Massively in Metropolis: Making friends with Superman


One of the most compelling elements of DC Universe Online is the opportunity to interact with and fight beside the great heroes of the DC comics. Superman, Batman, and all the rest are going to be important and notable characters in this world, just like yours. The SOE Austin team felt it was important, though, that icons like Batman be more than just 'quest dispensers with legs.'

Instead, the personalities and idiosyncrasies we've all seen in the comics will be coming to the forefront of these characters through spoken and text interactions. If you blow off Superman by ignoring his pleas for help, he'll be cranky at you. Meanwhile, Batman will be spending his time just waiting for you to turn on him and his family ... poised to take you down. Some discussion of quests with personality, plus exploration of the DCUO faction system called 'causes' below the cut!


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"Superman is going to have a relationship with you based on your actions in the game."

As far as the two big cities, is it going to simply be a matter of personal taste where you start? Or will that impact gameplay?

DCUO Creative Director Jens Andersen: One of the important things in any MMO is the starting area experience, right? It gives you replay value as well. "Hey, I'd like to try this race, I'd like to try this class." The way we do role powers are going to be the important differentiator and then starting locations will be key. We'll have starting locations based in Gotham and Metropolis, and at the moment we're not talking about how those will work. There will be some interesting reveals there. We will have different starting experiences tying into the different cities and the hero/villain experience.

During gameplay, how do you work the background characters like Superman into the questgiving framework? We saw him pop up in a little message box and give us a mission ...

Jens: We have a deep story that, as you may have heard, is being written by Geoff Johns. This story that we're doing basically explains where all these new heroes and villains are coming from. We have a great relationship with DC and we make sure to tie in that advantage. "Who are these new people?" We have a great storyline that will explain all of that, and those iconic heroes ... their participation in the story ... is deeply tied to their character and what they expect from you as a player. They may be trying to mentor you, maybe take advantage of you depending on who they are. That will be reflected in that context.

SOE Austin Creative Director Chris Cao: Our whole idea with this game is to "bring the universe to life", to make it feel real. We can't just have these guys feel like quest dispensers. We can't just have them stand there and go "Howdy!", and then you get your quest from Superman. Because there aren't NPCs in the world with punctuation over their heads, there isn't a mission terminal that looks like a guy standing around in your line of sight, we can have what we call persistent personalities in the game.

"When you beat up Joker and then he gives you a creepy call a few days later because he busted out of Arkham ... your reaction isn't 'oh, there's a game character giving me a quest', it's 'Oh crap when is the Joker going to come after me?'"



Superman is going to have a relationship with you based on your actions in the game. As you saw, the voiceover he had was something like "here's the situation." But he didn't tell you, go get six nanites. He told you what he'd really tell you: "Hey, Brianiac is attacking, help!" As you do more and better things he'll give you props and confirmation. "Can you help with this other thing?" He'll stay out there as a personality in the world. If you don't log in for a week he might be like "Where have you been? You've been slacking."

We want you to feel like your interactions with him matters. Now, that doesn't mean you have to log in and say hi to Superman every few days or he gets pissed. There's a line there that we want to draw, where the personality of these people come out. When you beat up Joker and then he gives you a creepy call a few days later because he busted out of Arkham ... your reaction isn't "oh, there's a game character giving me a quest", it's "Oh crap when is the Joker going to come after me?"

We have to push past the game conventions to the reality of these characters.

Jens: The quality of the character will come through with that as well. Superman is going to be your mentor not because it's what we want in the game, but because Superman is a mentor. He's a supporter, a nurturer. Batman is an outcast, a vigilante, distrustful and wondering when you're going to turn and he'll have to take you out. All of these character elements will bubble up through their interactions with you.

So you're not going to have to be grinding your Superman faction, then?

Jens: No, no. We do have the concept of faction in the game, but that's taking things to a completely new level. We have a superheroic version of that concept call 'causes'. You can become the patron of this or that.

Is that something you can get into right away when you start your career, or is that further on in the game?

Jens: I don't know if they've decided when in the game that will become available. I'm assuming that it will be available fairly soon, as there's likely a general superhero faction that you're working for. Then more specific causes will become available as you head into content that touches on their areas.

"Batman is an outcast, a vigilante, distrustful and wondering when you're going to turn and he'll have to take you out. All of these character elements will bubble up through their interactions with you."

Chris: We still faction, definitely. It's great for a general 'thumb in the wind' about how you're doing. But we don't want it to be abstract, we want it to be about your relationship with Superman. A bar that's slowly going up just doesn't do that.

Jens: It's about having a personal relationship with these characters that's unique to you. It's unique to your character because of the choices you made, what you may have done to make these characters happy or tick them off. It's not going to gimp you from getting Superman's next quest, but he'll be crankers with you [ed: snickering from around the room] when you report in. If you did something he might be ticked, but it won't gate you.
This article was originally published on Massively.