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City of Heroes: Turning Literature into Content E-mail
Tuesday, 31 July 2007
While players are enjoying the recently released Issue 10: Rikti Invasion, Matt Miller, Lead Designer for City of Heroes and City of Villains, shares a few words about how its development has been, and how bunch of ideas on the paper turned into game features.

City of Heroes / City of Villains:
Developer Diary –
“Turning Literature into Content”

by Lead Designer, Matt “Positron” Miller

With the decision made to use the Rikti for Issue 10, and bring Vanguard into the limelight, we knew it was the perfect opportunity to bring Hero 1 back from the Rikti homeworld, albeit a little changed.

NOTE: City of Heroes spoiler information follows.

In the late game of City of Heroes, you learn that the government of the United States is hiding a secret about the Ritki. That secret is that the Rikti are highly evolved human beings from an alternate dimension, and not “aliens” as the public perceives. This is tied directly into the Lost that populate the lower level zones in City of Heroes. The Lost are the Rikti attempting to turn Earth’s humans into Rikti mutants. Many heroes with the “Omega Level Clearance” souvenir know all this information.


NOTE: City of Heroes Issue 10 spoiler information follows.

What they don’t know is that it’s not just the Rikti on Earth that know how to mutate humans, but those on the homeworld do as well. Hero 1, the leader of the Omega Team that ended the first Rikti war, was never heard from again and lost in the Rikti home dimension. Way back in City of Heroes development it was decided that Hero 1 was captured and was undergoing “Lost-like mutations” while in captivity. We had no opportunity to reveal this information to the players until now.

With the “big reveal” decided for the Task Force, that being the unexpected return of Hero 1, I needed to decide how to get there. How do I tell this story and have the build up that a Task Force of this magnitude deserves? I wanted an apocalyptic storyline, and what better place to look than the Apocalypse itself?

There are many “end of the world” myths out there, Ragnarok is one, but we never really had a strong Norse theme in our universe. I looked at the Book of Revelation for inspiration as it has always been a subject of interest for me. There is a lot of poetry in that book in the Bible, which leads to a lot of different interpretations of themes and images.

Interpretation is where a designer can really get to play. I did a quick refresher on the Book of Revelation on Wikipedia, and grabbed a couple of key concepts: The Four Horsemen, the Dragon, the Beast from the Sea, the Abyss, and the false Prophet. I then looked at the Rikti and figured out where everything would work out.

For the Four Horsemen, I wanted a group of Rikti Elite Bosses that had powers that played off one another. We had the Rikti Heavy Assault Suits that we could modify with the necessary powers and make our own version of Famine, War, Pestilence and Death. The mission itself plays out fighting one, then two, then three, and finally all four at the same time.

The Dragon was modified into a Rikti boss called the Dra’Gon, in fitting with the Rikti theme. I basically wanted the Rikti war to be coming to a point where the Rikti were trying to bring their best generals and soldiers from the Rikti Homeworld through semi-stable portals. Dra’Gon is one of those generals.

For the Beast and the Sea the choice was nearly obvious. We already had a “sea” zone with a Revelation-esque name, called The Abyss… and in this Abyss resided one of the biggest beasts the game has, Hamidon. In order for a team of at most eight characters to even have a shot at defeating Hamidon, we needed a weakened version of him. I decided that the Rikti were stealing Hamidon’s power with their pylon technology, and thus leaving a weakened version of the Hamidon for the players to defeat. Upon defeating Hamidon, the characters are granted the Power of the Hamidon, which would allow them to fight the Rikti commander known as the Honoree in the final mission.

The Honoree is actually the Lost-mutated Hero 1 (Honoree being an anagram of Hero One), this makes him the symbolic “false prophet” and must be defeated in order to stop the Rikti from establishing a powerful foothold on our planet. While bringing such a popular hero back as an unredeemable bad-guy may seem like a bad idea to some, we stand by the decision and when this Rikti war moves into its final stages in the years to come we hope to give some really good closure to the character and the storyline… the end of the Task Force is not necessarily the end of the story.

So there you have it. While it doesn’t follow the original source material to the letter, it does draw inspiration from it. Some players were quick enough to deduce the origin of the Task Force during beta and were very happy with how we pulled it off. It’s definitely not blatant (and I didn’t want it to be), but I wanted those who knew the source to be able to recognize and appreciate the homage.

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