A Star is Born:
Let’s Play Champions Online Pt. 10

By Shamus Posted Tuesday Nov 24, 2009

Filed under: Shamus Plays 56 comments

I know last time I promised that we’d head for the city, but I needed to take a quick detour first. See, Canada runs out of content around level 12 or 13, but the city pretty much starts at level 15. What’s odd is that Doc Severisen gives you the quest to go to the city, and it’s tagged as a level 12 quest. This was very confusing my first time through the game, as I followed the natural progression and went where the NPC’s told me to, and suddenly found myself in WAY over my head and unable to figure out where I should go for level-appropriate content.

The problem seems to be that the city needs a few more quests in the level 12-14 range. Three levels is a pretty big gap, and the smartest way to close it is to go back and play the level 12-13 content in the desert. (Or if you’ve been in the desert, then go to Canada.) Just having the NPC’s point you to the other leveling zone instead of the city would probably alleviate a lot of the first-character frustrations.

Anyway, I’ve been through the desert*. I just cherry-picked a few missions rather than following a sensible quest progression, so it would be kind of unfair for me to take potshots at plot holes with this setup. Let’s just move on…

* If you’re over 30, I just got that one song suck in your head**.
** Ha ha! Sucker.

Ah Millennium City! At last, I can start to feel like a superhero. Hopefully my time in Canada won’t have any lasting effects on me. Before we get started and make a mess of the city, let’s take the tour, eh?

Remember that Millennium City used to be Detroit. It was destroyed by Dr. Destroyer, and when they rebuilt the city they renamed it as well. I guess in the process of renaming it they also added 200 foot tall sheer vertical cliffs?


I don’t know how long it would take to get enough mass to lift an entire city 200 feet, but I’m betting it took a while. You’ probably need to do more than just put up one of those “clean fill wanted” signs.

As with Snake Gulch, here we have the game designers adding walls that make no sense and make the place harder to navigate. Some nice rolling hills or gentle elevation shifts would be fine. They would offer a little variety, at least. But aside from the preposterous cliff (don’t forget Detroit is near the Great Lakes – it is flat out there) the city is perfectly level.

Why would you do this? Why set it in Detroit if you want a cliff? Why put in a cliff if you want to set it in Detroit? That’s like setting the game in New York, except at the top of a mountain and hundreds of miles from the ocean. The only reason to use real-world locations is to add a bit of verisimilitude, which was obviously not a priority for anyone involved with this project. Just make up your own city if you want to make clifftown so bad.

“But this game is based on the Pen & Paper setting!”

I don’t see how that makes any difference. You can’t excuse lazy nonsense by simply saying that you’re just perpetuating someone else’s lazy nonsense. (And I strongly suspect the cliffs aren’t part of the P&P setting.)

Thankfully I have the gift of flight, so the cliffs are of no concern to me.

Sadly, some parts of the city have not yet been rebuilt.


Next we have the renaissance center, a circle of massive sky needles. I know I made a big deal earlier when I was joking about about the taxpayers and asking about who pays for all the superhero stuff. Some people thought maybe I was making a big deal out of nothing. Maybe this will help explain what I’m getting at:


The city center has these stratosphere-poking towers that dwarf even the tallest buildings in the city. The best is the one that has a convention-center sized building stuck on top of a couple of kilometer-tall toothpick elevator shafts. At the top? Some benches and a couple of soda machines. It’s just a hangout for the supers. Also worth noting is the immense dance club. All of these buildings are just for the supers.

These are nice:


FIRST HERO: You know what would really be great here in the city center?

SECOND HERO: Some sort of memorial to the people who died when Dr. Destroyer Attacked?

FIRST HERO: I was thinking more along the lines of statues of ourselves.

I’m just saying, I don’t care if the taxpayers paid for this stuff or not. It seems a little… unseemly to go around calling yourself a “hero” when you’re living in this sort of lavish extravagance and half the city is still rubble. I’m not saying they shouldn’t have nice things, but maybe hold off on the fifty foot statues until we get the rubble out of the streets, yeah?

Remember Champion HQ from earlier? Here is the view of it from the air:


You know what I would do if I were a super-villain? No, I wouldn’t kidnap the mayor’s daughter or put a zombie bomb in the sewer. That just gets you punched the face, and even if you pull it off it doesn’t really accomplish much. No, I would buy up the property on either side of the Champions building. To the east I would build the Friendship Headquarters, and between that and the Champions building would be the Unity building. Then to the west would be the Kid’s building. Then the Champions would have no choice but to tear down their headquarters! Muahahahaha!

