Author Topic: A Dissent...  (Read 6424 times)

AreEss

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A Dissent...
« on: September 06, 2012, 10:50:32 AM »
Okay, so I've not been around in a while, and to tell the truth, I read the writing on the wall before the F2P conversion (you know, Melissa's short lived tenure as the woman in charge after they realized it wasn't going to do well.)

Before you start the dogpile of "BLAH BLAH NAYSAYER EVIL EVIL GO AWAY" get over it. I DO have hands on experience in all the relevant areas one way or another. Sometimes from both sides. So a more complete tearing down of what is feasible and what is not feasible, you will not find. So let's dig in, shall we?

Purchasing the City of Heroes/City of Villains Intellectual Property
First thing to learn is that the assets are not the IP and vice versa. To do anything means you need the IP. That IP covers the artwork, promotional materials, trademarks, copyrights, copyrighted characters, and the nuclear waste of two very big lawsuits. That's also reusable assets measured by earning potential if put into another engine, universe, format, your pick.
Unless NCsoft is hellbent on unloading this property, it's not for sale. If it is, the sale price will be based on potential to earn presuming substantial investment. That means tens of millions of dollars, cold hard cash.
That's just how IP deals work. You buy the IP, you can now make official CoX t-shirts, box art, put Manticore on real lunchboxes, and sure, build a game too. This is what is called "A BRICK WALL." NCsoft is not going to let it go on the cheap to their fans because it's bad business sense.
LICENSING the City of Heroes/City of Villains Intellectual Property
Here's the only thing any one of you who does not regularly practice in front of a judge in this subject matter needs to know: GET A LAWYER. Would NCsoft be amenable to this sort of arrangement? It is possible. Maybe it's probable. But sixteen thousand rabid fans writing tear filled letters? Will not help this effort and never will. You need to have a team with lawyers who can go in today and say "we'd like to license and fund development of this, in exchange for publishing rights. What do you want?"
I'd rate it as "highly more likely to happen rather than an outright buy. Outright buy is right out. Deal with it. Chances are better that NCsoft would be amenable to a conditional license requiring a finished product by X date, if they're willing at all.
OPEN SOURCING the whole thing.
No. More proprietary code, documentation, and protected assets than the Caymans Islands. It is not happening, stop dreaming, and yes reverse engineering anything not exposed by API is illegal. Meaning no you cannot reverse engineer the client. Not ever gonna happen, not in a million years, so stop asking for it and stop saying it's possible. It's not.

Technical side of things...
It's a goddamn codewreck and a half and most of what you think you know is wrong.
I used to regularly chat with the folks that were really and truly in the know on the servers. And it's not as though Posi hasn't produced a mountain of evidence himself. Since the time was young, CoX servers, were Windows XP and 2K. Not only that, but the engine dates to around the same time, and has more crap hard coded into it than you can shake a redwood forest at.
Get any dreams of porting this to your religious platform of choice out of your head now, because I am here to tell you that you are stupid. And yes there is such a thing as people being stupid. Not an invitation to demonstrate.
What consumes 109% of my life these days is software development in a not dissimilar architectural arrangement. For your convenience and based on facts provided to me over the years by Cryptic and later Paragon employees:
- Forget the server code. Nothing can be salvaged there but the API, and even that's iffy.
- Databases are a proprietary and total disaster, vastly overtaxed and underdesigned for what was thrown at them. Total rewrite of the backend was needed, known needed, and blocked by...
- ...close to a decade of hard coding everything, most ESPECIALLY when it absolutely should not have been hard coded.
- ...doubly so when many of the hardcode segments are to fix bugs improperly in the first place.
Anybody who has actually been in the depths of the CoX codebase will tell you the same thing I just did: it is a disasterpiece that is so far past it's prime, the USDA would shut down any facility that tried to process it.
Any plan means having to start from square one across the board on everything. Textures can be salvaged, models can be salvaged, character creator can be salvaged, but that is more or less the grand sum of what can be safely salvaged. The only way to tinker forward means having to burn with cleansing fire.
Important Note, Database Rearchitecting
The block to server merge, to cross-server mail, to cross-server trade has always been the backend database. It's a custom monstrosity which should never have been borne. Nothing of it can be salvaged save the contents. When you want to go? You need a whole new database system, completely from scratch. Oh, and that database system would not be coming along either.

Operational Costs
Nobody's even brought this up except as "I run a bunch of servers." Hi. I used to run a bunch more servers. By which I mean a few ten thousand. These details are the ones people love to overlook. "Oh, I'll just buy a Dell 1950 on eBay!!"
Look. You want to run an MMO profitably, you load the servers up to the max. WoW's architecture is rack upon rack upon rack of HP BladeChassis 7000c's. CoX's was.. a bunch of whatever was laying around thrown under a desk or in a rack.
I presume we'd want to do better; it's possible. But it's yet another cost. You need two big servers ~$50K/ea for the database, which is always replicated. Then some high volume webservers, ~$8K/ea is plenty there. Then game servers which could run the range, depending how bad the code is.
Then you need to host them somewhere with good connectivity. Like Colorado. A rack with sufficient power and bandwidth there is going to cost you at least $5K/mo. (Starting to realize why I'm focused on going concern and not 'we can take it over'? Because the former has a chance of WORKING.)

Blah Blah Blah holds up process via X Y Z
See: GET LAWYERS. REAL LAWYERS. The fact is that A) it is money well spent B) likely to reveal information to you that will weaken NCsoft's negotiating position. This is a good thing. Also: yet to see any proof, only proof that various accused parties are not holding processes up or did not make any alleged bids on the property.

Development Process
This is what I took issue with at Paragon for years, and frankly, a resurrection requires someone like me. Not an egotistical statement - a statement of fact. Paragon was horrible about getting chummy with the users, and vice versa. Reporting was clear as mud. Achievables were wispier than Aine's house. Paragon got to stay purely because they were who was left.
And you're going to have to throw away your precious sentimentality and your apology factories. Most of the Paragon staff that were let go, should not be back on this project. Positron's out, War Witch is in, Manticore (THE REAL ONE) is in, Dr. Aeon is in, BaB is in, Arctic Sun is in, and that's all you've got out of what was left. (Unless someone can bribe CuppaJo to lead CM.)
Part of that is because to become competitive, you can't just be a Superhero MMO. Been done. Hi. You're looking to save it. Stupidity is doing the same thing twice and expecting different results. Reinventing CoX as it was, as it is, does not get you to a going concern. It just puts you in a worse boat, because you have nobody to back development cost overruns. So that means taking a long hard look at the game and throwing away the illusions of incremental improvement. It means reinventing the game from scratch. Building a true CoH2.
The Backend Replacement
I don't give two craps what your personal preference is. The only viable option for the type, style and amount of data required stored is PostgreSQL. It's exceedingly reliable, it's completely free, commercial support is available, and it's a world class package. The Centers for Disease Control runs all their mission critical systems on it, for heaven's sake.
Code? Start from scratch. It has to be done over from scratch. Or do people not remember all the zone limit problems? These are resolvable with a redesign of the backend server code, and always were. There was too much hard coding and bad design in the way. Apply cleansing fire and start from scratch on a more powerful platform instead of trying to port from Windows.
Hardware is just going to have to be cut way the hell down, no two ways about it. But frankly, I'd rather see a situation where CoH2:Resurrection launches with 4 servers and 3 months later announces free transfer weekend to the 4 they just added with profits. Yeah.
The Client Replacement
Look. You weren't around for the I17 chats I had with the I17 coders. Ask any of them. "Rat's nest of hardcoded crap that takes forever to try and fix, only to find it broke something else." You're dealing with a 2004 engine hardcoded to hell and back that barely speaks DX10 through four translators and one of them only speaks Slovenian.
The client engine cannot be salvaged, repaired, or recovered. Assets within it are salvageable; the bits that make them do stuff completely are not. Most of the people who CREATED them are long gone, and virtually all of them are devoid of documentation, comments or notes. By the time you fixed just the bugs from I17-I21, you could have written a whole new engine that performed tolerably on lower end systems.
Assembling a Team
This is a nonissue. But letting everyone in isn't an option. It leads to disorder, chaos, infighting, and so on. It's nice that everyone wants to contribute; it's just that not everyone will get to contribute the way they want to. Tough luck, that's how it goes. Otherwise, COD would just be crowdsourced by logging Xbla chats of 12 year olds.

