Tiny Cowboy enters the City of Heroes.I have a tale to tell you. It's a tale of adventure; a tale of the spirit of the Old West finding a home in the Big City. It is the legend of the Tiny Cowboy, and it takes place within the confines of the best online roleplaying game to hit store shelves possibly ever. That game is "City of Heroes". Before I tell you the tale of the Tiny Cowboy, I think it might help to first tell you a little bit about the game in which he resides.
I will admit to not being much of a fan of the MMRPG genre, though I have played many of the games offered I have never found one that struck me more than a temporary fancy. They all inevitably broke down into the grindstone drudgery of leveling so rapidly that the games transformed from fun into work in the space of a few days. City of Heroes - the first in what will probably be a long line of super hero themed MMRPGS - manages to distract you from the leveling by making it downright awesome to create fun and exciting characters. Most importantly, the game does not take itself very seriously.
Don't be surprised if you see characters running around like "The Huggernaut" (a massive black robot with a huge pink heart on its chest) or Ace and Gary from SNL's "Ambiguously Gay Duo". The majority of the people you'll see probably take the superhero thing too seriously, creating alter egos like "Dark Frost" or "Nytmare", which leaves the rest of us a lot more leeway to go wild. The character creation process provides you with so many options for customizing your super hero's appearance that you'll spend hours just dreaming up characters to try out. Everything from height and body type to the color and style of gloves your character wears are free for you to choose.
One of the more amusing characters created by an SA Goon.Another unique aspect of "City of Heroes" is that there is no inventory whatsoever. The only equipment you have is directly related to your super powers. For example, if you're a gun wielding technofreak you'll literally pull a giant multi-barreled assault rifle out of thin air. The game is also much more action oriented than other MMRPGs I have played. Your character can jump over moving cars or, with the aid of super powers, leap onto the roofs of skyscrapers or even fly. Even in combat enemies will flee when outclassed and in the twisted and surprisingly realistic urban environments of "City of Heroes" this can turn into drawn out pursuits ranging up fire escapes and across the roofs of buildings. All of the action in the game takes place in the vast landscape of Paragon City, with diverse neighborhoods and a convenient instant travel subway system.
The single best thing that can be said about the game is that unlike so many other MMRPGs "City of Heroes" had a virtually flawless launch and an unparalleled stability. Servers have dropped my connection a handful of times but I was always immediately able to log back on, and that's the worst I've suffered. Lag is so rare that even in heavily populated zones a monetary frame drop as you enter is uncommon. This when the game is thronged with newcomers is extremely impressive to me.
It took me several attempts at character creation to come up with an alter-ego that I really clicked with. It took me about five seconds of playing the Tiny Cowboy to realize that he was the champion of my heart. Here, for the first time, I tell his story.
Tiny Cowboy is four feet tall with a stocky frame and a five o'clock shadow that's well on its way to six or even seven o'clock. Beneath that bushy, Magnum P.I. style mustache is a thin hard line of mouth that is rarely used by a Tiny Cowboy of few words. Tiny Cowboy is quite tiny, but he is not slow and he is not weak. I made sure he was capable of racing down streets at top speed as soon as possible, and with his compliment of super powers he can lay a haymaker on a punk that will send him sailing through the air for almost half of a city block. He can leap onto the roof of a second story building without even trying very hard and he can shoot magical cowboy beams out of his hands. He's a complicated hero for a complicated world. On his profile card (the last step of the character creation process) I was able to enter a description/origin and a battle cry for Tiny Cowboy. I feel that my selections were fitting.Tiny Cowboy got his start by lurking in boxes.I began as Tiny Cowboy in one of the two beating hearts of Paragon City called Galaxy City. After leveling up with the experience Tiny Cowboy had earned in the tutorial I scampered - and four foot tall cowboys running at a sprint most definitely scamper - into the side streets to seek out adventure. My first instinct was to take advantage of Tiny Cowboy's diminutive size and use it to frighten passerby. To this end I quickly located a cardboard box just large enough to conceal Tiny Cowboy while he was standing. I watched over the folded rim of the cardboard box for another player to pass. The first two that did seemed not to notice as a four foot high cowboy erupted from a cardboard box on the sidewalk and hurtled over their heads. The third stopped to stare at Tiny Cowboy and his antics. I paused in my running and stared back with all my might, hoping that Tiny Cowboy's rugged good looks could do all the talking needed. When the other player's questions went unanswered they fled, ignoring my last minute cry of "Don't do drugs!"
The cardboard box trick was amusing to me, mostly just the sight of Tiny Cowboy's hat and eyes peeking out of the box, but I needed to be more proactive with my Oklahoma antics. I set out at a full-tilt scamper, leaping over the tops of pedestrians and passing cars in search of a victim for my rustling. Now, keep in mind, Tiny Cowboy is not an evil cowboy, he's just a whimsical one, so my goal was to annoy not to destroy. Rest assured, if destruction had been my goal Tiny Cowboy would have seen anyone off with little difficulty.
