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CCI: DC Universe Online

by  in Video Game Comment
CCI: DC Universe Online
EXCLUSIVE: “DC Universe Online” concept art

At Comic-Con international in San Diego, the creative minds behind “DC Universe Online” spoke to attending gamers about their Massively Multiplayer Role Playing Game, which is currently in Pre-Alpha. The panel consisted of Senior Producer Wes Yanagi and Creative Director Jens Anderson from Sony Online Entertainment, DC/WildStorm Editorial Director and DC Universe Online Executive Creative Director Jim Lee, and writers Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman. G4’s Blair Herter moderated the panel.

The presentation began with the trailer for the game, depicting an action sequence set in S.T.A.R. Labs, the well-known DCU story setting. Starring DC’s most popular heroes, the trailer warned the audience that the future awaits, and it was time for players to join the battle… or make the world their weapon.

After presenting the trailer, Blair Herter asked Wes Yanagi for an overview of the game. Yanagi explained that the onus of the game was to “build you own legacy,” to participate in epic battles, and to one day join the Justice League or the Justice Society of America.

Jim Lee chimed in at this point, “They picked the coolest characters, costumes, and moments of continuity.”

Geoff Johns was leery to spoil the catalyst of the storyline, but mentioned that he was responsible for the structure of the story. Marv Wolfman said he fleshed out the storyline Johns provided, a task that yielded approximately sixty missions per character.

Next, the panel was asked about the challenges in designing for the game, and Jens Andersen explained that the team paced themselves and focused on the Earth that exists in the DC Universe, empowering players to either “save the world or rule it.”

EXCLUSIVE: “DC Universe Online” screenshots

Herter asked Johns and Wolfman how the storyline lead to mission objectives in the game, and Wolfman answered that there are two primary elements to the storyline, the first being the overall story skeleton and the second being the collection of seemingly unrelated subplots, which involve the individual missions. Wolfman also pointed out that the missions had to be playable not only by a heroic character, but by a villain as well.

Andersen chimed, “it was tricky to develop a woven storyline playable by both hero and villain.”

Johns remarked, “It’s awesome to team up on missions with Sinestro.”

When asked about the challenges of rendering DC’s 2D world in 3D, Lee replied that a lot of the details had to be considered, including size consistency between figures, and textures on costumes. Yanagi noted that it was a challenge to establish an implementation pipeline for the character models, and that they used an iterative approach for the solution. Yanagi also mentioned that the actual logistics of the neighborhood in Metropolis had to be worked out. Wolfman revealed that he actually visited Lone Star Testing Labs in Houston for research, and discovered it to be much larger than expected.

Herter asked what sets “DC Universe Online” apart from other MMOs, and Yanagi answered that the game “delivers on the superhero power fantasy with visceral action and heavy use of physics.”

Lee joked, “We got the giant penny, Egg-Fu, and Ambush Bug.”

At this point the panel opened to questions from the audience, and the first pertained to character customization. Andersen said they sought to make the costume choices meaningful, rather than focusing on fashion. Throughout the game, players collect costume components, gradually building up an “appearance collection” for costume creation.

A fan asked about the type of quality control used for reviewing fan feedback, and Andersen answered that all feedback will be reviewed against their definition of the core of the game.

When asked if Central City or Keystone City would eventually appear in the game, Yanagi confirmed that both would eventually be added. Lee joked, “The Kandor expansion pack will be great.”

“DC Universe Online” screenshots

Another fan asked how difficult it was to rein in the design, and Johns replied that it was a matter of focus, taking into consideration when the player enters the game, and whom they needed to meet in order to progress. Wolfman added, “You meet the major characters right away when you play.”

When asked about the level of focus on group dynamics, Andersen replied, “the content is proportional to the level and type of difficulty,” and that there are many simultaneous objectives requiring players to divide and conquer, similar to the team-ups in classic JLA stories.

Another fan asked about age customization and the possibility of executing group missions similar to the Legion of Doom. Andersen answered that their body modification of characters allowed for a range of body types, including teenagers, and that both heroes and villains have the ability to form guilds to accomplish major objectives.

When asked if players have access to the DC Multiverse, Johns explained that the game is set in DC’s present continuity.

Finally, Herter asked the panel what excited them most about the game. Yanagi replied that he was excited about the environments. Lee expanded on Yanagi’s answer, complimenting the environments’ detail and lighting, which he felt, “looked painterly from a distance.” Johns said that he enjoyed the depth of characterization, particularly Sinestro, Black Adam, and the Flash’s Rogues’ Gallery. Wolfman said he liked the size and variety of the mission, and Andersen answered that he enjoyed the total package, which he felt was, “The greatest super-powered experience you’re ever going to have.”

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