October 2 2014:
Proof of developer viability was submitted and accepted. The ball is in NCsoft's court while they assess the group's expertise and backing. No news is good news.
(Update Jan 26: Talks are still ongoing.)
Timeline of significant events:
The bold comments are direct communications from the team. I have edited them slightly to remove names and such.
March 6 - I get the information and start working on a way to possibly open source CoH.
March 12 - got letter back from Chris Chung - it showed that is WAS possible to buy the game.
March 13 - the team makes its first contact with me and says this: You are an evil, evil man. I'd given up hope after learning of the tax issue. Now here I am now grinning from ear to ear. Likely going to lead to heartbreak, but damned the torpedos. Full speed ahead.
March 21 - Honestly, we had given up hope. Now, you've given us hope, so we're discussing it.
March 28 - We have been reaching out and putting the proposal together. The concern has been the "Golden Handcuffs" option, being shackled to NCSoft again and having the sword of damocles once again hanging over our heads but this time knowing it is there.
April 5 - Made some headway. Now we know who we need to talk to, and a general idea of price. It is very doable.
April 16 - At the end we'll announce it one way or the other. For now it is just this silly business dance in order to reach [Redacted contact]
April 18 - Second studio expresses interest in the game
April 21 - investor expresses interest and is passed to the team
May 1 - third studio expresses interest in the game.
May 21 - I ask how the talks are going and if they are making the team jump through hoops:Stupid. Stupid amounts of hoops, as far as I know.
June 19 - Slow but not dead. Not a big deal, we were focusing on August anyhow.
June 24 - former paragon Dev contacts me and is forwarded to the team
July 3 - Yesterday, we were directed to the man whose signature is needed.
July 3 - after MY reading WAAAY too much into the first message - Er... we're not days away from anything. We're just now in direct contact, which means we're past another hurdle. We still have at least two months of negotiations left ahead of us, at best. This is where the monsters truly do lie.
July 7 - another investor/studio contacts me and is forwarded to the team
July 11- the fifth studio contacts me and is forwarded to the team
July 24 - Direct quote: "we're working very hard on something to show someone. things will be quiet for a bit."
August 13 - Direct quote: Things are moving along. We should have things worth showing fairly soon, made a great leap forward yesterday.
September 1 - Nate Downs announces he's heading the efforts. They're actively in talks. It's going to take a while. Be patient.
----The Mask Comes Off
Sept 1 2014
For those unaware, my name is Nate Downes. While I am the President of Missing Worlds Media, Inc, I am also a member of the City of Heroes community, and an advocate. A series of circumstances put me in to a unique position, to reach out to NCSoft, not as the company president, but as a member of a small group with the goal to acquire the older property in some form or another.
Early on, this group, which included a few people from MWM as well as other members of the community, made the intentional choice to not directly involve CoT in the negotiations. There are a few reasons for this. It prevented the discussions from negatively impacting the project should they go wrong. It also prevented them from distracting any development. And, most importantly, if this should work out, it would be incredibly unfair for only one segment of the community to benefit.
How it began.
In September of last year, I had lucked into a chance meeting with a few people who worked for NC Soft, including a manager. They advised me then to come back later on to talk with them. While I'd kept the dialog channel open, the general consensus was that no, the company would never sell City of Heroes complete and intact.
Then IronWolf posted the idea of buying up part of the game, but not the entire thing. This prompted me to ask my contact people, who through several discussions eventually advised me to talk to a single person, NC Soft's Business Manager Jae Soo Yoon. In addition, we had some other people who were ex-employees and ex-partners suggest the very same person.
For those who do not know Korean business methods, it is considered highly rude to directly email someone, but to instead get an introduction from a third party business associate. This meant we had to find someone who was not part of NC Soft to formally introduce us to Mr. Yoon. Fortunately, we had two people who could do just that, a former NC West employee and a former co-worker of mine who had started a media company which works with NC Soft on developing properties for the Asian market.
Introductions in place, we made the leap from US-bound people to members of the Korean firm. This was very carefully done, very slowly orchestrated. By July, we had gotten to the point that Mr. Yoon had passed us to Sangwon Chung from NC Soft's Strategic Partnership Development Team.
For those who are unfamiliar, this is the group which handles things such as partnering with an existing studio or the development of new partnerships. This is the group we have been working with since early July. It is a very slow process, and still will take a long time to conclude.
The proposal as it stands right now (this is not a final form, just the current proposal on the table) is this:
The CoH IP would be spun to its own company, to handle licensing. This company would itself license the existing engine from NCSoft for the creation of a maintenance mode, using a binary copy of the i23 server.
