"Ra's Al Ghul's Revenge" Hits DCU Online

Sony Online Entertainment hosted a press conference call to discuss the latest content update for "DC Universe Online," the massively multiplayer game for PC and Playstation 3 that allows players to create their own heroes and villains to fight alongside and against DC Comics' most iconic characters. Game Director Mark Anderson, Creative Director Jens Andersen, and Executive Producer Lauren Jameson are on hand to reveal details about "Ra's Al Ghul's Revenge," which hits later this month, as well as a Spring event pitting Poison Ivy against Swamp Thing and a quest featuring the League of Assassins. SOE's Taina Rodriguez is moderating. CBR presented LIVE updates throughout the call.

Jameson fielded the first question, which was about name collisions when servers merge. "We're looking for the fairest way to handle name collisions," he said, noting that it would be impossible to please everyone. "Name collisions" refers to two characters having the same name on two servers. Two leading factors will be whether the players are active subscribers and the amount of play time. "If a name has collisions and no one is a subscriber, that name will be freed up." Regarding the merge itself, he said the ideas was to get more players in one spot to play together.

CBR asked whether the Swamp Thing event, in which he fights Poison Ivy for control of the Green for the Spring-themed content, was coordinated with the character's return to the DCU in "Brightest Day."Jens Andersen said "we are quite surprised that we were able to use Swamp Thing," adding that DC was excited to have Swampy be a part of the game. He said, though, that there was no concerted effort to coordinate with the comics. "We modeled it after our St. Patty's Day, Mr. Mxyzptlk event, which we thought was quite successful compared to our Valentine's Day event."

Jameson added that "we had a window of opportunity to use this character," and that he was personally a big fan of the Bernie Wrightson version.

Asked about using the open-world environment more, Jens Andersen and Jameson agreed that it was good to get players out into the world and that the seasonal events are part of that.

A question arose about the story-specifically which of Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing would be the hero and villain, given those characters' current proclivities. "We're trying to hit a mainstream perspective, not necessarily continuity with the books," Jameson said, suggesting that Swampy would be the hero character. Jens Andersen championed Swamp Thing as "Guardian of the Green," and said Ivy would be trying to usurp his role. Villainous players will be helping her, while heroes will be fighting to stop her.

"I think the biggest controversy in developing this was whether he should have teeth," Andersen joked. "And how big they should be," Jameson added.

"DC Universe Online has its own canonical throughline," Andersen said, noting that the game doesn't have Dick Grayson as Batman or Damien Wayne as Robin. "When certain characters are being featured [in comics], we try to feature them in the game, but not in the same storyline."

A question came up about tying into the Green Lantern movie. "There's a Green Lantern movie?" Jameson joked. "We've got to get on that!"

"We're not really talking about anything right now other than Game Update 3," Andersen said.

The next question looked at the frequency of updates, which had originally been announced as monthly but has slipped to three in five months. "We have been struggling, honestly, to hit our stride," Jameson said. "We're looking to get more out, faster," he said, but wanted to stick to "highest quality" for the updates.

Mark Anderson was asked about his new role as Game Director, replacing Chris Cao. "Chris made a lot of great contributions to the game," he said. His goals include "hitting our stride" with updates, both in terms of timing and quality, as well as concentrating on strengths "rather than trying more new and wacky things." "Moving forward, you can look for those updates to be of higher quality," he added.

A question came in about the Batman-centric updates. "The reason we were doing this was, our first raid series was the Batcave stuff," Anderson said, and tentatively suggested future updates would be centered on "other-cave stuff" as Batman's rogues take a back seat to other characters' villains.

"We have a certain amount of resources to apply," Jameson said, saying that the team "piggybacks" content to improve the PVP area, as well.

"In the years that come, we will be hitting every corner of the DC universe," Jens Andersen said, "so no one will be disappointed."

The next question was about updating the user interface or bug fixes. "We list the high points for the update," Jameson said, but bug fixes and other additions are included. "It's a live game; we will continue to make it better based on feedback and what works. Nothing is off the table."

The Oolong Island alert will be a "hard" version of the early game event, rebalanced for end-game play. For Ra's Al Ghul, the mystical angles will be played up, "and who doesn't like fighting ninjas?" Andersen said. "Players start off facing some of the most elite ninjas out there," he said. "Based on choices you make during that fight, who you take out, determines how that event unfolds." It will feature a "cliff-hanger beginning," in which "Ra's lays out his master plan" for cleansing humanity and it's up to players to stop it.

"This will definitely be a challenge for players, in a good way," Jameson added, noting that he had heard fans' comments about difficulty levels for some alerts.

"Ace Chemicals was a big, successful alert, because you didn't know which wing would open, you didn't know what boss was going to spawn at the end," Andersen said, adding that future challenges would focus on player actions.

Asked about Ra's' family members, Talia Al Ghul is in the game but does not appear in the new content. Nyssa, the other daughter, will not appear, either.

Asked about the League of Assassins gear that becomes available with the new content, "lots of people love ninjas, regardless of alignment," Jameson said. Heroes and villains alike will enjoy the gear, he said. "That's always something we're trying to be aware of, whether some will be more aligned to hero stuff, and some are more for villains."

Jens Andersen noted that the DCUO system allows players to take advantage of gear's stats but not use the appearance.

The panel were then asked about the effect on DCUO of the Playstation Network outage. Jameson said it was certainly a problem, and had delayed the update. "We've been developing this game full-on the entire time, but the worst part was, we wanted to entertain people and couldn't."

"It's hard to move forward without being in touch our player base," Mark Anderson said.

The "Welcome Back" items are now available in-game, players simply need to access the quest from their menus.

Asked about solo content, Andersen said there had actually been more requests for four-player events. There are, however, plenty of scenarios for single players and small groups.

The length of the Ra's event "completely depends on your gear and group," Jens Andersen said. "A really good group will get in there in 30 minutes, 40 minutes." Less skilled groups will take about an hour. Player decisions will "cut off" some aspects of the content as the event forks, but the length will remain about the same.

While getting the top gear will always be a challenge, the panelists said that SOE was reworking the tier structure to make accessing new, end-game content more accessible.

The previously-teased "Secret Identities" is "still a secret," Andersen and Jameson said.

With that, the call wrapped up.

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