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SDCC 2010: You can play as iconic characters: Massively's interview with DC Universe Online

Rubi Bayer, @@rubi_

Last week we had a chat with Sony Online Entertainment's President John Smedley about preorders and beta for DC Universe Online. We talked quite a bit about the ability to play as Batman via a preorder bonus, and one of the questions we asked was "Will there be more opportunities in the future to play as familiar DC Universe villains or heroes?"

John replied that they were thinking about it, but it sounds like the DCUO team has been doing a lot more than just thinking about it. We caught up with DCUO Studio Art Director Mike Daubert at Comic-Con this weekend, and he had some pretty exciting news for us.

Follow along after the jump to see what he had to say!

Massively: What do you have planned for the iconic characters in DCUO?

Mike: The number one thing everyone always asks is, "Oh, DC Universe, can I be Superman? Can I be Batman? Can I be Green Lantern," and we're like, "No, no, no, they already exist." You can't have a hundred Supermans flying around at the same time. What we're announcing now is that you can play as the iconics.

How we do this is that throughout the game you actually find "sim cards," like you find a Batman sim card. You collect these cards, and once you get into the PvP side of the game, then you can actually play as the iconic heroes or villains on whatever card you just collected.

Will these cards be tradeable to get what you need?

No. They're not tradeable, they're collectibles. To play as the Batman sim card is only through pre-order as well.

How many do you have to get?

Well, we haven't set the limit. You'll start pretty low like with Robin, Nightwing, Harley. The high-end ones are going to be our big six: Batman, Superman, Lex Luthor, The Joker, and so on.

Are they just going to be random world drops, or boss drops?

We're jumping into beta next week. That's where we're really going to start planning out where these drop to really make it worthwhile, because this isn't just a little thing. These are big, these are the things that you're really striving to get. And what better way to show off to your friends when you jump into PvP than to go, "Hey, who did you get?", "I got Robin.", "Oh really? I got Batman, let's go do this."

You can come in [to PvP] as your own character if you don't want to do that. You'll have a talent tree where you'll be able to spend points and keep beefing up your own character, and you'll be able to compete against Batman or whoever. It's one of those events where we want you guys to get into the game as quickly as possible. We always like immediate PvP action if you've only got twenty minutes or a half-hour to play. You can jump in and play as an iconic or play as your own character against an iconic, you get that whole experience.

Will you have to learn another power or skill set?

Absolutely, and that's where our replay value comes in. We're calling it "learn from the best, own the rest." It really comes down to learning all these different power sources, so what you have on your [PvP] character, as you get farther along and get these powers you already know how to use them.

If it's from someone else, at least when you go to make a new character you can say, "Oh, I played the fire guy, I played Superman, and he did this, and this is what I want to play for my next character." It's almost like being able to test-drive the super powers.

Do you have to collect a certain amount of cards to get the characters or the powers?

We haven't determined that yet. This literally came up in the past month where DC gave us the thumbs-up to play as the iconics. Now it goes through beta and we really want to make sure it's balanced, that the gameplay is there, and we do it the right way.

Do you have a demo?

Yeah, we've got one here. What we've got right now is a little portion of the Batcave, and what it is is that you're trying to hold the Bat Computer as long as you can against the heroes. You're actually playing as Joker, and it's king-of-the-hill style, so you hold it as long as you can in the contested areas.

Can you play as an iconic character in any of the PvP scenarios?

We haven't determined that yet, but whatever makes sense is what it's going to come down to.

Once you unlock an iconic character, is there a way to progress them after that?

This is where you use your PvP points, and spend them in the different areas that you need to.

How can you tell people apart visually if they're all playing the same character?

You'll all have different names. You won't name them The Joker because you're not really being The Joker. It's just a simulation.

What about the iconic armor?

That's the raid gear. Right now we have about 19 sets. We wanted to give the major raid gear, like Justice League and Secret Society of Villains raid gear. So right now there's Lex Luthor, Hawkman, Superman, Batman, Joker raid gear. It really is getting to the point that you're playing in the DC Universe and you can't be Superman, but you can get darn close. You can be as powerful as Superman. You are the next legend.

The ultimate goal is to have Superman come down and say, "Listen, I can't do this alone. Here's the raid gear that we made on Krypton with the S on it and the cape."

Thanks for your time, Mike!

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