The Finances Of It
All the backend finances are ugly as sin. Figure for each developer or artist on your team, a cost of $125K/yr. Programmers $75-125K. Shaking the leads out of that pool. CMs, well, CMs know the deal.
By the time it's all said and done though, excluding a huge amount of costs (which are substantial in themselves) for a 12 person team, you're looking at needing $1,500K ($1.5M) per year in recurring costs. At $15/mo, that's 100,000 subscribers just barely keeping the lights on. (Suddenly you understand why CoX has been on the chopping block. Their costs were much higher and subs were NOT higher.)

What Has To Change To Make A Going Concern
Rage all you want about "I WANT MY CITY" back. If you want your city back, you're going to have to accept a new city. To build a new, thriving city means making changes that bring old back and invite new players in. That means a lot of changes that frankly, people are going to be pissed off about, because for them development stopped at ED. The key things here are:
- Keep the character creator, improve it in real ways. (Code has to be total rewrite - BaB will tell you the hardcode hell there.)
- The community has to change. Don't like it? Tough. The community got to the point where it scared new players off, while insisting to itself that it never did that. Public drama, personal wars, not keeping OOC out of IC? No way, no how. Threads baleeted.
- Related note: may vBulletin burn in eternal hell because it is a steaming pile of shit.
- It needs a new story. It needs a new world. It needs a new feel. People got tired of 8 years of Paragon and parallel dimensions. This is why I want Manticore so freaking bad. He's the brains behind a lot of the writing and lore. Note; this doesn't mean old Paragon goes away necessarily. But it must change.
- It has to be more modern. A lot more modern. Nobody sane isn't going to point out that the graphics were dated. (Imagery is timeless. Textures and models, not so much.)
- It has to offer more than just 'go in door, kill skuls, collect loot.' ALL of these genre of MMO are seeing subscriber declines with good reason. Players. Are. BORED!
- You know those dream RP improvements you wanted? Yeah. It needs those. The combat ones? Those too. They're kinda standard everywhere these days.

But, that's just my $0.02; I've only been around since CoH release with my bunch of 50s and gods only know how many hours of RP with friends. It really was some of the best times of my life. That's why I'm so brutal with the evaluation here. I want CoH2 to have a chance, and I don't want to see my friends hurt when it goes down the crapper. No amount of letter writing, calling, crying, or press is going to change the fact that CoX is done. But we have an opportunity here to instead present to NCsoft a compelling and well reasoned argument to license the property to a newly organized game development studio, to create something better than what we had. Something bigger than what we had.

That is the best hope we have to save City of Heroes. To save the patient, we must accept it's inevitable death. And focus on the patient we can save - a new game, built by the people who understood it best, designed from the ground up to be a better experience for all.

Zanriel

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #1 on: September 06, 2012, 11:36:40 AM »
Whether someone figures out how to salvage City of Heroes, or we pull together the resources and talent to make a spiritual successor, one thing I know for sure: I don't want to be left with nothing but Champions, DCUO, or Marvel. Nothing can fill that void quite like City of Heroes. The main elements that made it great:

Loot system (enhancements, inspirations, invention system)
Automatic group level matching (sidekick/exemplar system)
Automatic difficulty scaling based on group size
Mission difficulty sliders (quantity/level)
Base building
Travel powers
More missions than you could complete
Choosing contacts for variety when playing alts
Nearly infinite variety of possible costumes and powerset combinations
Fast paced combat
Accessible gameplay
Endgame character development (Incarnate System - brilliant!)

Any game that has all or most of those elements will get my money. I've already poured over $1000 into COH over the years. I'd gladly do it all over again in a heartbeat.

WanderingAries

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #2 on: September 06, 2012, 11:42:54 AM »
That is the best hope we have to save City of Heroes. To save the patient, we must accept it's inevitable death. And focus on the patient we can save - a new game, built by the people who understood it best, designed from the ground up to be a better experience for all.
This is pretty much what's been running through my head. As much as we would like to simply port this over to new servers, this game is so limp-noodle-coded that it's always been one tweak away from "SOB!" While the databases are important, content wise, they need to be rebuilt. As I'm sure the Titan group can attest with their semi-recent site rebuild, it's not easy, but is necessary. What would likely happen with the 'new city' would be something like having the existing paragon zones remastered as an homage, but new content might need to focus on a newer world. Or, in an intro video to the 'new city' would consist of an explaination as to why the old zones had to be 'abandoned' and or 'were destroyed' in the form of an elaborate 'skipable' tutorial (the real kind, not that excuse of one they revamped!)
I'll take that Patient bet and raise you this. City of Heroes in the form of a mother dying during childbirth. What remains is the essense of the former, but still a new being of its own choosing.
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Plinkyplonk

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #3 on: September 06, 2012, 11:44:43 AM »
... designed from the ground up to be a better experience for all.


I admire your realism. A very enlightening post which puts more perspective on the situation.

Manga

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #4 on: September 06, 2012, 12:21:44 PM »

AreEss, I agree that *long term*, CoH will need replacement.  However, long term means a very long time from now in this case.  No amount of money or motivation is going to make it possible to write a new superhero game in 3 months.  The closest we can hope for is a very, very basic closed beta a year from now.  Therefore our best chance *right now* is to give CoH a second chance at life.  It's profitable for now.

As I said before, the most valuable part of CoH as it stands is not the game engine, or the models, or content - those are all old.  It's the existing player base that holds all the value.  If anyone plans to create a true CoH 2, they're going to need a player base, and finding a new one 2 years later from scratch is going to be far more difficult and costly if the current one has been dispersed. 

I love CoH, but to be truthful I wouldn't be trying to save it if I didn't think there was life and value left.  If I was one of the last few dozen people left, I'd just feel sad and accept my fate like so many others.  But I can't, because it feels like the wrong *time*.

sindyr

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #5 on: September 06, 2012, 01:23:43 PM »
I want to clear about something, something that I *think* many of us would agree on.

"Saving" City of Heroes and in the process losing pieces that makes this game City of Heroes would not be a victory.  To me it would be no different than starting a new MMO with a slight resemblance to the old one.  Maybe we can save CoX and maybe we can't, but from my point of view any attempt to save this game will have failed without:

  • Every Archetype in place with every powerset is had, as well as all pool powers, as of I24 on beta live
  • Every IO set with exactly the same functionality
  • Every costume/power customization we had with I24
  • Every access to XP and missions from I24 - not necessarily the same exact missions, but their should be arc as well as newpaper and radio missions
  • the alignment system
  • And so much much more than I can even mention right this second.

Basically, for me, if the mechanics aren't not just similar but the very SAME, it will not BE Cox.  So if we are thinking about aiming so low that we wind up losing so much of what makes City awesome, then what's the point?