Ahem. Anyway.

No city would be complete without a maximum security supervillain prison built in the middle of the most expensive and densely populated areas.


Man, if there was ever a breakout it would be a disaster.

There’s always a breakout going on here. This is one of the public quest areas. The jailbreak public quest is pretty fun.

Earlier I made fun of Ironclad for launching himself at the alien mothership, and at the people of the city for throwing me a parade before we even knew how things worked out for Ironclad. I still think the parade was a messed up idea, but it looks like Ironclad came through:


He didn’t just knock them out of the sky and have them crash all over the city. He made them land their mothership in the river. Someday it is my fond hope to be able to punch something that hard. Man, nice work Ironclad.

So that’s the tour. Now, enough sightseeing. Let’s get to work.


Ah, this brings back old memories. It’s Socrates, the city cyberbrain that’s a couple of service packs short of a full install. I strike up a conversation and try to act like I’m looking off into the distance or something, because every time I look up I end up looking her right in the cybercrotch. Er. Him. It. You know what I mean.

Socrates has some superhero stuff for me to do. Outstanding. In truth, I’m really glad to be in the city now. Some of the missions in Canada were a little… screwy. Maybe a little on the daft side. Then again, maybe I’m just prejudiced against astrally-projected giant brains, I don’t know. Now that we’re back in the city we can do some more conventional superhero type adventuring. This is the kind of place Superman, Spider-Man, and Batman do their thing, and fighting crime on the mean streets of the bustling metropolis goes a long way to making me feel more like a super-being and less like a slapstick prop.

First job: Track down a stolen shipment of ping pong balls that was oh hell not more of this screwball crap.


Okay. So a villain named Foxbat has stolen a shipment of ping-pong balls. Socrates actually has the nerve to call it a “heist”. Foxbat evidently uses ping-pong balls as a weapon, and Socrates wants to know why.

My guess: Because Cryptic studios has extremely liberal policies when it comes to the use of hallucinogenics on the job.

So I’m off to investigate the… theft.


I arrive to find an overturned truck and spilled ping-pong balls. There’s also a car on fire nearby, but there’s cars inexplicably on fire all over the city and nobody seems to care. No, the theft of comedic sporting goods is far more concerning to the leadership of the city than silly trivialities like widespread arson that has claimed one out of every eight vehicles.

Upon closer investigation, it’s clear that the trail of ping-pong balls leads off towarWOAH!


Somewhere in southern California, a game developer is laughing his ass off at me.

Okay, so apparently you can slip and fall on the ping-pong balls. Anyway, the trail of ping-pong balls leads off to a nearby warehouse. Let’s get over there and see what’s what.


I pass a couple more car fires on the way in. There’s also a team of criminals on the roof and rubble all over the streets, but by all means, let’s deal with this ping-pong ball emergency.


Inside, the warehouse is dark and ominous. Er, aside from the ping-pong balls, anyway.

Hello? Anyone here? I’m from the superheroes. I’m here to talk to someone about the theft of… some stuff. I just want to ask you a few questions, and then maybe punch you into orbit if you sound guilty. Hello?

I wait a few moments. Nothing. Whew. I experience a great sense of relief. I feel really stupid doing this, and I’d much prefer going back to Socrates with nothing and letting the police deal with the case. It’s probably just a bunch of kids anyway.

As I turn to leave, I realize I should probably check out the pile of ping-pong balls in the middle of the room first. You know, for clues and such. Supervillains are not subtle and might well have left something really obvious laying around. I go over and have a quick look around, making sure not to step on the balls.

It’s an ambush! A Foxbat Battlebot attacks!

At one point you had to slip on the ping-pong balls in order to trigger the ambush. Also, you’d slip and fall on the balls, even if you were flying over them. I was all set to make fun of the game for this and then they went and fixed it. Curse you Cryptic for fixing the most hilarious bugs!


An ambushing bot falls on the balls, which more or less makes the whole trip worth it, right there.

I pummel a few more robots, and then help arrives.


Wow. A swat team. How is that car fire problem going, guys? Got that all sorted yet?

The robots are not happy:

The robot is off the left side of the screen, so we’re just seeing its chat bubble.
The robot is off the left side of the screen, so we’re just seeing its chat bubble.

“Delightfully zany”? I am feeling many things right now. Perhaps shame. Self-loathing maybe. But not delight. I just saved a truckload of ping-pong balls. My publicist is going to kill me if he hears about this.

