A Familiar Story

Once upon a time, there was a fellow who was tired of working for a living, so he decided to take up a life of adventure. He picked up some rudimentary training, and was now a first level adventurer in a large world, free to explore it and wrest its riches from the vile beasts patrolling it. The common folk he presumably left behind would solicit him to perform jobs and praise him as special, and he appreciated that, even though he knew his world was absolutely lousy with fellow adventurers like him who wouldn’t even give him the time of day.

He lived in a strange world, with strange physics about it. For example, behind each living being was a magical number, sometimes known only to themselves, and each time they sustained an injury these numbers would decrease. If these numbers reached zero, they would die… but death was only a mild annoyance at best. There was no such thing as a sword through the heart, merely one’s numbers being depleted, leading to a brief nap and transportation to where one is reborn.

Every hero was protected thusly. Though the commonfolk were supposedly not granted this accommodation, no one honestly cared enough to notice that no matter how many times they were killed or how hard their deaths were lamented they too were granted new life a few moments later. Even the lowest of villain, after being slain and spewing a lengthy monologue about his regrets in life, was allowed to continue their reign of terror after a minor trip, fresh off the points of adventurers’ swords, through the ethereal void and back.

So it was that “adventurer” took on a slightly different meaning. It was more of another kind of job. A shoe cobbler may wait about town, cobble broken shoes, and then wait around for the shoes to break so they could cobble them again. Adventurers would travel the land, kill evildoers, and wait about for them to come back from the dead to begin the process again. Just as a shoe cobber may always hope for a broken shoe, an adventurer would always hope for another evildoer to slay. Fortunately, the Gods had assured everyone had a job by providing an endless amount of work to do.

For the most part, what differentiated the Adventurer from the Commoner was a matter of imagination. Their goals were the same: to amass a considerable amount of gain – mostly in the form of gold and personal experience.

But then, gold was another mater of strange physics in this world. The merchants were permitted to fabricate it from thin air whenever they needed in order to always make sure the adventurers can sell any junk they find. The resulting inflation would soon render it useless… unless the Gods had perfectly balanced the world in such a way that costs were the same as gold accumulation… and most simply didn’t have that kind of time.

Even experience was largely an inconsequential drag that served only to limit the venues adventure may be found: killing for gold was the same whether one was a starting adventurer on the greatest. All that may have changed with experience was a little added sophistication in doing it. The Gods, ever afraid of scaring away the casual adventurer, assured that the challenge was never so great that it required one to think much. The adventurer’s challenge was largely one of persistence, that every adventurer may reach greatness no matter how poor they were at adventuring.

Eventually, our adventurer’s imagination ran dry. The life of adventure, without the delusions of grandeur, was merely a job. A job with pretty terrain and extravagant outfits, involving stabbing things that couldn’t care while enduring no consequences, but a job nonetheless. Our adventurer grew tired of this, hung up his adventuring hat, and looked about for a more interesting line of work. Perhaps, he mused, his next job should be one that actually paid him something of worth.

The End.

The moral of this story is that the whole premise of the typical MUD is fundamentally flawed. I’m bored of Warhammer Online, and it’s not because it’s a poorly made game: it’s actually a very well made MUD, though still “typical” along the lines of having these flaws.

(Not that I canceled Warhammer Online yet. It’s a long way until Fallout 3 and, even though the grind in WO:AR sucks and Realm Versus Realm is mostly a popularity contest, the PvP scenarios are fun in a First Person Shooter Deathmatch sort of way.)