Solution:  Give up - or don't aim that low, even IF it makes success less probable.  After all, what the point of a success that feels like failure?

I am not seriously suggesting we give up, 100% not.  I am absolutely urging us to settle for NOTHING less than keeping the same game we love, not some inferior clone we think we have a better chance at getting.  If that would have worked for me, I'd be transitioning to Champions now - and that's not for me.

Now, speaking only for myself, I don't care if the names of the city zones change.  I don't care if the names of the iconic NPCs change.  A rose by any other name would smell as sweet.  I don't care even if the City zones were replaced by brand new ones - so long as they worked just the same.

What I need, and what I *think* a lot of us need, is the same *mechanics* and *opportunities* for play - not similar ones, or related, or inspired by - the SAME mechanics.

Or else what is the point of all this?

Thanks.

eabrace

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #6 on: September 06, 2012, 01:36:02 PM »
Okay, so I've not been around in a while, and to tell the truth, I read the writing on the wall before the F2P conversion (you know, Melissa's short lived tenure as the woman in charge after they realized it wasn't going to do well.)

Before you start the dogpile of "BLAH BLAH NAYSAYER EVIL EVIL GO AWAY" get over it. I DO have hands on experience in all the relevant areas one way or another. Sometimes from both sides. So a more complete tearing down of what is feasible and what is not feasible, you will not find. So let's dig in, shall we?
AreEss,

While I do appreciate that you are attempting to keep us grounded with an alternate viewpoint (we do need to consider our efforts from every possible angle to avoid missing anything), I would advise working on your presentation.  Beginning your post with an aggressive tone like this is far less effective than simply presenting facts and data and letting numbers speak for themselves.

It's also less likely to result in other users reporting your post and requiring one of us to come in here with our moderator hat and flame retardant gloves on.

Suffice to say, there are questions in the minds of your fellow posters about the validity of some of the information you present as fact without corroborating evidence.  I also question the validity of some of your "facts", but since I'm being forced into this conversation as a moderator and not as a community member, I am now unable to ask any questions without the appearance of bias.

All that being said:  I will allow this discussion to continue rather than nuking your post because you may have a few valid points that should be heard.  However, I would very, very, strongly suggest you adopt a less aggressive tone in any subsequent replies and be ready to calmly present evidence to support your claims if it comes to that.

(Putting it more bluntly:  Yes, this is a warning.  Play nice.)
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Codewalker

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #7 on: September 06, 2012, 01:40:52 PM »
Before you start the dogpile of "BLAH BLAH NAYSAYER EVIL EVIL GO AWAY" get over it. I DO have hands on experience in all the relevant areas one way or another. Sometimes from both sides. So a more complete tearing down of what is feasible and what is not feasible, you will not find. So let's dig in, shall we?

Unsurprisingly, this post got reported as (paraphrasing) non-constructive. That's mostly true, and I can't say what others will do, but I'm not going to delete it. No doubt a few people have thought similar things, so we'll see how people respond.

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Unless NCsoft is hellbent on unloading this property, it's not for sale. If it is, the sale price will be based on potential to earn presuming substantial investment. That means tens of millions of dollars, cold hard cash.
That's just how IP deals work. You buy the IP, you can now make official CoX t-shirts, box art, put Manticore on real lunchboxes, and sure, build a game too. This is what is called "A BRICK WALL." NCsoft is not going to let it go on the cheap to their fans because it's bad business sense.

Do you work for NCSoft? If not, then you're talking out of your ass because you have no idea how much it is or isn't worth to them. Since IP isn't a hard asset (and even if it was I could only imagine that game companies depreciate aggressively due to limited life cycles), its value is subject to the whim of who's buying and who's selling.

Yes, NCSoft has a history of burying things rather than selling them. But this is a somewhat unique case due to (1) The public outcry resulting in loss of goodwill from consumers, and (2) It being a NA/EU-only property, which doesn't represent competition if they are indeed refocusing on the Asian market.

OPEN SOURCING the whole thing.
No. More proprietary code, documentation, and protected assets than the Caymans Islands. It is not happening, stop dreaming, and yes reverse engineering anything not exposed by API is illegal. Meaning no you cannot reverse engineer the client. Not ever gonna happen, not in a million years, so stop asking for it and stop saying it's possible. It's not.

That's probably true about open sourcing it. Even if someone were to acquire the rights to the engine and clear it with Cryptic (which would never happen since they're still using a version derived from the same base for St:O), there are plenty of pieces licensed from third-parties that would have to be cut out. So parts of it could be released, but not others. This has happened before with a few commercial products that were purchased and later open sourced.

I will take issue with one statement. Despite what certain copyright moguls want you to believe -- and try to force you into with license agreements -- reverse engineering is completely legal, and explicitly protected for purposes of interoperability. If it wasn't you'd have an IBM processor in your computer instead of an Intel or an AMD.

That doesn't give you a license to violate copyright willy-nilly though, which is why most server emulators get hit with a C&D (which itself is meaningless unless they back it up with a lawsuit) -- they need the copyrighted assets from the game in order to function.

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I used to regularly chat with the folks that were really and truly in the know on the servers.

"I know somebody know knows somebody who says they know something."



Quote
Since the time was young, CoX servers, were Windows XP and 2K. Not only that, but the engine dates to around the same time, and has more crap hard coded into it than you can shake a redwood forest at.
Get any dreams of porting this to your religious platform of choice out of your head now, because I am here to tell you that you are stupid.

Strangely, one of the producers was quoted yesterday as saying they run on Linux. That surprised me as I was always under the impression that the server software was Windows-based since a sizable chunk of the code is shared with the client.

It may have been ported over when the servers were moved for Freedom. The only relevant APIs that the servers would need are sockets (easy), file I/O (easy or hard depending on which APIs are in use), and timers (more difficult).

Or he may have been confused and their hypervisor platform is Linux-based (KVM or XenServer), but the VMs are Windows.

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- Databases are a proprietary and total disaster, vastly overtaxed and underdesigned for what was thrown at them. Total rewrite of the backend was needed, known needed, and blocked by...

What does that have to do with anything? If someone bought the full package, they'd get the server code and just run it on different servers.

If they got only the IP, they're looking at a re-implementation in any event.

Also, I think the programmers that have been adding features like Lua scripting to the engine would disagree that it's impossible to work with.

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The block to server merge, to cross-server mail, to cross-server trade has always been the backend database.

The fact that you even mention server merges tells me you don't have a clue how they're currently set up. I've long suspected and it was confirmed in the twitch broadcast yesterday that the servers are virtualized. That makes a server merge a pointless waste of time.

You could run 1 shard or 100 -- the number of physical servers required is only dictated by one thing: Number of concurrent players and the load that they cause.

Actually, more shards would probably be better than less, since the engine doesn't seem to scale very well with a large number of entities in one zone. They've done some backend optimizing over the last couple years that has helped, but I still don't think it's even linear.

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It's a custom monstrosity which should never have been borne. Nothing of it can be salvaged save the contents. When you want to go? You need a whole new database system, completely from scratch.

That's funny, since when it was written, MMOs barely existed, as did the engines to run them. What would you have proposed they used instead?

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The only viable option for the type, style and amount of data required stored is PostgreSQL.

Well, you may be abrasive, short-sighted, and completely full of yourself, but at least you have good taste in databases. I'm not sure how I feel about that.

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You're dealing with a 2004 engine hardcoded to hell and back that barely speaks DX10 through four translators and one of them only speaks Slovenian.

You do know that the client doesn't use DirectX for graphics, right?

