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NYCC: DCU Online Panel

by  in Video Game Comment
NYCC: DCU Online Panel

Fans At New York Comic Con packed into a room at the Javits Center on Saturday afternoon to hear from the creative team behind the upcoming “DC Universe Online” (“DCUO”) game. Jim Lee, the game’s Executive Creative Director, writer Geoff Johns and Sony Online Entertainment’s Jared Carr, Jens Andersen, Wes Yanagi and Chris Cao were all in attendance.

As the panel started to fill in, none other than Marv Wolfman came and took a seat at the table, which caused the level of chatter in the room to rise to a fever pitch.

As introductions began, the big announcement was revealed: Marv Wolfman has joined the “DCUO” team as a writer. Wolfman will be fleshing out the storylines that Geoff Johns has created, and will be writing some over-arching storylines as well.

The panel was led by Yanagi, and he asked Jim Lee about designing characters for a game as opposed to comic books. Lee said that the 3-D nature of the medium presents a challenge, as his characters are not usually drawn with 3-D in mind. He also said that many character details have to be exaggerated for the game, as they would not show up if drawn normally (Batman’s ears, for example).

When asked about the overall design of the world, Lee explained that the DC Universe of the game is a combination of what fans have seen in the comics, movies and animates series over the years. “It’s not what you’ve seen before, but the ideal of all of those versions combined,” said Lee. He was also quick to point out that there is a team of artists working on the game, and that he and Art Director Jared Carr go back and forth over designs to make sure they have the best representation of characters and places for the game. Carr explained that the art team builds off of Lee’s vision. “We are translating Jim’s style to this 3-D world,” he said. In talking about some of the back and forth that goes on about character design, Lee shared a story about Zatanna that got big laughs from the audience. “I wanted to keep the top coat and fish nets, and I tried to explain-there’s a huge part of our audience that loves fishnets. [But] we ended up settling on some nice comfortable slacks.”

Talking about actual gameplay, Lee explained that there’s a lot of Player vs. Player in “DCUO,” and in some missions players will be aligned with different factions in the world, such as S.T.A.R. Labs, LexCorp, etc. Each faction has a unique look (LexCorp’s green and purple), and that factions can pop up all over the world, not just in Metropolis.

Geoff Johns spoke about writing the story for “DCUO,” and how writing for a game differs from comic books. He talked about when he was first coming on to the project, and the eureka moment of when the whole concept came together for him. “Oh my god I can help Superman fight Doomsday, I thought, and then I finally got it.”

Johns also spoke very highly of having Marv Wolfman join the team, telling fans that Wolfman was one of his greatest influences, as well as good friend. Wolfman talked about how impressed he was with the work that Johns had done on creating a coherent world for the online game. “They gave me Geoff’s overview and it just blew me way,” said Wolfman. He also said that the team brought him in to build on what Johns is doing, and he was thankful that he did not have to build the story from scratch.

When talking about what kind of characters that they would make in “DCUO,” Johns, Lee and Wolfman all agreed that they would love to be villains.

Before they turned the panel over to questions, Jens Anderson reiterated to the audience that “DCUO” is about keeping action in the forefront. He said the way missions spawn is dynamic, and players will have clear goals to accomplish. For example, a player may be out on patrol, when a bank robbery will randomly spawn. Andersen also talked about the demo that was playable on the show floor, which was part of a larger “case” involving Superman, Doomsday and Lex Luthor. Doomsday returns to Metropolis and gets into a huge fight with Superman, eventually being taken down by the Man of Steel. He’s being held in a S.T.A.R. Labs facility, and Luthor wants to get Doomsday and use him for his own purposes. Players will either take on the role of the villains helping Luthor in his plot, or the heroes helping Superman to stop it.

Chris Cao added “This is the first time all of us have a chance to step into the DC Universe as if it was real. Your will have the hero or the villain’s journey. Imagine trying to earn the respect, or fear of these iconic characters.”

The floor was opened the opened to questions. Not a lot of specific details were revealed, but the following are a few that were mentioned:

  • Geoff Johns went very deep into DC history while incorporating characters into the game.
  • Cross-platform play (between PS3 and PC) has not been announced yet, but it remains a possibility.
  • Storylines in the game will not be synchronized with current comic storylines (e.g. “Final Crisis,” “Blackest Night”)
  • The game is not class-based, but players will be able to select a set of abilities that suits their play style.
  • The time period depicted in the game is modern day.
  • No details on a subscription model yet, but micro transactions remain an option
  • The game is extremely customizable, and players will be able to evolve their look over time, or keep their iconic look by hiding new armor, items, etc. that they get.
  • Different parts of metropolis will have different looks and feel to them. For example, the Suicide Slums will have graffiti all over the place.
  • The color scheme of the game reflects a comic book palette.
  • The development team has lots of plans for powers to add to the game, but they want to make sure everything works well in-game before announcing them
  • Citizens will react to your character in different districts based on your “Threat Level,” which you build through the actions you take in a particular location.

The biggest laugh of the Q&A session came when someone asked about what happens when a character dies. Jim Lee responded: “You have to wait a year and until we relaunch you.” Jens Andersen then clarified that combat has a very back and forth feel, and when a player gets knocked out, they can recover and continue the battle, but will have less health each time they get knocked out.

The panel ended with some video of the Doomsday scenario that Andersen described earlier, showing heroes and villains teaming up with Superman and Lex Luthor, and Doomsday wreaking havoc on Metropolis.

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