I began and ended my career as a video game designer with superheroes. I had an idea for what I thought would be the next big thing in online gaming—Everquest, but with superheroes! This was in the days before World of Warcraft when Everquest was the big dog with its hundreds of thousands of subscribers. Luckily for me, I knew a guy with a ton of internet bubble money who wanted to get into game development, and we were off and running. Three years later, I was fired—although I stayed on as a freelancer through the eventual launch of City of Heroes in 2004. It was quite a ride for me personally, but the end result (owing only a tiny portion of its success to my influence) was a cool, fun game that was a best seller out of the gate. I was even a fan and played it more than was probably good for me. Of course then World of Warcraft came later that year and blew everything else away. Even I switched over to WoW for a while before eventually giving up on MMOs for other pursuits. I’d had my fill.
One of the many odd things that happened during my time working on City of Heroes was that the word “superhero” and the phrase “super hero” disappeared entirely from our vocabularies when it came to speaking publicly about the game. It turns out that Marvel Comics and DC Comics hold a very, very dubious trademark on the term. I still think that this is total BS, but no one wanted to have that fight or pay those lawyers. So, our game was instead about “super-powered heroes.” I don’t know if my old company’s second game, Champions Online, used the word or not, but it began life as a Marvel Comics-based MMO, so maybe it did. But there’s a stupid, semantic argument to be made that now, seven years later, the world finally has its first “real” superhero MMORPG—DC Universe Online.