City of Heroes / Villains: The Killing of Statesman, And Where We Go From Here

Back in December, Paragon Studios spoilered their own story when they publicly announced that Statesman would be the one to die in the “Who Will Die?” signature story arc.

Paragon Studio's Signature Arc #1 promo - "Daddy, can you fly to heaven?"

No, but the saccharine-induced nausea from that statement will see me vomit on your shoes.

That Statesman is apparently dying in part 5 of what I believe to be a 7 part story arc raises my Eyebrow of Cynicism +3 – killing the main hero before the end of the storyline leaves plenty of time for him to pop back up, all refreshed from his dirt nap, just before the ending credits. Or there is time for another twist, so that Statesman is the fake-out death and it is actually Positron or Synapse that end up with their own personalised tombstone.

(An interesting twist would be Positron being the “real” death within the story arc, then CoH/V’s Lead Developer Matt Miller who plays the role of Positron announces he’s stepping down from CoH/V and onto something else. Purely hypothetical, but Miller’s been with CoH/V for 8 years or more, which is a long time on one project in the video game world. Plus you could remove Positron from the game without nearly as much work.)

Whether Statesman’s death is ‘real’ within the story or just a PR stunt, it still strikes me as a bit obvious, a bit desperate, for Paragon Studios to pull this as a move. It’s like DC killing off Superman – you know it isn’t going to stick because the character is too front-and-centre to stay dead. Don’t believe me? Let’s look at City of Heroes / Villains (CoH/V) website:

City of Heroes / Villains website as of today

I count Statesman appearing on the website 5 times on the front page. He's very visible for a soon-to-be-dead man.

He also pops up 4 times on NCsofts’s CoH/V page as well.

I believe I saw a quote saying that Statesman isn’t coming off any of the marketing materials but can’t find it; what I can see is that Statesman removal in-game “will come at a later date” because of all the effort required. And he isn’t coming out of the tutorial because that happens before the events of “Who Will Die?” and “the timeline still works”.

Temporal Fun

CoH/V’s game lore suffers from two forms of time passing: real world time, that means the game launched in 2004 and it is now 2012; and level-based time, where characters experience the world progressing as they level up through story arcs. Whether it takes 10 minutes or 2 years to move from level 5 to level 15, the non-player character treats that time difference as exactly the same. It is the story arc that counts.

City of Heroes / Villains Ouroborous symbol

... and CoH/V's timeline is this way without even mentioning the time travel aspects.

A good example of this is the whole Rikti Invasion. Unless it has changed, the news that that SPOILER the Rikti aren’t really aliens at all but genetically altered humans from another dimension and are planning another invasion that you can foil END SPOILER is still meant to be shocking news to characters, despite the invasion first coming to light in July 2007. The Invasion has been gearing up for a while then, obviously having suffered setbacks from all those interfering heroes.

So it remains very possible that Statesman could end up in a state of quantum death – both dead and not-dead in the game game depending on what character level you are and possibly if you’ve played through the story arc or not. Paragon Studios can have its cake and eat it too if they want.

So yes, the timeline still works, but the timeline is held together by a mix of smoke, mirrors, duct tape and unicorn dreams.

Unpopularity Contest

The death of Statesman is certainly popular among some segments of the CoH/V community, both due to dislike of the character and his previous role as forum name for previous CoH/V lead developer Jack Emmert. I’ve never got the hate for Emmert, especially the line of thought that CoH/V succeeded in spite of him, thus robbing him of any credit for the title he led but simultaneously shouldering him with all blame for any of its problems.

Besides, I think the only popular MMO lead developer is one who isn’t currently working on a title – if they are currently in the position of running a game, you can guarantee there will be a lot of players who disagree with them about what they are doing. Regardless, given that Emmert hasn’t been involved in CoH/V for about 5 of its 8 years of operation (excluding pre-launch periods) he still casts a long shadow that some players want scrubbed off.

"You call that a costume? Kids these days, no respect and think they know everything. In my day, we wore outfits that were classy, tasteful and practical - nowadays the men dress like 'confirmed bachelors' and the women dress like strippers. And a dollar would buy a jar of boiled candies as big as my head! And another thing..."

Statesman the character hasn’t been too popular in some circles either, seen as being too arrogant and overbearing, but personally I thought it an interesting (and more human) twist on the Superman trope. He’s the premier hero in the world because of his powers and drive, not because he’s kind to children and small animals! He’s seen a lot of people, good and bad, die so he’s not necessarily the friendliest of people, but he makes sure he gets the job done. That said, in most ways he is only a foot note for most CoH/V players – you can certainly play through CoH/V entirely and spend less than 30 seconds interacting with him in-game.

All in all, it’s questionable if the death of Statesman is a good move. He’s the only character that has any recognition outside of the CoH/V community, even if he is “that superhero guy from CoH/V”. So killing him off seems more for shock value than something meaningful.

It’s also the largest shot in the barrel that Paragon Studios really has to fire. If step 1 / signature arc 1 is “Kill Statesman”, then step 2 / signature arc 2 is going to have to be a real doozy to get people’s attention again. Kill Lord Recluse? He’s the evil parallel of Statesman (well, one of them) and less well known, so it’s a step down. Kill Tyrant? He’s only just got that new white suit. Blow up the Rogue Isles? That’s where the villains mostly are, plus it is a lot of content to remove from players.

Announce CoH/V 2.0? Perhaps… but Paragon Studios has been very, very quiet on that one for a while now.

All in all, it’s just easier to announce Statesman as dying, kill him off for a bit, ride a small PR wave then bring him out of the Olympian retirement home whenever is convenient.

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One thought on “City of Heroes / Villains: The Killing of Statesman, And Where We Go From Here

  1. Pingback: City of Heroes / Villains: An End of the World Event « Vicarious Existence

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