It seems the main trouble is just the whole perpetuity of the thing. Developers are under obligation to keep a subscription game going, so nothing ever changes. They can’t produce content fast enough to have dead stuff stay dead, and they want to keep players under the illusion of accumulation so they allow the players to accumulate to the point where it loses all meaning. Apparently, anything that never ends is bound to lose its meaning…

Perhaps that can be resolved. I’m still mucking around with my BYOND work a bit, and am looking into ways to break the usual cycle of things. For example:

  • Hitpoints are being removed, if only because developers should have come up with a better system than copping Dungeons and Dragons by now.
  • I’m getting rid of unchecked accumulation, the building up of experience and gold for the sake of building experience and gold, and working on developing a system that simply rewards players for showing effort.
  • Permadeath is an option, provided it adds something. Without accumulation, where is death’s sting?
  • Players are being allowed to change the world in a meaningful way.  Rewarding them for changing the world in the “right” way is tricky business, however, as it stifles their creativity in whatever goal I choose.
  • Finally, it’s probably necessary to allow the game to end, if only because I doubt anything mankind can come up with can generate unlimited fun through all perpetuity.  (Learning is tricky that way.)  However, this is lack of perpetuity is okay if a proper end has been added.

It’s quite a grocery list, but I seem to be making progress now that my disillusion towards the typical 3D MUD has returned.

Victory of the Roboincarnate

Nature was twisted, dragged upright into humanoid-shaped monsters, out for blood.

This was the Devouring Earth, commonly found throughout parts of Paragon City and the Rogue Isles: walking figures of stone, spindly tree men, large fungal marauders, and (worst of all) the mutated human beings, unrecognizably Cthulian, known as the Devoured. Their mission, brought about by the giant oozing single-celled monstrosity known as the Hamidon, was to reclaim the Earth from society, dragging everyone screaming to an unnaturally natural state.

The distant approaching sound of many mechanical feet heralded the opposite: today, it would be technology, not nature that would be striking back. Over the wartorn hill forged seven robotic war machines. Three were the robodrones, trusty mechanical foot troopers armed with light laser cannons. Short. Squat. Disposable. Two were the roboguards, taller and thicker than the robodrones, dispensing protective force shield bubbles where needed. Standing taller than the rest was the robodestroyer, a walking tank with missile batteries at its shoulders and cannons for arms. The last of the seven was the most striking of them all. This robot wore a cape, and projecting out of the top of its head was heavily wired remains of a human brain: the Roboincarnate himself.

What drives a man to abandon his warm attractive body for cold steel? In the case of the Roboincarnate, pure contempt. He began as a man with great technical skill but little faith for humanity. To him, most other people were but bleating fools who did not appreciate his brilliance. When he was paralyzed from the neck down, a victim of a random mugging turned ugly, what little identification he had with humankind was shed. His body was the enemy, he always loved machines, and somehow he managed to replace one with the other. Now, he sought to become some kind of machine god.

The Devouring Earth hordes against the Roboincarnate collective. This was a battle between nature gone awry and nature rejected. On the ground, the shambling elements took notice of approaching wave of technology and prepared to counterattack. Far above, an unmanned space station prepared to orbital drop reinforcements to replace fallen robots of the attacking super villain’s team.

The attackers paused, and the opponents sized eachother up for a moment. Were these mere enemies, there would need be no hesitation. However, within this battle, both sides could see what they truly hated embodied in one-another. This deserved a little acknowledgment.

The silence when broken when the Roboincarnate clenched his mechanical jaw in resolution and gestured for the attack. Immediately, laser turrets blazed and guided rockets fired. Then, smoke and chaos blotted out the rest of the battle. At the end, amongst shattered robots and the bodies of the Devouring Earth, only the Roboincarnate stood victorious, as cold and relentless as unbound progress itself.”

[Edit: Another bit of City of Heroes literature. The story was worth keeping, but the extensive spam related to my gaming habit lately was not.]

Frugal Indulgance – Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic

It’s about the point where I find myself gnashing my teeth about City of Heroes characters that I need to realize that I’m once again getting bored of the game. I keep coming back to it later, but I need to take some time off from it once in awhile. As they say, “Too much of a good thing…”

Garage Hero’s second form. The plan is to change his appearance every 10 levels to seem more and more hi-tech.

Fortunately, I’ve two powerful channels of frugal-minded indulgance to dilute my over-saturation of City of Heroes: My GameFly subscription gives me access to all the new console games I could want, while my GameTap subscription gives me access to quite a few old gems.

