Following the announcement, both players and developers tried to save the game, and they even garnered press and celebrity endorsements and support from the likes of Neil Gaiman, John C. Write, and Mercedes Lackey to do so. However, their attempts were unsuccessful and the inevitable end of CoH came at midnight on November 30, 2012. Matthew "Positron" Miller, former Senior Lead Designer for Paragon Studios and one of the original developers of CoH, reflects on what the shutdown meant for players:
Losing City of Heroes was like losing the village elder: the one who established a set of rules that players expected to abide by. Of course, both Champions [Online] and [DC Universe Online] brought something new to the table, so players who left CoH had some adjustment to make to new games. At the time of CoH's shutdown, players had a lot of choice of games to migrate to. I know that some felt that no other superhero game could hold up to their ideal of what one should be, so they left for a different genre entirely.
Among those who knew that the shutdown was a big possibility, responses varied from acceptance to a kind of Dylan Thomas-esque "Do not go gentle into that good night" rebellion. Yet some players began to plan for CoH's life after death. A group of CoH refugees gathered on the game's player-run forum site, the Titan Network, and formed Plan Z, a game developer made up of volunteers with the sole purpose of creating the next CoH.
The player-refugees' dedication to the memory of their beloved game and the success of their two separate projects, Heroes and Villains and The Phoenix Project, remain surprisingly strong nearly a year after the shutdown. "I always knew that it should be possible to do a 'spiritual successor,'" Miller says, "but I also knew that it wasn't going to be a small project. I found it heartwarming that the players themselves were the ones to spearhead this level of development, especially since, for most of them, their only exposure to MMO development has been playing City of Heroes and analyzing what Cryptic [Studios, the game's original publisher]/Paragon did for years!"
As expected with any independent developer (especially one formed by fans of varied pedigrees and relatively little experience in game creation), Plan Z was met with many setbacks, mostly derived from internal conflicts. Differing opinions about the direction a spiritual successor of CoH should follow caused a schism in the group, and a new developer splintered from Plan Z.
Missing Worlds Media (MWM) still affiliates with Plan Z—the latter of which is an umbrella entity encompassing all related CoH successor projects—but it has established itself as sole developer of The Phoenix Project. Despite the internal conflicts MWM had encountered, the team of player-volunteers pressed on to conceptualize and flesh out their spiritual successor, taking their experiences from playing CoH and improving upon its memory.
|Heavy City of Heroes inspiration here, a la Atlas Park.|
"I knew about the Kickstarter for a while, and wished them all the luck," Miller comments. Only 2 days into the campaign the group has already received overwhelming support: the project's $320,000 goal received more than 50% of its funding within the first 48 hours of the 33-day campaign. "They've had a great start to the Kickstarter…I really hope it doesn't stall out and they raise the money they want and more," says Miller.
The MWM team is astounded by the support they've gotten thus far. Perhaps it was their impressive video (see below) showing the conceptualization and game development progress from day one through Kickstarter's launch, or perhaps it's the ambitious laundry list of features players can anticipate in the game. Maybe it was the nostalgia that most of their backers had for the superhero MMO that once was. Whatever the reason, many—including everyone at MWM—are hoping this success is only the beginning of an ever-upward trend.
"Honestly, this is the first Kickstarter I've ever selected the 'no reward, I just want to help the project' option when kicking into it," Miller explains. "While 'getting something out of helping' is primarily what Kickstarter is all about, I just felt differently about this one. I wanted to help, and I didn't want to ask for anything in return. It's my version of 'passing the torch,' as it were."
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If MWM can keep up the momentum, the project may have a good chance at reaching at least one of their two stretch goals and the respective perks that result: $350,000 for a Google Android mobile operating system port of the game's avatar builder, and $400,000 for an Apple iOS version. Along with the normal, multiple pledge levels ranging from $5 for a desktop wallpaper perk and an exclusive forum title to $10,000 for everything in between plus an (almost) all-expenses trip to the game's launch party at a major convention, the Kickstarter also features other funding options through "add-ons." These bonus in-game and physical perks, from swag to songs, come with their own price tags that will add revenue to the project's goal in a yet-to-be-revealed method.
The initial success is a good sign. The fair and appealing perks for each pledge, with the promise of a game that will feel like CoH at its core yet look and play like something brand new, spell out a bright future for City of Titans and MWM. There will likely be some small bumps ahead, but Miller provides his former-players-turned-pros a closing mote of seasoned advice:
Start small. You do NOT need to ship with every feature under the sun; that's setting yourself up for failure in the long run. If you can't support a feature for the long run, don't cram it in just to have a bullet point. Add it in when it makes sense to add it to the game. Concentrate on making the game FUN and ENGAGING first, then you'll be able to add the features you've always wanted when they are ready for prime time, not because you need to get them out the door.
Visit Missing World Media's The Phoenix Project - City of Titans Kickstarter page to check out what the game is all about and to make your pledge. Then be sure to leave a comment below about how you contributed to the vision, what you're excited for about City of Titans, and the first hero or villain you plan to make.