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Taken from www.gameinformer.com and Game informer magazine:
August 13, 2008
Between the hoopla of E3 and the excitement of San Diego Comic Con, DC Universe Online has amassed a considerable amount of buzz the past month. If you somehow happened to miss the announcement, DC Universe Online – in production through a collaboration between Sony Online Entertainment Austin, Warner Bros Interactive and DC Comics – will allow players to enter a persistent DC themed universe and fight alongside classic heroes and villains from the companies 70 year history. Read on to get detailed information about the upcoming MMO, including insight from DCUO Executive Creative Director and comic book legend Jim Lee.
DCUO will bring PlayStation 3 owners and PC gamers together in an action-heavy MMO experience. Currently in development for both systems simultaneously – to ensure that each version is virtually identical – the game let players create their own customized heroes or villains and pull at the strings of fate within the DC Universe.
Based on the iconic artwork of Jim Lee, DCUO will feature dozens of diverse settings and hundreds of characters. Players will get to explore Gotham City and Arkham Asylum, Metropolis and many other environments yet to be announced. The game will span locations both of this world and beyond, with the ultimate goal being to make the most comprehensive vision of the DC Universe possible. Players will be able to work alongside Batman, Superman, Wonder Woman and Green Lantern. Or, they can choose to create mayhem with The Joker, Harley Quinn, Catwoman and Lex Luthor. With hundreds of unique IP’s to draw from – spanning back to the 1930s – DCUO will undoubtedly appeal to comic fans of every generation. While only a few of the most iconic DC characters have been confirmed for the game at this moment in time, the DCUO team is expecting somewhere around 150 characters to be included at launch. However, they intend to constantly draw from the roster of over a thousand characters as time moves on and the game evolves.
“The rich, storied world of DC Comics has never been available to players like this before,” said John Smedley, president of SOE, when the title was first announced. “For the first time, gamers can actually open the door and step into the vast world of DC Comics and choose their own fate. Who wouldn’t want to infiltrate Batman’s cave or fly over Metropolis as you speed toward a mission to help Superman?”
Honestly? There is not much of one yet. The DCUO team has been pushing their roster of killer IP’s and action-based gameplay more than any other details as of now. Not much has been revealed in terms of a story for this massive universe. However, the DCUO team does reassure us that the reason for the large influx of super citizens will make sense within the greater context of the game. We were also informed that the team is working with unnamed DC writers to ensure the plot fits within the DC Universe.
We were able to get one cryptic bit of information out of the DC team. DC acknowledges that secret identities are a huge part of the DC comic experience, and they will be addressing the concept in the game. No details other than that were given. The time frame for the game is no less enigmatic. Because comics are notorious for spin-offs, alternative universes and off-the-wall story arcs, it would be impossible to place the game in one specific period of time in DC’s history. For this reason, DC is focusing on capturing the essence of their properties, and picked character costumes and other details from a variety of sources as a result.
Jim Lee is synonymous with the art of DC Universe Online. Lee has been involved with the project for some time now – even before Sony Online Entertainment was brought into the equation. As it turns out, DC was interested in licensing their property to create an MMO title. Being a very passionate gamer, Lee asked to be involved and ended up taking the creative point of the project. Being an admitted fan of Everquest, he became even more excited when Sony Online Entertainment picked up the title.
“The style is loosely based on my comic book style,” clarified Lee. “I think we had to make some concessions and changes because there are things that I do in my style that look good 2D and in comic form but don’t look so great in pixels and on the screen – they need different sizes and proportions. I think because the actual characters are fairly small on the screen that we really wanted to emphasize the silhouette on each of the different characters. We wanted to make them very unique looking so that you could tell that they are all different from a glance.”
“There is a lot of stuff that I do in my own personal style that is fairly subtle in terms of proportions and whatnot,” Lee continued, “and what I found is that I would draw these silhouettes and when you would look at it in a 3D model they looked way too similar. As a result we had to really push my normal sense of proportions. Still, the overall look of the eyes and the hair and the eyebrows and the hands, and even the color palette for the cities is very much what I would do if I was drawing this myself.”
Lee and his team have also put much consideration into the environments, as many fans are most excited about being able to explore every inch of the DC universe for the first time.
“We really wanted to make sure that no matter where you are in the city, that you can look just one way and you know that you are in Gotham versus Metropolis. We also wanted every neighborhood to feel unique. They are unique by the type of buildings or the style or architecture or the color palette. A lot of thought went into trying to make the cities feel somewhat like characters themselves.”
