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Massively Hands-on: Creating superheroes in Champions Online

Kyle Horner

This last weekend, press had the opportunity to spend my time within the Champions Online beta. After playing more than I would safely recommend, I bring you my personal takeaway in an effort to get out as much crunchy information goodness on the upcoming MMO as possible.

Do you like options? I really hope you love options, because you're going to get smacked upside the head with so many options when you first encounter Champions Online's character creation, that your mind -- much like my own -- is going to be reeling with all the possibilities.

Each and every time I made a thematically new hero, the creation process ate up more time than I ever thought possible. Let me explain why this happens, and what you can expect when you first sit down to make your very own creations.

Upon building a new character I was first asked to pick an origin, but these origins are similar to City of Heroes' only in name. In Champions Online they alter your stat layout and act as a kind of platform for the combat role you want to play. I prefer to think of them as roles more than anything else.

Here's a rundown of the stats and their effects:

  • Constitution - Hit Points
  • Endurance - Max Energy and rate of energy generated from fighting attacks
  • Strength - Improve knockback, knockback resist, breaking from tangible holds and the pick-up and throw ability
  • Dexterity - Improves Critical hit chance and chance to avoid attacks
  • Intelligence - Improves Pet damage, power cooldown length and stealth detection
  • Ego - Improves Critical hit severity, hold strength and breaking from intangible holds
  • Presence - Affects amount a character heals and how much threat they generate
  • Recovery - Sets you equilibrium and increases rate of energy generated from fighting attacks

When you're presented with the origins screen, you'll be given nine options that will adjust these statistics. Each of these options gives you a descriptive rundown of the kind of character these stats represent, thus making it fairly easy to figure out which spread is the one you want.

Next up is the power screen, which offers both pre-built frameworks similar to archetypes in City of Heroes or a button for custom frameworks where any two starting powers can be chosen. Choosing a pre-built framework won't limit you to those power pools in later levels, in case anyone is worried about that. I personally had fun with Clobber and Gauntlet Chainsaw. I can't stop making chainsaw noises and I think my dog might murder me in my sleep over it. If only I had a chainsaw gauntlet to protect myself with this wouldn't be a problem.

Vrrm, vrrm.

Anyhow, since I'm sure you're all wondering, here's a rundown of the power frameworks:

  • Archery
  • Darkness
  • Electricity
  • Fire
  • Force
  • Gadgeteering
  • Ice
  • Martial Artist: Dual Blades
  • Martial Artist: Fighting Claws
  • Martial Artist: Single Blades
  • Martial Artist: Unarmed
  • Might
  • Munitions
  • Power Armor
  • Sorcery
  • Supernatural
  • Telekinesis
  • Telepathy

As you can see, there a TON of powers in this game. Each of these categories contains several tiers of increasingly powerful abilities. One thing I'll note here is that while all the power animations look great, the martial arts stuff is especially well-animated. And in case you're wondering, yes you can turn off the "comicbook" shading in the visual options. You'll also be happy to know that I could run this game in windowed mode on Windows 7 beta without any problems at all.

Now we come to the final screen, which contains three tabs you can move throughout freely before clicking the create button to finalize your character. The three tabs are basics, body and costume.

The basics asks for your character name, gender and gives the option to "create your story" in a window on the bottom. You'll be happy to know that copy and paste works, so if you'd like to start writing a story now feel free. Just know that the current character limit sits around 500 words.

"Almost everything in this tab deals with sliders, and there are a lot of them -- 40 in all, actually."

Moving on to the body tab reveals the outer space-like depths of Champions Online's character creation. Almost everything in this tab deals with sliders, and there are a lot of them -- 40 in all, actually.

Within the body tab, you'll have three sections to work with: size, body and face. The primary options under size are height, muscle and body mass. Although there are also sliders for neck, shoulders, chest width, chest depth, arms, arm thickness, bicep, forearm, hand size and hand thickness.

Oh, we're just getting started.

Under the body section of the body tab you'll discover stances. Picking one of these changes the way your character stands and runs around in-game. Your options are beast, huge, heroic and average. Huge makes you run around like The Hulk, beast is perfect for werewolves and such with its all-fours approach to movement while average and heroic are mostly about posture. Pick heroic if you want to look very Superman-like with your chest out, arms apart and fists clenched ready for battle. On the other hand, pick average if you just want to look laid back, like a regular person.

I'll also note that female characters don't get the huge option -- as their bodies cant' be made into hulk-sized horrors -- and instead have that replaced with vixen, which is basically any sumptuously posed super heroin (and/or super villain) you've ever seen in a comic book.

Stances are the stuff roleplayer's dreams are made of and I can see a lot of promising possibilities with future additions to stances like the long ago mentioned arcane user floating along the ground, arms crossed example.

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