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City of Heroes is now a free to play game. Free to download the game, and no monthly fee. I see that there are a bunch of things in the game that are locked (costume pieces, etc.) from what I read it sounds like a lot of that stuff is available to paid players.

Does that stuff stay unlocked after the free month that comes with a paid copy of the game expires? (All those MMORPG's generally come with a month or so of free play time when you buy the discs...)

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I'd suggest maybe editing your title question to make it the same question you ask at the end the title. The original question makes it look like this is going to be very subjective, but your real question is a good one. –  Doozer Blake Oct 27 '11 at 14:48
    
@Doozer - Good suggestion. I have updated the title of the question. –  The Sasquatch Oct 27 '11 at 15:16
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1 Answer

up vote 32 down vote accepted
+100

crack knuckles All right, as a 4.5+ year vet, I'll give you the rundown. It's a little confusing, even to us veteran VIPs, so I'll do my best to explain. Whether or not you decide to buy the game given the Free player restrictions is fairly subjective, so I can't answer that part. But I can explain the differences between the 3 tiers of player type, so you (hopefully) have enough information to make an informed decision. This is also going to be long, so you'll have to bear with me. Unfortunately, the question you asked, "does stuff stay unlocked," greatly depends on which aspect of the game you are talking about and is not easily answerable, so I pretty much have to go through all of it.


With City of Heroes: Freedom, there are three different ways to play the game, either as a Free player, a Premium player, or a VIP player. You can check this link on the official site for a side-by-side comparison of what you'll be receiving.

If you are unfamiliar with the game, then most of these benefits/restrictions will be unclear to you. I will do my best to explain them in a context that is understandable for those who have not played before by breaking down things in the tables in the link that are potentially unclear.

I'm going to assume that someone will read this in order as well, so I'm not going to re-explain, say, what Costume Pieces/Auras are in the VIP section after already explaining it in the Free section, so the Free section will likely be the longest. I will also include links to Paragon Wiki, the unofficial official wiki for CoH, for stuff that isn't directly pertinent but you may want to know more about.


Free Player

COH: Freedom's "free" option is more accurately described as an "endless trial." In fact, because you can play for free now, they've done away with the old 14 day trial method. You can level fully to level 50 as a Free player. However, Free players suffer from the same limitations as the old trial players, especially in regards to Social Features. This is likely to prevent spammers/gold farmers from taking over chat, but it can still be frustrating for legit players. You will be able to play the majority of the game though. Also, not mentioned in the table, is that you will have an Inf (COH's currency) cap of 25 million per character.

All Free players are counted as being in Tier 1 of the Paragon Rewards Program. Free player limitations assume you never buy anything from the Paragon Market (COH's ingame store) or plan to subscribe. Seeing as you aren't earning tokens by spending any money or subscribing, you cannot advance further in the Paragon Rewards Program. Once you have spent money, you are a Premium player.

  1. Character Features

    • 8 Archetypes (Blaster, Brute, Corruptor, Defender, Dominator, Scrapper, Stalker and Tanker). Free players are locked out of the pet classes (Controller and Mastermind) because of the load that pets put on the servers, as well as the Epic ATs (Peacebringer/Warshade/Arachnos Soldier/Arachnos Widows), which are basically Prestige classes that are unlocked by getting a regular hero/villain to level 20. They can be more complicated to play, especially the Kheldians (Peacebringers/Warshades) so they were originally only unlockable by getting a character to 50, though that has been lowered.

    • 100+ Powersets: Each AT (Archetype) is broken into a Primary and Secondary Powerset. There are also Power Pools and Epic Pools you can choose from later on, but the bread and butter of a AT is its Primary and Secondary Powersets. Each class has a specific combination of Powerset types, like Melee, Range, Buff, Control, etc. For example, a Scrapper, your typical melee DPS class, has Melee sets as its primary, and various Armor sets as its secondary. There are (currently) 14 Melee sets and 9 Armor sets, which you can combine in any way you want. Each AT has several combinations you can make in the same vein. However, because you cannot use the Control sets or Mastermind sets, this limits your Powerset options.

    • Thousands of Costume Pieces and Auras: COH is well known for its character creator. As a Free player, you will receive the majority of the available costume pieces and auras (also part of your costume, auras are cosmetic, well, auras that can appear around your character as part of their costume, like sparkles, flames, electricity, etc.). Honestly, as a Free player, you're not missing out severely, as the costume creator is still incredibly robust even if you choose not to buy anything.

  2. Content Features

    • COH: Going Rogue Package is not included: This includes 4 new powersets, the Alignment System, and access to Praetoria.

