City of Villains Q&A - Port Oaks, and Other Evil Places

Creative director Jack Emmert explains the different new locales in City of Villains, and what you can expect to do in each one.

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It's good to be evil, or that's the lesson that NCsoft and Cryptic Studios hope that you'll learn later this year, when City of Villains launches. This follow-up to last year's online role-playing game City of Heroes will twist things around a bit. Instead of creating a unique and powerful superhero and saving the world from destruction, you'll create a dastardly supervillain who is looking to become rich, powerful, and infamous. You'll not only battle computer-controlled opponents, but you'll also get into scruffs with other villains, not to mention those meddling superheroes. City of Villains is currently undergoing its beta test for the November launch, so we caught up with Jack Emmert, City of Villains' creative director, to learn more about what you'll be able to do in the game.

Yeah, these guys definitely look evil.
Yeah, these guys definitely look evil.

GameSpot: City of Villains features a host of new locales to explore, including the Rogue Isles and the city of Port Oaks. What can you tell us about these areas, specifically? We already know the background for the Rogue Islands, but what about Port Oaks? For example, how does Port Oaks compare to Paragon City?

Jack Emmert: Port Oaks is one of the islands that makes up the Rogue Isles chain. Much like the other islands, Port Oaks' gothic architecture reveals signs of its original French colonization. Port Oaks is dominated by a large fortress at one end, Fort Hades. The infamous pirate Blackbeard sacked this fort and massacred its defenders. Today, the ghosts of these French soldiers haunt the walls. Arachnos is keenly interested in studying the specters' arcane energies. Players can help by capturing the soldiers in ghost traps set up around the fort.

GS: We recently learned of the new Nerva Archipelago, which lies between Paragon City and the Rogue Isles. This sounds like it's going to be the buffer zone where the heroes and villains will mainly clash, not to mention get a chance to explore ruins and raid industrial facilities. Can you fill us in on some details?

JE: The law enforcement agency, Longbow, has set up a headquarters in the Nerva Archipelago. Mainly, Longbow wants to protect the ancient, mysterious ruins on the island of Primeva. Player villains will need to battle through Longbow in order to get to these remains and unearth powerful magical artifacts. On this island, player villains will also encounter the Thorn Tree, which will allow them to change their powers.

GS: One thing we should probably clear up is that City of Villains is a stand-alone product, correct? So you won't need City of Heroes to play it, although it would help. But what happens if you don't have City of Heroes?

JE: Yep, City of Villains is a stand-alone product. If you purchase City of Villains, you get to play a bad guy in the Rogue Isles. If you don't have City of Heroes, you can't create a hero!

Never mess with union members on their coffee break.
Never mess with union members on their coffee break.

GS: Are there obvious differences in tone between Paragon City, where all the superheroes hang out, and Port Oaks, where the villains are? For example, how do the missions differentiate? Obviously you're going to be doing more "evil" stuff, but will they be along the same themes of what you pursued as a hero in Paragon City?

JE: Players will be stealing, kidnapping, sabotaging, and eliminating--virtually anything you can imagine a criminal doing, a player will be doing on the streets of the Rogue Isles! The islands are a "no-man's land" of criminals looking to make their way up the villainous ladder, so players need to be on their toes. The missions themselves are instanced, so only a player and his teammates can enter.

GS: What sort of zones and missions are being designed for high-level players? Or will you keep everyone in common zones until they go off into specialized, instanced sessions?

JE: At release, the level cap is 40. In player versus player, player villains at this point can face off against heroes in Warburg. This island research facility contains controls to deadly rockets that players can rain down on other players' bases. Heroes and villains will struggle to gain the secret codes to launch these missiles. In players versus environment, villains can explore St. Martial. It's a zone dominated by the Golden Giza casino. Strangely, the area is also haunted by demonic creatures.

GS: You can build your own superhero or supervillain lair with City of Villains, but how does that mechanic work? What do you need and how much does it cost? Can you customize the lair? And is the lair vulnerable to attacks or raids from other player groups?

JE: To build a base, a player only needs to be part of a super group! Players can customize the layout, the rooms, the textures, the lighting--our base-creation system is just as robust as our popular costume-creation system. Super groups can create anything from an arcane lair carved into stone to a hi-tech HQ.

Bases are only vulnerable to invasion if they contain an item of power. These objects have been stolen by the interdimensional conqueror Rularuu. Players can raid his home to gain these items of power and use them to grant their super group special abilities. Naturally, hero and villain groups alike are quite suspicious when another super group gains such power, as they can launch an invasion to seize an item and take it back to their base.

And, of course, there are evil robots.
And, of course, there are evil robots.

GS: Finally, do you have any final thoughts regarding the new zones in City of Villains?

JE: One thing we've learned a lot about is building zones. Our level design team knows how to create an area that communicates an intricate storyline. Each of the City of Villains' zones leverages this experience to create a living world of wickedness. Can't wait to see you all there!

GS: Thank you, Jack.

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