As we referenced in our post yesterday about DC Universe Online's concept art, the folks at SOE Austin are looking to change the playing field fairly substantially with their superhero MMO title. In fact, in a number of ways they're looking to re-examine a lot of the basic elements we think of as part and parcel with the MMO package. One great example is the concept of questing. Your average experience in a massively multiplayer game right now involves seeking out quests - essentially 'todo lists' - from characters a story-centric quest hub somewhere in the game world.

In DCUO, the goal is to let players do what they want to do with the time they have in-game. To that end, the designers are seeking to push content on players, rather than make players seek them out with their precious game time. Calling them 'encounters' rather than quests, these experiences are totally changeable based on developer intentions, and local conditions. DCUO offers traditional questing as well, with well-known quest givers and amazing quest content ... but they're definitely seeking something new in encounters.

We also chat with the developers about the ways in which their physics-based gameplay fits in, the game's death mechanic, and how the game 'feels' like a 3rd person action game more than an MMO. Read on for all the gameplay details!

"[Encounters] really let us have the ability to dynamically spawn up a lot of content in the game, and really have the player understand what they need to do at any moment without checking a quest log."

Explain to us how encounters will work in DC Universe Online.

DCUO Creative Director Jens Andersen: They are an example of our 'self-evident content system'. We have what we call 'encounters' in the game, and each encounter has a number of objectives in it. In this case, this encounter has three knockout objectives. So I can see the knockout over these guys' heads, and what I need to use are these. These are my abilities. Knock back... I'm an ice guy, my name is Freon. I have some ranged attacks from my dual pistols here. I kind of modelled this guy after Captain Cold, right? Ice, and a couple of pistol slinging going on.

So you can see here these knockout objectives have turned to Secure now. So I need to use my Interact button to remove the device that's on their foreheads, to get the nanovirus out of them. And once I do this for all the objectives within an encounter, I complete the objective and I get some XP. So everything I gain is pretty much driven off these encounters, for our base population. It really lets us have the ability to dynamically spawn up a lot of content in the game, and really have the player understand what they need to do at any moment without checking a quest log.

So you can see here our physics. A very big part of our game. I can pick up cars and smash people with them. I'll just take care of these guys... They make it really easy for me, you can see at the bottom whenever I approach an objective here, the objective tells me what I need to do, and at the bottom of the screen it tells me how I need to do it.

SOE Austin Creative Director Chris Cao: I mean, in what other game can you help citizens by beating them with a car?

Jens: Thank God that nanovirus really adds to their durability! You see here, I have a police officer I need to protect, I have some money bags I need to secure, and I have a bank robber I need to help the police officer take down. So here we knocked out that guy, I'm gonna go secure the money bag, which is the same sort of action as securing the Brainiac device off the civilian. And then I've completed that encounter.

"In the action combat we were talking about, there's no die rolls going on in this game. Everything is basically: I need to hit if I'm going to hit."

Let's see if we can go and find a suitably iconic encounter. Okay, here's Lex Luthor over here, and Lex is pretty tough. In the action combat we were talking about, there's no die rolls going on in this game. Everything is basically: I need to hit if I'm going to hit. I have to aim at this person, I have to acquire them as a target, and I need to make sure that I'm active. You know in action games like shooters, where you have those reticles that give an accuracy modifier – you just sit there and lean on the gun, you're spraying all over the place. That's how we handle our ranged combat as well.

So here, let me actually secure these guys.

On the PC side, does that mean that the experience in ranged combat is going to be similar to an FPS?

Jens: Well I can show you the PC action on that right here actually, let me switch over by touching the keyboard and the mouse, and I'm at my PC interface now. I can use these attacks on the PC just like I was just using on the console. Now you can see that I'm clicking on my mouse here to activate the ranged attack. As I do you can see that the reticle is kind of like moving out. I'm at really close range, point blank, so of course I'm not really missing.

But you can actually see here as I shoot, I'm right on the dead reckoning there, but as I shoot more and more, my bullets start spreading out all over the place and my accuracy's going down. Also, just like an FPS, if I'm running my reticle goes out, if I crouch it goes in. So if I have a target over here that I'm locked on to, as I'm moving around you can see that it actually changes. And if I go into flight, it changes even more. My accuracy as I'm flying and moving around is a lot less than if I'm stable on the ground and choosing to shoot.

"We want you to be able to move. We want you to run and gun. That's what makes it feel like there's a lot of action going on. And also, that you're in control of your character. You're not bound by these conventions of having to stand still to cast something."

What that does is it doesn't force a mechanic of 'these ranged guys can't move when they're casting a spell or using a bow and arrow', right? We want you to be able to move. We want you to run and gun. That's what makes it feel like there's a lot of action going on. And also, that you're in control of your character. You're not bound by these conventions of having to stand still to cast something.

Chris: And unlike a FPS, though, you do have target selection. You have a way to keep control of a very complex environment. So it's still free fire, but you can hard lock, so you can actually hit who you need to hit.

Right. It's more third person action than FPS.

This article was originally published on Massively.