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As the servers are down atm (but you can download all 2.5 gig of the update), and I'll be in bed when they come back up... I suppose it's safe to post this now.
Shader's Guide to Issue 21: Convergence
City of Heroes: Freedom
In the words of a well known guide: Don't Panic!
[Image: don_t_panic_button.jpg]
What is i21?
Issue 21 is the next issue in the ongoing series of free releases for the popular MMORPG City of Heroes. It introduces a series of wide sweeping changes, revamps several zones, two entire powersets, introduces a new starting experience, more content, and much more, with hints for future content. As an issue, it has been in beta (either closed or open) for many months. There are some aspects to the issue that have been under development for over a year.
Significant Changes
There were many changes to City of Heroes with the release of Issue 21. Any issue that begins with the destruction of an entire zone would indicate the level of content that is involved. Let's step through them and summarized the highlights.
  • New EULA
  • New file system and launcher
  • New System: Free/Premium/VIP
  • New Store: Paragon Market
  • New Neutral Starting Experience for Heroes and Villains.
  • Atlas Park/Mercy Isle Revamp
  • New Zone - First Ward
  • New trial - Death from Below
  • New incarnate trial - Underground
  • New Powerset - Beam Rifle
  • New Powerset - Time Manipulation
  • Miscellaneous Tweaks
Let's face it... if it was any more epic, it would be close to putting a certain Martial Arts stunt identity to shame. Now that we have listed some of the various "moving parts" of the issue, let's examine each of these one at a time.
 ("Did you miss the memo?" - The Dark Knight)
Yes, There Is A New End User License Agreement! Not that anyone pays any attention to such things, but it has changed, and there are some rather interesting new inclusions. If you find reading it tricky, one of the forumites copied it out. Its located here: Link to docx doc.
My suggestion: Read It!
The old one is here for comparison sake only: Link to html
Now the long and the short of it? (I'm no legal beagle so take this with a grain of salt)
  •  Behave, don't cheat, don't stalk someone, and don't be an idiot.
  •  They maintain all rights to everything, the content, characters, etc, including player-made characters.
  •  They can monitor what you do in game, on the forum, and elsewhere, and ban you if you engage in cheating.
  •  Once you buy something, don't ask for a refund.
  •  You're over 18, know its a game, and are mentally sound. If not you have the permission of someone how is to play the game.
As I said, read it for yourself. Be warned, it is your standard EULA, but for once it is fairly easy to understand. There has already been at least one /ragequit thread in the official forums over it. And several "Let's pull this apart" threads. However one thing to note, one of the community reps said that one of the provisions of the new EULA is to allow them to use new monitoring tech to watch for bots and stop them, however they were keeping their new watchdog on a tight leash. And that currently there were no plans to ever install 3rd party monitoring software client-side.
Edit: the monitoring system was announced here: MARTy and as expected, the forum went into meltdown... Smile
New File system and installer
As part of the roll-out for i21, the entire game file system got a revamp, along with the installer. That's part of the reason why there was no pre-download, and why this issue is so huge - its basically the entire game all over again. The is now the opinion of doing a quick-load install for new players, where the game will download and install the game in stages. Behind the scenes, the game's binary and data files got a much needed rework and shuffle. For example, if you examine the folder now, you will find files such as "THIRDPARTYSOFTWAREREADME.TXT" and various files begin with Q that didn't exist before.
New System: Free/Premium/VIP
There is a much better run down and explanation on this new system over on the wiki: here
Essentially, the game is being split into 3 tiers: Free, Premium, and VIP.
Free, get to play the game, a somewhat playable version of it. Its very restricted.
Premium, or those that have paid in the past, get lots more, but still a restricted game. They get about 80% of the game.
VIP, or current subscribers, get everything, the full complete game.
Simple? No.
If you want unfettered access, pay for it. Its called the Hybrid model for a reason.
New Store: Paragon Market
[Image: shut-up-and-take-my-money.jpg]
The Paragon Market is the new store and place to get items for your characters and accounts. However, you can't get them directly.  First you have to buy Paragon Points, and then use Paragon Points to purchase items and other goods. What are some of the items on offer? Account wide powersets, such as the Beam powerset were offered, as were various costume emotes, costume sets, and alike. One particularly popular item was the Rocket Board power, which is just that: a rocket board. It was discussed in the one of the Intrepid Informers on the official forums.
Other items that can be purchased for what is effectively Real Money is extra costume slots, extra recipe slots, extra inventory slots, and Attuned IOs. Attuned IOs are locked to your account, level up with the character, and cover a wide range of areas. There are also Unslotters and Boosters, Dual and Team Inspirations for sale.
In short, if you want it, its for sale... probably.
New Neutral Starting Experience for Heroes and Villains
("As Positron would say: BOOM!" - Zwillinger)

Roll a new character. Trust me on this. There is a new methodology for making a character and getting into the game. Galaxy City is effectively gone. But it opens up so many opportunities for further story lines: rescues, last stands, scouting, the list goes on and on.
[Image: actually-explosion-close-call-roadside-b...845468.jpg][Image: mirvs.jpg]