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[lots of aimless ranting about how you hate the developers, and have played for 8 years and are bored]

Again,


If you think COH is crap not worth saving, that's your opinion. Go play something else. Not everyone has played since beta and powerleveled one of every combination of powersets.

Quote
That is the best hope we have to save City of Heroes. To save the patient, we must accept it's inevitable death. And focus on the patient we can save - a new game, built by the people who understood it best, designed from the ground up to be a better experience for all.

Wait, so you go on and on about how much it costs and how hard it is to do all this stuff and your solution is to write a new game from scratch? I'm tempted to copy/paste your operating expenses paragraph here.

Besides, if NCSoft won't sell the IP to use for COH 1, they most certainly won't want to fund development to use it for something else. Superheroes just don't work in Korea -- they already proved that.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 01:49:12 PM by Codewalker »

Plinkyplonk

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #8 on: September 06, 2012, 01:58:54 PM »
What I need, and what I *think* a lot of us need, is the same *mechanics* and *opportunities* for play - not similar ones, or related, or inspired by - the SAME mechanics.


This is the crucial part for me - I don't know if it is because of openGL or the ping rate but the game just runs smoother than most, I cannot name another equal to it though one game in a galaxy far, far away comes closest with reaction times. And I'm on the other side of the pond.

Should we be fortunate enough to keep our game, who knows - CoH2 (already have a pitch for that  ;p) could be viable but, 1 step at a time.

dwturducken

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #9 on: September 06, 2012, 02:45:49 PM »
The first thing that I want to point out is that this discussion is health.  Is it what we want to hear or think about right now?  Probably not.  Are they valid points? Yes.  Are they accurate?  Who knows.  It doesn't really matter.  Before we go bashing this guy for saying things we don't want to hear, let's do something more along the lines of CodeWalker's response and look at it point by point.  Can I address any of the issues raised?  No, but we have a lot of smart people here with diverse experience bases that can help this process. I have a slight issue with the numbers as far as servers and colo, based on my prior job doing that sort of thing, but I don't see them as a gross exaggeration.  Let's take it as a healthy disagreement, rather than heaping on the disdain.
I wouldn't use the word "replace," but there's no word for "take over for you and make everything better almost immediately," so we just say "replace."

Joshex

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #10 on: September 06, 2012, 02:51:42 PM »
I could possible whip something up in Blender  as a video about the end on Nov 30

if you need help send me a line at joshex@world-of-nintendo.com I'm a wizard in blender.

I have blender and python installers on my flashdrive so I might be able to work on things during travels if I know what to work on.

other coordinators feel free to contact me at that email as well. please make the message header/subject something eye-catching so I can tell you apart from the spammers.
There is always another way. But it might not work exactly like you may desire.

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #11 on: September 06, 2012, 03:14:23 PM »
Hi MiMs. =^o^= I'm honestly in favour of a complete rewrite, too (as you'd know from KiTTYWorld aspirations), but that really has to be a long-term thing. With spiritual successor-scenarios, community fragmentation is guaranteed to result, and we really ought to avoid that at this point.
Have you played with a KiTTY today?

Manga

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #12 on: September 06, 2012, 03:22:21 PM »
I'm more saddened that the long plan I posted is going to be buried by a pseudo-flame-war.  :(

I agree that CoH's ancient parts need replacement.  But the devs already proved that it's highly modular, and can be modified (Praetoria looks like a pretty modern game, and things like reflections and high-quality water were added nicely).  I would propose, in fact, that if we get control of CoH, we set up Issue 25 or 26 to be a replacement of old character models and updating of costumes and emotes.  That's it, no other content.  Because even though it lacks buzz, the new "flash" will screenshot/youtube well and draw people in, thinking it's like a brand-new game.  It would be a great foundation for keeping the game going for a while until a full replacement can be done.


Codewalker

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #13 on: September 06, 2012, 03:34:40 PM »
I'm more saddened that the long plan I posted is going to be buried by a pseudo-flame-war.  :(

Which plan, this one?

I thought the best way to proceed for a takeover given the information that's been coming out this week, so as promised, I'm posting it now in as best detail as I can:

Step 1: Initiation of Contact 

Send a "delivery confirmation" letter to NCSoft, copies to its board, CEO, and soon-to-be-discovered person responsible for IP and contracts.  The letter will emphasize that we believe the City of Heroes franchise need to be utilized, and that this letter explains how it will be profitable for all parties involved. 

In the same letter, we make an offer to take over operations of City of Heroes and Paragon Studios, in exchange for paying a negotiated one-time flat fee plus 10% of all net proceeds earned to NCSoft, on either a monthly or quarterly basis.  NCSoft retains the trademarks and IP, but bears none of the costs. 

We also offer, in the same letter, the option to purchase entirely the entire City of Heroes and Paragon Studios IP and all trademarks at a later date, with profits excluding the 10% that goes to NCSoft.  So even if we buy the property next month, they still get the 10% on top of the purchase for that month (if we didn't include that, they would require it anyhow).  This clause also opens the option for NCSoft to reject the first offer (the licensing) and accept the second (full purchase).

The reasons why I believe this option is best: 

A) I have experience with negotiating licensing/operational agreements, and they're much simpler than IP transfer agreements (I'm not a lawyer, though).

B) If NCSoft axed City of Heroes with the intention of keeping the IP in case it chooses to release a City of Heroes 2 later on, they will be more likely to accept.

C) I believe this is the most effective way to raise money and make this happen.

D)  If another party is currently making a cash purchase offer, our offer will not interfere with theirs; However, another company is unlikely to pursue a license/operating agreement, so they won't interfere with us either.  In other words, this method is friendliest to anyone else attempting to purchase CoH right now.

Note, of course, that NCSoft could still reject both parts of the deal outright; or we could be beaten to the punch by someone else; or the letter could simply be returned, or vanish with no reply.  Step 1 is by far the most fragile.  In fact, the best case scenario right now is probably NCSoft asking for a much higher percentage.


Step 2: Fundraising

The second step is raising money.  This can be as difficult as Step 1, and cannot be completed before Step 1 - because we don't know yet what the license fee will be, or what the purchase price will be if that situation arises.  Step 1 is also not a sure thing, so if we raise money prematurely, we're stuck figuring out how to return it.

Once we know approximately how much we need, we will most likely have to pursue multiple avenues to get it.  We might need anywhere from a few hundred thousand to several million dollars.  At that scale, we're going to need to have enough margin built into that to pay an expert to manage that money, so we don't scare away anyone contributing/investing.  Why?  Because who would invest $100,000 if they don't think we're responsible?  The less management we have, the less money people will be willing to invest.

We also need an expert to determine if we're going to have to pay any tax on the money raised, or what we can legally do to avoid that.  Not just someone who does their brother's taxes, because once again, this is a confidence issue.  We want anyone making a significant investment to feel that every dollar is safely accounted for.


Step 3:  Restructuring

Quite a lot of City of Heroes is currently tied to NCSoft.  If we're to be the new, independent operators, we're going to lose some very expensive pieces that NCSoft will no longer help with.  We will have no Account Server, no Account Reps, and no Support Reps.

We also do not know how much NCSoft has been subsidizing Paragon Studios, so it's somewhat to very likely we will not be able to re-hire everyone.  Tough decisions will have to be made both by current/former Paragon staff, at who stays and who goes.  Tough decisions will have to be made by players as to how much hardship they're willing to accept as a result of more difficult Support and Account help.

More tough decisions will have to be made about how much a monthly subscription will be, and how the Paragon Store item prices will be restructured.  It's very important that, at least initially, City of Heroes brings in as much profit as possible, without losing too many subscribers in the process.

