As many undoubtedly know by now, NCSoft unceremoniously pulled the plug on City of Heroes Friday, August 31. They also fired everyone at Paragon Studios, the developers of this excellent game, my home-away-from-home since March of 2004.
In the grand scheme of things, the closing of a game isn't a huge thing. I've had deaths and births and everything in between happen in the 8.5 years since I first entered Paragon City. I almost died myself -- twice -- in that time. For a player this is a kick in the pants; for the people who lost their jobs because of it, it's a kick in the nards and i hope they land on their feet. But still and all, it does represent a significant part of my life. I've devoted a fair amount of time to the game, a not-insignificant sum of money and a substantial amount of brain power and energy thinking and talking about the game.
I've played a lot of video games since my very first one back in 1974, and City of Heroes is easily the one I've loved the most. Of all the MMOs I've played, beta tested or tried, only CoH was the one that stuck. For any grousing and kvetching I might have done about the game, it is still my favorite. The ability to leap tall buildings, to fly with the birds unaided, to indulge in every childhood and teenage (and if I'm honest, grown-up) fantasy about being a superhero. It wasn't a perfect game, but for me it was the closest I'm ever going to get.
Other pretenders to the superhero throne came and went, but neither Champions Online nor DC Universe Online understood what it means to be a superhero or how to tell a story which featured *your* character above all others. In every other MMO you are merely another soldier, another cog in the machine, another extra in the story that goes on without you. Only City of Heroes makes you feels like the entire game is primarily about YOU, that YOUR character is the most important person in this universe. Sure, there are other heroes, villains and civilians in this world who are famous and well-respected, but your character was at the least their equal. You earned the respect of the premiere characters of that world, the equivalent of working your way up to being the adviser and friend of Presidents, generals and kings.
No other game I've tried has gotten that right. Everywhere else, you're just a replaceable spearchucker.
And no other game has ever done the costume creator as well as CoH did. There have been some attempts at it, but none have come close. The sheer variety and brilliant variation people have come up with is amazing. It's been said there are billions of combinations of costume parts and I believe it. CoH is one of the first (and still one of the few) MMOs to divorce appearance from ability. There was no "uber outfit" that made your character more powerful than others, and that was brilliant. The costume creator unlocked my inner child, who just so happens to be a 7-year-old girl who likes to play with virtual dolls. And I'm okay with that.
Thanks to the City of Heroes community for all the laughs, all the arguments, and ultimately all the fun. It was the best community I've ever been part of. And thanks also to the City of Heroes Devs for creating such a marvelous game and a world I'd want to live in... and virtually did, for most of a decade.