NCSoft hates my inner child

On Friday, August 31st 2012 NCSoft announced the immediate closure of Paragon Studios along with the firing of all staff. They also announced that the game, City of Heroes, will be sunsetted and all servers will be shutdown at midnight on November 30th.

And that will be the last polite unemotional statement I shall make in this post.

THIS SUCKS!

As you may have gathered, I am one of the 100,000 (approx.) players of the game. I bought my copy when it was released April 30th 2004. Sadly I was not able to play until my birthday two weeks later when I treated myself to a new video card. Other than an unfortunate hiatus of 3 months to try out a game that is a pale shadow of CoH, I have been playing on an almost daily basis since then. In that time, I have created and developed over 120 separate and unique characters. I think of them as heroes (or villains) that I have designed from the ground up to play the story that is the game itself. To have this happen hurts, it hurts like when you reach the end of a great novel or your favourite TV series ends (Babylon 5 *sniffle*). And yet it is somehow worse than that because I have become part of the creative process, not just a spectator but an active participant.

The reactions among the playerbase could be used as a case study in reactions to doomsday scenarios, after all this virtual world is literally coming to an end. There seems to be 3 general reactions that everyone is feeling to one degree or another; dismissal (i.e. “yeah, whatever. I’m outta here.”), anger (“NCSoft can go blow a goat! I hope they all die in a fire! etc etc etc!”), and/or go out like a Boss (“I am going to play the hell outta this game! They are going to have to drag me kicking and screaming from the server!”). And that fits with how it works in real life, some people would swallow a bullet rather than face the End, others would get pissed off and go rioting, and still others would look at it as a time to check off things from their Bucket List. Me being who I am, I am simply too damn stubborn to just say to hell with it so I am signing petitions / ranting on blogs (in anger) and playing a few hours everyday since the announcement.

As much as this felt like a gut-punch there is one silver lining, I can use this for inspiration. These are MY characters, they don’t have to end when the world ends. I had already starting writing their stories in-game but now its time to let them loose in the wild and continue chronicling their adventures here. As you have seen, I have already dabbled a bit in this with Captain Hit-Guy vs. Professor Unusual. But starting in December I am committing myself to writing one introductory story for a hero and a villain per month. I won’t be doing that for all my characters or else I will never get anything else done (and to be honest, some of my characters work better as background or cameos) but I do ask that anyone that finds a particular hero or villain interesting to let me know so I can focus on him or her. I should warn you that Captain Hit-Guy will be one of the focal points no matter what, being my namesake and all.

In conclusion, I have to say that even though this was a silly little game that I played just to have fun it really does hurt that its going away. Is this an example of how shallow and surface our modern society has become? Or does it show the strength of the connections we make with the things we create? I don’t know the answer but I can safely say that it proved to me how important my creations are to me.
P.S. If anyone reading this hasn’t checked out CoH and would like a tour of our fine City before the lights go out just drop a /tell to Captain Hit-Guy or Prime-Minister on Freedom server and I will show you around and you can take a few pictures :).

(Bad) Batman Jokes

To commemorate the release of Dark Knight Rises this weekend I have come up with 2 truly heinous jokes (on the plus side they are both kid-safe) so use them at your own risk:

Q: What do you call a storefront display of the Caped Crusader?

A: A Batmannequin!

Q: What do you call a nerd in a Batman costume?

A: The Dork Knight

 

Feel free to provide your own (much better) jokes in the comments.

Captain Hit-Guy vs Professor Unusual

Well, I am still working through the next part of Ripple so in the meantime here is story concept for a comic book I wrote a couple years ago. It gives you an idea of the character behind my screenname (which in itself was inspired by a Don Taylorism from EA’s NHL 2002). I don’t think this is exactly City of Heroes fanfic because I take it in directions impossible to replicate exactly within that MMO but I must give credit where credit is due. So without further ado:

