In part one of our week long look at DC Universe Online, Sony Online Entertainment's upcoming MMORPG for the PS3 and PC, Marv Wolfman told us about the story and the missions he stepped in to write for the game.
In part two of our visit to the SOE Austin Studio, we talked about the geography of the game, and some of the many locations fans will be able to visit in the virtual world.
But what you really want to know about is the character you'll be creating, and how they will grow through the game. That's where today comes in, with an in-depth look at the character creation process, and what comes after.
The tagline of the game, "The Next Legend Is You," says it all; Sony Online Entertainment wants you to create a character, and through your journey, make them stack up to Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. The story has an impetus to that effect as well. Brainiac has won. He has defeated every hero and villain Earth had, having stolen all of their powers using his exobytes. Lex Luthor, one of the final survivors, realizes he backed the wrong horse and comes back in time, bringing Brainiac's stolen exobytes with him. Releasing these power-filled nanobots into the atmosphere makes people all over the world suddenly wake up with abilities beyond their wildest imagination.
And that's where you come in. Your character creation process is guided by the voice of the exobytes in your mind (speakers), as you discover (choose) your abilities and look.
Starting things off, you can choose a Large, Medium, or Small build. Be the quick, small acrobatic fighter or the massive brute, it's entirely up to you. From here you can choose a custom template or an "Inspired By" one. The inspired by option gives you a large list of DC characters including Batman, Catwoman, Deathstroke, and others. Choosing one gives you a costume that would fit in alongside that character as a member of their team.
Of course, you do have to decide whether to be a Hero or a Villain. In this game, when you choose, that's it, that's who you are. Don't expect to be just twirling your mustache and tying damsels to train tracks if you're a villain, however. Writer Marv Wolfman said he loved writing the villain stories, "because you have to drop out the concept that they're the villains in their own story."
Personality is important in MMOs, as it drives the kind of "emotes" your character can do for other players. This option controls both your idle stance and your interactive movements. Comical, Flirty, Powerful, Primal, and Serious are your options to start. "Jersey Shore" fans will want to choose Flirty, complete with head nod and fist pump. May the Flirty flash mobs in front of the Superman statue commence.
Now that you have your personality, your basic look, and know whether you'll be fighting for the little guy or more for personal gain, you get to choose your Mentor. There are six mentors, each representing counterparts to one another on the hero and villain side.
Your tech mentors are Batman and The Joker. Your meta mentors are Superman and Lex Luthor. Finally your magic mentors are Wonder Woman and Circe. Picking a "type" of mentor doesn't mean you are locked into that kind of ability, so feel free to play favorites. Batman and Joker start your character, as mentioned yesterday, in Gotham City, while Superman, Lex, Wonder Woman, and Circe start you off in Metropolis. This will affect your missions as well, with some missions tailored to your mentor. As you complete these, you grow in esteem and respect in your mentor's eyes, with the ultimate goal being receipt of a special armor, complete with the logo of the legend you're aspiring to be like.
It's time for some powers, and man are there a lot of them. There are six power sets: Fire, Gadgets, Ice, Mental, Nature, and Sorcery. Each of these has two separate power trees, allowing your powers to be focused more internally or externally. All power sets can be used for multiple roles and do damage. Generally, in MMO terminology, when you go raiding, Fire and Ice will be tanks, gadgets and mental will be control, and nature and sorcery will be healers. Again, you're not limited to just that role, and can run into battle casting spells or defend others with your ice; that's just the general recommendation for each set.
Once you have your power base, you'll upgrade throughout the game, and that's where things get crazy. Each power tree has multiple abilities and boosts, anywhere from around 12 to 20. Each. These allow you to really build the character the way you want them. Prefer area affect for your powers? A more one-on-one focused kind of character? Anything is possible. For those of you that really want to create a doppleganger of an existing DC character, never fear. The newly revealed "Iconic Powers" tree is open to character, regardless of base.
Iconic Powers are just what they sound like: 22 powers, unlockable when you reach certain levels, that mimic the abilities of DC Universe Icons. Whether you crave the Sonic Scream of Black Canary, the Batarangs of Batman, or Heat Vision of Superman, these powers make it much easier for you to live out your fantasy of being the last son of Krypton.
So, that's an incredibly deep creation process already, right? Well we're about halfway there. Next up is your movement method, and this one is important. There are three basic choices to start from: Flight, Acrobatics, and Super-Speed. Creative Director Jens Andersen mentioned there are "a lot of agile and practical applications for movement modes in combat" alongside how you simply get around, so your movement option pulls double duty. Movement is also upgradable. Flight users can eventually unlock a faster "supersonic" flight mode, and speedsters can eventually reach into the speed force for that extra boost, for example.
Now that you know how you're going to move around, you need to choose your Weapon/fighting style. Here again, you have a wide variety of choices. Bow, Brawling, Dual Pistol, Dual Wield Melee, Hand Blast, Martial Arts, One-Handed Melee, Rifle, Staff, and Two-Handed Melee are all at your control. What's that? That's not enough? Well each of those is upgradable, too! Don't worry, no matter what style you choose, you'll have both long and short-range attacks from the beginning. For example, a Bow user will shoot arrows, or use their bow as a short-range melee weapon.
The final step is where you get to be creative, the costume. Again, you can take a template costume and slightly alter it (or not at all) to jump straight into the game. For budding creators, you can go as deep as you'd like. You can control your Body, with a gigantic selection of skin types, from metal to scaly to "fox," all color-adjustable as well. You can control your gear, including Helmet, Face, Emblem, Shirt, Pants, Boots, plus extra accessories. The shear amount of options will perhaps be overwhelming to some, but it's exciting to see this many possibilities. You can create a completely wacky looking character, or the epitome of cool, it's all up to you.
As you go through the game, you'll win "loot" from some battles. This is often new gear that has new capabilities and bonuses on it, like +10 strength or +8 defense. When equipping it, you have the option of taking on the new look of that particular gear or masking it under your chosen outfit. So, your look can evolve throughout the experience or not at all. Once you've equipped an item of gear, you can take on that look combined with another piece's abilities at any time. It's a really nice extra feature to let all your hard work be appreciated.
That's the basics of character creation. It truly is what you make it, as you can easily spend 5 minutes on it or spend 45 minutes on it. Regardless, you'll be "creating" throughout the entire game, as you continue to customize your character and make them the greatest hero or most dastardly villain around.Are you going Villain or Hero first?