Lately I’ve found myself dumping an absolutely amazing amount of time into Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic, currently on GameTap. A really good turn-based strategy game like this can rivet me like a good book where I just have to see what’s on the next page. Just recounting the events in the game make for a good story:

“The incredible might of the Orc Warlords took the elves under command of Queen Julia by surprise. Individually or in pairs, the armored behemoths tore the gates from city walls and decimated the ranks of her archer and swordsman garrisons. Even the elven hero, Oakleaf, fell before them. Now, both of her border cities were gone.

With the remaining capital city, the Queen rebuilt her legions, mounted Iron Maidens and High Templars, reinforced with the repeating ballista wonders from the mechanist’s guild. She invoked the Call of the Wood, which summoned a magical woodland creature each day to bolster her depleted ranks. She knew that her magic, too, would be needed, and so she left her city behind and marched with the troops down the coastal road leading to her lost cities.

Within a week, the orc invaders were ousted in an epic clash with skilled troops, magic creatures, and mechanical ingenuity… but it carried a terrible price. As Queen Julia’s forces had advanced, the main bulk of the Orc horde had crept about the opposite side of the mountain. In launching the counterattack, the capital city had been depleted of its ranks, the skeleton garrison was no match for the invaders.

Cut off from her coffers, Queen Julia’s troops soon grew restless. She dispatched her fastest Iron Maidens to reclaim her lost home city but, on the third day, many rebelled and stuck out on their own as independents. Julia was fortunate to have found her home city poorly defended, it was easily reclaimed by the few who remained loyal to her. However, the Iron Maidens who had deserted her would wander for months, engaging the random orc patrol, before she could lure them back to her ranks with gold.”

A typical screenshot for Age of Wonders: Shadow Magic.

Age of Wonder: Shadow Magic is a bit of a Master of Magic knock-off. You play a wizard who manages cities and raises troops to overcome other Wizards. The whole thing plays turn-based with an isometric, tile-based environment. There’s both a coin-based economy (Queen Julia’s problems in the example above were due to being unable to pay troop maintenance) and a magical-based economy (Queen Julia’s Call of the Woods was an overland spell she cast that summoned a creature each round, which have their own magical cost to maintain).

Age of Wonders is a slightly different from Master of Magic in how it is more scenario-based and incorporates some elements from Heroes of Might and Magic such as detailed heroes and map features. They’ve also an interesting feature where building temples dedicated to specific spirits cause them to contact you and give missions (for rewards or to avoid punishment). Overall, Age of Wonders is a pretty good take.

Unfortunately, as I’m getting deeper into the game, I am seeing balance problems. A troop that requires 15 gold points a turn to maintain can single-handedly decimate a half dozen troops that cost only 6 gold a turn each, making building lost-cost units simply a path to defeat. Hero units, once they’ve sufficiently leveled up and have been outfitted with gear, can be extraordinarily powerful (though I was surprised with Oakleaf fell to a large slime monster, known as a “Glutton”, and never returned). Perhaps the greatest exploit was found by dragging out earlier games in the scenario: as your Wizard’s stats are preserved between scenarios, I was able to bring Queen Julia in with an utterly ridiculous amount of researched skills.

We Can Rebuild

It was an unusual operating room, but then, these were not the usual surgeons. They stood around the metal operating table containing the “patient” in the way they had been trained back when they were considered legitimate doctors. However, this operating room was strange in that it contained all the butchery tools and maniacal electric machines suitable of Dr. Frankenstein’s lab. It was almost enough to overlook the operating “room” was merely a raised stone platform in a still-operating section of the Paragon City sewer system.

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The head surgeon indicated to his assistants that he was ready to begin, and began to monologue for the records of the operation.

“Subject: ‘The Nanites.’ Cause of death: poisoned crossbow bolt fired by… well, me.”

