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Fans are so often at the mercy of corporate interests, something City of Heroes players know all too well. The superhero MMORPG was launched in 2004 but shut down by publisher NCSoft in 2012, much to the disappointment of players.
But that wasn’t the end of the story. In 2019, the original game code was leaked, and more than a dozen player-run servers popped up. The largest of these servers was Homecoming, which was built from that source code.
NCSoft made no moves to shut down any of these rogue servers, and last week, Homecoming announced they had struck a deal with the company, which granted them an official license to use the City of Heroes IP. This means the server is now operating legally and is no longer in danger of being shut down.
Per Homeocoing’s initial announcement, development of the game will continue and it will remain free to play, funded entirely by player donations. The license is limited to the Homecoming server, which means other servers are not protected by the agreement, but Homecoming hopes to consolidate players from other servers in the future. Homecoming formed a City Council with two other servers, Victory and Paragon, to facilitate this consolidation.
This is huge news for players. The mood on the City of Heroes Discord was joyous following the announcement, with users expressing their excitement and thanking the Homecoming leadership for all their hard work. People who hadn’t played the game in years logged on to join the celebration, and the server saw a huge uptick in traffic.
Not all City of Heroes players were so optimistic. Some still haven’t forgiven NCSoft for shutting down the game to begin with and don’t trust the company to do right by them. Over on Reddit, users questioned NCSoft’s intentions, noting that corporations rarely do things for the benefit of consumers.
The biggest worry pertains to what will happen with the other servers. Some fans appreciate the diversity the servers provide—each has its “different flavors”—and there are concerns consolidation will eliminate these distinctions. Other players remain distrustful of Homecoming, claiming their attitude has long been “standoffish” and “dismissive” in regard to collaboration. (Homecoming maintained that the reason they declined to share the source code with other servers was to prevent legal issues.)
In a more general sense, players are wondering how this business contract will affect the ethos of the game and the passionate community that emerged following the shutdown. The reason the game still exists at all is because fans invested both their time and money to keep it alive. This spirit of perseverance—and the “open mentality” of these different servers, as one player put it—is a defining characteristic of the community.
Why it matters
The utopian ideas proposed by the tech innovators of the 1980s no longer seem possible. The internet is essentially owned and operated by megacorps, though there are still digital communities fighting for their independence.
Many are hopeful about what the future holds for City of Heroes, while others maintain a healthy dose of cynicism. Whether this sense of enterprise and camaraderie persists in the face of corporate partnership is now the question at hand.