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Why a secret City of Heroes server is dividing the community

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What is SCORE, and why are fans angry?

When City of Heroes’ developers announced that they would be shutting the game down on Aug. 31, 2012, fans began battling for the fate of their favorite MMO. The superhero themed game, along with developer Paragon Studios, was shuttered due to a “realignment of company focus and publishing support” by publisher NCSoft. Fans rallied for in-game protests, funded spiritual successors on Kickstarter, and eventually fell back on creating their own versions of City of Heroes that couldn’t be taken away from them.

Paragon Chat and SEGS are two of the surviving mirrors of City of Heroes’ content, but neither of them have full functionality. Rumors have persisted for years in the City of Heroes community about a full private server, and they were finally confirmed by a player named Destroyer Stroyer. As Massively Overpowered originally reported, this leak — as well as the reaction to it — has led a once-dormant community to explode into chaos.

Destroyer Stroyer, who identifies himself as Brian, shared his experience in a 34-minute video.

The emulator SCORE (Secret Cabal of Reverse Engineers), according to Brian, has been run in secrecy by a closed community for the last six years. By revealing the existence of this secret server, Brian broke a nondisclosure agreement that he had signed. He alleges that SCORE was kept quiet by power players in the City of Heroes community.

Brian’s first objection is that “playing the game, and not being able to share the game, was not fun.” Many fans lost a major emotional investment when City of Heroes was closed down, and they have been holding out hope that they can return to their digital home.

His other allegation is that the secret SCORE server may have a database backup of the live game, which could include account information.

In a statement to Massively OP, SCORE’s lead developer, Leandro Pardini, denied many of Brian’s accusations. He said he is not a City of Heroes subreddit moderator, that other emulation clients are not in league with SCORE’s community, and that no personal information from customer accounts was ever distributed to SCORE by Paragon’s former employees. Pardini added that not only would this be an inexcusable privacy breach, but “that is not information that a game server would ever need to operate, and so it would have been completely pointless to share.”

City of Heroes fans are in an uproar. Some are furious that there’s been a way to return to Paragon City that they didn’t know about. Many players lost long-term communities or friends over City of Heroes, and the more time that passes, the weaker those links become. Other fans are angry at Brian, feeling that NCSoft may crack down on this server as a result of the leak. (NCSoft declined to comment on the matter.)

There’s also the question of who got invited and why — and as a follow-up, who didn’t get invited. For some of the players who dismissed SCORE as a wild embellishment or rumor, there’s a sense of betrayal.

Pardini touched on this in his statement, writing: “This is a difficult thing to address, because nobody likes feeling lied to, even by omission. At the same time, operating under an NDA comes with some rules that are well understood. The fact that we’re talking about a server project for a game while the company that owns the IP is still active and used aspects of the IP very recently for Master X Master makes things more complicated.”

Pardini apologized to any City of Heroes community member that was called a liar or “crazy” over rumors of SCORE’s existence. SCORE’s developers intend to keep developing the project in secret. They do not intend to share a progress report, and the NDA “will remain in full effect.”

Pardini finished his statement by encouraging City of Heroes fans to support the developers behind the SEGS project. While the project remains in secrecy, this controversy has reignited hope for some players that they may, once again, take to the skies with characters that still hold emotional importance for them.