The idea of playing as your favorite superhero in a video game world is catnip for comics fans, and the MMORPG City of Heroes was one of the earliest to offer that chance in an immersive, free-ranging world. But after eight years of continuous operations, the studio behind City of Heroes shuttered the game late last year. However, as comics fans can attest, good heroes never die — even if you don’t have the rights to them.
A group of ardent City of Heroes fans recently rallied under the name the Phoenix Project and started a Kickstarter to fund a “spiritual successor” to City of Heroes called City of Titans, hoping to raise $320,000 to create a near-identical home for themselves and other fans of comic book video games. This week, they achieved their goal and then some, raising $678,189. Now all they have to do is make the game.
“When we lost [City of Heroes], no amount of traditional investment would bring it back,” technical director Nathaniel Downes said on the Kickstarter page. “The safe money for MMORPG investment goes to traditional titles, revamped versions of classic fantasy realms, grind-fests featuring pay-to-win, or ones tied to popular role-playing, movie, print or television properties. The Phoenix Project is none of these things. It is a new home for the heroic spirit, but not a clone or replica. We have an opportunity here to build a modern game, respectful of the play style, lessons, and fun of the old game, while taking advantage of the more than ten years of industry development since our spiritual predecessor started development.
Downes describes City of Titans as “a game rising from the death of another,” being built by fans of the original. Organizing under the company name Missing Worlds Media, the key players have some video game experience but as a unit this would be their first title — with an MMO being a large undertaking for any company, large or small. Marvel’s recent MMO, Marvel Universe, took three and a half years and more than $80 million to develop.
“I can understand that people are skeptical, I can understand that many people think this is a con,” a writer for the video game developer posted in the comments section of an article by Polygon. “We at MWM are the underdogs, the longshots, and we all get that. Every man and woman realizes that this is a daunting task, and to be honest it can be pretty scary.” The unnamed writer, going by the screen name of LuchRi, describes several “shake ups” and “ego clashes” in the development of the game, calling it “rather harrowing.” But the writer says the staff, which are entirely made up of volunteers, is giving “everything possible into this effort.”
Despite these seemingly long odds and some earlier Kickstarter video game projects that have failed to materialize, the Phoenix Project and Missing Worlds Media aims to launch City of Titans in November 2015.