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

  • They’ve been lying to us for years because they didn’t want their illegal activities exposed. Do you really trust them when they say that they don’t have anyone’s personal account information?
  • Leandro and Tyrex [Subreddit mod] created a dictatorship on this Subreddit
  • Somewhere out there ALL your characters lie dormant and Leandro is hiding them from you.
  • 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.

    Jason Winter is a veteran gaming journalist, he brings a wide range of experience to MMOBomb, including two years with Beckett Media where he served as the editor of the leading gaming magazine Massive Online Gamer. He has also written professionally for several gaming websites.

    4 COMMENTS

    1. I feel for these guys as I play star wars galaxies private servers even tho official shut down years ago to make way for SWTOR. Which was clearly a huge mistake…..swg should have never shut down.
      Look at what runescape has done, they have noticed a market for oldschool gaming and taken it to the next level with oldschool runescape and now bigger companys are starting to follow Jagex’s lead on this new take on old games by releasing WoWc soon.

      Long Live Oldschool gaming.

    2. If someone is willing to host a game on their own server, they should be able to. They should be able to go to the company (NCsoft) and get some kind of deal or even the make the game public domain or open source. Games being closed are basically being shelved, never to be seen or played again while fans of the game would love to be able to play it. The reason they close games down is because they’re not making money, so why not let servers open? Just my thought.

      • Servers cost money , so does staff to maintain them , even with games like Guild Wars 1 that are in maintainance mode the company would not let them running without guild wars 2 to back the cost up , and even with all this there is currently only 1 developer that maintains Guild wars 1 as far as im aware .Also companys usualy shelv those games in hopes they can reuse assets later or the game is part of intellectual property like warcraft where they dont want public private servers doint their own story let alone earn any money with it even if its not much . As for the private contact information kept in the game code I would say that its only wishful thinking mixed with fear , many people were sad when that game closed down because it essentialy meant the character they have grown to love dies with it , its probably some wishful thinking of the sorts ” if there is original code from the game remaining that might mean my character is still somewhere ” and the next step of logic is ” if my character is still there , so is my credit card info from back in the day ” I dont know why any private server owner would want to keep those infos and im pretty sure he could not make use of them even if he wanted to

      • While you make valid points, things are not always that simple, of course.
        I’m sure some who are more invested in this have already done their research, but there are a few concerns I can think of off the top of my head.

        1. Monetising: Server hosts may be able to come to an agreement with the game companies not to make any money off the server, but this means those game companies themselves have to expend resources to make sure this doesn’t happen. If the game already isn’t making any money for them, why would they spend money babysitting someone else?

        2. Ownership: If the game takes off and becomes super-popular, all’s good. What if some years down the road, something happens? Worst-case scenario, something in the game is found to contradict some law or policy in some country that the game company isn’t even based in. Now who’s to blame? The game company? Surely not… The server host? What if they claim to have nothing to do with it? These are unnecessary risks for the company.

        3. Open-source: This isn’t a good idea for the companies. Essentially, they failed with the game they created. It is therefore very likely someone else could make a better game out of it, considering it was at its worst when it went down. That’s awkward. Also, the assets they made for the game, they could re-use much of it for new games down the line.

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