Last played: 2012
Experience: Very Extensive
When I was working at Scrye, my editor gave me one of two City of Heroes boxes she’d received at a convention. On Thursday night, I installed it, and logged into an MMO for the first time.
I called in sick on Friday.
City of Heroes was my first real MMO (discounting a few minutes I’d played of other games at a convention), and the only one that came out before World of Warcraft that I’ve played extensively. It was an amazing experience, unlike anything I’d ever done before. I still keep up with some of the friends I made to this day.
The game’s biggest innovation, at least in my mind, was the sidekicking system. No longer did you have to be the exact same (or nearly so) level as your friends and comrades to play alongside them! Without this, I wouldn’t have been able to play with my college buddies when I found out they had a group on another server, and even within my primary supergroup, it would have been much more difficult to find teams.
It’s nothing short of amazing that so many other games haven’t figured out how much of a big deal this is. Hard, vertical leveling is a convention of pen-and-paper RPGs and it should remain there. If my D&D group has four people at level 10 and a new person wants to play, we’ll let him roll something around level 10 so he can play with us. MMORPGs don’t do that and it probably makes new player acquisition that much harder. “Glad you picked up the game, pal, so you can play with us. Now level for a few months alone before you can play with us.”
Speaking of the leveling… CoH‘s slow pace, along with the XP debt for dying, really bogged me down in later levels. I think I maxed out at 41 on my main when I finally stopped playing eight months later. I came back a few times here and there and was at 44 or so when the game went free-to-play in 2011. I logged back in and was stunned at how glacially slow it seemed. Not the leveling, but the actual gameplay. The years had not been kind to the engine, not after dozens of faster-paced games had come and gone.
Still, you never forget your first, whether it’s your first MMO character (Amoebaman), first guild (The Light Seekers), first friend (I wish I could remember her name, but she was green and had a sword and we teamed up to kill stuff in King’s Row that first Friday night), and even your first screenshot (above). I think we all wish we could turn back the clock to when MMOs were new and exciting and the simple notion of being able to interact in a virtual world with thousands of other people was enough to get our blood pumping and heroic impulses flowing.