When deployed, Tiny Cowboy's punch can send opponents flying.After some searching I located a player with the name "hehehe" who, despite the seemingly joking name, had created a fairly standard and serious spandex-clad juggernaut. Tiny Cowboy scampered ceaselessly around him, running in circles and leaping repeatedly over his head whenever "hehehe" came to a stop. Ever the fine wit "hehehe" commented "like a gnat", then continued on his way. I followed, racing around and around him and jumping back and forth over top of him. For whatever reason he thought it would be a good idea to invite me to his party and Tiny Cowboy readily accepted. "hehehe" then approached a large gathering of street thugs and initiated combat, no doubt expecting some backup from his small friend. Instead, Tiny Cowboy weaved around and around the mass of agitated street thugs, leaping over their heads and that of his teammate.
At first "hehehe" seemed to have the situation well in hand, but evidently the targeting difficulties caused by Tiny Cowboy's madcap scampering negatively impacted his battle. As the situation worsened "hehehe" attempted to flee, but Tiny Cowboy was persistently underfoot, allowing the street punks to catch up and deliver cruel blows to "hehehe". For his part, "hehehe" became very angry at this point and ejected poor Tiny Cowboy from the party. This did nothing to impede my efforts and as "hehehe" collapsed beneath the onslaught of attacking thugs, cursing Tiny Cowboy's name, I offered him the advice "Don't do drugs!"
From time to time I overestimated Tiny Cowboy's capabilities, with tragic results.Tiny Cowboy had wrought enough trouble among the other players, I figured it was time for him to do something heroic. After all, a tiny laser-shooting super strong cowboy is either a hero or a villain, and I sure didn't want Tiny Cowboy earning a bad reputation. I tracked down a manageable group of street thugs and attacked them. Things went well at first, and I managed to take out two of them with little difficulty. The third presented a slightly larger problem. He decided to flee, firing a pistol at me every so often as I pursued. I was faster, but the AI is damn good at navigating fire escapes and I was lagging behind as we took the fight to a rooftop. Feeling cornered, the thug leapt to the ground below and I followed. As I approached to finish him off he drew a sledge hammer and laid poor Tiny Cowboy out on the ground like a Christmas turkey that someone had laid out on the ground.
Tiny Cowboy was down, but certainly not out. He regained his footing and delivered a crushing blow that sent the punk flying down the block. A quick follow up with his mysterious hand lasers and it was all over for one more piece of gutter trash. The man who was originally being accosted by the thugs ran up to Tiny Cowboy and offered his thanks. All in a day's work for the world's smallest gun-free gunslinger.
Feeling exhilarated I opted to continue my patrol. I caught sight of another group of punks in a parking lot harassing some poor woman, but as I approached I realized there were just too many of them even for a hero like Tiny Cowboy. Rule number one of being a Tiny Cowboy is that you have to know when to hold 'em, know when to fold 'em, and know when to walk away. I left the woman to the cruel predations of the street thugs and continued on, finishing off several other small groups of thugs.
Tiny Cowboy was quite displeased with the rising costs of healthcare.That evening things got out of control. I was in a parking lot battling with two punks when Tiny Cowboy was accosted by a much larger group. They were closing in from all sides, but Tiny Cowboy's blood was up and he wasn't about to run. Things took a turn for the worse and Tiny Cowboy went down fighting. This time he wasn't getting up and I learned another important lesson; Tiny Cowboys sometimes require medical attention too.
Tiny Cowboy woke up in the hospital and stood around on the examining table for a while waiting for a nurse to tell him it was okay to leave. Since no one showed up I assumed he had a clean bill of health and sent him on his way. He got into a brief argument with the doctor near the exit over the cost of his treatment but a few bold muscle flexes shut that loud mouth up. I also have to report failure in my attempts to wedge Tiny Cowboy behind the reception desk in the hospital's lobby. My plan was to pose as a doctor and try to scam money out of people. Unfortunately, I could not force even Tiny Cowboy's small body through the entrance and I also might have forgotten to take into account that there is no money in City of Heroes.
Outside the hospital Tiny Cowboy met a number of heroes. Always the show off he proceeded to flex and leap about, and although he might have failed to impress many waiting, he did convince a number of people to jump repeatedly into the air for no reason. His jumping warmup completed, Tiny Cowboy sought a cleansing of the pallet by taking a refreshing bath in a nearby fountain. When he washed off that sickly hospital smell he jumped back into the pages of history and continued to do battle with various groups of hoodlums. His one man crusade lasted well into the night.
But what evils might await the Tiny Cowboy? What enemy lurks in the nearest shadow? A nemesis? Perhaps...
If you would like to meet the legend himself he can be found on the Victory server of City of Heroes. Go and buy it. It's an amazingly fun game.
With college finals approaching, it's time once again for Microsoft Word autosummaries of all the old, boring books you were supposed to read.
"Don't you get it? What we have to understand is it's them or us. It can't be all of us, or one. It's got to be us, or they become it. Then we lose what makes us we."
The Something Awful front page news tackles anything both off and on the Internet. Mostly "on" though, as we're all incredible nerds.