City of Heroes Dev Diary: Designing Darkness Control


PC Gamer routinely features Developer Diaries: tales of what goes on behind-the-scenes in the development studios making your favorite games. In this entry, City of Heroes' Senior Systems Designer Phil “Synapse” Zeleski talks about designing the new Darkness Control power set. Let us know what you'd like to see developers discuss in future diaries in the comments.

The Darkness Control Power Set is a new primary Power Set choice for Controllers and Dominators that allows you to tap into the powers of the Netherworld to terrorize and possess your foes. This unique theme gives Darkness Control a few very unique powers, which I'll talk about in more depth below.

When our players think of darkness-based powers, their minds are likely to conjure up the entangling black tentacles that are the trademark looks of the Dark Blast and Dark Melee power sets. But we didn't want to copy that directly, and decided to go a different route with Darkness Control. Adding a new darkness-themed power set felt like the perfect opportunity to redefine some of those visual themes (established in Dark Blast and Dark Melee) that we felt were a bit dated. So instead, the Darkness Control Power Set uses swirling shadows and inky dark energy, as opposed to tentacles, as the core of the visual theme for the set.

Darkness Control biggest strength is bringing a breadth of control tools into a singular Power Set. Masters of it will be able to hold, immobilize, confuse, disorient, and terrorize their foes. This means you have a tool for nearly every situation. This wide variety of options comes at a cost though. Because few of your powers have the same control type, stacking effects on your target is trickier than it is with some other sets that focus on a fewer number of control types.

Some examples of Darkness Control's CC: a quick recharging single-target confuse, two hold powers, two immobilize powers, two very special pet powers, a player-based area of effect disorient, and a large cone terrorize power. As you can see, that's plenty of tools to lockdown your foes and aid your team. Combined with the haunting Shade pets and the towering, vicious Umbral Beast and it's a brutal lineup of powers with a lot of versatility.

Designing and implementing the Darkness Control power set had some unique challenges for us on the dev team. First, I really wanted to do something different both visually and mechanically, but I didn't want to throw Dominators and Controllers for a loop. Instead of building a new mechanic where the player builds up power through Combo Levels or some similar mechanic (like Street Justice or Staff Fighting), I decided to introduce new mechanics with some unusual powers.

The power Haunt summons a pair of Shades to harass and terrorize a target. Shadow Field is a location-based debuff that also has an initial hold. The Umbra Beast is visually very different from anything we've done before for a control set pet before. Implementing Darkness Control essentially required us to port Dark Miasma for Controllers and Dark Assault for Dominators. Because of this, Issue 22: Death Incarnate will feature not just Darkness Control, but also Darkness Affinity (Dark Miasma for Controllers) and Dark Assault. All three Power Sets are free for VIPs and will be available in the Paragon Market for Premium players.

To learn more about Darkness Control and the rest Issue 22: Death Incarnate, you can visit City of Heroes' Facebook page or the official website .


PC Gamer is the global authority on PC games—starting in 1993 with the magazine, and then in 2010 with this website you're currently reading. We have writers across the US, Canada, UK and Australia, who you can read about here.