After reviving my new PC, I was casting about for a game to play, to take advantage of all its glorious 2019 power.
And I ended up playing a game from 2004, and it’s a game I never expected to play again—City of Heroes.
It turned out a community-run CoH server had been running stealthily for awhile now, but recent drama forced it into the open. Currently the team has moved servers (to Canada, woo), expanded their number and opened the whole thing up to the public. They are billing this version of the game Issue 26: Homecoming, incorporating the code that was on the test server and about to go live when the game development ended in August 2012, three months before shutting down entirely.
The experience of going back has been both weird and nostalgic. There are some necessary tweaks—all of the paid content has been moved to an in-game contact and is free to “buy.” Veteran Rewards essentially don’t exist. But for the most part, this is CoH as it was in 2012, with all of its improvements and similarly, all of its janky qualities faithfully preserved.
As I toodle around with new versions of old characters, I shift between the delight of playing a game I never imagined being able to play again, and being freshly irritated by its many original and questionable design decisions, like Council base maps, for example. The near-Escher design of the original office maps is worth highlighting, too. They feel like a social experiment that would end with all participants going mad and murdering each other.
At the same time, it’s still a refreshing take on the MMORPG formula. Released before WoW, it entirely ignored a lot of the familiar trappings, allowing you to take on vast groups of enemies and feel truly powerful—too powerful, in fact. The nerfs would come and this version of the game carefully preserves all of the game balance changes made over CoH’s eight year life. You can still be pretty powerful now, so it’s okay.
I have no idea how long the servers will last, so in the back of my mind I am always thinking “This could be the last chance I have to see these characters” but so far NCsoft has not applied its might in shutting it down, and efforts are underway to have them sanction an official community server. Stranger things have happened.
Finally, I will note that this unexpected appearance has definitely impacted the contributions I’ve made recently to this blog. And writing in general. Probably not a good thing. But if history repeats itself, I’ll ease up and go back to the usual excuses for not writing.