That also means, of course, we need people who love numbers, and figuring things out.

As for technology, we will need help from people familiar with the pre-Launcher patch server, and web site designers to not only set up account management via the CoH web site, but also modify the CoH web site so it no longer relies on links to NCSoft.  Additionally, this includes a new ticket support system not tied to NCSoft, and possibly volunteers to handle in-game GM duties until that structure is re-built and put in place.


Step 4: Moving Forward

City of Heroes operation will not succeed if it stays where it is.  People will get bored and move on to other games, or cancel their monthly subscriptions and go free, and use CoH as a chat client to talk occasionally to friends.  It's a law of the nature of gaming.

That means to remain profitable, the development schedule must move forward.

I would leave most of this in the hands of the people left at Paragon Studios because they're good at it; but I would suggest the release of Issue 24 quickly, on a skeleton crew if necessary, along with any Paragon Store items they can create rapidly.  Because staffing will be a problem at first, the faster something comes out that generates more player interest, the better.  It brings in more profit, and the chances more hiring, and the chances of further quick releases.


If we're going to follow this plan we have to do it quickly.  I've been noticing that following the flurry of rallies and protests this weekend, players are starting to drift away and vanish, assuming there won't be a game around soon, and they may as well find something else.  Since, if we take over the operation of CoH, we'll have to make do without outside help, and with 10% or so less profit, we can't lose a lot of players.

That's all I have for now, any questions or comments?

What, why are you looking at me like that...? >.>

BiggerThanToast

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #14 on: September 06, 2012, 04:04:09 PM »
Over inflated sense of self importance aside there was never a guarantee that we were going to get this game back. So having a naysayer come in and tell us that basically everything we're doing is stupid is entirely arbitrary. I'm all for moving on, even if nothing is going to come out of this I'm going to hope beyond all hope that that is not the case. The very fact that we've had devs make statements that the noise we're making as a community has had some effect on high validates this entire thread.


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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #15 on: September 06, 2012, 05:37:34 PM »
My thanks go to both TheManga and AreEss, among others, for sharing their thoughts with us/me.  I have been reading both, multiple times.  I also recommend Olantern's thread (http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/topic,4955.0.html) for a discussion of the legal aspects of IP, licensing, and starting an organization to carry out our plans.

I was actually pleased to see a posting with a critical evaluation of the options before us.  I was about to write something slightly less ... blunt, and from a different perspective, though with the same conclusion.  Since I've not been involved with the Paragon team, and have no direct knowledge of the codebase, my analysis would have focused more on the financial aspects.  Even if some elements of AreEss' post are disputed, the symptoms of technical problems have been visible for years (persistent bugs, "creative" workarounds, and player requests that are pronounced difficult/impossible).  This leaves me extremely wary of the quality, sustainability, and expandability of any software we might purchase or license from NCSoft.  We can learn from it, sure...but that's as far as I'd go.

My "financial/emotional" perspective:

Any plan to set up the multiple license agreements we'd need will face a huge financial hurdle.  Even if this hurdle is passed, we are left needing a good deal more money to fund the startup of our own operations, plus monthly costs; that's before we even consider development of Issue 24 and beyond - which would be required to retain most players.  I can't honestly get enthused enough to help pay millions just to stretch out CoH's shutdown timeline.  I want (and hear many others wanting) a ramp up, not down, for CoH's future.

NCSoft has (perhaps foolishly) opened a niche in the MMO market that we can exploit, and I could go for a bit of perfectly legal, "watch us do better" revenge - a.k.a. the successor to CoH, a game that stands clearly above its competitors and offers a clear value proposition to all of us and new players as well.

Licensing ties us financially and mentally to a collection of software that can never fulfill the dream of a CoH2, making that dream more difficult to achieve with each dollar and hour we divert to the old software.  Every passing moment also gives Cryptic, NCSoft, or someone else the chance to develop that version 2.0 superhero MMO first...and promptly run it into the ground, stealing our chance at a community-driven MMO that puts the others to shame in gameplay, finances, open design, and technical advancement.  I have great faith in our abilities, but simultaneously converting/supporting a licensed CoH and developing CoH2 (or similar) is, I think, not feasible. 

The tough decision to abandon the current software and IP is not one that I like, emotionally, yet in a way it feels "right", along with the logical half of me that says we'd be cursing the old code every step of the way.  In my heart, I sense that if we funnel too much money and effort toward NCSoft for a CoH "uptime extension" at this stage - we will hurt our chances of seeing us or anyone else produce a CoH2.

That's why I am leaning strongly in favor of the fresh start on a spiritual successor with as many CoH features as possible, and more.  Yes, current CoH players will fade back into the gaming background - but a significant number will do that anyway simply due to the uncertainty caused by NCSoft's decision.  I forsee that most would return (plus new subscribers) if we deliver a quality product - the spiritual successor.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 06:22:48 PM by Scott Jackson »

sindyr

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #16 on: September 06, 2012, 06:48:10 PM »
I strongly think that if the current *mechanics*, *powers* and *ATs*, *IO Sets*, and other things that are the core of the game are abandoned, then you have not saved City.

So if your goal is to create a new MMO from scratch, more power to you - I hope it winds up as good as the one we may be losing.

But if your goal is to rescue City so that we can keep playing it, you simply cannot do that unless you keep the mechanics.

NOTE: I am not saying keep the codebase - I don't care what codebase gets used so long as every power works EXACTLY the same as it did in Issue 24.  However, I highly doubt an utter redesign will preserve what needs to be saved.

So it has to be decided - is this about leveraging this sad occasion so some of you can make this new game some of you want to, or is it about rescuing City of Heroes?

Choose.

I choose City.

Manga

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #17 on: September 06, 2012, 06:49:50 PM »
I feel I need to clarify something important at this point.

After reading through the last two pages again, it's starting to look like some believe there's is a competition for resources.  That if we perform a licensing/buyout, it'll take away the ability to reverse engineer or open source the software, and prevent the development of a more modern replacement.  I see people stating that *instead of* attempting licensing/buyout, to raise money and develop a replacement.  Or to abandon any chance of licensing/buyout and instead concentrate on reverse engineering the server.

We can do ALL THREE.  It's just a question of timing. 

 - I agree that raising funds for a new superhero game can't occur at the same time as a licensing/buyout attempt.  But the licensing/buyout option can only be attempted in a very narrow time window - that is, before CoH players assume all hope is lost, and start a subscription to some other game.  After that, CoH becomes worthless, and no longer profitable enough to purchase.  There is no rush, however, for raising funds to create a new game, because there's absolutely no way it's going to be finished and playable even by the end of the year.  We won't be able to get that many developers/designers to work for free full time, for that long, or that quickly.  We may as well wait until we run out of other options before we really start a new game.

 - Reverse engineering is a labor of love, I suppose, because I find it painful and boring.  :)  It's not for everyone - but I applaud those who are making the attempt.  Since it takes no extensive funding, and...well...you can't really pay legions of programmers to break into and hijack someone's IP unless you like courtrooms a lot...this effort has to be entirely volunteer and underground.  It also won't take the efforts of everyone, because some of us lack the skill or the attention span.  Therefore our licensing/purchase attempts do not interfere with the reverse engineering effort.

So just to be clear, the three methods don't compete.  We should do things in the order of timing - start with an attempt to license or purchase, and then if that fails, move on to the others.

castorcorvus

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #18 on: September 06, 2012, 06:56:24 PM »
I agree TheManga. But we do need to prep for each step well before we decide they are needed. Check the legal thread started by Olantern, he's got some good info. It is mainly pertaining to the business aspects of "plan z" or as I call it, "The Crey Factor." ;D

Scott Jackson

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #19 on: September 06, 2012, 08:33:36 PM »
I agree that the reverse engineering effort does not conflict with a licensing plan or plan Z - as long as any illegal aspects are never conducted by whatever organization does the official negotiations or plan Z startup.