Next Time: Can our hero withstand the onslaught of self-esteem destroying silliness? FIND OUT NEXT WEEK!


From The Archives:

56 thoughts on “A Star is Born:
Let’s Play Champions Online Pt. 10

  1. Wonderduck says:

    I've been through the desert…

    Were you on a horse with no name?

    1. M says:

      Dammit, *I* wanted to make the first terrible joke!

  2. Roderick says:

    Well, at least I can say:

    It felt good to be out of the rain.

    Thanks for that Shamus, now I’ll have that song looping in my head for the entire day.

  3. Eric Meyer says:

    Wait, so the half-collapsed buildings in the rubble fields still have electrical service, working light fixtures, and occupants?

    Oh, and just name the damn horse. What else are you doing out there? It’s a desert!

  4. Vulpin says:

    I hate to say it, but Foxbat is as cannon to the P&P game as Dr. Destroyer (I have a “Foxbat for President” button that Hero Games slipped into my bag a few years ago). So they may or may not be perpetuating laziness, but they are definitely perpetuating inanity.

    Oh, and the ear-worm? Handily chased out by They Might Be Giants. Go John and John!

  5. ZomBuster says:

    Remember that Millennium City used to be Detroit. It was destroyed by Dr. Destroyer, and when they rebuilt the city they renamed it as well. I guess in the process of renaming it they also added 200 foot tall sheer vertical cliffs?

    They just swept up the rubble into a big pile and build on top of it.

  6. karrde says:

    I’m a little amused at your description of what they did to Detroit.

    (There is a building called Renaissance Center in Detroit now, but it doesn’t appear too similar to any of the buildings shown in the pictures…)

    I agree, if they want the verisimilitude, they should learn the territory they’re trying to replicate and use.

  7. Adam says:

    Maybe when Detroit got destroyed, it really got destroyed, and now it’s not flat anymore?

    Aw, why bother trying to make sense of it all. Foxbat, incidentally, is actually the name of a Marvel supervillain.

  8. Tomas says:

    I haven’t played this game, but I don’t think I would enjoy it as much as I do enjoy reading about you playing it. =)

    “I just want to ask you a few questions, and then maybe punch you into orbit if you sound guilty.”

    I just love that line! =)

  9. Robert says:

    I suggest “Buttercup”. That’s a nice name for a horse.

  10. Florin-Vlad says:

    i didn’t get why thy have no choice but to tear down their headquarters :(

    1. Andy says:

      The Champions building has a huge “C” as its roof, if you built the other buildings in a similar style, they would be F (for friendship) U for Unity, the C for Champions and then K for Kid’s which would spell the name of a well known fashion house and contravene Cryptic’s obscenity rules I would think.

  11. Randy Johnson says:

    I’m twenty, and you still got horse with no name stuck in my head.

  12. Hal says:

    I’m in agreement with Eric. What’s up with the collapsed buildings still having lights? With all the money that’s been spent on extravagant architecture in this city, you’d think they’d want to shave a few bucks here or there by cutting off power to the rubble.

  13. Drew says:

    All I can think of now is Jingleheimer Junction. And it makes me laugh. Fantastic SNL sketch.

  14. Cryptic Studios are located in Northern California. Specifically, the Bay Area.

  15. tremor3258 says:

    I remember trying the Foxbat mission in beta… I also remember dying repeatedly from a fairly strong ambush when I attempted it solo – is this just because my powers weren’t optimized or did they change it?

  16. kmc says:

    I would like to say that I am amused by your screencap of the battlebot slipping and falling for other, numerically-related reasons, especially since it’s above his head and could be interpreted as a thought bubble. And before someone (okay, maybe everyone) points out how completely immature and possibly non-family-friendly that is, I will remind them (and you, and myself) that this is in response to the post in which you describe your super-villainous Center of Harmony and Light and Dirty Words. You know, maybe we _should_ have more of those…
    Oh, yes, one more thing–you don’t have to be over 30! Damn you!
    @ Eric Meyer: promptly made into my e-mail signature! You win the song response quote award.

  17. neminem says:

    Ah, yes, the epically terrible lyrics in which “name” is rhymed with “name”. I have better things to get stuck in my head.

    I’m 25, by the way.

  18. Eric says:

    @Adam: I believe, but cannot find enough Internet references to prove in 3 minutes or less, that the Champions pen-and-paper IP had a “Foxbat” character before Marvel did.

