Last week’s bizarre story involving a long-dead MMORPG, a super-secret server, and a community that found itself suddenly divided ended in a strange but uplifting win for City of Heroes fans. After discovering that there had been a gated emulator running underground for six or so years and being rather upset about it, the COH community suddenly found itself gifted with a treasure they never thought they’d see: the source code.
Long, long story short, this means that with a lot of work and knowhow, it’s now possible for anyone in the world with this code to create a City of Heroes emulator and start operating it. Short of NCsoft opening the game back up for fans, this is the best result that could’ve happened for fans. There’s now the very real — and previously unthinkable — possibility that they might get to go back to their game in the future.
I mean, who really knows. I have no idea how workable all of this is, but when the news of the code release happened on Thursday, you could almost visibly see hope coming back to fans who have been carrying a torch for this game since 2012.
It’s truly interesting and has me contemplating a notion that was previously only a thought experiment: What would it be like to go back to City of Heroes again?
I’m not the biggest emulator player, but I do support their efforts to preserve what I see as “abandonware” by studios. And I certainly want these games carried into the future for myself and future generations of players. City of Heroes was my first real MMO love, and I can only imagine what it’d be like to log into a proper running version of the game and not just Paragon Chat.
I suppose it would be surreal, almost as if no time had passed since the game’s closing. When you play something for that long, you get so familiar with its design that every sight, sound, control, and feature is immediately recalled from long-term storage and put right back into the forefront of the mind.
It would also be pretty exciting to see the community rush back to old stomping grounds. I’m sure there would be plenty of new and curious faces too, especially in the era of WoW Classic. It would certainly be An Event for the month it launched.
But me? What would I do? I don’t know. If the server looked stable and populated enough, I’d be more than a tourist — I’d settle in. Make up a fun new roster of heroes. Blog about it. Join up with some friends and check out content that I never got to see, as I primarily only played during the first three years.
It’s not a sure thing that this will happen, but with the sheer passion and drive that this community has shown — especially considering all of the City of Heroes spin-offs and spiritual successors in the making — then I bet it will. And if not, well, there’s always SEGS and Paragon Chat to hold on to the glory days while we hope that Ship of Heroes, City of Titans, or Valiance Online makes something of itself.
Update: Events were moving pretty quickly this past week, and this pre-written post became partially invalidated when, a day after the source code was released, players already had a fully functioning test server up and running. I didn’t really want to scrap this post — the core is still valid — but it’s fascinating to see how rapidly this all has developed. There’s been a real and strong hunger to get City of Heroes back, and the second the community saw its chance, it took it.
Am I playing on it? I’ll talk about that another day. I think we have a lot of moving parts that haven’t quite settled down into stability, and so I want to hold back on that discussion for now. Let’s just say that I’m very, very glad to see this game resurrected, even as a rogue server.