However, I think it's important to recognize that not every time/money volunteer is equally devoted to both plans.  For example, I don't see the future of CoH playing out well if I donate all of my money to the licensing plan...with none left to fund new development, or even worse, stuck with a license that permits NCSoft to nullify our CoH1 efforts at will with their own CoH2.

That's why I'm not convinced that an apparent "success" of the licensing plan puts any of us in a desirable position.  I feel uneasy about entering negotiations with NCSoft, when they can dictate terms...in such a narrow window.  Sure it may temporarily save parts of CoH1, but that's not the only thing I want to see, and each of have to decide what is most important to us.

I do not intend to change the minds of those who see immediate COH1 preservation as the primary goal.  I only ask that others understand my own position, so that our decisions take all available opinions and facts into account.  My goal is long-term preservation and expansion of what makes CoH great - which requires removing the danger of future NCSoft "decisions".  Unless NCSoft decides to be generous or we get a flood of cash, these different goals will compete for time and money.  I know that my own resources are limited.

sindyr

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #20 on: September 06, 2012, 09:18:31 PM »
I think ALL of our time, resources, and money are limited.

And I think the 1 in "COH1" is superfluous - there is no COH1 - there is only COH.

AreEss

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #21 on: September 06, 2012, 10:14:47 PM »
Hi MiMs. =^o^= I'm honestly in favour of a complete rewrite, too (as you'd know from KiTTYWorld aspirations), but that really has to be a long-term thing. With spiritual successor-scenarios, community fragmentation is guaranteed to result, and we really ought to avoid that at this point.

Ohai KiTTY!

Looking at it from a realistic standpoint (as I have to) though, the fact is the community was already substantially fragmented in-game as is. RP vs. non-RP vs. griefers, Cool Kids Club A vs. Cool Kids Club B, marketeers vs. anti-marketeers, and so on. The only thing connecting it was, no surprise, the game. (Which is kind of why I brought up the whole thing about the community needing to change as well. It really, really does.)

That said, it's already going to fragment. Unfortunately, I just don't see any way it's not going to happen. Best case, worst case, middle case, no matter what there's going to be a gap. And the various sub-communities will move on, move away, and so on and so forth. The natural order of things - people moved on when the game was new, they're going to move on while it's dead if they haven't already. It's also more or less what killed CoX financially - it wasn't drawing in enough new people, and people were just getting bored of it and leaving (or going free.) Deprived of the proverbial 'fresh meat' (AKA new buyers and subs) any MMO will decline.

So, I suppose really what I'm saying here is that the community really needs to just stop trying to preserve the status quo, whether or not they like it or it's uncomfortable. No matter how coordinated and coherent the efforts, unprofitable is unprofitable, not drawing in new subscribers is not drawing in new subs, and so on. What's done is done. If we, as fans, want to save Paragon City our best option is to combine our efforts into creating a new city. We have an incredibly diverse playerbase - hardcore, casual, lazy Sunday, role players, immersive are all represented. That alone is unique and effectively unheard of.

If we do nothing but sit around moping, crying, and writing angsty letters, then yes. The community will fragment, fall apart, and nothing will happen. (This isn't a new thing with the CoX community as a whole either. Or really any community.) Same result if people just throw up their hands, say "it's over can't do it the end." This is not a failure - the failure happened long ago now.

This is an opportunity. An opportunity to take our beloved city we called home, to combine our efforts, our experiences and our skills, and say "forget making it what it once was. We've ALL said we can do better - and we've just gotten our chance to PROVE IT."

Manga

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #22 on: September 06, 2012, 10:20:11 PM »
Last Friday when the shutdown announcement was made by Paragon, I took a few hours to think about what that meant before I decided to try to save it via a buyout.  I knew about Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and my inspiration was Matt Inman (creator of The Oatmeal) and his raising nearly 1 million for Build A Goddamn Tesla Museum.  This was before I saw TonyV's post.  Since I'm also responsible for a small software company, I thought it was a perfect fit for me to try.  Scary, but also perfect.

After telling some friends about my idea, I was directed to TonyV's post.  I contacted him, telling him I had a similar plan, but that I would work with him instead, because everyone has heard of Titan Network, but not so many about Manga.

Since then, the plan has morphed from a buyout to possible licensing and buyout.  Licensing is friendlier than competing with any other possible software company, causing us both to fail because of it.  It's also something I'm familiar with procedurally, and it takes a lot less money up front.

The point to telling this whole story is that I want to work WITH Titan, not bully it into performing my own script.  However, if it is decided that the best bet is to reverse engineer or to build a new game from this point on, I say now that I will continue with a bid to license or purchase CoH, on my own if I need to, because I believe that strongly that it's the right first course of action.  Maybe I'll succeed, maybe I'll fail.  But if I don't try, I will surely hate myself for not doing so.  I do wish, however, that it could be done as a single voice, because that carries more power.

I hope you'll join me in the attempt, but as I'm a firm believer in free will and democracy, it's up to your vote where you want to go with this.  But as free will goes, I must follow where my heart and mind guide me.

So the next step is up to you all.

P.S. Please don't take this the wrong way; it's not a threat or whining.  I just want you all to know what I believe, and that I may not follow you if your plans don't align with what I feel and believe.

Plinkyplonk

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #23 on: September 06, 2012, 11:01:11 PM »
Licensing the game has to be the most cost effective. I am under the impression it is in the Titan plan. Seems like you know your oats Manga, I hope you are on board with Titan and they with you. More strings to your bow etc.

I have a question though and can see nowhere it has been asked.

How many NCSoft shares would you have to buy to get the license for CoH as a motivator?

Scott Jackson

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #24 on: September 06, 2012, 11:11:52 PM »
And I think the 1 in "COH1" is superfluous - there is no COH1 - there is only COH.

I made the distinction to show that licensing may earn us limited rights to operate CoH1 (the software we're using now) and its Cryptic engine, but NCSoft has separate rights to CoH2 (to develop new software) and we would need to negotiate for them as well, if we wish to protect the future of CoH.  To me, the general term "CoH" represents the good designs and ideas we want to see in any MMO that we choose to support and play.

TheManga:
Completely understandable.
« Last Edit: September 06, 2012, 11:31:43 PM by Scott Jackson »

Ampithere

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #25 on: September 06, 2012, 11:58:26 PM »
Last Friday when the shutdown announcement was made by Paragon, I took a few hours to think about what that meant before I decided to try to save it via a buyout.  I knew about Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and my inspiration was Matt Inman (creator of The Oatmeal) and his raising nearly 1 million for Build A Goddamn Tesla Museum.  This was before I saw TonyV's post.  Since I'm also responsible for a small software company, I thought it was a perfect fit for me to try.  Scary, but also perfect.

After telling some friends about my idea, I was directed to TonyV's post.  I contacted him, telling him I had a similar plan, but that I would work with him instead, because everyone has heard of Titan Network, but not so many about Manga.

Since then, the plan has morphed from a buyout to possible licensing and buyout.  Licensing is friendlier than competing with any other possible software company, causing us both to fail because of it.  It's also something I'm familiar with procedurally, and it takes a lot less money up front.