Read the opening comic, and follow the prompts, and be read to fight alien scum! BOO-YAH! Be sure to make sure one of the tabs has the Captions Channel include, it isn't always put in. Don't worry about making a choice of Hero or Villain until you are actually in the first level. The game makes it abundantly clear what you are doing. Once you have made your choice, you are stuck with it until level 20. EATs on the other hand, skip the tutorial and go straight to their designated contact.
Atlas Park/Mercy Isle Revamp
("You are not in
Kansas any more..." -Col. Quaritch, Avatar)
These two zones have had a major face-lift. This has been a long time in the making. The Atlas Park face lift alone has had two developers working on it for over a year. Why so much effort? The zones have had to reflect recent events in the CoH universe, and to introduce new technology into the starting experience. Again, you owe it to yourself to roll a new character and experience first hand the new technology once the initial rush has died down. What technology am I talking about? Combat Phasing is on of the new technologies deployed in these zones now. Depending on the success or failure of people's efforts against certain mobs and enemies, this is reflected in the game world.
You also should do yourself a favor and run the starting arc at least once, it explores the events of Galaxy City more fully. Its a must for those Lore-freaks. The writing in the arc is once again top rate.
And the new zones have an additional "tutorial" contact. Hero-side, the contact is: Twinshot. Villain-side it is: . Let me say this, it is good even for us veteran players to run through it, to see what they (noobs*) get to see. I was grinning and laughing my face off as I was completing the arcs. As well as making air sounds. *Hoob*.
(*Its an actual term used in the game! Used on villain side no less.)