Captain Hit-Guy vs. Professor Unusual

Captain Hit-Guy v. Professor Unusual

Synopsis: This tale tells both the origin of Captain Hit-Guy and the ascendance of the evil Professor Unusual. Captain Hit-Guy was a member of a British Special Forces unit that had been tracking the known nano-terrorist for 2 years around the globe. Hit-Guy was his nickname in the platoon because of his violent reaction to being called by his full first name, Reginald. He insisted that his men call him Reggie or Captain, the last fellow that called him Reginald at the pub ended up eating through a straw for 2 months after Cap broke his jaw with one swift punch. Years of boarding school nuns and Head Masters had soured him on his name to the point of violence.
Professor Unusual started his career at Cambridge as a mechanical and chemical engineer specializing in nanotechnology. He was born without legs and that became the driving force behind his research, to find a means to allow him to walk for the first time. One late night he finally perfected a form of nanite that would bind to his nervous system and allow robotic prosthetics to be controlled by his brain exactly as real legs would, both conscious and autonomic when required. He was filled with the over-confidence of youth (being only 22 at the time) and decided to test it on himself then and their. He placed the highly-advanced prosthetic legs on and injected the nanites into the site. The experiment was a complete success but with one critical side-effect; the nanites crossed the blood-brain barrier and adversely affected his sanity. He left that night to pursue his research to wherever it took him, no matter the moral or ethical boundaries of the weak-willed  society of mere mortals. He has continued to modify himself in the ten years since that fateful night and is almost unrecognizable as the man he once was. When Reggie encounters him for the first time he is on the edge of possibly his greatest discovery, which may also result in his ultimate downfall.
Chapter 1
Our story begins in Hamilton, Ontario after Reggie has been given authorization by his superiors to pursue the Professor wherever he may go in the Commonwealth. The troop enters a sprawling industrial complex via a large storm sewer system to the Professor’s last known location. As they wander the expansive sewer system we get small character beats from Reggie’s crew as well as letting us know that Reggie is tough but fair with his men and for the most part has earned their respect. After finally getting a hit on their nanite-detectors the crew informs HQ and proceeds into a darkened lab area.
Once there the lights are suddenly switched on and most of the crew are stunned for a few seconds from the glaring out of their night-vision goggles. When they finally have a chance to see their surroundings they find that they have entered what looks like an enormous glass bell jar. The only object in the room is a gurney with a panicked man strapped down to it with a duct-taped mouth.
“You have to get out of here. You don’t understand what he is doing! He’s mad I tell you! MAD!” the blanket covered man begins to scream and rant as soon as the tape is removed from his mouth. Reggie walks over and tries to calm him down as his medic follows behind and begins to examine the man by lifting the sheet.
“Uh, Captain, you may want to take a look at this.” as the corporal pulls the sheet back to reveal the man’s body covered in what looks like a shifting moving grey semi-clear slime. Just as this occurs the door to the bell jar slams shut, leaving the one soldier guarding their backs, PFC Timothy ‘Timmo” O’ Fleming watching helplessly from outside. Then a voice erupts from hidden speakers, a smooth calm voice but with a strange artificial undertone almost as if it’s being slightly auto-tuned, “Hello gentlemen, glad to see you made your appointment on time, early in fact. I hope you find my newest experiment as fascinating to behold as it was to work on.”
The man on the gurney begins to struggle for breathe and tears roll from the corners of his eyes as he looks around pleading, “Oh, god…no…*cough*….Please, stop it from happening…”
And with that the man lets out one last weak sigh and dies, but the slime does not stop moving and begins to shift in colour from grey to pink to a hard deep metallic red as the man’s body visibly shrinks away, until just his untouched head remains. The men all recoil in horror except for Reggie who scowls and turns to his heavy weapons specialist, “Frank would you be so kind as to make a doorway for us, say over there?” as Reggie points to a spot opposite their entry point.
Frank smiles grimly and braces his L7A2 Gimpy against his hip and lets off a staccato burst of machinegun fire at the spot. After the sound and smoke fade away it is revealed that the glass wall is untouched and the weirdly mellifluous voice starts up again, “Oh, I wouldn’t do that again boys, that wall is nano-reinforced Lexan. You would need an armour-piercing rocket launcher to shatter it.” And as an artillery specialist begins to load his LAW 80 the voice speaks again. “Did I forget to mention that the concussion wave would kill all of you in the process of breaking free?” The specialist swears unintelligibly under his breathe and puts the launcher back over his shoulder.
“And now that I have your full-attention you may want to know what just happened to that poor fellow on the table in front of you.”
“Not really, you crazy sonuvabitch.” Frank grumbles under his breathe.
“Now, now that’s no way to speak to your host.“  the disembodied voice lowers in anger.
“But no hard feelings my boy. You’ll get yours soon enough”, he continues in a jauntier tone. “That beautiful ooze you see before you is a first for me, a nanite collective that can process organic matter.”
All but Reggie take a step back from the table at these words as the slime begins to form large bubbles that pop and puff out a thin red mist into the air around the gurney. A smell reminiscent of hot metal and blood fills the room as well.
“And that was just the first stage of its development, now that it has powered on the real action begins”, followed by a small metallic chuckle and then silence.