The point to telling this whole story is that I want to work WITH Titan, not bully it into performing my own script.  However, if it is decided that the best bet is to reverse engineer or to build a new game from this point on, I say now that I will continue with a bid to license or purchase CoH, on my own if I need to, because I believe that strongly that it's the right first course of action.  Maybe I'll succeed, maybe I'll fail.  But if I don't try, I will surely hate myself for not doing so.  I do wish, however, that it could be done as a single voice, because that carries more power.

I hope you'll join me in the attempt, but as I'm a firm believer in free will and democracy, it's up to your vote where you want to go with this.  But as free will goes, I must follow where my heart and mind guide me.

So the next step is up to you all.

P.S. Please don't take this the wrong way; it's not a threat or whining.  I just want you all to know what I believe, and that I may not follow you if your plans don't align with what I feel and believe.

I'm behind you for sure. Primarily because I don't want to see a new game without the CoH IP but also because I'd like to have something to play while I volunteer time on/wait for the "modern" replacement. CoH is still a strong game, and can go for at least a few years yet, I think, without any major overhauls to the graphics or models or whatever. But that's just my opinion.

Also my opinion: If we are going to make a new game without the CoH IP, it had better be really really good. I pride myself on knowing everything there is to know on CoH lore if I can help it because I absolutely love it. If the new game doesn't have that lore, it might as well be Champions Online. Except that's funded and maintained professionally. So unless our game was absolutely incredible (read:revolutionary) we would not stand a chance of being competitive (if that's even a goal of ours, rather then simply making enough money to support continue operation and development) without the CoH IP.
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Zanriel

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #26 on: September 07, 2012, 01:01:45 AM »
You know, I don't see any conflict between raising funds for a buyout vs. raising funds for development. If the buyout fails, that money will still be there - because there was no sale. Then it could be used for development instead. I agree that pursuing the buyout option first would be the wise choice, since those funds would still be available for "Plan B" (or Z, or whatever) even if the first option failed. Either way, fundraising seems like a logical first step. We know we want to contribute to a project of some kind, it's just a question of which will succeed.

The problem is, some people may decide they'd rather support development, and others that they'd rather support a buyout. At this point, however, we don't even know that a buyout is even possible. NCSoft has made no indication that the IP, assets, codebase, etc. are for sale.  Not only that, but some people (myself included) fear that COH in its current form is not enough to remain sustainable and profitable. If it was, we wouldn't be having this conversation. It needs to be better.

That leads me to conclude that the buyout option would have to involve some sort of major development effort to update the game, to make it more attractive to a wider audience, and start growing its playerbase. That means taking a serious, hard look at some of the current systems that have driven people away. I'm not convinced it comes down to community fragmentation. But that's a discussion for another thread.

TL;DR - Try to buy it out and preserve COH in its current form. Continue development on Issue 24, etc. At the same time, start working towards an overhaul, sequel, or successor, even if it means having to start from scratch. That's the key to long-term sustainability.
« Last Edit: September 07, 2012, 01:09:10 AM by Zanriel »

Victoria Victrix

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #27 on: September 07, 2012, 02:46:36 AM »
While I am not in the gaming industry, AreEss, I think I can probably claim that I was a programmer before you were a gleam in your father's eye.

My longest experience is with the PARS system that most airline reservations are made with.  Which was coded in...wait for it...the 1960s.  It is the biggest pile of undocumented spaghetti, with hard-coded patches, patches on patches, modules branching off modules...trust me, whatever you THINK you have seen, you have never, ever seen anything like this in your life.  It would make your brain explode.

It's doing things not only was it never intended to do, but its original coders never dreamed would be possible in science-fiction-and-peyote-induced nightmares.

It's still running.  At, I believe, every major airline.

It's perfectly possible, IF the investors and money can be found, to have it both ways.  Keep CoX running, although we will probably have to get used to the only-occasional update and add-on, while CoX2 is coded to replace it.

The key is money.  But we can have cake AND pie.  That it CAN happen is proven with the other major MMORPG reboots.

As always, money is the key.  We, the players--failing someone winning the lottery--can't do that.  Another game company can.  What we CAN do is have a Kickstarter or Indiegogo to ADD to the investor pool. and that is an option we might want to explore.  "We'll raise X to add to your Y and Z in return for keeping the original game running."
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jacknomind

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #28 on: September 07, 2012, 01:32:23 PM »
I'm highly disillusioned at this point with the rent-to-not-own model.  I understand we can't change that industry-wide, but I'm strongly in favor of the nonprofit or cooperative corporate structures suggested by others as holders of the actual IP for whatever project ends up going forward.

I'm with TheManga on buying out or licensing (ideally with the option to buyout after a certain term) the existing property being our primary aim, but the only thing that would prompt some people to work on reverse-engineering the game would be NCSoft either refusing to sell or pricing the property unattainably high.  At that point I think everyone choosing to pursue a legal solution would be better served by "Plan Z."

The biggest fragmentation to the project sequence we have here would be NCSoft continuing the game sans updates (and update developers) or on a much slower schedule (and partially reduced studio) and entirely at their option to terminate.  Many people would go back to City of Heroes entirely; I know that I would, on some level, feel relieved.  But I still think separating Paragon Studios and the IP (or creating a new but similar superhero IP and securing interest in funding a new studio) would be a logical course of action at that point.

ROBOKiTTY

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #29 on: September 07, 2012, 04:13:19 PM »
It's occurred to me that there was precedent for an MMO community rescue effort receiving funding from FOSS organizations (namely, the Free Ryzom Campaign). Although it didn't immediately succeed, the franchise was reacquired and later made open source. Our situation is different since NC is not going anywhere, but there is merit in seeking help from FOSS groups.

To that end, I would suggest contacting organizations such as the Free Software Foundation and Electronic Frontier Foundation.
Have you played with a KiTTY today?

TigerKnight

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #30 on: September 07, 2012, 04:20:56 PM »
I was talking about the whole situation with my wife last night and she asked me a question that I wanted to pose on here. Couldn't we get signatures/support from those charities that were helped through Real World Heroes? It makes sense that if you helped me, the least I could do is sign a petition for you. They were affected by the game's existence as well.

Ampithere

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #31 on: September 07, 2012, 06:47:14 PM »
An excellent idea was put forth here: http://www.cohtitan.com/forum/index.php/topic,4976.0.html

I think it certainly deserves consideration.
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judaschrist

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #32 on: September 08, 2012, 08:07:07 AM »
this is kind of tongue in cheek, but you'll understand the sentiment (i hope)
i'm in no way advocating, endorsing, or telling anyone to do anything illegal! after all it IS illegal.

but i know there's members of the community. who may, or may not have done some allegedly, "illegal things".
with all the talk of legality of emulators, and what not.
it shouldn't be an excuse to stop working on....things.......
after all,
We Are Villains, This Is What WE Do!

;D

Adiantus

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #33 on: September 09, 2012, 12:09:54 AM »
 Played this game since I was around 10 with my family and it's really bonded us. I can't really do much except donate what I have. I do know though that I and my family want to help. If for some reason this fight to buy CoX is still going on in a few years then when I go into college you can expect me to be learning something can help you all. Hope you guys win!

Bjork

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #34 on: September 09, 2012, 04:04:25 AM »
Last Friday when the shutdown announcement was made by Paragon, I took a few hours to think about what that meant before I decided to try to save it via a buyout.  I knew about Kickstarter and Indiegogo, and my inspiration was Matt Inman (creator of The Oatmeal) and his raising nearly 1 million for Build A Goddamn Tesla Museum.  This was before I saw TonyV's post.  Since I'm also responsible for a small software company, I thought it was a perfect fit for me to try.  Scary, but also perfect.

