Massively: Champions Online is offering a more action-oriented approach to gameplay, but isn't the only title within the MMO space to use this philosophy. Can you speak to what differentiates your action combat from other titles?
Randy: There are a number of defining characteristics of action-oriented gameplay in MMOs which we're implementing in Champions Online. One of them is low recharge time on powers - we've focused on small attacks and other gameplay mechanics that build your power and big attacks that expend it. In other words you're never stuck waiting around for your powers to recharge!
Another element is the reactive nature of combat – while you can certainly plow through gangs of henchmen without breaking a sweat, when you start running into super-villains you really have to learn to watch and react to their combat powers, dodging, blocking, waiting for openings, etc. We've also been playing close attention to our controls as well by building multiple functions into each key or button press - for example, tapping does one thing but holding does a charge-up effect. Overall, while technology hasn't caught up to the point where we can have a hundred players on a large graphics-heavy map and not have to worry about latency for action gameplay, we're starting to close that gap.
Additionally, how has the combat system changed over the course of development?
In the original design a lot of the powers were bound in more narrowly defined themes: you could play a power armor guy, a sword guy, a force control guy, etc. which had specific gameplay associated with each of them. It was also very heavily focused on the power builder mechanic where you do light attacks to build to heavier attacks. Over the course of the project a couple of things became clear: players wanted to mix-and-match powers freely and we needed to have an alternate power builder mechanic so players didn't constantly have to spam light attacks to keep their energy high. Now we have an incredibly flexible powers system with an interesting power builder mechanics built into them!
A lot of people who're currently playing older MMOs may be looking at Champions Online and wondering if/how much they're going to have to upgrade their computer. Has the game been designed with these older machines in mind?
We're continually optimizing our graphics code so we can run on lower-end systems – after all, we want Champions Online
to be available to as many players as possible! We don't have the final low-end specs yet but we'll post them as soon as they are available.