Thursday 1st May - Brighton, UK/ ... Senior Designer and writer Joe Morrissey explains how he helped design and write the story for Issue 12 - the highly anticipated next chapter of NCsoft Europe's popular MMO franchise, City of Heroes/Villains.
Who’s idea was this anyway?
It’s pretty safe to say that if it’s not Positron’s fault… it’s mine.
Hi. I don’t think we’ve been formally introduced. I’m Joe Morrissey, some call me Hero 1. I’m a senior designer and the lead writer on City of Heroes. I’ve been on the team just over a year now, coming on during the craziness of Issue 10, helping guide the vision of Issue 11 and now laying the foundation for what is issue 12, “The Midnight Hour”. But before I get into that, let me give you a little background about myself.
I’ve been a writer/designer for about 10 years now, starting at Blizzard North working on Diablo II, the expansion and anything else us “Northies” thought was a good idea at the time. From there I went over to Backbone and learned how to roll up my sleeves and get down and dirty in design. I worked on a number of handheld games the highlight of those being Death Jr. 2. About a year ago, my wife and I found out we were going to have our first kid and that meant a couple lifestyle changes needed to occur. The main one being a job much closer to home. I applied at Cryptic Studios and apparently I “interviewed well”, a fact Positron is quick to point out anytime that I make his life difficult.
So, why the Midnight Hour?
The Midnight Squad takes the main focus of this issue. They’ve got some of the coolest history, yet hardly any of it has been opened up to the players. I choose the Midnight Squad because they were seriously crippled by the invasion and therefore were extremely motivated to take action against the Rikti. We did a lot with the Rikti story for Issue 10, but it was only through the single lens of the Vanguard. Now we see a second perspective, through the eyes of those hardest hit from the invasion, the Midnighters.
Rather than retreating further back into their libraries, they are stepping out of the shadows and throwing their pipes and monocles into the fight against the Rikti. The Squad has always been a group of intellects who research, discuss and analyze the world of the unknown, but now they have a purpose. They have an enemy – an enemy who thought them important enough to attack first. An intelligent man might believe there was something to that, something the Midnighters can use to their advantage. Now all that knowledge and hidden power is being turned against the Rikti.
The image I have in my head is of a stodgy old Midnighter rolling a big crate out in front of the Freedom Phalanx. The lettering on the crate reads, “The Arc of the Covenant”. With a smile, the Midnighter asks the group of heroes, “You gentlemen think you could put this dusty old thing to use?”
The Midnight Squad is recruiting and sharing their knowledge with others. Now in the world’s hour of need, the clock strikes midnight. It’s the Midnight Hour.
The Rikti and the Wonderful World of Magic The landscape of magic and the Rikti have changed. When the Rikti first attacked, they came after magic users first. This showed their hand to anyone paying attention. The Rikti’s greatest weakness was magic. Already the Vanguard use magic in their weapons, the Circle of Thorns are working on their own anti-Rikti spells and now we see what the Midnighters have up their sleeve.
This best comes to light in Montague Castanella’s story arc, “Lost and Found”. Montague is at the University in Steel Canyon. It’s a lower level arc, from 10 – 20, but you get to face Rikti, aid the new leader of Dawn Patrol “Lady Jane”, ally with both the Vanguard and the Traditionalists as well as craft an item that could change the landscape of the game. You get mixed up with a lot of stuff in this arc, which is one of the reasons why I like it so much.
However, one of the standout arcs this issue, if not of the past three I’ve worked on, has to be Darrin Wade’s “Midnight Draws Near”. Wade’s an ex-Midnighter who sells his knowledge and stolen relics in the Rogue Isle. Now the Midnighters come to town and he doesn’t much like it. What starts out as a simple enforcer mission, ends up revealing a darker side to the Rikti and eventually sending you into the belly of the beast against the Midnight Squad. There are a couple nice twists and turns in this arc, leading all the way up to your final conversation with Darrin Wade.
Let’s talk tech: Contextual dialog
Finally, I’d like to talk about some new tech for missions we’re rolling out this issue: Contextual dialog. Contacts can now know specific things about your character or the state of the mission you’re on and give you appropriate dialog to match it. I think almost every new story arc uses it in one way or another.
For example, in the Origin of Power arcs you talk to a representative of each of the five origins. When you get to the contact who is the same origin as you, he or she will have more in depth information for you regarding your specific origin. This new tech also allows for us to make NPCs in instanced maps feel more like actual contacts in the zone. We’re now able to change their dialog depending on events going on in the mission. A great example of this is the Sybil you speak with at the beginning of Imperious’ first mission in Cimerora. She has three different dialog states depending on where you are in the mission.
This tech actually has the potential to replace our current system for handling missions. The design team has a couple of other ways we plan to use contextual dialog but we’re going to have to keep those plans locked up for now.
Thanks for your time. I hope you enjoy the issue. If not, it was Positron’s fault.