The story behind Missing Worlds Media and City of Titans is one of true inspiration and dedication. When NCSoft announced that City of Heroes would sunset along with Paragon Studios, members of the community rose up to answer the call to action. By the time City of Heroes shut down for its final maintenance, plans were already underway on several spiritual sequels to fill in the empty void of super hero MMOs. The subject of today’s discussion is City of Titans, code-named The Phoenix Project, under development by Missing Worlds Media.
Last year, Missing Worlds Media put their project to the test, via a Kickstarter campaign to raise funds to purchase software and license engines. The team is made up of volunteers who initially met up to try and save City of Heroes, and then turned their focus on creating a new home. The Kickstarter was a massive success, bringing in $680,000 compared to the $320,000 goal.
I managed to sit down with a few members of the Missing Worlds Media team: War Cabbit, Nate ‘Dr. Tyche’ Downes (Tech Lead), Timothy Ross (Writing Lead), and William Strickland. Not all of those are real names. Thank you to everyone from Missing Worlds Media for taking the time to come talk to us.
Connor: So how big is Missing Worlds Media right now?
Nate Downes: We have 83 active members, with 144 people total volunteered.
War Cabbit: Eighty five as soon as two people respond.
Timothy Ross: The number is not set, of course. We have slowed recruiting down, but not ended it.
War Cabbit: We are, I confess, always looking for experienced 3D people who are willing to assist with the project.
Co: How do you collaborate without an office?
TR: We use a number of different remote services to work together.
WC: We have a chat server, which really keeps us tightly connected, we have a document server, a code repository, a graphics repository, and a game server.
TR: You can imagine the amount of money we save by not having to pay rent on a physical building, not to mention working out transportation and then STILL having to have remote systems for our people in, for instance, Bulgaria.
Co: Do you have any people on City of Titans that worked on other games?
WC: Oh, certainly. From paper and pencil to computer.
WS: A few. You can tell by the way they jump when you drop something.
Co: Do you have any contact with the ex-developers from Paragon Studios?
ND: Informal. I had a biweekly D&D game with Castle, for example, and I’ve talked to Statesman at PAX Dev last year.
WC: Not technically – they’re forbidden. We have well wishes, the occasional shout-out and a number backed us. That is, they can’t give us help with the project but if we didn’t have their blessing, we wouldn’t be where we are.
Co: How is the reaction to the new Unreal licensing deals? I’ve seen very mixed reactions especially among independent developers.
WC: Well, we’re not using it. Which is a darn good thing – it’d be ruinous to a group our size, per-person. Our licence got set up three months before they announced that.
ND: Their licensing for new clients is a boon for independent small-team developers.
Co: So the monthly fee is per person on the project?
WC: Something like, if I recall. Nate?
NC: At least per-person working with the engine directly. As our goal is to have everyone working with the engine on one level or another, this could get very pricey for us.
WC: You get six-eight programmers, it can add up. It’s great for single-person tinkering, though.
Co: Has the Unreal 4 engine been smooth to work with so far?
WC: It’s beautiful.
TR: It has exceeded all of my personal expectations so far.
WC: It’s like getting your hands on a Rolls Royce. Damn thing is machined.
WS: It’s also friendly, and the Epic staff have also been friendly. It’s almost like they want people to actually buy and use their engine, or something.
Co: Unreal 4 has better systems for types of damage, if I’ve been reading correctly.
TR: Not just damage, but it really pushes the envelope for what a game can deliver.
WC: It does. It is a ten or fifteen year platform – which is perfect for us. I’m dead serious about treating City of Titans and Missing Worlds Media as something like Marvel Comics – we are here for the long term. We can keep pushing it for the MMO’s lifetime. We may have to do CoT 2.0 and 3.0 sometime, but we’ll handle it.
Co: To what extent is City of Titans going to be procedurally generated?
WC: We intend to lay out the roads by hand, but have the ‘road’ itself, the grade, the turns, be procedural in nature – same for the train tracks and power lines. We’re going to design the character of our neighborhoods, and then procedurally generate the blocks. There will be individual landmarks that we want exactly so and will build ourselves. Eighty percent of any average location will be a procedural block. If we can get it working finely enough to make procedural mission maps that always make sense, I’ll be even happier.
TR: And if we run into problems, we may be able to fix the rough spots the old fashioned way.
Co: You’ve ended preproduction, correct? What does that mean?
ND: No, we’re ending it. Last few bits need to be finished up.
WC: When it ends, we are essentially ‘building the game’ and no longer ‘designing the game’.
TR: Among other things, it means we are now building the systems that will make actually building the world not only much easier, but probably actually fun.
Co: Going on to content for a minute. How are the roles set up? There are five primaries and multiple secondaries for each?
WC: We have a number of primaries and a number of secondary options. By mixing and matching them, we create classes. At the moment, at launch, we are going to have five classes, created by the intersect of primary and secondary.
TR: Where it gets fun is the modular mixing and matching with secondaries, which results in what we call Classifications.
WC: To simplify: Scrapper would be Melee/Defense, Tank would be Defense/Melee. If you choose the right Masteries, of course.
TR: Melee is the Role. Melee/Defense is the Classification (but it will have a better name). That Classification would have 5 power sets at launch.
Co: The community is very dedicated and supportive, I’ve noticed.
TR: We love our community.
WS: We ARE our community.
WC: That’s the best thing we brought over from CoH. A very strong culture of helping each other.
TR: And we fully welcome all of the great folk out there who never had a chance to play CoH, and even those who never wanted to. Besides the fact that this is a great time for superheroes in a lot of different media. Who hasn’t watched The Avengers and thought, “I want to DO that!” Including people who have never played an MMO.
Co: When are you looking at a release?
ND: Release, likely in 2016. But accessible beta, late 2015.
WC: And costume creator before that.
Co: And one more question before I guess we can call it a wrap. Is there, or will there, be a way for people to pledge who missed out on the Kickstarter?
ND: We have been discussing a second-chance opportunity for those people, yes. We want to finish getting the people who did pledge with Kickstarter processed first.
Co: Thank you for taking the time to answer some questions.
WC: Been a pleasure.
TR: Talk to us anytime.
WS: Thanks for having us, Connor.
Check out City of Titans at the official website.