SDCC 2010: Up, up and away at the DCUO panel

Justin Olivetti
J. Olivetti|07.27.10

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SDCC 2010: Up, up and away at the DCUO panel
Are you pumped for DC Universe Online after watching the recent "Who Do You Trust?" trailer or our own interview with John Smedley? We can hardly blame you -- it's tough being a superhero waiting in the wings. While we count down the days until its November 2nd launch, there's a lot more DCUO goodness to be had.

Massively was on hand at the DCUO panel at this year's San Diego Comic-Con, where Jens Andersen, Chris Cao, Marv Wolfman, Jim Lee and Mark Hamill (who is reprising his voice work as the Joker) were on hand to answer questions about DC's upcoming title. Hit the jump for the full skinny on time travel, heroes, villains and Bat-shark repellent.
On the brink of disaster... again

The panel used the five-minute trailer as a springboard to discussing the enormous backstory of the game. Basically, the team had to figure out how to explain why so many new superheroes (read: you and I) were entering the DC universe. That led them to the framework of Lex Luthor traveling back in time from an apocalyptic future where the world is destroyed by Braniac because the big guns (read: Superman) wasn't there to stop it.

Braniac's been using a device to steal superpowers in this horrific future, and before his conquest was complete, Luthor steals it and skips back in time. After teaming up with the virtuous heroes, this device is used to create a legion of new superhero recruits -- hence explaining the upcoming explosion in the superpowered population that's about to happen when the game launches.

Of course, Lex Luthor isn't known for his altruistic side, and may be hiding an even greater plan of his own...

Crossing the finish line

"It's feeling a little surreal,"
Jim Lee said, after being asked how it feels now that DCUO is so close to launch. Lee's been immersed in this project since 2005, and after a half-decade his team's work is about to see the light of day. He's happy that they're able to finally announce the November 2nd release date, saying, "We've always had to be kind of coy and demure about it, but now we can actually be excited about a certain date, and get our ducks in a row and make this thing explode when it hits the street."

While the developers enjoyed working with the marquee heroes -- Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, Flash -- they admitted to another layer of joy that came with the addition of lesser-known DC superheroes, such as Ambush Bug. For DC fanboys, it should be a dream come true to discover all of the heroes and iconic locations in the game.

Chris Cao reassured the crowd that everything was fully in the game, and they were gearing up for a wide beta testing crowd in the near future.

"We've got a lot of murdering to do!"

Next up on the panel was Mark Hamill, whose role as the Joker on the animated series has been widely hailed as one of the best interpretations of the character. He recalled that he began doing the Joker back in 1992 and has been doing it off and on ever since, including for the recent Batman: Arkham Asylum video game. Apart from Luke Skywalker, it's been the defining role of his career, and one that he looks back upon fondly.

"It's fun to get behind the wheels of that crazy car," Hamill grinned. "It's very liberating in a way, because you take chances that you would never take if people could see you." He then slipped into his Joker voice to cackle, "Finally, a game named after me -- DC! Demented clown!"

The console reaction

"What do you think the console reaction is going to be? After all, you don't see a lot of MMOs coming to the 360 and PS3," a questioner presented. DCUO will launch for both the PC and PlayStation 3, catering to two different crowds with -- hopefully -- one united passion.

So far, beta registrations have split half-and-half between the two platforms, which tells the team that there's a strong demand for both. "You don't care about the technology, you just care about how cool it is and being able to play it with friends," one of the devs said.

PS3 fans will not need a PlayStation Plus subscription to play the title.

Suit loot

Some fans have expressed disappointment that they won't be able to play Batman or Superman as their main characters, although most seem to have accepted that a thousand Batmans running around would get silly, fast. As a compromise, SOE will not only allow players to step into the shoes of these characters in a battle simulator, but will be able to earn pieces of iconic superhero loot.

One example given was that a highly skilled player can earn Batman's favor, who then in turn will craft for them the Specter Batsuit. Through PvP, PvE missions, instances and raids, players will accumulate points to purchase these special outfits for the grand battle yet to come. Even Joker is lending his wardrobe to the cause.

Hero or villain?

Becoming the best of the best will take some doing, and whether you choose the path of a righteous hero or a despicable villain, you'll still need to work your way up from the ground floor. Fledgling villains, for example, will be assigned the task to plant bombs on cop cars by Joker as a way to prove their loyalty.

Not all of DC's superpowers will be playable, such as the Green Lantern's power ring (at least, at first...). Some of the famous powers of the DC universe presented unique difficulties for the dev team as they muddle over how to include them in the game -- or if they could at all.

That's it for part one of this panel -- stay tuned for part two, with more questions and answers from the audience!
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