The bubbling on the table continues as the slime dissipates into the mist that slowly but surely fills the room. The men scramble to put on their CNB gear, and even so a few are already starting to cough and sputter with fear in their eyes.
“Calm down men, I got you in here and I promise to get you out again.” Reggie smiles and nods reassuringly to his men even though he feels the fear deep in his guts. The ice-cold knowledge that his time on this planet has been reduced to minutes only. He steps to the door and radios Timmo as the PFC looks through the door with exasperation on his face and talks into the radio.
“Sir, I can’t get this door to open. From what I can tell its hermetically-sealed, sir. When it shut the seam just disappeared”, Timmo looks confused at this admission.
“Its ok Timmo, that was probably more of his fawking nanites at work.” Reggie keeps eye contact with Timmo to calm both their nerves until Timmo looks past him in surprise. Reggie turns to find the room completely filled with red mist. His men just vague shapes scattered around the table, a few slumped over and panting, others on their knees groaning in pain and Frank leaning against the glass a few feet away. Frank’s uniform front drenched in blood. Reggie rushes to him and peers through the glass faceplate of his gasmask.
“Reggie, I don’t feel so good mate. I don’t think this op is going to plan at all”, as he lets out a wet chuckle and sinks to the floor. His face gaunt as if he suddenly lost 20 pounds in the last few minutes. Blood running from his ears and nose, but not in rivulets so much as crawling trails of blood. As he slide onto his side at Reggie’s feet he let out a last sigh and closed his eyes forever.
Reggie whirls around and sees all his men dead around the room. And yet the mist had not touched him at all. Then the voice starts up again, “Ah, Reginald, now that all those other lesser types are taken care of  this gives us some time to get to know each other. Well, actually I will be getting to know you much more intimately in a few minutes and I will sadly remain a mystery to you for the rest of what little life you have left. Just give me a few moments to make some slight adjustments and the nanites will be ready for the next phase in my very first bio-borg test. And don’t worry, the cavalry won’t arrive until well after I have vacated the premises. I do find it sooo annoying that you  arrived early, now I have to leave so much work unfinished. I am just glad my benefactors have other facilities waiting for my genius to arrive at”, then there is a moment of silence as Reggie looks around in a panic, he sees that all 18 of his men have seemingly dissolved away, only their equipment, clothes and most horrifying of all, their skins remain.
“There we go, all done, now prepare to be amazed and agonized Reginald.” and with those words suddenly the mist begins to shift and swirl. Drawing closer and closer to Reggie so that Timmo only sees his vague silhouette. His shouts silenced by the soundproofing of the room as he also madly attempts to urge the back-up to hurry through the radio.
Reggie feels the mist envelope him, like a static charge crawling over his skin, he begins to slap at his uniform, wiping at his head and tearing at his uniform and pulling his gasmask off. The nanites seeping through every pore and orifice in his body. He groans as a heaviness fills him, feeling as if he is gaining weight by the second. He looks down at his arms and sees the veins standing out in stark relief against his purpling flesh. The pressure and pain building throughout his body as he feels his very bones beginning to stretch and crack and break and re-set. His face broadens and his skull thickens, every cell absorbed from his troops being deposited on his slim frame in a matter of seconds by the nanites. Reggie crumples to the floor as the seams on his clothes finally give way and tear apart, he lies in the shreds of his clothes as the mist  clears from the room and seems to slide inside him. His body growing and swelling until a suddenly wet ripping sounds again, a pool of blood spreads out as his skin literally bursts from the pressure of the substance of nineteen other men being absorbed into his body.
In his writhing agony as his consciousness begins to fade he hears once more from the jaunty voice, “Well, Reginald, if you somehow survive this you will never be able to look in the mirror again without thinking of me, Professor Unusual. Welcome to hell, Reginald.”
And as Timmo watches the silent bulk lying there slowly breathing he notices with horror that the pool of blood surrounding Reggie is slowly withdrawing back inside him.

Chapter 2

His first sensation was pain, it felt like hot flames were flowing over every square inch of his body. His every intake of breathe sent sheets of agony through him. His eyelids flicked open as a deep groan escaped his ravaged throat, sounding far too deep to his ears. As his gaze darted around the examination-style room everything looked odd, it took him a moment for an ice-cold chill to settle deep inside him when he realized his eyes were farther apart, as if his head and face had grown three sizes bigger than before. Slowly his mind focussed through the constant agony as his name came back to him….Reggie. Then his last conscious memories hit him like a freight train and a louder deeper almost squeal of despair escaped his pulped lips. A single cloudy tear escaped from his left eye and left a fiery trail down his temple.
He finally worked up the courage to look down his body. At first what he saw didn’t make any sense but then the constant pain brought understanding. His body lay upon a large reinforced iron and steel table rather than a bed. He simply was too large now to fit on any bed built for a mere man. The colour of his skin was wrong, he looked like purpled and bruised meat. As if he had no skin…oh my god…he had no skin. His exposed muscles and bone were covered with a delicate filigree of veins arteries and capillaries, vessels of deep purple and lurid green. Panic set in now, he begin to breathe faster and attempted to rise, but he found that thick iron shackles kept him trapped on the table.