The head surgeon smiled. The other surgeons chuckled at his little joke. The head surgeon gestured and was given a wicked looking curved saw from the table. He began to cut into the abdomen of the corpse, a humanoid that appeared to be wearing full-body grey tights with a bright neon circuitry pattern. The head surgeon continued his monologue

“Initially the hero appeared to be biological composition but further investigation reveals a… quasi-metallic lattice. It seems quite incompatible with our existing creations. Perhaps we can reanimate the corpse under our control instead. As I dig deeper… hmm…”

The surgeon withdrew his saw and furrowed his brow. He placed the saw he was using aside and gestured to be given a small electric slicer. He dug into the wound again.

“The… metallic flesh of this hero seems to have some regenerative properties that have proved resistant to the standard probing saw. I’ve switched to a powered blade and am making some progress now, but the incision appears to be regrowing almost… no, faster than I am cutting and…”

The electric slicer suddenly stopped. The surgeon’s eyes widened in surprise as he withdrew it from the wound. As he turned the slicer over in his hand, wondering where the malfunction was, he noticed the blade seemed to be disintegrating rapidly. The blade was gone entirely in the space of a few seconds and now the machine base of the electric unit seemed to be dissolving. The surgeon passed a look of amusement to his assistants and tossed the destroyed device off the platform and into the sewer water.

“Right then. Hand me the Rikti blade. We’ll see if this cadaver is any match for a monomolecular energy field. I’m now reinserting the… what?!”

The body of the hero on the began to melt and pour off the sides of the operating table. The surgeons stepped back and watched as it formed a small river that drained off the concrete platform and into the sewer water below. In moments, there was nothing left. The head surgeon frowned and put the rikti blade on the now bare operating table.

“Well, it seems the subject has lost molecular cohesion. This salvage operation has concluded unsuccessfully. Lets try to find some heroes that are not so useless next time, shall we?”

The surgeons put down their operating tools and picked up the hacksaws and crossbows they used when fighting heroes on the streets of Paragon City. There was often unusual things encountered when operating on mutants, aliens, or other freaks of nature that were the heroes of Paragon City. Nothing really surprised them anymore… in fact, they looked forward to it. As Dr. Vahzilok had promised when he convinced them to join his crusade, they really were making some incredible medical discoveries now that petty morality had been cast aside.

As they turned towards the sewer grating leading over water that was sole exit from the room, they noticed the green slime that was the sewer water was bubbling furiously. It suddenly spewed upwards in a fountain and, as it fell, a humanoid creature was found standing there, blocking the exit. It was instantly recognized by its grey tights and the green circuitry pattern – the hero was back, and apparently alive. Then there was something new: suddenly it had red glowing eyes and a series of large wicked spikes burst strategically from every section of its body.

Before battle was joined anew, the creature said one thing in a voice that sounded like it was made up of millions of smaller ones.

WE ARE THE NANITES, YOU MAY DAMAGE US, BUT WE WILL ALWAYS REBUILD.

Message Transmitted

It was a world-class political pep rally. The auditorium was filled with millions of people, and cameras were arrayed in regular positions to capture the action up on the stage. The candidates sat in two elite groups on the stage, people worth millions of dollars, the object of attention of the nation and the world, dressed in finery and beaming reassuring smiles for appearance. There was only one person out of place, a dark-skinned carpenter meekly reinforcing the podium nearby, doing his best to assure that nothing went wrong on the stage he built.

But something did go wrong that day. There was the matter of testing the cluster of microphones at the podium, and neither candidate wanted the other to be the first to address the mass of people. Behind their smiles there was much silent bickering between the two as they tried to find somebody harmless enough to perform this important task.

They finally agreed that the person to do it was the carpenter, who appeared to them to be little more than a hard-working fool, and not sly politicians like themselves. “Just be sure to say something significant,” they joked, “after all, it’s not every day you get to address the world.” The candidates set back with mischievous smirks on their faces, curious how this would turn out.

