Meta’s Verse: City of Heroes Brian Clayton Interview- Freedom
By Meticulous Meta, OnRPG Journalist
Meta reporting in. I’ve been on the ground working overtime to bring all the coverage of the big upcoming F2P changes occurring in City of Heroes. Luckily I had the opportunity to sit down with Executive Producer Brian Clayton and talk about Freedom and Issue 21 to get answers to some questions that were on my mind shortly after the announcement that City of Heroes would be adopting a Free to Play model. I hope you find them as eye opening as I did.
Meta: Will we still have access to Galaxy City outside the tutorial? If we do will Galaxy City look messed up or will it look as we know it to be now?
Brian: You can access the original Galaxy City by travelling back in time through Ouroboros. But the new and devastated Galaxy City is far too dangerous for players to go back to. It’s a no man’s land that even the Freedom Phalanx is having troubles with.
Meta: Can you narrow down when we should expect Freedom to go live?
Brian: City of Heroes Freedom will definitely launch later this year. We’re not announcing the specific date yet, but I can tell you that we kicked-off our closed beta test on June 21, in conjunction with the announcement.
Meta: What will happen to the veteran badges?
Brian: They’ll still be there, but in a new and improved form. Players will keep all of the badges they’ve earned, and they’ll be able to earn the ones they don’t have (including new ones) in the new Paragon Rewards program.
Meta: Will VIP status cost the same as monthly subscriptions do now?
Brian: Yes, there will be no change to the subscription price. It has been a priority from the beginning to provide more value than ever to our subscribers with Freedom at the same subscription price.
Meta: Can you tell us which Archetypes will be available to those who choose free to play?
Brian: New Free players will have access to Blasters, Defenders, Scrappers, Tankers, Brutes, Corrupters, Dominators and Stalkers. However, returning players (or Premium players) or players who choose to downgrade their subscription, may qualify for access to the other 4 archetypes based on their status within Paragon Rewards program (more info on this in the weeks to come).
Meta: With the progression of the Praetoria story will we be seeing Praetorian epic archetypes in the future?
Brian: You never know… It would be premature to comment on this right now. But as you can see, we still have a lot more great stories to tell in Praetoria, particularly with Issue 21: Convergence.
Meta: For those who decide to go to Premium what will happen to characters who have existed already but are archetypes that will be unavailable to them?
Brian: As mentioned earlier, access to certain archetypes are going to be tied to the new Paragon Rewards Program. New Free players will need to grow their status within the Rewards Program to gain access to those Archetypes.
Meta: In the past there was early access to new power sets. Will we be seeing this as an option for Time Manipulation?
Brian: Our current plan is that VIP players will have access to Time Manipulation on launch.
Meta: What kind of in game benefits will you be able to get with reward tokens?
Brian: You can use Reward Tokens to unlock the Veteran Rewards that are available today with some additional perks, AND you can use them to access awesome new consumables, powers and costume sets. More details on the Paragon Rewards System willbe released in the coming weeks.
Meta: Can you tell us which content and rewards will be available only for VIP?
Brian: If you are a City of Heroes subscriber today, you’re going to have access to all of the content and rewards you currently have when you become a VIP player. On top of that, you’re going to have access to Signature Story Arcs every month, 1 free server transfer/month, access to a new VIP-only server, 400 paragon points per month to spend in the store, live customer support, and that’s just for starters.
Meta: It was mentioned that stories would be wrapped up. Is there anything more you can tell us about it in light of all the new living world content that Freedom will be bringing to us.
Brian: We’re working on concluding the Emperor Cole storyline in Praetoria, but that’s just the end of one chapter of the story. As you’ll see in the Signature Story Arcs, there are some amazing events that will come to Paragon City and the Rogue Isles, even bigger than a meteor strike.
Meta: Champions went free to play recently, are you taking lessons from their successes?
Brian: We follow everything in the online gaming space. I believe the online games that will be most successful with this type of model will be the ones who fully embrace it. We’ve been working on the Freedom initiative for well over a year and believe that to have long-term sustained growth you can’t just “flip a switch”. For example, Freedom is well-suited to a hybrid model thanks to its massive amounts of content and the fact that we’re taking steps to break down barriers to the game. This includes introducing an awesome new tutorial experience as well as enabling new players to jump into the game within five minutes of hitting “download.” Not to mention, adding more value to subscriptions through our VIP benefits and Paragon Rewards program are ways we’re making sure that we lead in this field rather than just take lessons as well.
Meta: About how long will the new monthly mission arcs take? Will they be like the recent trends in task forces and be on average an hour long. Or will it take a longer time to complete them?
Brian: Each Signature Story Arc will have around 6-8 missions total, featuring hero and villain content. Because this content is single-player friendly, players will be able to play them at their own pace. These missions will feature epic moments within the CoH story and players will likely play this content multiple times.
Meta: Will Premium players have access to the Incarnate System? If not what will happen to the Incarnates they already have?
Brian: First, let me be clear that Premium player will never completely lose anything they’ve purchased or earned. In the situation you described above, those characters will still be available, but the Incarnate Powers will be greyed out. Premium players can simply re-enable access to those powers by becoming a VIP subscriber.
Meta: The decision seemed to come out of nowhere. When was it decided that you would be adopting a free to play model?
Brian: People may have been surprised by our announcement because we’ve been doing so well and now we’re ready to do more.
Again, we’ve actually been planning for this change for over a year, making major improvements to the game’s hardware and software back-end, as well as our development structure and process. We feel Freedom is the best way to provide the most value for our subscribers. We have more resources now than ever before to deliver great MMO content, as you can see from Issue 20 and the recently announced Issue 21 content we’ve disclosed so far. We’ve been an industry leader for over 7 years and continue to be the world’s most popular superhero MMO. Over the past few years, MMO players have been enthusiastically embracing “choice”. By making the transition now, we’re putting our stake in the ground as a leader in the industry, helping to define the future of the MMO gaming space.
Meta: Was Issue 21 made with Freedom in mind or has it been altered to work with it?
Brian: City of Heroes Freedom and Issue 21 were always designed to go hand in hand. We wanted to lower the barrier to entry for all of our players, and ensure that they had access to the best content we’ve ever created. The development team has truly outdone themselves in regards to the quality of the content coming in Issue 21.
I’d like to say a big thank you to Brian who took the time to answer these questions for us. I can’t wait to see what Freedom and Issue 21 will be like. Now if you will excuse me I need to check my mail and see if I got a beta invitation.