  19. cavalier says:

    Florin-Vlad: imagine if each building was shaped like it’s first letter . . .

    It took me a bit to get that one, but the image is funny. Especially if no one noticed it until a fly-by.

    Shamus – I love the 15 minute editing ability. Haven’t needed it yet but glad to know it’s there.

  20. Bruce Harlick says:

    Foxbat uses ping-pong balls as ammo because he was drawn for the ENEMIES II back in 1982 with what looked like a ping-pong ball gun and I had no choice but to run with the theme, there. Stop bad-mouthing the most awesomeness and coolestest villain ever!

    Cryptic is in Northern California, by the way, not Southern California. As far as I know, there is no SoCal connection between Cryptic or Hero Games.

  21. Pickly says:

    It took me a bit to get the “friends, Unity, Kids” joke, but that is a funny idea. :D

    Is there an actual explanation for the burning cars in the game, or are they stay as scenery?

  22. Rosseloh says:

    I like that song.

    I’m 20 by the way. :P

  23. Trianglehead says:

    Only 25, you still got the damned song stuck in my head.

  24. Florin-Vlad says:

    Thanks Pickly i get it now :P (missed the friends part)

  25. J Greely says:

    What I love most about Renaissance Center are the billboards, giant floating telescreens that are clearly visible from the bombed-out streets of Westside. Clearly, Millennium City is a twisted dystopia where non-supers are little more than animals, playthings abused by both heroes and villains. It explains why they’re so desperately eager to thank you for your work: they’ve seen what happens to “insufficiently appreciative” citizens.

    And what about the children? Ever seen a school, or a playground that wasn’t long-abandoned? Ever seen a child? A human child? Ever notice that there seem to be only about a dozen different people populating the city, their faces repeated again and again?


  26. Yar Kramer says:

    I don’t actually know the tune to “Horse With No Name,” so I’m imagining it to the tune of the first Hellsing anime. (Oh, wait, now I remember it …)

  27. Heron says:

    Shamus, what made you think only people over 30 would get that song stuck in my head? I’m only 24… and now I’ll be humming that song all day while I’m getting my car emissions inspected and then registered at the DMV :(

    1. Shamus says:

      Heron: The song is 37 years old. I was a year old when it hit the charts. I guess I under-estimated the longevity of the thing.

  28. Joshua says:

    I have to admit they surprised a laugh out of me the first time I slipped on the ping pong balls next to the truck, so as a practical joke I have to rate it as pretty effective. A game where the designers didn’t play practical jokes on you is still probably preferable.

    @Pickly, the cars are destructible objects, and when they lose enough health they start to burn. You sometimes come across villains attacking them, perhaps because they stole their favorite parking space. Eventually they despawn and are replaced by new cars, which may eventually be attacked and start to burn.

  29. TA says:

    Regarding the design of Millenium City: Keep in mind, this was going to be New York City before they lost the Marvel IP and had to sloppily reskin their game. Which … still doesn’t really excuse the cliffs, but at least excuses the waterline.

  30. Patrick says:

    Yar, Foxbat is canon Champions. But he was always intended as a mild brak from the normal dramatic adventuers. He had a huge hero-worship of the Avenger (IIRC), and tended to pull off weird schemes so as to somehow become his own hero’s archnemesis. Foxbat was always supposed to take himself seriously, though. It was just that nobody else did, and he totally lacked any hint of malice. He was just weird and tended to make trouble whever he went.

    They tend to mix the canon and non-canon elements rather badly, I guess.

  31. Audacity says:

    Remember that Millennium City used to be Detroit. It was destroyed by Dr. Destroyer, and when they rebuilt the city they renamed it as well.

    Wait a minute, for this they consider him a villain!? The man deserves a medal! –No offence to any Detroitians.–

  32. Davie says:

    I do find it rather funny that the destroyed buildings still have lights on in the windows. They must have had some damn good electricians.

  33. Kibrika says:

    My favourite is the one about being “a few service packs short of a full install”.
    Love this!

  34. Factoid says:

    For K I would have gone with the Kirk Cameron Living and Learning Center

  35. Pickly says:

    @Joshua: Thanks for the explanation.

    @”horse with no name”:

    I guess I’m a lucky one, since I haven’t actually heard this song (Just read about it in the Dave Barry bad song book.) Guess that’s something to avoid…

  36. Jeff says:

    I’m under 30, and I heard the line being sung through my head, but it failed to catch on, probably because I’m not too familiar with it, heh.

