"It's a full-featured MMO, with sort of a humorous take on Marvel," Jay told us. "We are going to cater to all of the Bartle types," he explained. "The Socializers, the Explorers... there will be some kind of PvP, for the Killers, right?" Obviously the hint of PvP lured us to ask more. "I can't tell you the details," Jay said. "But I can tell you for a fact that there will be various different kinds of PvP -- not just one, but many different kinds of PvP using these characters. And it's not what you think it is. It's not going to be like, just Call of Duty PvP, it's going to be really interesting."
He went on to show us around the Daily Bugle, one of the explorable zones in the game. He told us that the Bugle would be just one of numerous locations from the Marvel lore, such as OsCorp, the Baxter Building, and even Asteroid M. Each such location in the game will have its own themed missions, as well as loot to decorate our individual player housing. Each location will have tons of little hidden places to explore, with secret treasures and "trouble bots," little non-combat enemies that can be "trashed" for a little reward.
One thing that Jay was really excited about was emotes and socializing. Each character in SHSO will have around 25 emotes, most of which will be completely unique to that character. For instance, we got to see War Machine take aim at a pineapple and pop it with a quick shot from his guns, and shoot off a little fireworks display. We also got to see Iron Man jam out to some music.
When asked about how many characters would be available to play, Minn claimed that "We have access to all the characters from Marvel lore. All of them. There's like 5000+ characters, good guys and bad guys, and we have the capability of pulling anybody that we want." Although quite a few characters were playable at the show, he explained to us that more were planned for the game's initial launch, and that even more would be added post-launch.
When we were ready for a battle sequence, we used the "Squad Play" feature, which automatically sends invites to our friends list, letting them know we are ready for a mission. SHSO also lets players send invites directly, if we'd rather group with select people.
Gameplay in SHSO is very simple, consisting of just left and right mouse-button clicks. The left mouse button moves your hero around, similar to Diablo. Clicking on foes causes your character to let loose with basic attacks, which flow into each other for a rapid series of combinations. These combos charge your hero's energy bar, which lets a hero unleash one of three (or possibly more) different super moves with the right mouse button. The super attacks are selected at the beginning of each battle instance, so picking the right attack for the job will be important if you're striving for those gold rankings.
When your hero's unique powers aren't enough, you can also grab objects off the ground, which can then be thrown at enemies in a very similar style to many of the recent Marvel action games. Other environmental objects can be used against foes, as we turned some cranes in the environment against our opponents by knocking them into the path of the cranes as they reached to grab us.
At the end of each stage, players are rated based on performance, and then granted experience points accordingly, which levels a character up. Each level for a character unlocks items for other game features, as well as the usual expanded health bars and better attacks common to MMOs. Jay was very emphatic about explaining that this wasn't the main focus of the game, though. "It's very simple though. It's not like a huge deep... you know, on a per character basis. We're very broad. We want you to max out a character, get the next character and see what's going on. It's not like WoW where you want to get to level 80 and it takes months."
SHSO is shaping up to be a very casual-focused game. "We don't need you to play four-hour raids," Minn explained. "We want you to play for fifteen minutes and want to play again, and pretty soon maybe four hours have gone by and you didn't know." Obviously, the emphasis in SHSO is on bite-sized gameplay that can be done solo or with a group of friends. He also emphasized that combat wouldn't be the only focus. "Launch is really just the beginning. We're going to be adding all kinds of features and all kinds of different things [players] can do -- not just fighting, a lot more stuff."
Playing with other players is also very important to the SHSO dev team. "Everybody is together in one giant database. So if I'm friended with you, I can say 'Go to where you're at,' and poof I'll go to the same instance." Jay said enthusiastically. "Obviously we can't have 10,000 people in the same world, so there is instancing of spaces, but the connections, the individual relationships with each player is global. So there's none of this 'Which server are you on?' We don't believe in that." A lot of focus on SHSO will be on social environments and playing together with your friends.
With all this emphasis on socializing, we wondered how young gamers would be protected in this family-friendly game. Fortunately, SHSO seems pretty on-the-ball. "We have some of the finest staff working at our headquarters with chat safety, monitoring, parental controls and all that. You have to opt-in to free chat. You have to have permission." Hopefully, this means that parents will be able to specify the age of the person playing, and keep younger children safe from stalkers. He also expressed more enthusiasm for the wide variety of emotes. "We feel like characters are so emotive... so expressive on their own, that emoting is going to be the basis of your chat."
Overall, Marvel Super Hero Squad Online is looking to be more than just some kid's romp through cutesy renditions of our favorite superhero locales. Our second look at the game revealed more of the exploration and social aspects, as well as delving deeper into the surprisingly fun combat mechanics. If you're looking to find out more about the game, Jay promised to reveal more about the game at San Diego Comic-Con.