NYCC '09 - DCU Online Panel
Geoff Johns, Jim Lee, and Marv Wolfman, the representatives from DC working on the game were all present at the panel. Wes Yangi, senior producer of the game introduced everyone else. Jens Andersen, creative director, Jared Carr, art director, and Chris Cao, the director of the Austin Studio rounded out the panel.
Yangi asked Lee to explain the challenges of bringing this from 2D to 3D. He realized that his drawings are not necessarily made to be brought to 3D. He wanted to create the “ideal version” of the DCU. It won’t necessarily show a specific version of Metropolis, for example, from a movie or TV series or comic, but a version that amalgamates all of them. The same idea was brought to the character designs. A lot of “beefing up” had to be done to make the characters work in 3D, and in motion. Many other artists collaborated with Lee on the project, and they help push him forward in creating the best designs they can.
Carr elaborated on the process a bit, saying gamers look at art differently than comic artists do. Game artists need to work off a concept, where comic artists develop a unique, individual style.
Jim Lee asked if he could talk about “factions” in the game, and was allowed. Organizations like LexCorp and Star Labs can hire your character, and you will be able to associate with them. The Green and Purple shown on the concept art for LexCorp’s faction is a line-wide color scheme.
He also mentioned that getting to draw these other characters that he might not have ever drawn in the DCU has been fun, but difficult. He’s discovered characters that he might never have known about. He also had fun figuring out the most iconic looks for characters. He mentioned that Zatanna HAD to have the fishnets and the coat, for example, to much applause. Aquaman and Green Arrow were officially mentioned for the first time as well.
Johns got to talk about the game next. His general position is in creating a story environment that includes you, the person, being the secret identity of your in-game character. He’s “very happy, very excited to work with Marv Wolfman on this, too.”
Wolfman took Johns’s overview, and said he was blown away. The conceptualization of the DCU had to include 75 years of history and figure out who “certain types of characters belong with” and create a great story out of it was a daunting task. He said right away, “thank God I didn’t have to come up with the base story! It’s really, really good.” He’s excited to build off that foundation.
Andersen said the action will stay in the forefront, and they don’t want people “reading a ton of text all the time.” The objectives are clear, and you can get the basics just by what you see on screen: “There’s Doomsday. Superman’s getting punched in the face. I’m a hero and I can help him!” and it’s that easy, but then this real story is in the background of all of that.
The demo on the show floor featured this story; Doomsday and Superman had a major throwdown in Metropolis, and Doomsday was taken to Star Labs. Then you help Superman or Lex (if you’re a hero or a villain) as they work to contain Doomsday in their own ways.
Cao said that having created characters was the only way to make people feel like they were living in the DC Universe, and that was why they didn’t want people playing as Superman or Batman from the start. Instead, you’re trying to earn the respect (or fear, for villains) of these massive characters so that you can eventually stand alongside them.
Remarking how about 90% of comics focus on the hero point of view, Lee said his first character will be a villain. “OK, Jim wants to destroy the world,” said Johns to laughter. Johns and Wolfman agreed they’d like to try the villain shoes on for size.
Panels aren’t panels until there’s a Q&A, and this one was no different.
Will I see the Atomic Skull? We get asked a lot of questions about specific characters. Johns put a lot of big characters in the game, and then went pretty deep. He frequently got asked “that guy?” when coming up with the base story.
No specific storylines can be talked about just yet.
The common question of cross-platform play, PC vs. PS3 was asked. They haven’t made any decisions, though technically they’re supporting it in the office right now. They have the game running that way now, and hopefully they’ll get to have it in the end game.
A new video showing off some STAR Labs faction characters and some characters they’ve created showed in the background as the Q&A session continued. Hawkman, Wonder Woman, John Stewart, and Green Arrow (who has a notable design that drew “aahs” and whispers from the audience) were all shown in the new trailer.
A technical question was asked, with the gist being that Jim Lee does concept, then they digitize it and go back to him, then it goes back to the game makers for the full model.
A fan asked about the creation. Andersen noted that these characters are flexible, and gave the basics of creation we talked about in the developer walkthrough. As you level up, you’ll get to add to your character with new powers and abilities.
How will updates be handled for the game? SoE had done a lot of MMOs, and they’re confident that their live updates, seasonal events, and such will keep fans happy.
The story is set in the modern day, with characters like “I can’t say any of their names,” said Johns.
No business model, including micro-transactions and monthly fees has been decided on yet.
What’s the hardest power to program, and the hardest to show visually? All of the super-hero physics systems had to be built and was challenging but fun.
The character creation is so deep, Andersen said you won’t see anyone that looks like you. You can also add items or change your costume throughout the game as you unlock and find new things. Batman has a bunch of different suits, but always looks like Batman, so you’ll be able to have your own signature features that stay even as you customize into something new.
Architecture, color palette, and atmosphere were all design elements used to design the locations in the game. Whenever you drop into a new zone, you’ll know exactly where you are based on the look of that particular area. Central City and Keystone City were mentioned by Lee. The “style guide” is all in Lee’s head, he joked, but there are actually several stacks of drawings to guide each environment.
How will you handle character death? “You’ll have to wait a year till we can relaunch you, when you come back to life because you’re too valuable to the team” deadpanned Lee to laughter. Andersen then explained the KO mechanic, where you are able to rally after a countdown on screen (though you rally with less than full health).
Any size-changing power sets, or elasticity? There are a lot of plans for different power sources, but they can’t say what all those are right now. The hints from the panel are that they will be working on things like those if they can, as they’re champing at the bit to have all the cool stuff from the comics.
Johns made fun of Andersen for saying Plastic Man is powerful to a lot of laughter.
The light powers will make constructs, both for NPCs and for players, and not just have beams of light. They will be pre-determined, but you’ll be able to earn new ones as you play the game.
Are there trade skills? If it makes sense for a superhero and make you feel superpowered, it’ll be in the game.
B.R.A.I.N.I.A.C. in all his evil glory will be in the game.
Civilians will react to how you act through a “threat” level. That will have different levels in different parts of the cities, as well.
“Is this a mission based game, or if my friends and I just want to kidnap people can we?” Johns: “That’s kinda scary isn’t it?” There will be opportunities like that all over. You can prowl and you can patrol, if you’re a villain or a hero, and you’ll find individual missions like that.
Pedestrians aren’t targets, and you won’t have to worry about protecting every single person on the streets.
A new video which will be available online soon was shown to finish the panel, showing off the Doomsday event that is playable on the show floor.More New York Comic Con 2009 Coverage: NYCC '09 Video Page