Massively: How would you describe how gameplay works? We talked about how it's going to be on the PS3 as well as the PC. How are the mechanics of that going to differ?
Chris Cao: What we've tried to do is to really get one experience as much as possible. All your actions are immediate. You don't have a timeout. You click the mouse button and you punch or you shoot. This is a little bit different especially for MMO players. You have auto-attack, and you have the power that you layer on top of it. Well, imagine you took the auto-attack and you broke it into action-game combos. The way to think about it is there are three major portions of combat: how you move, what weapon you use, and what your powers are. Each of those contributes to combat.
Your weapon is the combos you have. So literally clicking combos does more damage and other effects. You can throw guys up in the air; you can knock them down; you can spin them around; and you can flip them over. So it can get you a lot of tactical and practical twitchy-feel to the attack.
Your power tray is more like your normal MMO. It gives you the powers that you execute on top of that -- the grapple line that pulls people in; the punching glove that knocks them back. It gives you specific powers that you can load out.
In simplistic terms, it gives you both combat combos you can do and tray powers you can do. The combination of those things is what you build your character from. So guys that made the same weapon choice can be radically different in the combat. Think of it as an MMO with an action game there for the moment-to-moment. You have the tactical depth that you get out of an MMO, but the frantic pace you get out of an action game.
So if you have two different players with the same build, you could have a totally different fighting style because of the mechanics of the game?
You can have two different nature guys because they chose different trees. Or you can have two different nature guys because they chose different weapons. Or you can have two different nature guys because they chose different movements. So it is essentially a class-based system -- each power has roles to it, and then you multiply all that times iconic powers, so that if you want super strength or heat vision, that will mix it up even more. [It's] the little spice on the top that DC makes different.
What about the leveling system -- what it is like and how will it play out in game?
"I mean come on. Do you want to level or do you want to raid the Batcave?" - Chris Cao"
That's very interesting because I just changed when you level in the tutorial this morning. Pacing is everything in a game and especially in an MMO, right? You don't want to have empty levels. So we're actually still changing the number of levels and distribution of them. We are taking the approach of this-is-your-hero's-journey. How do we give you an experience where you go from zero to hero? First, you're no one. Then, you're like Robin. Then, you're sort of a Nightwing
-level. Then finally you're cool enough to where Batman himself is asking for your help. Although we haven't announced numbers or talked about them, what we are doing is going into beta and adjusting that pacing. So when you get to the endgame, it matters. I've got to be honest -- the journey has to be juicy, right? It has to be delicious. You don't want that journey to be the obstacle to the cool. You go to a game because you want to be a superhero or you want to be a fantasy warrior or a sci-fi guy, right? You want to go there to live and breathe and have that experience. We're going to keep tuning [levels] in beta. We're going to keep adjusting so that when you go through it, you go, "Man, that was tremendous. I really felt like a hero," or "I really felt bad and evil when I was doing it. And now I've earned enough fame or infamy that the Justice League
or the Society
itself is asking me to help them out in all these endgame endeavors, including raiding the Batcave
itself." I mean come on. Do you want to level or do you want to raid the Batcave? Leveling is important to set the tone, but ultimately what you do when you achieve that pinnacle [is key]. You want to become that legend, then you want to grow it through that endgame. That's really the focus we're on.
I'm interested to know about hubs and places for people to meet up and socialize. What kinds of places will you find in Gotham or Metropolis that cater to roleplaying?
When you're not speeding around, you've got to have a place to slow down. Our game is fast and furious just like superheroes, so we have what we call safehouses. Those are basically sprinkled throughout the city. The villains have various clubs, like Club Lex which is obviously owned by Lex Luthor
. That's where people can go and hang out. It's sort of a cool night club with low lighting, music thumping, people dancing, and various criminal activities going on in the corners. Then the heroes -- the goodie-two-shoes guys -- go to the police stations. Each of the police stations has a different theme in it (although the ones in Gotham are a little seedier and more troublesome). Those are there immediately, if you want to get out of the fray and hang out, go to the vendor, repair your stuff, talk to people, send mail, and all the rest of the basics.
If you want to get into the big social scene -- where are things going on, where are the armies massing themselves, where are the heroes and the villains getting together to face off? -- that's what we call HQs (headquarters). That's the JLA Watchtower
and the Hall of Doom
. Those are huge cities that players can use that have all the supplies, all the training, the banks, everything else in there. That's basically where the main social action goes on, including racing each other around the cities. It's pretty fun. There is stuff to do in the cities, not just walking around.
Is that where the PvP arenas are?
Actually, we have a fun-now-no-waiting thing, so you can queue right from your PDA (your JLA communicator) if you want to. But we've actually grounded it into the DC, again. There's the Kryptonian Enclave in the Watchtower, which actually has Supergirl there, and she has all the stuff that Superman awards to the people he mentors, including a House of El
war suit (like epic raid gear) that he gives out, as well as missions and set dressing. There's also a Bat-family enclave there, too. Each of these areas punches up the DC universe and reinforces it. For the races, there's Flash
in the Watchtower. He's the mentor of anybody who wants to race. Think of [them] as little touchstones of all the activities that you can do on-demand at any time in the game.
Do you have set-up PvP and PvE servers independent from each other?
It will be your classic Red and Blue servers with RP servers as well, I guess. I'm not sure if that's Green or what it is. If you're on Blue, you can't get attacked except where PvP is sanctioned, like an arena. If you're on a Red server, it's a free world -- rip the other guys up. Actually, John Smedley and a whole bunch of the other guys in San Diego were beating on all of us here in Austin. We had a fight around Metro-General Hospital
yesterday that was like over 150 people all thrashing each other. It was literally nuts, but that's open-world PvP for you, right? It has that, and it has some rules against spawn camping and all those sorts of things.
Massively would like to thank Chris Cao, Debysue Wolfcale (Director of Global Brand Marketing), and Micheal Shelling (Public Relations Manager) for taking time out of their schedules to arrange this meeting and speak with us.
DC Universe Online is available now for pre-order from many retail outlets, and we just received confirmation that DCUO will be available as part of SOE's Station Access Pass. Be sure to stay tuned to Massively for the latest news from Metropolis and Gotham City.