Oh no, microtransactions in a subscription game! Oh wait, Microsoft's Xbox Live service, World of Warcraft, any NCsoft game and Turbine games, too. It's nothing new, it's always optional and Colin did a wonderful job discussing it. I don't have a problem with microtransactions, and haven't since I began actually learning how they affected online services and games. In actuality, it's a solid reason to support the game.
When Cryptic's games make more money, Atari is happier. When Atari is happier, Cryptic gets to hire more people and spend more time creating the things we love to play: MMOs. Expansions, free content, live events, real-world events; they all stem from a successful company. And in this day and age, a progressive, evolving company has a much higher chance for success.
New Social Approach
Socialization and community are absolutely, without a doubt, the keystone of a well designed online game -- doubly so for an MMO. This is one of the areas that Cryptic has already been excelling at with their community team. Twitter, hero profiles, villain profiles, lore, public events, IRC chats, contests and forum participation by the entire team are all things that have happened and continue to occur all because the community team is hard working and communicative. I'd especially like to give a mention to Daeke, who is somebody that anyone from the official forums knows all too well.
Meanwhile there's in-game support, too. Things like guild features, social gathering places, a variety of PvP and plenty of group-related content act as the core to this swirling ball of fiery community. In fact, a comparison to the cyclic process of stars is quite accurate, because your in-game adventures are reflected back to Champions Online's web presence. Rate My Champion is one simple example, but if Cryptic can make access game files like that, then even more exceptionally cool web features are possible as well.
Turbine has been keen to develop MyLotRO and MyDDO websites for their communities, and it's been nothing but huge wins for both games. I've no doubt the same results await Champions Online, although the development intent seems to go beyond simple Facebook-like web interfaces. It tingles the MMO community nerve just pondering the awesome guild memories that could spawn from all these features merged into something else entirely.
I've already invoked the future, though so much more could -- and hopefully will -- be achieved through updates and expansions. More powers, customization, otherworldly zones, just more content in general and new ways to interact with other people in and out of the game. Personally, I'd love to see them tackle the travel and design logistics of a moon zone.
Then there's complimentary games. Some people scoff at the idea of Nemesis Online, but I'd like to see what Cryptic can do with the right amount of time, money and creative minds. They know City of Villains' design was far too copy-and-paste, which was ultimately a big mistake. Can they do better? Potentially, and that's the point. Until I see or hear more about what such a game, I'm happy to reserve judgment and hope for the best.
There are so many source books to pull from that it's sickening -- just go to a local table-top/comic book store and find the Champions section. If you have trouble locating them, they're usually taking up an entire shelve worth of space.
No game is for everybody, but this game is definitely for somebody who loves superheroes and enjoys a good MMO. So much has obviously been learned by Cryptic that I sometimes worry they've changed too much for City of Heroes players to handle. I worried about this until I realized that Champions Online is trying to expand the market. It's become its own game, made by a similar yet different group of developers, anticipated by similar yet new groups of people. I think the best reason to play, come a month from now, will be the fact that launches are one-time only experiences. No game is ever quite the same after they've passed, and for better or worse you shouldn't miss out on that.