As DC Universe Online enters its third year, the MMO set in the world of DC Comics adds its staggering thirty-first update and more than a fresh coat of paint, “more like 10 coats,” joked Jens Andersen of Sony Online Entertainment, for the PlayStation 4 release of the game.
The free-to-play MMORPG transfers over to the PS4 intact from the PS3. While the new DualShock4 controller has additional inputs, they aren’t being used at this time, though SOE isn’t ruling anything out for future updates. For now, the increased resolution and full compatibility with players on PS3 were the first goals.
“We got it all working on the PS4, and we didn’t break the PS3 version in the process! Yes!” Andersen said frankly during a demonstration at a Sony media event in New York. In fact, by working with the increased fidelity and power of the PS4, they found new ways to add additional smoke, lighting, and damage effects to both console editions.
“When you have an MMO, that’s going to go for years. We didn’t want to necessarily worry about being on an aging platform that’s being replaced by what the next generation had to offer,” Andersen said of the PS4 version’s development. “We approached WB and Sony and asked them about bringing the game to PS4, and they were both really interested in it. Sony has such a focus on free-to-play, so we seemed perfect for it.”
While most multiplayer and online gaming experiences now require the subscription to PlayStation Plus, DCUO is a rare exception. “Free-to-play means it’s free. There are no subscriptions, even PS+, necessary to play this game,” Andersen told Newsarama. He said the switch to that model greatly increased sign-ups, with around 11 million now, and actually made the game considerably more profitable as well.
For the PS4 update, SOE “touched the game everywhere and made upgrades to everything we could.” Demonstrating the added detail to everything from character models to the very ground, “everything has been up-rezzed, and that’s just on the art side alone.”
Environmental improvements were a major focus, with added destruction where it was warranted, changes to the terrain and surroundings. Smoke near fire was something added significantly to PS4, that they wound up being able to go back and add into the PS3 and PC version as well. “But the up-rezzed textures are only on the PS4.
Making sure the two console versions were cross-compatible was a primary goal from the start of development for the PS4 edition. “We don’t want any messy breakups where your league leader goes to PS4 and leaves the group behind.”
The PS4 edition, along with all platforms as game update 31 goes live, implements suggestions from a compiled list of “two thousand fan suggestions and feedback” into the game. There are improvements to messaging, descriptions of stats (“people wondered what the heck Dominance was because our description wasn’t good enough”), combat icons go above players heads now, to be “more intuitive to the players.” The leveling curve was redone, fixing some “holes and breaks” in the leveling system, especially across the middle missions.
We asked Andersen what his message is to bring back some lapsed players, maybe those who played for awhile on PS3 but haven’t been around for awhile, and he simply said, “Just try it on the PS4. You don’t need to invest, it’s free, we held onto your character for you – you haven’t lost any progress. You’ll be really impressed by the performance improvements,” citing load and frame rate issues that plagued the PS3 for awhile that are fixed for PS4. “Come see the full potential of DC Universe Online on a console.”