The carpenter put down his hammer and nails and thought to himself a moment. Finally, he stepped up to the podium, cleared his throat, and said:

“A lot of us have belief structures that place a great deal of importance on the afterlife. Maybe it is pretty important. However, I want everybody out there to realize just how amazing it is that cosmic dust, which we all are made up of, has sat up and gained awareness. Life, which we’re all a part of, is a miracle in itself. It may be the only genuine miracle in which we ever see. Yet, every time we’re depressed, every time we’re worried about our financial situation, every time we say a hurtful word to another, and every time we go to war – these and other things – we have forgotten just how miraculous life is. Each and every one of us, when someday we’re only moments from death, will probably only have one wish on our minds, and that is that we would again have the opportunity to be a part of this miracle we’re experiencing right now. We should probably live accordingly.”

Spent, the carpenter stepped back from the microphone, and smiled a wistful smile to himself. He knew what was coming next, but had decided it didn’t particularly matter, the result would be the same for him in the long run. The candidates were outraged, not only because what he said trivialized what they were planning on discussing, but also because war was on the agenda. It was a relatively easy matter to see that the carpenter was captured and tried as a terrorist and, in the end, he was hung by rope from a cross of wood.

Digitally Courting Boredom

There’s not been too many updates lately. I’m afraid that being simultaneously subscribed to City of Heroes and EverQuest 2 has resulted in a deadlock where I realize that I’m done with either. I could say I’m simply bored with them, but when you’re a dedicated computer gamer, you begin to realize the fundamental reasons behind the boredom. Oh well, I can least spin a few yarns while I’m complaining about it.

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With EverQuest 2, I’ve simply exhausted the activities the game has to offer… which is remarkable because it is a truly massive amount. Yet, I have spent most of my time by myself, and there’s no quicker way to exhaust the activities in a massively multiplayer game than playing solo. Most recently, I shifted my focus to finding groups, and discovered that they can be found with a little effort. I had hoped to find salvation from the monotony there. Unfortunately, what I discovered was worse.

Had Bruxx blinked, he might have missed it. A moment ago, this room was lined with dozens of animated skeletons and earthern golems, battle hardened creations of the undead magic user, Varsoon. Any one of those creatures would have been a challenge for Bruxx to fight alone.

However, the Shadow Knight leading Bruxx’s party had simply dove in and ran around the room, getting all of the foes’ attention, and pulled them all in one gigantic mess of gnashing appendages. Thus occupied, they were quickly eliminated by the Necromancer’s dark magic, the Fury’s supporting nature spells, and the combined close-quarters fighting finesse of the Monk and Bruxx.

Now the other members of party were laughing and boasting about who had done the most damage. All except Bruxx, who furrowed his whiskers in disapproval. “If this is adventure,” Bruxx thought, “then the custodians that sweep the streets of Qeynos must be famed heroes indeed.”

That’s pretty much how it went. A couple of skilled players mentoring down to the level of the rest of the party trivialized all the content of the Ruins of Varsoon. The party was about level 32, and the foes we fought were often equal or slightly higher. We scooped up entire rooms of maybe 3 to 5 encounters at a time. Yet, we didn’t seem to have any trouble, only one death when the Shadow Knight was chain-stunned and unable to heal himself.

Thankfully, my connection failed as we were zoning to confront Varsoon himself, as I think it’d have broken my heart to see a major villain treated like common trash. I feel sorry for the content designers in EverQuest 2. They put a lot of work into creating this incredibly detailed world, only for it to be balanced like this: trivial; meaningless. There is no artistic justice in the world.

In City of Heroes, I go from the role of being the player who is disgruntled about how trivialized the content has become to being the Veteran who has the skills to make it happen. However, the balance is a little better, and the damage is minimized somewhat. After all, City of Heroes was a game balanced around the idea of being a comic book superhero.

“Babbage,” they called it, a great mechanical creation of the Clockwork King. A monstrosity of spinning gears, shaped into humanoid form, unstoppable. It rumbled towards the heroes, three stories tall, and the last line of defense between them and its creator. Shifter Prime, a man in a sharp-looking black business suit and fedora, watched the monster come as his costumed and super-powered teammates surged forward to meet it.

