I can still remember how my first love broke my heart. We were together for a little over 8 years, spending time together almost every single day. I worried occasionally that we would eventually part ways– I knew it wouldn’t last forever– but when the end came, I wasn’t prepared. Saying goodbye was more difficult than I expected. I thought about all that we had done together and all the things that would remain undone. Even now, years later, it still makes me sad to remember the love I felt for City of Heroes and I have to ask myself “is an MMO worth playing?”
An Age of Heroes!
I first heard of City of Heroes sometime in 2003, I believe. I know it was several months– maybe 6– before the game actually launched. At the time, I was playing a lot of another superhero game, Freedom Force, and really enjoying it. When I saw the early ttrailers for City of Heroes (CoH) I fell instantly in love. I wanted the game right then and there. The idea of building my own superhero, with whatever powers I wanted and a costume designed by me was really exciting and was something I’d hoped for for years. I never expected to be able to do that outside of a pen-and-paper RPG. The only thing that didn’t thrill me was that it was an online game.
Back then, I had no real experience with online gaming. I’d played exactly two other games prior to then that allowed me to play with other players online. The first was a Star Trek game that I can’t even remember, and the second was the original Neverwinter Nights. I thought the idea was kind of cool, but I preferred the idea of playing a powerful hero who could handle the archvillains on his own. I also didn’t want to be dependant on other people to complete missions.
When I first started playing, I mostly played solo.I probably would have continued to be a solo player if not for my wife. I was working a ot of nights at the time, and so she found herself looking for things to do when I was not there. What she found was CoH.
My wife made a couple of friends in Paragon City during her time playing. The first, she played with only a few times, but soon she found a couple of other players that she started to team with regularly, Not long after, I found my schedule changing somewhat, which allowed me to start playing with her and her group. To my surprise, it turned out to be an awful lot of fun to team up with a group of other players, but with that fun, came some concern. I started thinking about the long-term playability of the game. It wasn’t that I didn’t think the game would continue to hold my interest– I knew it would– but rather I was concerned about the game being shut down at some point.
I started asking around about what would happen if the servers would be shut off. Not knowing at the time how MMOs operated, I hoped that I would be able to continue playing as normal, but without the ability to team. I was sad to discover that this would not be a possibility.
My time playing CoH was amazing. I made some great friends, one of whom I was able to meet in real life. I wrote tons of background info and stories for my characters, including at least two short novels. One of the other players joined me in the story writing, and all the group’s characters started to tie together in one large, complicated soap-opera. It was awesome.
The came the day I’d been dreading: we were told that CoH would be shut down,
It was quite a blow. A wonderful community had formed around playing CoH. Perhaps it was becaus we were playing heroes, but most of the players were generally good, kind, helpful people as opposed to the players we always heard about in other games. The CoH community worked together to help each other, in the game and out of it as well. They even did fundraising for charities.
I was there for the last moments of the game, before everything went dark. Logged in as the very first character I had made, I stood together with other players, torch held high, counting down the minutes and then the seconds like some dark, twisted New Year in a mirror universe.
And then it was gone.
Several years of playing, hours of creating and developing characters and untold missions with friends had ended with a disconnect message. The sun had set one last time on Paragon City. The heroes and villains that had given me so much pleasure were no more.
The fans didn’t take it well. Efforts were made to rescue the game. Some of them continued literally for years. Ulimately, nothing could be done. Players, suddenly set adrift by the loss of their online home, began searching for other games, but generally ended up disappointed by what they found. The Age of Heroes had ended.
When it became clear that City of Heroes would never really return, a number of successor projects sprang into existence. Though none have released yet, tremendous progress has been made in their development. One game in particular, Ship of Heroes has caught my attention, coming seemingly out of nowhere to suddenly become the game that I am looking forward to the most, although all of the successor project appeal to me for different reasons.
Once Bitten, Twice Shy…
I have to admit, though, as great as these new games look, I don’t know if I will be able to bring myself to play. After the experience with CoH, I find myself wondering if I really want to invest time and money into a game that I am, effectively, renting and never really owning. The idea that I could spend hours creating new characters and becoming invested in their stories only to potentially have them snatched away from me fills me with dread. I don’t know if I want to go through that again, especially if the community is half as good as the one that CoH had (which seems very likely given that the CoH players are all watching and waiting for a game to arrive).
Not too long ago, Marvel Heroes became available for the PS4 and I downloaded it partly for myself, but also for my younger son, who is on a superhero kick at the moment. I thought it could be fun to play together. Now, only a few months after we started playing, it has been shut down. (It was due to be shut down last Friday, but was still playable as of yesterday, Sunday. I am not sure if it is still accessible or not. Even if it is, it won’t be for long.)
I just don’t know if I trust online games anymore.
I know there are many games out there that have been up and running for many years, and still have large,active communities, but at some point, pretty much every game will turn of the servers and shut players out. When that happens, even if you are still loving the game and playing daily, you are just out of luck.
I know I am kidding myself. I will try these new games and likely get hooked on them. But knowing that I may find myself unable to play at some point through no fault of my own kind of diminishes my enthusiasm, and that’s why I have to ask if an MMO is really worth playing.
What do you think? Do you worry about this sort of thing or is it just me? Is it enough to keep you from trying a game? Share your thoughts below!