      • The Alignment System adds 2 new Alignments, Vigilante and Rogue, which allows a Hero to go Villain and vice versa. A character who is a Hero can only access Hero-side (known coloquially as blueside; Villian-side is known as redside) zones and content. A Vigilante is a Hero-going-Villain who can either stay as a Vig and access both blueside and redside content, or complete the change to a Villian, where you can only access redside zones and content. A Rogue is the same as a Vigilante, only from the opposite direction. However, Vig and Rogue characters can only access mission contacts from their starter side.
      • Praetoria is basically COH's alternate Earth universe, which, prior to Going Rogue had been featured in high level missions, including stuff like alternate-universe versions of high-profile NPCs, of mob types, etc. Going Rogue brought us actual access to Praetoria, which (currently) consists of 4 zones of content from level 1-30. It's also, frankly, one of the most gorgeous areas in the game, with a really rich metropolitan feel as well as a complete Underground sewer network. Using COH's Ultra Mode (an optional graphics upgrade that also applies to the rest of the game, not just Praetoria), it's pretty stunning.

    • First Ward access is included: First Ward is a New Praetorian zone, with a new zone event (public quest), and new contact missions. It's also very pretty. However, First Ward mission content is not included, so if you want to do anything there aside from the public quest and look around, you'll need to purchase access to it.

    • Incarnate System is not included: The Incarnate System is the endgame content system that they first released with Issue 19: Alpha Strike in Oct. 2010 (COH's major content patches are called Issues, an homage to its comic-book inspiration). This is basically content for level 50's that allows you to do Incarnate Trials (currently only 4, they're basically COH's equivalent of raids), as well as work towards Incarnate Abilities, which are power pools only accessible to level 50 characters.

      • Incarnate Trials, while being COH's functional equivalent to raids, are not raids on the scale that you would find in something like WoW. Because the gameplay systems are so different, you won't really find anything with the raid complexity that WoW has. You'll basically end up doing what you always do in raids: grind them for gear (or in COH's case, for Salvage (crafting pieces) which you can craft into Enhancements (COH's equivalent of gear/armor/gems/etc.))
      • Incarnate Abilities are divided into 10 types, only 5 of which are currently released, with 5 more planned. Each type is divided into subtypes, which are different branches of the overall power type. They do things like increase passives, add new pets, new powers, etc. and are only usable for level 45+ content. For example, the Judgement ability is an AOE damage power, and its (currently) 4 subtypes are Cold, Energy, Negative Energy and Fire damage types. The devs also state that they plan on adding more subtypes to the Incarnate Abilities, which they already did with Lore (a pet power) and are planning to do with Judgement, among others.
  3. Social Features

    • Super Groups are available: A Super Group is COH's equivalent of a guild. You also get access to a base which you can customize and decorate, add zone teleporters to, use for Enhancement/Salvage Storage, and also ally with other SGs for access to their TPs as well. You also have a SG chat (guild chat) and Coalition chat (guild ally chat). As of Issue 23, free players may now join Supergroups, though they are still restricted from creating them.

    • Chat is restricted to Local and Team: This is a bit mislabeled, as you can access Local (the area around you), Team (self-explanatory), plus Help, Pets (people can make their pets do emotes/chat), Friends (a room for everyone on your local friends list), League (Leagues are COH's equivalent of Raid teams), Arena (PvP area), Emote, and the global Mission Architect channel (called Architect Entertainment or AE ingame, it's explained further down). The Looking For Group/LFG chat has been added in Issue 23, which allows all Free, Premium, and VIP players to chat with one another, and if you are a member of a Supergroup/Coalition, you will be able to use those channels as well. You cannot send Tells, join Global Channels (which are member created channels), or speak in Broadcast (zone chat).

    • Ingame mail is not available: While it's not used much for interpersonal communication, you can attach Inf, Enhancements, and Recipes (crafting blueprints) to emails to trade them to yourself (by mailing to yourself) and other players. There is a 60 day limit on attachments though, otherwise they're deleted.

    • Forums access is Read Only: You won't be able to post on the forums at all.

  4. Account Features

    • Free Paragon Points Stipend is not available: COH rolled out the Paragon Rewards Program with the release of COH: Freedom, which replaces their old Veteran Reward system. Basically, each month you're subscribed, you can get a Stipend of 400 points (worth $5 in their store), as well as a Reward Token, which you can use towards various types of rewards in Tiers 1-9 of the reward table. You can see a current list of rewards here on Paragon Wiki. Since Free players are not subbed, they do not get a stipend.

      • You get Reward Tokens when:
        • You create account (this is how all Free players get their first)
        • The first time you buy Paragon Points (minimum purchase 400 PP)
        • Every 1,200 PP you purchase (yes, this stacks with your first purchase)
        • Applying a retail code (this counts only once for any retail code, so you can't purchase multiple retail codes for more tokens)
        • You were subbed prior to the launch of COH: Freedom. You will receive a one-time grant of a variable number of tokens based on your previous subscription time.
        • VIP players accrue one per month during their paid subscription

    • No access to Tier 9 VIP rewards: Once you reach Tier 9 in the Rewards Program, there's an additional tier of rewards called Tier 9 VIP. They're currently a set of Celestial Armor, which is not available to get any other method. This is to reward the long term vets of the game (or anyone who has paid enough Paragon Points (PP) to get that high) with exclusive items.

