So I’ve been playing City of Villains once every few months on my friend’s son’s account as I house sit for them. So why wasn’t I playing World of Warcraft, which was also on my friend’s machine? The irrational reasons I haven’t tried WoW yet are:
- Simply everyone is doing it these days or has done it.
- Since I play paper-based fantansy role-playing games in hardspace I get enough of that genre in my life.
- Maybe it’s just because WoW doesn’t let characters wear fezzes like Asheron’s Call does. Now that I think about it, Neverwinter Nights doesn’t let you wear a fez either. This is important. I like the enormous customizability of the COH/V character editor. COH/V has five types of characters, each with a big range of abilities to chose from and tune but, for me, what really makes a character unique in a NRPG is how it looks not what abilities it has.
- I think the premise of COH/V works better for NRPGs.
Let’s examine that last point. My reading of some comics seems to indicate that the costumed adventurers are nearly as common as ordinary people in the big city. How many superheroes are in Marvel’s New York or DC’s Metropolis? Scads and scads! You can hardly spit without hitting one! An issue of The Tick once parodied this ubiquity years ago; the superheroes were so common in New York they had to ration out the criminals! In The Defenders of Stan (Which I highly recommend if you have the bandwidth!) this is taken to its logical extreme with hilarious results.
In fantasy novels however, with some key exceptions, the heroes tend to be very rare and exceptional. They alone change the world.
The experience in NRPGs is that everyone who logs in to play is exceptional, if not superhuman, so why not roll with that unavoidable fact? Imagine a world like Ha and Moore’s Top Ten and you have City of Heroes/Villians.
Anyway, let’s look at what I’ve done.
I’ve built a collection of five robotic characters each with a different tactical focus. I was inspired to do this because:
- My misanthropy–call it the Susan Calvin gene–drives a strange attraction to the ruthless killing machines of science fiction. (I suppose I should reconsider this. The nightmare is fast becoming a reality, if recent US warfare is any guide.)
- Over two years ago Wade introduced me to City of Heroes. There I created another robot, Device Zero. I only played for a few hours at his apartment but the character stuck in my mind.
I tried to give them a background that tied into the City of Heroes/Villians history. They were built by Arachnos technicians (Arachnos is a secretive, quasi-fascist organization bent on tyranny, world domination and the usual bad guy goals.) to serve as support for their supercriminal gangs and hit squads.
The way I imagine them, the Devices aren’t capable of human levels of thought. Their brains are more like those of pack and herd mammals; they imprint on someone as leader and simply follow orders, unconcerned about morality and other higher issues.
I’ve tried to give each robot powers that seem realistic, just within possibility for military hardware of the near future. So I’ve avoided flight, mind control, telekinesis, fire imps, magic energies and such flummery. I tried to make each robot look vaguely similar, variations on a basic chassis but, with suggestive differences.
Device One is obviously a brute archetype. It’s enormous with big hands for smashing things and long legs for running and leaping. It’s clearly the heavy tank of the squad. It’s got red highlights but, what does it really need to hide from?
Device Two is built from the mastermind archtype. Short and thin, it commands a small squad of simple robots; it has a distinctive crown of green antennae. Device Two’s intelligence is destributed among the bodies of its control and peripheral units. It’s not really complete until all units are present.
Device Three is built from the stalker archtype. It’s tall and wiry with humanoid hands and feet for fighting hand to hand with superhumans; it’s built for stealth despite its striking yellow appearance.
Device Four was built from the corruptor type. It’s covered with protruding bits of metal and vents to act as heat sinks as it uses its incindiary weapons. Despite the use of fire, it has misleading blue highlights.
Device Five is built from the dominator type. It has a broad stance with heavily articulated legs for leaping and stability against the recoil of its projectile weapon. It’s got orange trim.
So, I’m trying to get them to roughly the same level and all together in one gang of supercriminals, preferrably a heavily robotic one. That way they’d all be together and other supervillians on the team could activate the unit needed for the whatever situation they faced.
This story is unfinished. Perhaps in a few months or so, I’ll get them together.
I’ve built two other characters: Phytomancer, who’s pictured here, and Brain Liche, whom I don’t have a screenshot of. Phytomancer is basically a ruthless wizard with magic that focuses around plants. She’s sort of an ecoterrorist. Brain Lich is an undead parasite with mental domination, telekinesis, magic and such. The Brain Lich is amoral and considers all other beings as insects to crush under foot.
This makes me think of interesting experiment the COH/V designers could try. Perhaps they could allow player’s characters to undergo a moral transformation and join the other side. A hero could fall into evil or a villain may attempt redemption.
The other thing I’m thinking of is cliche in software games. I don’t make superbabes or superhunks. As a genre reader, I’m heartily sick of the crime-fightin’ in lingerie cliche. No bikini girls with machine guns or fur jockstraps for me, thanks! I got no problem with that; it’s just that I don’t wanna do it myself.