GDC, San Francisco--Publisher NCSoft and developer Cryptic Studios have their next update for the online superhero game City of Heroes on display at the show. The new update, simply known as "Issue 4: Colosseum," will add an all-new set of character-customization options to a game that's already known for its considerable variety of customization choices. In addition to an all-new set of superhero accoutrements inspired by Japanese "anime" cartoons, such as "sentai" hero helmets, Japanese high school student outfits, and shirts with stuffed animals hanging off the shoulder, the new update will add enhanced appearance options. Issue 4 will let players further determine their characters' stature in terms of their waistlines, shoulder width, and chest girth, along with a set of new dials that can be used to tweak facial features like noses, chins, and brows. Players will be able to customize new characters with these options as soon as the update is launched; players with existing characters will be able to purchase appearance options from the in-game costume shop, which already lets players modify their characters' appearance.
Issue 4 will make another, more-significant addition to the superhero game: arena-based player-versus-player battles. Currently, Cryptic Studios plans to add three different arenas to existing areas in the game that will let players create small-scale, one-on-one, or even "supergroup" battles with up to 150 players in the same match. Matches can be set up using terminals in these arena areas that will give players a good amount of flexibility in choosing the rules for their upcoming bouts, such as limiting matches by the number of involved characters, selecting which character classes are allowed, having character-level limits, and deciding whether certain other superpowers will be allowed, like the game's "travel" powers of superspeed and flight. In addition to these matches, the arenas will also host a series of official tournaments hosted by Cryptic and NCSoft. In these matches, you can compete to earn "badges" for your characters--collectible items that have already been introduced into the game. Fortunately, losing arena bouts has no ill effect on your characters whatsoever, unless you're up against opponents who really like making use of bragging rights. Issue 4 is scheduled for launch sometime in April. In the meantime, NCSoft also revealed that the publishing of its monthly comic books, which are already sent freely to City of Heroes subscribers, has been assumed by Witchblade publisher Top Cow comics.
City of Heroes is a massively multiplayer game that lets players create their very own superhero characters from five basic "archetype" classes. The game was released last year and an expansion pack, City of Villains, is planned for release later this year. For more information, consult our previous coverage, including a full review and video review.