The existing user database and characters are not part of this arrangement at this time, nor is the source code.
An arrangement is to be made to license the trademarks to the various Plan Z projects, CoT, Valiance and H&V, to create a family connection, and to allow each to drop the “Spiritual” portion of successor. This means they can make references to the original game if desired, and to enable the expansion of partnerships. This could be expanded for any of them, should the desire be there.
An arrangement is also to be made for the Atlas Park Revival project. As part of the informal agreement we have with them, they would be given an official stamp of approval, and the CoT game build would be licensed to them, to create a kind of “CoH 1.5” and migrate people off of the classic game engine before it finally becomes unsuitable (we expect this to happen around when Windows 9 is released, due to binary compatibility). This can be done because both APR and CoT run on Unreal Engine 4.
By being its own firm, the licensing company can also pursue other avenues which were unavailable before.
Why this group?
Because we approached them like another Korean company. We respected their company culture. And most importantly, we were patient. We had periods where we heard nothing for weeks.
The group itself began as three people. It has grown, some people more connected to the inner workings than others. Some former Cryptic and Paragon employees have given us advise on things ranging from what is needed to run the old server binaries to how the Paragon Market worked.
So, why come forward now?
Back in March, we were advised to wait until after August as a show of good faith. It is now September, so here we are.
Since we could not give full details to anyone without jeopardizing the whole thing before now, a lot of misinformation, rumors, and flat out wrong ideas got out there. To correct them could have broken the request, and therefore the trust, built up. So we had to let them stir, and do minor nudges to fix when we could get away with it.
So where are we now?
Right now, still discussing terms, ideas, limits. The challenges we have been given we stepped up for and handled. Likely there will be discussions and adjustments right up until the moment the deal is signed. The whole thing may fall apart. For all we know, everything done so far has been nothing but a delaying tactic so they can say once again that they tried to work with the community to no avail. But until such time that becomes clear, we will continue forward in good faith.
They could have ignored us from day 1, but they did not. They may not operate at the pace we would like, but they are at the pace they are comfortable with. At this point, the ball is in their court.
Ultimately, it is not the dozen folk here who have been in talks with are important here, but all of you. Those who said what you wanted, what you’d hoped for, who did not give up. We’re still not there, may never make it there, but we are not even close to giving up. And whatever happens, we can do it together.
Thanks to all of you.ORIGINAL
March 6 2014:
We have some new efforts under way now and I will try and explain where we are currently with the efforts to return City of Heroes. Some folks have dropped off the stage and it is unknown if they will return. Those members are; VV and Ammon. Quinch was working on a proposal to Valve and it is unknown whether or not it was submitted.
One person was left with all of the work and Rae had some family issues arise that stalled everything further.
Now we start again and while I am do not have the stature of VV or Ammon - I am stubborn. I want this game back and I will float my idea to you folks for your input. Contrary to some things we have heard - apparently NCSoft WAS willing to sell the game. Everything was nearly complete when things went awry. The main point is they were willing to sell the IP in good faith.
Now where do we go? Rae is back in at least an advisory function and then there is myself with my wild ideas. Well guess what? I have another wild idea.
I am going to again speak to the Earth and Beyond folks and see how they managed to persuade EA to allow them to openly use the game. Then I am going to go directly to NCSoft and make our case like this:
The game while open and running had a certain value – with servers running, Developers in place, accounts paying in and players in the game – this value was roughly grossing $10 million a year. The net amount I would say could be in the $3-4 million a year if the game had been directly supported and updated alone with exploration into CoH2 taking only a few programmers.
However, that was then and this is now. Let’s take a honest appraisal as one would for a house for sale. The game was based on a custom made engine that is very dated. The game no longer has servers running, there are no accounts in place and you have no players. IF - a large IF – the game returned some players would not come back feeling it just might close again and waste their time. Others have moved on to new games or have pulled back from gaming entirely (I know a few of these). So what is the value of the game now?
I would honestly say under $1 million.
It has some positives in that a lot of people have good vibes for City of Heroes and would like to see it back – even those who didn’t play it. My pitch then is we ask openly for NCSoft allow the players to either openly reverse engineer the game or to allow us to host it and continue development in an open source not for profit manner much like Earth and Beyond. We can point to that game as an ideal solution to aging software. They retain all rights and IP privileges and the players get to play for a much reduced cost.
In fact I would say all AT’s would be open and yet retain the cash store for items and to raise funds for servers and for developers to make updates. Do I hold out a lot of hope on this?
Honestly no, but it has worked for at least one other game.