In comic books, death is rarely permanent. Even if you do find a body or if the body disintegrates into dust, chances are the hero or villain will somehow come back years later to re-assert his or her legacy — or sell more books or movies.
Such is the case with City of Heroes, which NCSoft officially shut down on Nov. 30, 2012. Several fan projects have tried to carry on its legacy, operating out in the open and achieving various levels of nostalgic success in their re-creations of Paragon City. These have avoided any repercussions from NCSoft, likely because they were limited in scope, either offering an older version of the gameplay or simply existing as places to hang out with no real gameplay at all.
But one, near-complete experience has existed in (mostly) secret for over six years. It called itself the Secret Cabal of Reverse Engineers, or SCORE, and it emulated the complete City of Heroes/Villains experience — allegedly provided by a disgruntled dev when the game shut down — and has quietly entertained a few select players, who were sworn to secrecy via an NDA.
Now, that secrecy is as dead as Gwen Stacy, as one player has blown the lid off the server’s clandestine behavior, which has since been confirmed by its lead developer. The developer, Leandro Pardini, provided a long statement to MassivelyOP, stating that the project is SCORE’s alone, with no current ties to Paragon Studios, the Titan Network (makers of Paragon Chat, which Pardini “collaborated on” in its “early days”), and SEGS (Super Entity Game Server), or to the City of Heroes subreddit, which has long deleted references to SCORE.
According to Destroyer Stroyer, SCORE is even adding new content and abilities to the game, including a new level cap. He also implied that SCORE’s database contains account information, including potentially sensitive personal data, such as payment information, which Pardini flatly denied, saying “Not only would this have been a massive breach of privacy, but that is not information that a game server would ever need to operate, and so it would have been completely pointless to share.”
The fallout in the CoH/V community has been immediate and enormous. Many are calling for the server to be made public, while others are feeling rage over the situation, either from not being able to play for the past six years or for having previously insisted the server was real and being shouted down or verbally abused by people telling them they were wrong. Subreddit topics include
The big question is now this: What will NCSoft do about SCORE? While it’s been relatively tolerant of things like Paragon Chat and SEGS, SCORE seems like a totally different kind of thing — and, considering its secrecy, its developers likely knew that they would face legal issues if it was ever made public knowledge. The company also shut down a Tabula Rasa emulator, Infinite Rasa, back in 2011, four years after the game had officially shut down, which Pardini cited as an influence on his decision to keep things under wraps.
At the very least, a cease-and-desist seems likely, and perhaps more, especially if “stolen” code was used to create it. In any case, if you’re a City of Heroes/Villains fan, don’t hold out hope that the server will be made public and you’ll be able to log in any time soon.