Free for All: Recreating my teenage superhero with Champions Online

I grew up drawing. I was known as the artist kid in all of my classes, and the other students would often sit around me and just watch me draw. I have to admit that it was a nice feeling, but a lot of the time I would be drawing such emotional things that it was a little embarrassing as well. As I battled my way through puberty, I discovered that my love for comics had transferred to a love of making my own comics. The main characters were often based on me and people I know, filtered through a superhero lens.

I have always disliked the Supermen of the comic world. I preferred to make characters that had flaws or weaknesses. Still, I wanted to make my superhero powerful enough to survive a scrap. Don't ask me why (I don't remember), but I came up with a character named Check, named so because of his use of the "in-between" energy of the universe. While some villains harnessed dark powers, and others fought with light, Check fought with the energy of the mundane, the bland, the boring. I know it sounds odd, but he fought using the same energy that someone might feel during meditation or sleep. Essentially, it was energy that was everywhere, very dependable, and very powerful. Still, controlling it made Check a very somber fellow.

Lately I had been thinking more about Check -- and his gray step-mother, Grin -- and decided to give him another go inside one of the wonderful superhero MMOs. Even though I had made him before in City of Heroes, I wanted to try him out in Champions Online this time. Click past the cut and I'll walk you through my creation!

First of all, it's important to note that the stuff I used to draw and imagine is not the same as I would now. I've matured -- sort of -- and my want for the outrageous, Robert-Smith-haired, blaster type of character has tamed. I like the ordinary looking heroes, and wanted to make mine pretty bland. I like the idea of an ordinary guy attempting to survive by the skin of his teeth. I cannot stand those coordinated, perfect fight sequences in Hollywood movies. My guy was beat up, thrown around and generally had a hard time of crime fighting.

My old version of Check controlled the "checks" -- beams of energy that formed a checkered pattern because they represented an exact balance between good and evil. (Again, don't ask me where I came up with this.) While the checks were nearly unstoppable, Check had a hard time getting them to do what he wanted. A lot of the time he nearly killed his friends with his outbursts of energy. Later on, I would write stories and draw comics that made him more in control and a little cocky, but i didn't like that version of him. I still wanted him to suffer a little bit -- to be nervous before every scrap.

Also, he initially had a spiky, crazy haircut that was, I think, supposed to be the result of passing out after a battle and waking up in any number of filthy places. His hair was unkempt, to say the least. He also initially wore gigantic, thick goggles that represented the steps I would have to take to go into a fight. The first thing I would have to protect would be my expensive glasses. He had vision problems, so the goggles would have to be a half an inch thick. I've always kept some sort of goggles on him.

Champions is known for its customization, but I always had a hard time with the graphics. They were just ugly in most cases. No matter what I did, I could not get them to look good. Finally I found out that reducing the size of the window and turning many of the effects all the way to max helped out a lot. At least I think it did. By the time I got done tweaking with it, I was a little lost. At this point the game looks good enough and runs pretty good.

The free version of Champions is definitely more limited than the paid version. Still, I was able to tweak my character quite a bit, and came out with a satisfactory look. The abilities are more limited in the free version, as well, but I decided to go with mind abilities. Eventually I would want to make him something like my defender in City of Heroes: a tough guy who didn't put out much damage -- a damage taker. I might even throw down some cash to get the more in-depth customization, but for now I am just going to take Check through the paces. The action-based combat doesn't exactly lend itself to slower, more powerful fight scenes, but it's fun at least.

I had to make another character, the aforementioned Grin. She has been a constant in my creative life as long as Check has, and I have grown to really love her. She's based very loosely on my mother, or I should say on my mother's consistent nature. In fact, here is a description of her from one of her cameos in another story:

"A great woman appeared. She was over eight feet tall, and every part of her was gray. She looked like a human female, pretty, but her face was lined just-so-much to show that she had great cares on her mind. Her gray hair was long enough to touch the back of her knees, and her long arms ended in massive hands, fingers the size of daggers. Her clothes were plain and smooth. She had on a fluffed silk shirt that went down to her wrists and that tied at her chest. It hung over a great dress that had fine designs on it, stitched in a darker grey. Her feet were bare and her nails were black.

With a long hissing sound, the gasses pulled away from her, and Rikoo could see that it was the Gray Mother! He fell to his knees, dropping the pipe. He crawled to her with his head down. He couldn't bare to look at her. Great tentacles of mist gathered behind her and began to fill all of the area. Everything they touched faded into non-color, and a light began to shine from behind her. A dim, greenish-grey light that felt strangely inviting.

I decided to modernize her look a bit in Champions, but the game didn't really give me much of a choice. No matter what I did, I couldn't make her look how I really wanted. It's hard to describe, but maybe a few dollars in the C-store will help her along. I have to admit to enjoying her more up-to-date look and her new powers. Each character in Champions has a basic auto-attack, and hers bothered me less than I thought it would.

After a short time with customization, I have been enjoying playing the game. I knew enough to skip the horrid tutorial and got right into the action. When Champions was first released, I played it quite a bit, but the cartoonish quality of the game started to turn me off. It felt as though the game didn't take itself seriously. Now, however, it seems to have been polished up and a much smoother experience. Remaking my old characters has really scratched a current itch -- an itch I haven't felt for a long time. Seeing my characters come alive again really brings me back to those days when I would spend literally all day drawing.

And to think I paid nothing for any of this new experience.

Each week, Free for All brings you ideas, news, and reviews from the world of free-to-play, indie, and import games -- a world that is often overlooked by gamers. Leave it to Beau Hindman to talk about the games you didn't know you wanted! Have an idea for a subject or a killer new game that no one has heard of? Send it to!
This article was originally published on Massively.