After telling some friends about my idea, I was directed to TonyV's post.  I contacted him, telling him I had a similar plan, but that I would work with him instead, because everyone has heard of Titan Network, but not so many about Manga.

Since then, the plan has morphed from a buyout to possible licensing and buyout.  Licensing is friendlier than competing with any other possible software company, causing us both to fail because of it.  It's also something I'm familiar with procedurally, and it takes a lot less money up front.

The point to telling this whole story is that I want to work WITH Titan, not bully it into performing my own script.  However, if it is decided that the best bet is to reverse engineer or to build a new game from this point on, I say now that I will continue with a bid to license or purchase CoH, on my own if I need to, because I believe that strongly that it's the right first course of action.  Maybe I'll succeed, maybe I'll fail.  But if I don't try, I will surely hate myself for not doing so.  I do wish, however, that it could be done as a single voice, because that carries more power.

I hope you'll join me in the attempt, but as I'm a firm believer in free will and democracy, it's up to your vote where you want to go with this.  But as free will goes, I must follow where my heart and mind guide me.

So the next step is up to you all.

P.S. Please don't take this the wrong way; it's not a threat or whining.  I just want you all to know what I believe, and that I may not follow you if your plans don't align with what I feel and believe.

Since it is in everyone's best interest to work as a common front to save CoH, I hope your direction and Titan Networks coincide.

redgiant

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #35 on: September 09, 2012, 09:57:44 AM »
Realistically ...

You need to preserve and continue to operate the existing CoH (short term), while also having a development plan for where it is heading (longer term).

The obvious play is to see how many of Paragon Studios employees are willing to reform if a deal can be struck to take over the game. If the game was shutdown mainly due to East vs. West business focus, since it was pulling in money, then you might be able to take it off their hands for a % of ongoing revenue hopefully with a cap.

License the existing purchased client connecting to a Titan coalition-hosted operations center running existing servers. You have to be allowed to use the existing clients we have installed (with minor login server site changes) against the existing server design, or you will have nothing at all running for at least a year (and probably longer).

- fans will not think of CoH as "saved" unless they can continue to play it in the short term, and have it look and feel "normal".

- this preserves what fans call CoH: the named servers, the supergroups and characters on each server, the familiar models, powersets, gameplay and world visuals.

- the costs to do this are predictable (equipment, IT center hosting, minimum operations/admin staff needed) compared to *anything* involving code and/or art development.

- it buys time to think about what the next steps should be (modify/replace existing client or server, preserve/modify/add model or zone assets, parallel development of new client, server and/or art). This is a *HUGE* undertaking and will be a very long project, assuming you have solid engineers and artists dedicated to it.

- you can engage and retain interest from the community because (a) you are still operating the game as fans see it, and (b) you can trickle details of what the longer term plan is concretely as you know it. For example, maybe you revamp the buildings in certain zones, with some having custom interiors and some non-instanced spaces.

- require a subscription to play, as low as $9.99/month if you purchase a year's sub. Everyone is a VIP sub. People unwilling to spend a few dollars a month consistently in order to literally save this game are not your target audience for playing it atm.
« Last Edit: September 09, 2012, 10:07:33 PM by redgian »

Codewalker

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #36 on: September 10, 2012, 02:32:36 AM »
Just a quick follow-up. If anyone is doing packet captures for archival purposes, and has not received a PM from me, please send me a quick message. There have been some recent developments in the area.

We have a special tool to assist with this project. Without that tool, packet captures are useless. Don't take that the wrong way -- they simply are not possible to decode without some additional information that must be captured along with it.

SilverSanguis

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #37 on: September 10, 2012, 08:05:39 AM »
There may be another company interested in taking over operations of City of Heroes, given their track record: CCP

They're no stranger to keeping a very small MMO in the air and making it big anyway.

alchamist

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #38 on: September 10, 2012, 09:44:54 AM »
Hey everyone,

I know my name may not be familiar to several people here, but I would like to voice my opinion. Many people on this game come from many different backgrounds, but we all group together when it comes to our hobby, our friends, and some people will say "our lives" with CoX. Like myself, I am sure there are several business persons that are part of this game that have great ideas in regards in PR, financing, budgeting, etc. As I have seen on this thread, there are DEFINITELY many people that are tech-minded and are seemingly willing to offer expertise and volunteer work to ensure the stability of our game and the community.

Today, I logged into CoX to see 33 different Atlas Park zones on the Virtue server. I know there have been many protests and there are MANY people that are banning together to show that shutting down this game would do more harm than good. Granted, some things may need to change to ensure the longevity of the game, but I believe this community is strong enough to keep it going.

I definitely like what I am seeing, I have signed the petitions, voiced my opinions, and I hope that with everyone coming together, CoX can and will be saved. Please keep us informed and I know there are enough people to keep CoX a successful game - even if it means merging servers, asking for donations, finding fundraising opportunities, and coming up with other alternatives. This community is definitely a large one, and if there is anything we can do, let us know. I am a co-commander for what was the #1 VG on Virtue for 6-years, and if we can help, I will speak with current and former members as we move forward to see if any of them would be willing to help CoX make a come back (another suggestion is get with the top 10 SG/VG's and see if they can ban together as well)! Looking forward to the future responses.

-Alchy / The X-Patriots (Virtue Server)

DrDarkspeed

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #39 on: September 15, 2012, 03:07:50 PM »
The Finances Of It
All the backend finances are ugly as sin. Figure for each developer or artist on your team, a cost of $125K/yr. Programmers $75-125K. Shaking the leads out of that pool. CMs, well, CMs know the deal.
By the time it's all said and done though, excluding a huge amount of costs (which are substantial in themselves) for a 12 person team, you're looking at needing $1,500K ($1.5M) per year in recurring costs. At $15/mo, that's 100,000 subscribers just barely keeping the lights on. (Suddenly you understand why CoX has been on the chopping block. Their costs were much higher and subs were NOT higher.)

I'm confused by your maths here. 100,000 subscribers at $15/mo is $18,000,000 a year, far in excess of the $1.5 million a year you say is needed.  Did you forget to multiply by 12 somewhere?

Thirty-Seven

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #40 on: September 16, 2012, 08:23:56 AM »
By my maths... that's about 8,400 people (@ $15/month) to break even to this $1.5 million estimation.

B_L_Angel

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #41 on: September 16, 2012, 06:21:40 PM »
Quote
Before you start the dogpile of "BLAH BLAH NAYSAYER EVIL EVIL GO AWAY" get over it. I DO have hands on experience in all the relevant areas one way or another. Sometimes from both sides. So a more complete tearing down of what is feasible and what is not feasible, you will not find. So let's dig in, shall we?

I'd would just like to know who you are, and why I should believe anything you say about intimate knowledge of the game. Much of what you say is plausible some of it I am certain is true but even more of your post consists of things that can't just be accepted without substantiation. CoH uses a custom database ? sounds possible, no way to be sure. The servers run on win 2k ? No way to check it no way to know.

The game doesn't talk DX10 properly ? It better not I play on XP.

The-Hunter-JLJ

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Re: A Dissent...
« Reply #42 on: September 16, 2012, 07:02:58 PM »
One point I haven't seen mentioned in this discussion that I think is worth keeping in mind. *IF* CoH as it currently exists can be kept up and running, that creates a revenue stream for any effort to build a successor game. It also gives a customer base for additional ideas to produce revenue, many of which have floated around for years and been under-utilized.

So even if you think the existing codebase pretty much needs to completely discarded and an entirely new successor designed, securing the current game does have an important point. It is a lot easier to pay the bills while you develop your new release when you have a viable product keeping the lights on.