DCUO is a physics based game, allowing players to use whatever they can get their hands on – including vehicles – as weapons or tool of destruction. For this reason combat will be as diverse as the surrounding environment. The DCUO team also wants the game to feel like a living and breathing environment. Cities will be populated with pedestrians and other citizens, although it is unclear how they will react to the madness around them. We wonder if it is possible for them to become casualties of war, or if that perhaps goes against the DC code. Considering the nature of Batman’s most recent blockbuster movie, we don’t think anyone is safe anymore.
Both PvP and PvE combat will be alive and kicking in DCUO, and players will be able to join guild-like teams or form super-groups. We also know that loot will be integrated into play, just not to what capacity yet. We must admit it would look strange for a Superman-like character to pick items off the bodies of foes, be we are sure the team will find a way to seamlessly work rewards in.
Speaking of Superman, one of the selling points of this title is the ability to interact with the most celebrated superheroes and the most notorious villains ever fleshed-out by DC writers. The degree of that interaction will depend on your actions throughout the game. In the beginning, you will need to respond to public service announcements in order to find action. Or you could simply choose to interfere when you pass by some sort of unfolding event. You see a bank being robbed. Do you join in on their heist? Do you fight in the name of good? Will you continue about your day like you witnessed nothing? Eventually, after doing enough good – or bad – you will be noticed by the DC elite and be invited to fight along side them. You will gain their respect. Who knows? You might even get an invitation to join the Justice League.
When asked why DC Universe Online will stand up to the competition of other superhero themed games, Lee had an answer immediately.
“First and foremost, DC comics was the first comic book universe. It has been around since the late 30s and it has the most iconic characters in the world, and has produced some of the best comic stories in existence. I think there is just an emotional connection that draws people to the DC Universe and to Gotham and to Batman and to the others. No one else really has that except for Marvel. We feel that this is what is going to set us apart. You are going to be able to explore these environments that you have seen in the comics and the movies and in TV shows, and get to be a participant in the DC Universe. That is really a fantasy that DC comics fans and comic readers have and I don’t think that anyone else can deliver that short of Marvel.
So what is in the future for DC Universe Online? If Lee is right, it will become a utopia for DC fans and MMO players alike. We would love to see the DC printed and online universes cross paths at some point. How cool would it be to meet a new character for the first time online, only to pick up the first edition of his comic the next week? Yeah, yeah…we are getting a little ahead of ourselves, but it seems like the possibilities for this game – much like the universe itself – are limitless.
Undoubtedly one of the most exciting aspects of DCUO is the ability to create a superhero or villain in a fashion you see fit. Character creation will allow the player to approach making their persona one of two ways. First, you can start from scratch by choosing your power type, power source, movement method and back story. If you would rather be similar to one of DC’s already established characters, you can also be “inspired.” This method would automatically fashion you a character similar to a preexisting one of your choice. For example, a Wonder Woman-esq character would have superhuman strength and stamina, and also have the ability to fly. A Batman-esq character would boast skills in martial arts and acrobatics, and have an affinity for gadgets. If you wanted to walk in the suede shoes of The Joker, the character would just be…crazy.
DCUO has not revealed the majority of power types and sources that will be included in the game as of yet, but ice, fire and light powers have been confirmed. In a cool side note, because the world is physics based, you can freeze enemies and then chuck them around the city at will. Neat.
The DCUO team does not want anyone to miss out on a second of action in the game, or to regret pigeonholing themselves into a specific class immediately after creating a character. For that reason, the team has decided to throw out the traditional online RPG system, which calculates damage based on character statistics. Instead, DCUO relies on the skill and performance of that particular player. The action-oriented gameplay will allow players to have active and passive powers that can be substituted out to meet specific situations. You can focus on healing, melee fighting, tanking and other skills by switching out your powers in-between battle. Your character will grow as you progress through the game, allowing you more powers and skills to choose from. This way the team hopes to combine the minute-to-minute play of an action game with the longevity of an MMO.
“The guys on the development team really want this game to be playable immediately,” chimed in Lee “they want you to jump in – you are a super hero. There will not be a bunch of grind time; you are not going to be waiting around. We really want to emphasize that fantasy of being a superhero – picking up objects and throwing them at villains and fighting aliens. This game is not just about waiting around for other people to join you.”