dinner in the middle of a Malta mission. I came back and looked at the combat log to see that I’d been ambushed by Malta 3 times, and my only pet that died was fluffy.

    I remember running the Raid the Snake Temple mission at +4 difficulty level with a full team of Masterminds. We tagged all of Stheno’s eggs and let them hatch into EBs, and then went to town. We wiped a few times and my computer was wheezing a bit, but it was glorious.

  16. I think what I miss the most about city of heroes is the character creator. It felt limitless with all my Alts. I also really miss teaming the way coh made teaming. I loved the leader could pick anyone mission that was on the team, and everyone knew what the mission was without having to guess. No other game teams that way

  17. I miss this game so much. Noting has come close to the fun I had in it. My fav was my ice/emp troller. Arctic Oricale. A healing God. Throw down ice slick and heal away. Is cut off my left pinky finger with a rusty butter knife and donate it to science to be able to play this game again.

  18. COH/Villains was the best ever game for MMOs. The camaradery that built up with individuals who were not in your base group (I was in the Fairy Ring BTW) was great. If you were in Pocket D looking for a teamup you didn’t have any problems finding one from the other side.

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