Cao & Yanagi On the Story of "DC Universe Online"

Sony Online Entertainment and DC Entertainment's "DC Universe Online" had a strong presence at this year's Comic-Con International in San Diego. Not only did fans have another chance to get their hands on a demo of the upcoming massively multiplayer online game, but they also got a peek at the storyline of "DCUO" via a six-minute trailer that debuted during the "DCUO" panel. The teaser revealed that the story in "DCUO" involves Lex Luthor finally getting the victory over Superman he spent his whole life pursuing, only to have his moment of glory stolen from him by Brainiac, who has a much bigger plan in mind. Lex is then forced to travel back in time in order to ally himself with his greatest enemies in an attempt to prevent Brainiac's complete domination of Earth.

As fans eagerly await the start of the "DCUO" beta, CBR once again checked in with the team behind the game. Senior Producer Wes Yanagi and Game Designer Chris Cao spoke with CBR this week about the story in "DC Universe Online," as well as some of the other information that came out of Comic-Con International.

CBR News: Chris, during the "DC Universe Online" panel at Comic-Con International, fans got a glimpse into the backstory of "DCUO." Can you give us more of an overview of the main story?

Chris Cao: The backstory of "DC Universe Online" is the backstory of the players themselves. It is the story of their genesis, their journey, and ultimately, their rise to join the legendary ranks of the DCU itself.

It begins, as comic stories often do, in the future. The iconic heroes and villains have been driven into a final confrontation with one another. It is all out war. No ground is given and even the most famous or powerful characters fall victim to the fight. In the ultimate example of this confrontation, Lex Luthor faces off against Superman - and wins! In that moment, Brainiac arrives with an immense invasion force. Luthor realizes that Brainiac had masterminded the conflict so that the planet would be open to attack.

Rather than try and battle Brainiac, Lex serves him, aiding the alien in his plans to bottle and absorb Earth and thus the inter-dimensional nexus it represents. As Brainiac finishes his plans, Lex looks for any hope of escape. He finds the key to both his own salvation and Brainiac's demise in the alien's immense cache of technology. Lex puts together a device that will allow him to travel in time. Just before Brainiac realizes what's happening, Lex grabs the exobytes, the stored knowledge and power of all that Brainiac has collected, and escapes to the past.

He arrives on scene to see the seeds of Brainiac's plans already in place. Working quickly, he contacts the heroes of Earth and tells them of the future that is to be. Then, without warning, he releases the exobytes into Earth's atmosphere. The exobytes descend through the atmosphere, targeting hapless humans of every walk of life and downloading the powers and knowledge Brainiac had stolen. Suddenly, millions of new super heroes and villains emerge. Brainiac is caught off guard and is forced to accelerate his invasion.

As the game begins, Brainiac is assaulting Earth and trying to recover the dispersed exobytes. Since they are the sum total of all future knowledge and power, they represent a short cut to all that Brainiac had planned. But the heroes and villains of Earth now know of the danger. They reach out to the newly created super beings and seek to train, or coerce, them into fighting for their cause.

The final result, as ever, is in the players' hands.

What do you feel "DC Universe Online" is doing with its story that sets it apart from most MMOs?

Cao: "DC Universe Online" is unique in that players will be able to live their own story of heroism or villainy, alongside some of the most iconic characters and locations in pop culture history, something that's not available in current MMO games.

You confirmed the subscription model for "DCUO" at Comic-Con as well ($14.99 per month). Why did you feel the standard monthly subscription model was the best fit for "DCUO" as opposed to some of the other models we're seeing right now?

Cao: "DCUO" will be a combination of both monthly subscription and microtransaction for certain items. Keep in mind that "DCUO" is a dynamic experience, with content being added on a monthly basis. Along with expansions, this content will expand and evolve the storyline, providing the player community with new experiences and things to consume and enjoy.

Wes, the last time we spoke about "DCUO," cross-platform play between the PC and PS3 was still in question. Has there been a decision reached on that issue?

Wes Yanagi: Each platform has been optimized separately for the best and most balanced experience, so PC players play with PC players and PS3 players will play with PS3 players.

There were a lot of rumors flying around that PlayStation Plus subscribers would not have to pay a subscription fee to play "DCUO" on the PS3, which turned out to be untrue. Just to clarify, there is no difference in subscription options for Plus subscribers, right?

Yanagi: The two aren't related; there aren't any plans at this time to include "DCUO" in the PlayStation Plus service.

Have you discussed whether or not PlayStation Plus subscribers would gain automatic access to the "DCUO" beta?

Yanagi: At this time, there are no plans for that.

How much of the game will beta players have access to? Are there particular areas of the game universe and story the beta will be focused on?

Yanagi: Beta players will have access to all the major facets of the game, from character creation, hero and villain, to solo and group missions to fast and furious player vs. player arenas. There is a ton of content in the game, and we are looking forward to seeing how our beta players progress through it all.

At this point in the development of "DCUO," what information are you looking for from the beta testing?

Yanagi: Every aspect is open to feedback but, we're particularly interested in messaging, balance, egregious bugs and exploits. We're focusing on key issues that we can work on and improve to make the game better.

Do you have any more details to share on the "DC Universe Online: Legends" comic that will tie into the game?

Yanagi: The comic builds on the events set in motion by the story from the trailer. Think of it as establishing the state of the world for the player from a story perspective and providing a solid foundation for the game's storylines to grow on.

Is there a chance that players' actions in "DCUO" could be reflected in the "DC Universe Online: Legends" book? Could a character designed by a player make a cameo at some point?

Yanagi: That's definitely a possibility and one of the exciting aspects of this initiative. How cool would it be to raise your character to an epic level of fame or notoriety and then have him immortalized in the pages of a comic book?

Finally, in addition to great gameplay, a big factor in an MMO's longevity is the community it builds and maintains around the game. What sort of community features are built into "DCUO," and how do you plan to maintain a strong community of fans once the game launches?

Yanagi: Initially, we'll have all the standard community features you'd expect in an MMO. At the same time, however, this is new type of game, and on the PS3 platform, a new community of players. As the game matures, we'll continue to build and refine features based on player feedback to support growth of the community.

"DC Universe Online" is currently scheduled to launch on November 2, 2010. The beta should be starting up soon, and you can register for it now over at the game's official site, dcuniverseonline.com.

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