I began playing City of Heroes eight years ago, roped into it by a friend who was much better versed in the MMO-landscape, having started with Ultima Online. I remember watching him playing UO and marveling that he was chopping wood. Since then, I still refer to the mind-numbing aspects of crafting in MMOs as chopping wood.
City of Heroes didn’t have any wood chopping. In the early days, it was a pretty stripped-down MMO, in fact. You were a super-hero beating up bad guys from the very start. Even if they were hoodlums hanging out in crate-filled warehouses (and my god there were a lot of warehouses), at least you didn’t start out by killing rats. You could also create your own costume, without being tied down to whatever crappy gear fell off the rats you were slaughtering. So from the start, you could have an avatar that looked like a hero (or later villain) from their creation. Another groundbreaking technology that came a little later was the ability to team up with your friends, no matter what level they were, so you didn’t have to worry too much about getting ahead or getting behind. This is something that seems so obvious, yet is still missing from most MMOs.
I wasted a lot of time on that game. I could have written at least a couple of novels in the time I spent traipsing around virtual warehouses.
But there were a lot of good times. Perhaps because it was my first MMO, it was a fictional world that felt a lot more real to me than Azeroth or the other fantasy lands I’ve sampled. Though I thought the forums were bad when I was a noob, they look like tea with the Queen compared to the cesspit of the WoW forums. Perhaps most important: It was a great way to share time and a hobby with an old friend (we’re both very old!) who has moved farther and farther away over the years.
Tomorrow, NCSoft is turning off the servers. In the flicker of electricity, a world will die.
I suppose it’s naive to think that something will always be there, especially something as ephemeral as a video game, but it sneaks up on you. I had begun to take it for granted. After many hundreds of hours playing it over the years, I didn’t plan on getting sucked in for any great length again. But I knew it would be around. I could log in and fly around Paragon City for a while, then go back to the real world.
Not anymore. Paragon City will cease to exist tomorrow night. It will leave behind remnants in old YouTube videos and dusty unused wikis. But no capes will flap anymore in its virtual skies.
There are some chances that it will return from the grave. But a true resurrection seems nigh impossible. Most likely, it will be a shambling corpse that will make me miss the real thing all the more.
It may not seem terribly important in this bustling world of fiscal cliffs and foreign conflicts, but for eight years a mostly gracious community formed around a game about being a hero. There are worse things.
So if you think about it this weekend, raise a glass in remembrance of the quiet death of a world.