E308: DC Universe Online's role on the PlayStation 3

Our discussion with the folks behind DC Universe Online covered a lot of ground. Our look at the game's informative new trailer provided a great framework, and we followed up with numerous exploratory questions about game systems like raiding and instancing. DCUO is coming to the PlayStation 3 console, and Creative Director Chris Cao and SOE-Austin VP of development John Blakely had several pieces of information to share with us about how the new MMO would interact with that system.

Read on below the cut for discussion of the interoperability between the PS3 and the PC, differences between the way they play, and the possibility of patching problems on the PlayStation platform.

Do you have any sense of what patching is going to be like on the PS3? Do you have any concerns or affirmations who are interested in the game - where we might see a situation where the PC game gets patched and then the PS3 patch lags by a week or two?

"Ultimately our strategy is that the platform is invisible. We want to build in that suspension of disbelief, that fantasy that I'm in the DC universe."

Blakely: We're going to do our best to work through that. We've been working with our internal organization, our platform organization, on the PlayStation network. We're very intimately involved with that upgrade. So we're coaching them and giving them a lot of feedback in terms of what we would like to see on the service. They ultimately determine that. There will probably always be an additional level of scrutiny and certification when going to the PlayStation Network, especially when we change the actual executable.

If we're just changing the content or the data on the server, that will be a lot more straightforward. The idea is to find that good rhythm where if there is a change that impacts security or anything like that we'll have to be very careful about how we release that. But if it's just a change where we increase the power of this thing or that thing, or close a loophole, that shouldn't be a problem.

Cao: Ultimately our strategy is that the platform is invisible. We want to build in that suspension of disbelief, that fantasy that I'm in the DC universe. Using that metaphor to develop this game, we're already running on the patchers that patch both PS3 and PC. We already have the infrastructure, the not-so-glamarous stuff that makes everything run and work invisibly. We live by "play our game." It's our studio motto. "Prove through play." You can write a document, but if you can show to me in a game I'll know it's fun.

You mentioned the platform being invisible. Are there any substantial differences between the way the game plays on the PC and the way it plays on the PS3?

Blakely: I'll challenge you to answer that question after you try it. What we have for the setup is a keyboard and a mouse and you'll have a PS3 controller at the same seat. You'll be able to play with the keyboard and mouse if you want and that interface will pop up. As soon as you pick up the controller, any kind of input, and it will switch over to the controller interface. You'll be able to go back and forth. We just did an internal test, brought in some random folks from a UT campus. "Show up and play some games." We were able to kind of switch between the two and have a good time.

"If someone's throwing a car at you, do you want to remember to have to push shift-control bar 2-8? Instead it has to be right at your fingertips. That's really kept the platform controls really close together. The game plays the same, it's really just what you prefer."

The console gamers gravitated to the controller, the PC gamers gravitated towards the keyboard, and it was fairly similar. I am very proud of that. I'm glad we can show it.

Cao: The control schemes don't fight each other. The whole point is to get that visceral super-hero action experience. If we want that we have to put you in direct and constant control of your character. So we do things like, there are four activity abilities on the PC. You can switch those out and load those out. Then you have sort of four reactive ones that work. The reason for that is - on both - the more options you have the slower you'll be able to react to attacks. If someone's throwing a car at you, do you want to remember to have to push shift-control bar 2-8? Instead it has to be right at your fingertips. That's really kept the platform controls really close together. The game plays the same, it's really just what you prefer.

Blakely: Those slots and powers can really be spread out based on what you need to do at a given time. The golf bag metaphor that Chris has come up with is great. You can own a bunch of golf clubs, one of every type and size, but when you go out on a golf course you can only bring a set amount of those clubs with you. It really forces you to think ahead and play a little better. It also gives you the options to go get stuff, tweak things around, and it shows the passage of you and your character as you become a powerful hero or villlain.

Are you planning a simultaneous PS3/PC launch for the game?

Blakely: That's the plan right now but we haven't gotten into the specifics of it at the moment. We want to make sure that the players get the content, and that's again about the platform being invisible. It shouldn't matter what you like. The reality of that, the politics of that, are something we'll deal with. That's what we're developing towards though.

Will there be complete interoperability between the two platforms?

Blakely: Right now there is. Long term it depends on how things feather out. We want to make sure that we don't bind the two. We want to make sure they're able to work with each other. If we can get proven and comfortable with that, then we'll do that. If not then we'll separate those two elements.

Cao: If it's more fun that way, we'll do it that way. If it's less fun because of who-knows what - that's why we've found that playing and iterating on the game is the only way to find out what really works. We've had PC guys in with PS3 guys while we were playing, and it's been working so far, but it's not the whole game so far.
Hungry for more DCUO news? Massively got the scoop at E3 from Creative Director Chris Cao, SOE-Austin VP of development John Blakely, and Executive Creative Director for the project, Jim Lee. Check out the roundup of all the DCUO coverage from E3 including interviews, screenshots, a full breakdown of the trailer and analysis of DCUO's role on the console. Plus, don't miss the rest of our E3 coverage!

This article was originally published on Massively.