New Zone - First Ward
 ("You either die a hero or live long enough to see yourself become the villain."  - Harvey Dent, The Dark Knight)
The First Ward is a new zone (level 20-29) which is effectively neutral  in that it offers the same story line to both sides, hero and villain.  In the First Ward you explore the hidden secrets of Praetoria and Cole's Reign. It s a series of 8 contacts that move you quickly from one to the next. Badge hunters will have fun, as will those on the solo and teaming track. First Ward also introduces a rather neat concept called "Shadowed Path" where there are no mobs, hence it is 'safe' and has a rather interesting graphical effect when you both enter and leave the path. 
Entrance through into the First Ward, is from Talos Island for Heroes, and Cap Au Diabo for Villains. These will take you to the Underground and then to the First Ward. Once in the First Ward... prepare for a zone of breath taking beauty, exotic characters, and a complete and utter mind-bending mind-fuck storyline. Once again the writing is bang on the money, and up there with the best of the CoH universe, that said however: Pay attention to the first contact of the zone (Jester) - he gives vital Lore information that is only mentioned once.
First Ward also has a Giant Monster in the centre of the zone. This monster is call the Seed of Hamidon. It is a purely aerial encounter. However, please see opening comment: Don't Panic. It too has been the subject of a post on the official forums. He/She/It is part of the Praetoria version of the Primal Hamidon. As such it needs to be periodically subdued, for which there are rewards. Having tested this, there easy way to subdue this Monster as it has spawned in a 20-29 zone. There are 2 NPCs called Seed Hunters from them you can get "Buoyant Membrane" or even better, you can obtain it from destorying seedlings on the ground. Once you have destroyed at least one of each seedling (the more the better) use the "Buoyant Membrane" power to fly and dogpile the Monster. Note that Buoyant Membrane is on a Real World timer, but destroying Seedlings stacks it, and you can carry up to 30 minutes of flight time. Its actually a fairly simple and straight forward fight, once you get co-ordinated.
New trial - Death from Below
This trial is the "Low Level" sewer trial. It has a link of sorts with recent events, with again, a monster at the end. I say "Low Level" in that it is flagged as minimum level as 1, and is accessed via the LFG tab. That means that Level 50+1s can and have run the trial.  In short anyone can run the trial, but if you are above level 6, you will get exemplar-ed down to level 2 at the start of the trial, and as you clear each stage, you will progress up a level. The trial itself is rather niffy with a selection of different mob types, different environmental hazards, and a guaranteed SO at the end, along with a boost. Said boost runs out at around level 20 or 21. The trial can be run multiple times, and if the various mobs are defeated in a specific order, badges are awarded.
New incarnate trial - The Underground
("Come with me if you want to live." - Various)
There is a new iTrial - The Underground. It is essentially one long escort mission. You have the honor and privilege of taking Des down through hordes of rampaging Olympians, mutant Devouring Earth, and destructive Robots! Oh, and be sure to collect the glowing mushrooms on the way. This is one trial where co-ordination is the key.
I can't tell you much about it, other then watch out for the robots, they are nasty - league wipe level of nasty, and be sure you pack a healer or more for Desmodema.
Up until that Self repairing giant robot, I was having fun playing spot the familiar map given a funky twist.
New Powerset - Beam Rifle
("This is my BOOMSTICK!" - Ash)
For the lowdown on this powerset, go here: Link to the official page
This set is a primary Energy Single Target damage. It introduces a new mechanic: Disintegration. The good news is it stacks and you can use other beam rifle's Disintegrations. Bad news: you don't get as much damage until you get it. Even better news: Energy, unlike Lethal and Smashing, isn't heavily resisted. This set boosts a non-crashing nuke, like Assault Rife, however unlike Assault Rifle, this 'nuke' is a PBAoE. Even though this set is Single Target, once it gets going, you can mow through groups fast, provided one is sensible about it, and goes for kill shots.
New Powerset - Time Manipulation
("I'm late, I'm late, For a very important date!" - White Rabbit, Alice in Wonderland)
For the full lowdown on it, go here: Link to the official page
Time manipulation needs a little bit of endurance love, but it is very powerful. A quick perusal of the powers will show that there are essentially no optional powers. In particular, for a /time Corruptor, Distortion field was invaluable. Properly specced and slotted, a /Time character would have no hassle achieving Perma-Haste and Perma-Chrono-Shift (its AM-clone). (Without putting my build into Mids, and knowingly wasting a power selection and several slots and hence +rech bonuses, I was about 2 to 5 seconds away from getting these.)  There were reports of Fire/Time Controllers doing insane things solo. I was also on a league with multiple Time powersets. The stacking and hence boosting... was crazy.
Miscellaneous Tweaks
On top of all this, there were some additional tweaks. For example, the Isolater badge, the one you get in Outbreak, finally (after 7 years!) got a progress bar. Additionally, Access to Oroborus was lowered to level 14, and the Epic power pools and Patron Power Pools are now unlockable at level 35. There have also been minor animation changes here and there (Dimension Shift for example is one such location reported) and some powers put into the Travel power pools.
  • Afterburner - the general consensus was, that its a little bit of a dud (it allows you to fly a little over the flight cap.
  • Burnout - Dud. Instant recharge of powers, once every 30 minutes. Took it, never used it.
  • Long Range Teleport - Mildly useful. It functions like a SG base teleporter, except it gives you a list of city zones to teleport to.
  • Spring Attack - useful. Neat looking attack that does some damage.
There was another round of Power Proliferation...
The following additions to Hero Power Sets have been made:
  •     Blaster: Dark Blast (primary), Dark Manipulation (secondary)
  •     Controller: Poison (secondary)
  •     Defender: Thermal Radiation (primary), Fire Blast (secondary)
  •     Scrapper: War Mace (primary), Battle Axe (primary), Energy Aura (secondary)
  •     Tanker: Super Reflexes (primary), Martial Arts (secondary)
The following additions to Villain Power Sets have been made:
  •     Brute: Broadsword (primary), Katana (primary), Regeneration (secondary)
  •     Corruptor: Psychic Blast (primary), Poison (secondary)
  •     Mastermind: Sonic Resonance (secondary)
  •     Stalker: Ice Armor (Secondary)
There was also a tweak to Regen and Energy Aura.
Future Content?
("Always in motion the future is" - Yoda)
At various points of testing, various spoilers were accidentally released. These were mostly of future powersets: Titan Weapons, and Staff Melee.
However, during a Beta M+G, Zwillinger was 'fooling around' and demonstrated a "goo teleport" and several different costume codes.
In the last few minutes of one of the recent 'Coffee Chats' they also mentioned a Moon-Zone.
My Comments
Overall, this is one of the biggest and largest issues that the development team have put together to date. I think it rates up there with the Introduction of CoV, Ultra Mode, and maybe the auction house, in terms of overall size. There are also promising signs that future issues are going to be just as exciting and epic. What's coming up? The next few iSlots will be opening up soon. Additionally, if I read between the lines correctly there are going to be more costume items coming, and Positron is writing story arcs, and they need to expand* Atlas and Mercy and revamp the next few zones on the list. (*Expand as in more then one starting contact.) There was also going to be more importance placed on Character Origins... we shall see.
I personally fully expect Beam/Time or variations there of to be the next FotM for AV/Boss killing.
I also challenge any sane character to run First Ward and not be touched or moved by the events there. I ran it twice, and even on the second time through, it got a rather strong emotional response from the character: (Utter MADNESS! You're all MAD! Nuke the Blooming Entire Zone!). I will never look at the Seers and Katie Bell nor the Carnival in the same light again.
What characters am I going to roll in issue 21? Agent Gun-Fu: DP/Time Corruptor, ????: Beam/Time Corruptor, ShadowViper: Warshade, and Morgan: Dark/Dark Blaster.
Yes, I could have used more images in this post, but I tried to use some restraint.
some interesting phrasing in the conduct section. I see how people could blow up about it, but I also see how they are covering their asses.
"so listen up boy, or pornography starring your mother will be the second worst thing to happen to you today"
TF2: Spy
When the patch finishes downloading I'll go back and tidy up the above post. I've spotted one to two minor errors. That's what you get for writing it over several days, offline and in the wee hours of the morning.
In the meantime: Samuraiko's latest trailer... one of my characters makes a brief appearance: trenchcoat wielding a beam rifle.

dark seraph

And for those that are wondering story wise why no one saw this coming?

[NPC] Lord Recluse: The fools never saw the meteors coming. Our agent within SERAPH has done well.

Recluse bribed some seers to keep their traps shut.

... I'm having fun. I approve of i21!