  37. Mari says:

    First off I would like to let you know how much I personally loathe you for getting that wretched song stuck in my head where it will bounce around for weeks.

    Secondly, wow. This entire series really puts me off of Champs Online. I mean, I like humour. Quite a bit, in fact. But really, these jokes are not humourous, they’re just…juvenile and more than a little bit dorktastic. I’m almost waiting for the UrkelBot to show up. Yeah, it’s that kind of funny to me.

  38. MuonDecay says:

    I’m 22, and you still got that song stuck in my head. Arghhh!

  39. Dix says:

    It felt good to be out of the rain. In the desert, you can remember your name cuz there ain’t no one for to give you no pain.


  40. Rosewire says:

    From what I recall of the origin issue for Foxbat (yes, there were Champions comics), he basically existed to mock Batman in every way possible. The ping-pong ball gun partly existed simply because when he defeated you (and he was reasonably difficult, if inane), it meant you’d gotten your butt kicked by a ping pong ball. Which is pretty embarassing. The current incarnation in the game seems a bit more Daffy Duck in tone, but I can still see the loon I remember hiding in there.

  41. Steve C says:

    I love your lengthy posts with screen caps. I love the comments others make about them so I always want to read the comments too.

    Shamus can you please go back to restricting their size to a paragraph-ish sized chunk on the main page? You used to insert a link to click at the bottom of the abbreviated article and it was appreciated. Star-On-Chest and his screen caps beats the crap out of my evil internet. Loading the main page is murder on dial up and loading it twice to see comments is double internet-cide.

  42. Legendary Bard says:

    I’m only seventeen and that song is stuck in my head, Shamus. Thaaanks.

  43. Jabor says:

    Damnit, I was going to post this morning (NZT) about how I wasn’t even 20 and got caught by the tune, but I end up putting it off until after work and get ninja’d by someone even younger.

    Though I will say I much prefer it over what kids these days call “music”.

    [email protected]: Try the RSS feed. Links straight to the post instead of looking at the main page at all.

  44. Catbunny says:

    Got the song stuck in my head… but I kinda like it. :)

    Anywho… I still like Foxbat. The only character in Champions/Hero Systems who knows he’s fictional.
    Where the rest of the supplemental books was *name* Unleashed, his book was “Foxbat: Unhinged”. :D

  45. Daemian Lucifer says:

    Wow,that foxbat really has the balls?

    Hilarious as always.Also,a bit of frustrating that is in most sandbox games:why have a sheer cliff that prevents you from leaving the area?Especially if the player can fly.If you really cant think of a better reason to keep players in,why not have their character just say “I have more work to do here,I wont leave”,and then have him not budge in the dirrection opposite the area.

  46. Gavin says:

    Have you (game devs) ever actually stepped on a ping-pong ball? They just get squashed flat. We have to have a cupboard full of them so that we can play a complete round.

  47. Sam says:

    Having not read everybody else’s comments, I can only hope that nobody else has pointed out that more than likely, any normal-sized human would crush a ping pong ball under one’s feet rather than slip and fall on one’s rump. (EDIT: Hi, I’m Captain Unobservant. Didn’t even look at the comment directly above mine. Hur dur dur….) Having a brick of a superhero like Star on Chest slip and fall in a wave of comic mischief is just ridiculous.

    Every one of these entries brings joy to my heart. Makes me happy that I did not purchase this game.

  48. Doug Sundseth says:

    Bruce: I thought you had said that Foxbat was your character (many years ago, at a convention far, far away)? So he didn’t have the ping-pong ball gun originally?

  49. Daemian Lucifer says:

    About squashing ping pong balls:


  50. Steve C says:

    Thanks Shamus!

    @Jabar: I’ve had spotty luck with RSS feeds. They tend to try and download everything at the same time (downloading nothing) or more annoyingly use up my limited bandwidth while I’m trying to look at something else.

  51. Alex says:

    “I've been through the desert*”

    I remember that one from San Andreas. With all of the tykes who played that due to irresponsible parents, I’m pretty sure the age median has dropped from 30. :P

  52. the kleptomaniac skeptic says:

    Looking back on this, this game could actually have been an amazing deconstruction of the superhero genre. Just darken the tone and make the superheros somewhat corrupt and it would make an awesome parody of the average superhero comic

  53. WJS says:

    I thought the statues were of heroes who were killed in the battle of Detroit? That’s not exactly “heroes making statues to themselves”, which implies that the statues are of heroes who survived the battle.

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