The mutant with her control over rock struck Babbage with a giant stone hammer and warded off its blows with her molten lava skin. The technology-enabled twins arrayed their protective force fields, threw clouds of nanites to heal wounds, and projected blue bolts of force at the mighty robot. The swordsman with the regenerating body was executing a series of fluid movements with his katana, its blade sharp enough to scar the metal surface of the behemoth.

It was not enough. Shifter Prime was a Kheldian, a symbiotic fusion of alien and man, and knew that it would take all the power of both his halves to have a chance at winning this fight. He spotted a nearby group of hostile gang members and, expelling a purply ring of nictus energy around them, siphoned strength from them. His firepower now more than doubled, Shifter Prime vanished into a purple cloud, and emerged transformed into one of the stored host memories of the Kheldian symbiote within. Having assumed the shimmering dark shape of floating, many tentacled alien, he was now a master of negative energy projection. With an idle flick of his tail, the weakened gang members fell to a fan of nictus energy bolts, ready for teleport to the Ziggurat prison. Shifter Prime was now ready.

Shifter Prime turned and started assisting his team members, assaulting Babbage with great gouts of energy from his mouth and tail. The behemoth staggered, but regained its gigantic footing. It was still not enough. The call went out to all available heroes of Paragon City, and over a dozen arrived, one by one, as quickly as they could. Even more strange energies flashed, weapons twirled, super powered fists crushed, and powerful barriers were erected. The air surrounding Babbage became a maelstrom of super powered euphoria.

Even its haphazard tactical withdraw over city streets and building rooftops was not enough to prevent Babbage from finally being overwhelmed. It shook the ground as it fell, returning to the scrap metal it once was. Thanks for assistance were issued, but many of the heroes were already on their way to other adventures: heroism in Paragon City was never done. As for Shifter Prime and his team, they gathered their strength and looked onward. They were reaching the end of a long road and, soon, the Clockwork King would be brought to justice.

There was once a point where you could grab entire maps and mow them down in City of Heroes. A simple adjustment limiting the number of foes that could be affected by powers, and those days are over. Even a single Giant Monster, such as Babbage, is designed to require a concert effort between several players to bring down thanks (in part) to an obscene hitpoint regeneration rate. City of Heroes has always been a king of gameplay balance and unique mechanics amongst games in its class.

Unfortunately, all good things must come to an end. It seems my trouble with City of Heroes is that I’ve played it out, having sampled every type of hero or villain and witnessed every kind of power firsthand. Sure, I could stick around and get level 50 in every archetype, but would that really be time well spent? Even though I haven’t done everything within the game, I’ve pretty much consumed all the novelty there was to offer.

Lately, I’ve spent more time browsing their forums than I have playing either Everquest 2 or City of Heroes. If there existed a way I could enjoy either game, I’d have found it by now. Currently, both of my subscriptions are set to expire. Soon, I’ll be out of this deadlock altogether, and perhaps that’s for the best.

Frankly, spending my time dwelling on games I’ve already sunk hundreds of hours into might be downright unhealthy. Variety is the spice of life. So, when I can, I’ve been looking for other things to play. It’s difficult to find something better when coming from a couple of real gems like EverQuest 2 and City of Heroes. However, my search has not been entirely fruitless…

The hulking demon looked down at the well-armed man standing on the ruined streets of London and snorted. “Halt, mortal. Have you forgotten our pact? You shall not break the non-disclosure agreement.”

The Heroic Conspiracy of Paragon City

The Hellion, a gang member empowered with magical tattoos that imbued him with infernal demon fire, had been apparently attempting to wrest a purse from the somewhat feeble-looking grandmother all day. They stood in broad daylight on city streets as they engaged in their impromptu tug-o-war over this piece of aged leather with some replaceable knickknacks inside of it. In any other city, this would seem to be a woman bravely (if foolishly) opposing an evil-doer much bigger and nastier than she was. In Paragon City, the City of Heroes, this was something else entirely.

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It is a simple, unspoken arrangement between the villains of Paragon City and the citizens. If a member of a villainous group wishes to get into a fight with one of the thousands of costumed superheroes heroes of this city, they need to be caught committing a crime. For this, it would often necessitate inconveniencing a citizen of Paragon City, whose cooperation would be rewarded with not being harmed and possibly being allowed to meet the hero afterwards.