    • Only 2 Character slots allowed: As a Free player, you receive 2 Global Character Slot Tokens which can be applied to any server your account has access to, which would be all of them except Exalted, which is a VIP-only server.

    • Server Transfers need to be purchased: For $10 USD (as of this posting, all prices subject to change, yadda yadda), you can purchase a Server Transfer in the Paragon Market.

    • Auction House use needs to be purchased: For $2, you can purchase a 30-day Auction House license, which will allow you to buy and sell on the Auction House (named Wentworth's blueside, Black Market redside, though they are all the same market and the market goes across all servers).

    • Mission Architect use needs to be purchased: The Mission Architect (AE) is the tool ingame which allows you to create your own missions and publish them for other players to play, as well as play missions made by others. In order to play in the AE, you have to be at least Tier 2 in the Paragon Rewards Program, where you can earn XP, but not drops. You can get drops by being Tier 4, and you can publish personal stories at Tier 6.

    • Invention use needs to be purchased: Invention Origin Enhancements are only available to a Free player via purchase of a $2 30-day license. To understand the difference between regular Enhancements and Invention Origin (IOs) Enhancements and why you would want IO access, you first need to understand what regular Enhancements are.

      • Enhancements are COH's equivalent of armor/gear. There are several types of non-Invention enhancements ingame, including Training Origin (TOs), Dual Origin (DOs), and Single Origin (SOs). TO access is from level 1, DO from level 12, and SO from level 22. DOs are twice as effective as TOs, and SOs are twice as effective as DOs. So your character always looks forward to that magical level of 22, when you finally get to properly gear yourself. The thing about SOs though, is that they can be outleveled, like regular gear in other games can be outleveled.
      • Once you get over 3 levels above the level of SO you have, it becomes nonfunctional, the equivalent of having no Enhancement slotted. This is known as going red ingame, as the number listed on the Enhancement turns red. So if someone says "My enhancements went red/are red," then they need to re-buy more enhancements for their level, which costs Inf.
      • Invention Origin Enhancements cannot be outleveled. If you slot a level 10 Accuracy IO, you can use it even after you are level 14+, even up to level 50 (though that would be a silly decision gameplay wise, as a level 10 Common Acc IO will give you +11.7% Accuracy and a level 50 Common Acc IO will give you +42.4% Accuracy). For this reason, many people choose to use Common IOs once they reach higher levels, as they won't have to re-purchase Enhancements every few levels.
      • There are 2 types of IOs: Common and Set IOs. Commons enhance the same attributes that TOs/DOs/SOs do, like Accuracy, Defense, Damage, etc. Set IOs do this as well, but in addition to that, they have Set Bonuses. These work the same way as Armor Sets in other games do in that you receive bonuses for each piece of the set you have slotted in a specific power.
      • The ability to use these Set IOs is the main reason that one would want to purchase an Invention License. Without the License, you can only use TOs/DOs/SOs (and HOs, which are Hamidon Origin enhancements, only available from level 50 content, and were considered the high level/elite enhancements before the Invention system was released in Issue 9)

    • No access to Priority Queues: VIPs get priority access for logging onto servers, Free and Premium players must wait (though this it is rare that there are queues).

    • VIP-Only Server access denied: There is one server, Exalted, which is VIP-Only.

    • No access to Premium In-Game Customer Support: You won't be able to file petitions for GM help and the like.


Premium Player

You become a Premium player once you have spent any money on COH, including having purchased any retail version and applied its code in the past (though you only get 1 token from purchasing any retail version, so you can't earn more tokens buy purchasing more versions), purchased something from the Paragon Market, or having had a subscription which you let expire. Therefore, it's impossible to ever "downgrade" to a Free player after you are Premium. If you are a subscribing player (VIP) and decide to stop subscribing, you'll become a Premium player.

Seeing as being Premium means you have spent money on the game, you'll be able to advance to further tiers in the Paragon Rewards Program based on how much money you have spent or how many months you have previously been subscribed.

  1. Character Features

    • 8+ Archetypes: You have the option to pay 1,000 Paragon Points ($12.50 USD) to unlock any of the Pet and Epic Archetypes. If you unlock these via the store you will always have access to these ATs. In addition, acquiring 13 Paragon Reward Tokens will also give you permanent access to these ATs. If you downgrade from VIP to Premium and do not have 13 Reward Tokens or an AT license, these characters will be locked to you.

    • 100+ Powersets: With the potential to unlock Controllers, MMs, and Epic Archetypes, in addition to an optional purchase of Going Rogue, your access to various powersets increases.

