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Exclusive interview with SOE's John Smedley on the DCUO preorder and beta

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

MMO players looking forward to DC Universe Online got lots of exciting news earlier this week with the announcement of preorder bonuses and beta signups for the game.

As always, fans had plenty of questions as well as a few concerns here and there. We had some questions of our own here at Massively, so we went straight to the source. Sony Online Entertainment President John Smedley took some time to sit down and chat with us, and we covered plenty of ground.

John gave us new closed beta details, discussed the PlayStation 3/PC crossover, and even gave some hints at possible upcoming content! Follow along after the jump to see what he had to say.

Massively: Will you be adding more preorder specials in other locations -- like the UK and Asia, for example?

John Smedley: This is all we've got planned so far, but what we are doing is watching fan reaction to see what they like and what they don't like. It's possible down the line, but right now we have nothing planned.

Are you considering making the preorder bonus items available to everyone at some point down the line, maybe through an item store?

No. It looks like what we're going to do is make it that if you get it through a preorder, that's the only way you'll ever be able to get it. The big one here is that you can play as Batman -- that's a big deal, so we're trying to make sure that the people who preorder and who are the biggest fans get rewarded with that. People after the fact have lost their chance.

Will there be microtransactions at all?

There will be. We said from the start that we were going to have microtransactions, so we'll have a Station Cash store built into it. It will be along the lines of what you see in EverQuest II now. They're not going to be balance-changing items; I think we've done a pretty good job of that with Everquest II, so we're staying along the same lines.

The arena battles that allow players to play as Batman seem like they could open the door to more of the same. Will there be more opportunities in the future to play as familiar DC Universe villains or heroes?

We're talking about that. The idea came when we were talking about what we wanted to do for preorders. There were a lot of really good ideas, and somebody threw this one out there. There was a little bit of laughter, and then it was like the whole room went silent. Then it was, "Oh my God, this is a great idea." We weren't sure how the DC guys would feel about it, but they had the same reaction. They said, "that's awesome, let's do it."

Moving to beta for a moment, do you have a start date in mind?

Internally, we're already testing the heck out of the game. We haven't announced the actual date of the start [of closed beta], but it's going to be very soon -- and I mean real soon. The PC one will be first, and we'll start the PlayStation 3 one a little bit after that, and people can start to log in and play and tell us what they think of the game.

Do you have an idea of how the beta is going to work? Will you let everyone in or will they come in phases?

We'll do it in phases, but the game is pretty far along. There will be some initial stuff, just to test some things related to networking and making sure that outsiders can get in. We have a pretty secure network so we can play internally, so we'll open it up to folks outside the network and let in a few phases. We'll gradually let in more every day, up to whatever number -- we haven't actually decided how many we're going to let in total. It's going to be a pretty good-sized number. People are signing up like crazy right now, so once we get a few good days worth of data we'll have a better idea of how many people we're going to let in.

Some fans have expressed concerned that the game's quality will be restricted to keep pace with the PS3.

I played both PC and PlayStation 3, and we've made the choice to ultimately make sure that we did not have the lowest common denominator product. First of all, the PS3 has a very very fast processor, and I'm not saying that because I'm Sony Marketing Guy here. I'm saying that because I'm actually playing the live product. There are things that you can do on the PC that you can not on the PlayStation 3, but the reverse is also true. Every PlayStation 3 has the same quality, which is not true on the PC. So on the PC we have to have a ton of graphics settings to allow you to do things, and on the PS3 we don't -- we know that it's the same speed on all of them.

So the direct answer to that question is the PC has a ton of graphics settings that let you go up to some crazy high graphics quality. The PlayStation 3 doesn't have those, but it already looks really good, so we're not taking it and making it so that the PC gamers with the latest cards can't take it to some crazy high graphics settings. It plays on the full gamut of those cards and takes advantage of them.

It took [the developers] a long time to get the combat right, but they nailed it. The best part about that is you can pick it up with a mouse or with a PS3 controller. The PS3 controller, I'm finding more and more that I'm having a lot of fun with it because you can sit on your couch and do it, but if you're there with a mouse it feels completely natural. They pulled it off. Ultimately, the fans are going to be the ones to tell us, but I can tell you as a gamer that they've nailed the control scheme.

Do you feel like it's going to cross over well?

It is. And you know what? You're talking to a skeptic here. I wasn't sure how well trying to do an action game on both PC and PlayStation 3 [would work]. When we went action with this, we decided to make action a thing where it's not just a button-masher. It's about position, and all of that translates well to the PC.

Thanks for your time, John!

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