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Massively in Metropolis: How your superpowers are going to work

Michael Zenke

The big question behind a game about superheroes is pretty blunt. How am I going to feel powerful? How are my powers going to work? If you don't feel superheroic there's been a failure right from the get-go. That's entirely the point behind the development process at SOE Austin, for the DC Universe Online project. We've been running our lengthy look at the game all week, talking about the game's approach to questing and how you'll be interacting with the iconic DC comics heroes.

All of that pales in comparison to your own personal superhero story, your own tales of daring-do. Join us as we talk with the heads of the DC Universe Online project about just that. They'll lay out how you can combine a power source, a movement power, and a stylistic origin to create your own unique hero. Or, how you can ape the powers of your favorite iconic hero to live out your dream of being the next Batman. They'll also give us a little bit of guff about movement powers, and hint at big things to come! Read on!

Senior Producer Wes Yanagi: We'll get you on one of these systems here in a second. But one of the things that we get asked a lot is: how are you different from other superhero MMOs? And stuff like that. And really what it is is – Jens will get into a lot more detail on that – is it's a lot more visceral, it's a lot more 'actiony', it's not your typical MMO slap fight. I think the best thing to do is just to get you playing it.

Creative Director Jens Andersen: We talked about Jim Lee and about incorporating his vision of the DC Universe into the game. This is right now the city of Metropolis. Let me just look around and show you a little bit. Metropolis is – you can see the Daily Planet in the background here, and a bunch of these buildings that we've created for the Metropolis area. Right now there's an event going on...

Basically, you can see that we've really taken Jim's concept of this city and brought it to life here. Metropolis is very uplifting. It's the City of Tomorrow, so everything's very uplifting and shiny and new and very art deco looking here, as opposed to Gotham, which has a very Gothic, oppressive feel. Right now there's an event going on. Brainiac, who is a major archvillain in the DC universe, has come down here. He has a bunch of motherships that have released a nanovirus into the population. So it's infected all these civilians, and they're running amok, and there's this big event happening right here. Superman and Bizarro and Lex Luthor and Green Lantern are all here, trying to quell or take advantage of this threat that's going on here.

You can see the blue names over people's heads? That's actually a couple of other players, they're playing Capacitor and Slice. You create your own superhero in this game. You don't play one of the iconics – you are their equal. We are going to allow you to emulate them, or create something new of your choice. The way we do that is, you have a super power. In this case, my super power is ice, so I can launch ice boulders. With my ability, I can freeze people in a block of ice, like I've done here. I can use some kind of melee attacks, create ice around my fists or my pistol and attack somebody with it at close range, and then also he attacks as well.

Like I said, I wanted to be like Captain Cold, right? So I'm more of a range guy, moment to moment. The character Slice over here is also an ice character, but she's melee, because she's chosen to go dual wield. So you can see she's fighting in a totally different way than I am, even though we're both doing ice powers. And you couple that with movement – I have flight, I don't know what Slice is, if she's got super speed – so you can see she's running along here. Go ahead and run up the wall! There she goes – she's just running right up the building, you can see right there. It's like momentum running.

Coupling your movement mode, your power type and your power source, which is the pistols, you can kind of make anything you want. If I wanted to make Heatwave I would choose dual pistols and fire instead of dual pistols and ice. And we'll let you do an 'inspired by Green Lantern, inspired by Batman' and we'll fill out that template for you, and get you as close as we possibly can.

That was really interesting, I found, in Jim's talk the other day: how deep is that 'inspired by' element? What variations on the Batman theme would you see if you said 'I want to make a character kind of like Batman'? Is it going to be just costume, is it going to be powers?

Jens: It'll be powers and abilities. So your movement power, how you get around the world, you'd choose Acrobatics. So suddenly you would be leaping across buildings and wall-tapping of skyscrapers and things like that, much like Batman would. He wouldn't be flying. Then you would choose Martial Arts, or something like that – we also have a Martial Arts super power, where you would be in there using stealth and punching and kicking, things like that. And then, depending on what you wanted to do, you would choose a different power source for him.

You might choose a thrown weapon, which would be like a batarang, so you'd be a ranged kind of Batman. Or you might choose hand-to-hand, and you'd be doing a lot more punching and kicking. But it really depends.
And then costume choices, you can make a really dark looking character if you want to, that's kind of scary and mean. You'll be able to have bat ears, and a batcape... and the bat symbol! No, we'll definitely clamp down on costume choices at that point, because you're your own character and he's iconic, living and breathing in this world where you share space with everybody.

I have four powers at the bottom. One thing that's really important on the action game front is that we keep a very manageable UI. Not only because you want to be playing the game, you want to be in the world, not playing the screen that you're looking at the world through. So we try to make everything as contextual as possible and minimize the impact of the UI on the screen.

I get to those powers either by (on the PC) hitting the keys, the 1 key, the 2 key, the 3 key, and on the console, I go ahead and I hold down my R2 trigger, and then it turns the face buttons into these positions here. So what used to be that actually becomes my ice boulder attack, when I want to launch it. And we let you load those out, so you're not just limited to those four powers. You'll have a huge array of powers as an ice guy which you can choose to load out in any way you want to. Right now I have these four available to me, but I could switch them out for something different.

Each of the powers really helps you define your role. I could have things that are DPS oriented, I could have things that were defense oriented, or support oriented. And that is really how I define whether I'm going to be the tank, or I'm going to be the DPS guy, or I'm going to be the support guy. And the beauty of that is, that what it allows us to do is make sure players can get into the action as soon as they want to.

You don't have to wait for that class of 'healer' to show up, because you can be the 'healer' if you want to. You can load out your support stuff. Let's say you did it last night and you're kind of tired of doing it, and you want him to do it tomorrow night? Well, you guys can switch up a little bit. And you can also skew the role of your group, depending on the situation that's in front of you. So it's very versatile like that.

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