    • Thousands of Costume Pieces and Auras: There are many different costume packages available in the store, including the ones which were previously optional paid content for paying customers, like the Origins pack, Science pack, etc.

  2. Content Features

    • COH: Going Rogue Package is not included: You can purchase this package, which includes the 4 powersets, Alignment Switching, and Praetoria access, or purchase them piecemeal on the Paragon Market.

    • First Ward access is included: Like with Free players, First Ward mission content is not included, so you'll need to purchase access to it.

    • Incarnate System is not included

  3. Social Features

    • Super Groups are joinable: You are allowed to join existing SGs, use bases, etc. However, you cannot create one.

    • Chat is restricted to Local, Team and Tells: In addition to the other channels I listed in Free, you are also able to send Tells (whispers) to individual players.

    • Forums access is Read Only

  4. Account Features

    • Free Paragon Points Stipend is not available

    • No access to Tier 9 VIP rewards

    • 2 slots + unlocked/purchased character slots are available: Via past retail purchases and purchases from the Paragon Market, a Premium player can have up to 24 more character slots on each server for a total of 36 on each server, except Exalted.

      • The total number of Global Character Slot Tokens is variable because of this. When you revert to Premium from VIP, all your open slots over the default 2 you get as Free, whether they have a character in them or not, are reverted to GCS tokens, which you can then reallocate.
      • When reverting to Premium from VIP, if you do not otherwise have access to Controllers, Masterminds, or Epic Archetypes via licenses or Paragon Rewards, you will not be able to unlock these characters even with your extra slots.

    • Server Transfers need to be purchased

    • Auction House use needs to be purchased or unlocked via Paragon Rewards: Purchasing the $2 license will give you 30 days access and having 8 Paragon Reward Tokens will grants you lifetime access.

    • Mission Architect available through Paragon Rewards system

    • Invention use needs to be purchased or unlocked via Paragon Rewards: You can either buy the $2 30 day license or acquiring Tier 7 (27 reward tokens) of the Paragon Rewards program will give you lifetime access to Inventions. Note that if you slotted IOs either by purchasing a license or subscribing to become a VIP, you will lose the benefits of slotted IOs if the license runs out or you unsubscribe and become Premium. This has been a large point of contention in the community, but is currently not under review to be changed (unfortunately).

    • No access to Priority Queues

    • VIP-Only Server access denied

    • No access to Premium In-Game Customer Support


VIP Player

VIP players are the ones that pay the normal $15/month subscription fee.

  1. Character Features

    • 14 Archetypes: You receive access to Controllers, MMs, and Epic ATs without any extra purchases.

    • 150+ Powersets

    • Thousands of Costume Pieces and Auras: VIPs receive Going Rogue, Imperial Defense Force and Defense sets for free.

  2. Content Features

    • COH: Going Rogue Package is included:

    • First Ward access and First Ward mission content are included

    • Incarnate System is included: VIP exclusive.

  3. Social Features

    • Super Groups are joinable and can be created: Only VIPs can create SGs.

    • All chat channels are available and custom Global Channels can be created: Only VIPs can create custom Global Channels.

    • Forums access is Read and Post: Only VIPs can post on the forums

  4. Account Features

    • Free 400 Paragon Points Stipend: You receive 400 PP for free each month you are subbed.

    • Access to Tier 9 VIP rewards: These rewards are VIP exclusive.

    • 12+ per server are allowed: You have 12 slots per server with an additional 24 purchasable, for a total of 36 per server.

    • Free Server Transfer per month: You receive 1 free server transfer per month, and they are stackable.

    • Full Auction House use

    • Full Mission Architect use

    • Full Invention System use

    • Access to Priority Queues: VIPs get preference when joining a server if there are queues.

    • VIP-Only Server access: VIPs can access the Exalted server.

    • Access to Premium In-Game Customer Support: You can send petitions ingame for GM help.


Hopefully, you have a better idea of what you'll retain and what you'll lose as each of the 3 types of players. If you need any clarifications, feel free to ask and I'll edit accordingly.

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+1 But could use a bit more detail :) –  Doozer Blake Oct 27 '11 at 19:55
    
So given that I had previously purchased both CoH and CoV but quit playing a while back, that would roll me into the Premium bucket by default if I went back to playing, right? I may have to jump back in and revive a few of my old toons. –  TechParadox Oct 27 '11 at 21:57
    
@TechParadox That is correct. –  FAE Oct 27 '11 at 22:10
    
@FallenAngelEyes - Best. Answer. Ever! Exactly what I was looking for! Thanks so much! –  The Sasquatch Oct 27 '11 at 23:30
    
Question I didn't see addressed above - does every tier earn Paragon Reward Tokens? –  Teryx Oct 30 '11 at 20:24
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