In Past Superhero games, the general progress of lore dissemination and quest giving involved NPC superheroes/villains/authority figures doling out missions and tidbits of information they'd uncovered (from your efforts, or while you were off running errands)...
This process lead many to feel "unheroic" (or "unvillainous") and as secondary to the events of the quest archs.
It's my belief that there is a way to provide players/characters with the lore and mission information they need without relying on the traditional PC/NPC system of interaction.
To separate City of Titans from COX/CO’s system of “learning the ropes” through in-game Hero/Villain NPCs. Further, to incorporate “perspective” into the lore of the settings many locations, organizations, and individuals, in an attempt to mitigate and ultimately minimize the level of “OOC” lore content.
A “Sage” NPC is a character who for reasons of their own, no longer engages in metahuman activities. They were, however, active for a significant amount of time and, as such, are well versed in nearly every aspect of “lore”. A Sage NPC embodies a philosophical and moral perspective in the game world, and their perspective colors the information they provide.
While traditional contacts may still exist (depending on the game’s final structure) the intention of the Sage NPCs is to remove exponential lore (backstory) from contacts, locations, and organizations.
Instead, players would be encouraged to question these Sages about the various people, places, and groups they encounter.
This would allow for much stronger “show don’t tell” interactions between players and contacts/NPCs, as sages would act as Story Tellers and Lore Keepers, providing unobtrusive immersion in the game world’s lore, that would otherwise be expositionally provided in an OOC biography tab or in a faux-IC context to players who chose to “ask a contact about herself” (or outright imposed on players through mission dialogue.)
Removes some of the blandness of NPC biographical exposition
Allows for more “show don’t tell” interaction
Provides players with In Character, perspective-based lore that can differ based on who is speaking
Adds and element of content achievement as each new location, person, or group is “unlocked” in the Sage’s dialogue options
Potential for clue-based exploration (comparing descriptions of individuals, groups, or locations from various sages to glean otherwise unspoken truths/unknown discoveries)
Gives players a sense of IC/OOC mentorship, without requiring “A-List Heroes/Villains” or government authorities to shepherd them (zero feelings of being a sidekick/errand boy(girl)/or otherwise marginalized)
There are many ways in which something like this could play out, from an In Lore perspective. I’ve listed two, here:
The Society of Immortals:
Essentially, over the course of centuries, individuals have come along who, through magic or mutation or gift from extra-dimensional beings… have been made functionally immortal.
They are not gods themselves, just men and woman who do not die. Over their long lives, they’ve become aware of each other, even meet socially, but have drastically different views on morality, philosophy, and the human condition in general.
Because they don’t have the power of most super heroes/villains, their work or schemes may take many lifetimes to come to fruition… and right now isn’t the time for that.
I picture the society as sort of a social club of people like Xavier and Magneto, mixed with Vandal Savage and Wolverine (if they were all retired)
Their ideologies are just as strong as ever, and completely colors their perspective on the world, but they prefer to enlighten the current generations, then try to fight outright.
There’s no retirement home for heroes and villains… but sometimes, a super gets left behind by fate.
The Villain whose rage is spent, the hero who’s buried all her friends… the people who still believe in the cause, such as it is… but no longer believe in the fight.
Where the Society is (essentially) a group of philosophers debating an argument they have no real stock in…..
The Broken are heroes and villains who fought their fight and have, on some level, been beaten by it.
While I definitely like the idea of individual meta humans hanging out and shootin’ the breeze, I also think, as a SYSTEM something more like the society works better in the lore (sort of like a non-time-traveling Oroborus)
I think there would need to be (at least) two of these Sages, one for each side of the coin….
a smaller number definitely works better with “The Broken” idea…
…But the Society of Immortals idea, IMO, has TONS of potential. Not only do you have one for “hero” and “villain,” there’s also the option to have one for each of the 6 basic alignment permutations (“philosophies”), and indeed could have as MANY immortals as you wanted to deal with (re-framing lore content for the new NPC perspective)
Beyond the core concept… having a “non-combat” group of supers who don’t function as a tradition team helps to shake up the core lore…. And also provides a launching off point for further development in the game’s content.
No matter the story concept the team ran with, though, I feel that the core of this suggestion would go a long way to redefining the PC/NPC dynamic of MMOs and, combined with other proposed evolutions of questing design/structure, would lead to a fresh twist on the familiar function of NPCs and provide something new to the Superhero MMO….
....Fly me to the moon and let me play among the stars...