The purse snatching is a common crime for low-level hoods to commit. The villain gathers as many friends as they feel is neccessary and then proceeds to find a woman carrying a purse. After appearing to ambush the victim in an opportune (highly-visible) location, they start pretending as though they were taking the purse. Back and forth they would tug, for hours if neccessary, until a costumed hero arrives. Thug and victim would shout a few lines to get the attention of the hero and, with any luck, battle is joined. It was not uncommon for there to be dozens of purses being stolen, simultaneously, on the same street.

The rules of battle are simple: The hero and villains are free to use whatever powers they have at their disposal in an attempt to defeat each other. Currently, it is considered bad form to uproot street lights or throw cars, but rules of engagement may change over time. At the start of the battle, the victim is free to flee to a safe distance, perhaps in order to thank the hero later. It’s considered good form for the victim to pretend they are reporting the crime. It’s also considered good form for the hero to pretend they’re interested in recovering the purse. Some villains attempt to take advantage of this and pretend to flee with the purse but, upon noticing they are not being chased, will usually return to the scene of the crime to try again. After all, the point was not to get the purse, the point was to start a battle.

Thanks to the marvels of modern technology, battles go largely without consequence. Given the astounding efforts of Paragon Public Works it’s very difficult to cause lasting damage to small parts of the city. Given time and effort, entire blocks of the city may be restored, such as was the case of the Overbrook district. If the hero is defeated, they are teleported to the nearest medical facility and nursed back to health in seconds. If a (human or derivative human-like creature) villain is defeated, they are teleported to the Ziggurat, a maximum security prison, where they are similarly nursed back to health. This is often considered a boon, as incarceration in the Ziggurat puts them in contact with a vast crime network of criminals who were similarly “arrested”. Given that the Ziggurat is perpetually under siege by villainous forces, it was quite poor at actually keeping villains behind bars. Average turnaround time for an incarcerated villain is 2 to 3 days (or in the case of the Outcast leader, Frostfire, 2 to 3 seconds).

Attempting to break this cycle is difficult. Some particularly overzealous participants like to think they’re permanently killing their foes. However, short of complete atomization or failure of the city-wide teleportation grid, it’s difficult to cause lasting damage thanks to modern Paragon City medical technology. Some villains have taken to attempting to capture heroes, but have yet to come up with a solution to actually contain them. Villains are loathe to resort to killing heroes in captivity for fear that authorities in the Ziggurat may institute a similar policy. Permanent defeat or transformation of heroes or villains is quite rare, even noteworthy. Even mere disappearances of little-known participants usually lead to permanent public landmarks being established.

For the villains, there is often (but not always) ulterior motives to commit a highly visible crimes besides simply to fight. For example, the Vahzilok, a sect of rogue surgeons who seek immortality through stealing the body parts of others, often pretend to be about their grisly business in order to attract heroes. However, given the effectiveness of the Paragon City teleport system, defeated heroes instantly escape the vast majority of the time. The actual goal of the Vahzilok is steal heroic cells of heroic DNA extracted during the battle proceedings. This DNA, once cloned, can be used to forward their agenda or create the necessary parts to stitch together a nearly limitless army of abominations. For other villainous groups, reasons to goad heroes into a fight can extend to testing new battle technology or simply increasing their reputation amongst villains.

Heroes, on the other hand, are mostly interested in fame. It’s all very well to be able to fly about and shoot laser beams from your armpits but, unless you actually do something productive with that, nobody cares. The ideal position of a hero is to be a member of a prestigious super group that has amassed enough influence to gain access to even greater power. Then, in the event that such a major catastrophe (as an invasion from an alternate dimension of aliens) they might just have sufficient power at their disposal to survive.

Such was how the heroism business is conducted daily on the streets of Paragon City.

Writer’s Note: This is primarily a piece that plugs a lot of the logical gaps in City of Heroes’ plot. Of course, it’s secondarily a humor piece. 😉