The Paragon Times – one of the more challenging projects I’ve dealt with on City of Heroes.
It’s on my mind as we have a special double-length edition coming out this week. (Check the official site, natch.)
A Paragon Times article (“Statesman’s Strike”) was one of my first projects after I joined the City of team in Austin. It was to promote the end of beta launch event for City of Villains, and like many of my newspaper-style writings took a lot of influence from the headlines of the time.
After that I did just a handful – one for the Winter event, one for the relaunch of Pocket D (the combined space for Heroes and Villains to do the Time Warp again), then a huge gap until the next Halloween…clearly the Times was being left behind.
And it was. I was more focused on trying out different styles on the Backgrounders and pushing other elements of the web page. We added a few more Official Guides (and for awhile I was working on a number of others games as well as CoH, and just didn’t have the time). But a number of players would ask me, not often but regularly, “Hey, what happened to the Times?” I didn’t realize how important it was to them – because to them, it was another feature of the game, and one which helped convey the sense that Paragon City was evolving and organic, too.
And that’s one of the fascinating things about an MMO (or potentially any expanding game with a strong social network). People invest a lot into their characters and the world, and they (not all of them, of course, but many) want to see it expand and change and grow. We all know that developers never have enough time or resources to put in everything they want into a game, and we also know that players can’t be in the game 24/7 (again, most players), but tools like the Paragon Times are a way to serve both groups.
Web fiction can help developers expand their world-story in a relatively cheap and quick manner. One of the Cryptic Crew, Archon Voss (and I think also War Witch) has mentioned how they put in construction sites into the game for a time before they were ready to put in the arena buildings. The Paragon Times can be used the same way, and we did some of that for the most recent Rikti invasion event.
We actually had 4 newspaper articles to promote the event. During the lead-up we had a fan written “A City Remembers,” which was written without knowing the Invasion event was coming, but nicely reflected on the first Rikti invasion. Then we had the “Senate Questions Vanguard” piece, which suggested that some thought the paramilitary organization, Vanguard, was no longer needed – obviously foreshadowing that in fact it was definitely needed, and would be soon!
To coincide with the actual event itself, the Paragon Times exclaimed, “Invasion!” in the headlines. Then we wrapped it up with another player-written piece, “Vanguard Reports Success,” summarizing several players’ perspectives on the event.
Next entry, I’ll try to explain a bit more on the process of creating a Paragon Times article, and what I’ve learned in the process.