E3 2011: Hands-on with DCUO's Game Update 4

Patrick Mackey
P. Mackey|06.08.11

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Although we just uncovered the teaser for Brainiac's raid on the Fortress of Solitude, we knew that wouldn't be enough for eager DC Universe Online fans. We went behind the scenes at the Sony Online Entertainment booth to get to the rest of what Game Update 4 has to offer.

Armed with a battery of questions from the DCUO community and Alter-Ego columnist Krystalle Voecks, our Massively reporter Dan O'Halloran attacked SOE's Mark Anderson and got a sneak peek at the beginning of the new Fortress of Solitude raid.
%Gallery-125739%Soon to be tested is the concept of MegaServers; DCUO will be consolidating shards and adding in instanced zones, much like Champions Online and many other F2P games. Additionally, Mark suggested that a substantial number of players would be able to fit in larger city zones, while smaller action zones would accommodate fewer players but still allow for many people to meet and experience content together. Players will also be able to switch instances on the fly if they are in a different version of a particular zone than their friends, which will facilitate playing together more easily.

Update 4 will also include an improved physics engine. Although we weren't given too many specifics, we were told that things would be a lot cleaner and a lot cooler. During our run-through of the Fortress raid, we saw a player get encased in stone and thrown across the room by a villain, impacting against environment objects.

The first Batcave raid will also be getting an update: a 4-man version of the lair for smaller teams. This new version will still reward the Marks necessary to buy the Batcave iconic raid armor since there will now be a new tier of iconic armor with the Fortress of Solitude 8-man raid.

Following up, we unleashed a few questions of our own:

Massively: Which platform -- PC or PS3 -- houses the majority of DCUO's players?

Mark Anderson: It's generally too close to say. Traditionally, we lean a little on the side of the PS3, but the difference is pretty marginal.

Which new iconic characters can we expect to see for Legends PvP?

Everything we're doing right now is very Kryptonian-based... but that's all I can hint at right now.

What are you planning to do to drive endgame players into living in the cities rather than hanging out in the Watchtower or Fortress of Doom?

We're doing a lot of new open zone content, and we have a special event coming up in GU3 with Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing out in the open city. We're also looking at a few other things now that we are going to push out with Game Update 4. We've been listening a lot to player feedback to see what kind of things they'd like in that area. MegaServers are also going to help a lot with the general population, too.

We're also looking at a lot of the open-world PvP events to give incentive to players to have a crack at those more than once.

Are you looking at some kind of reward system for higher-level players to assist lower-level players?

Not specifically, but it is something we've talked about to get higher-level players back out into the city and attract new people to the game.

Newer players right now have to basically solo to the level cap. Are you looking at ways to help out some of those newer players?

We are! We had such a surge of people at launch, and we're looking at ways to get a more steady stream of people working their way through that content.

Are you guys still looking at scalable fonts in the UI or being able to scale the size of the UI itself?

We have scalable fonts in the chat window coming with Game Update 3. We may do more with that, especially for PS3 players that have a hard time reading the text, but also the reverse problem for PC players who may want more screen real estate.

Are there any plans for players to opt out of the chat filters?

We've seen a lot of the comments and we're looking at ways for players to have a better experience with those... I think that's the best answer I can give right now.

Any plans to add subtitles for the game voiceovers, especially for players who are hearing-impaired?

Not currently, but it is something we would like to get to at some point.

How are you guys handling the reboot of the DC Universe and how you guys might handle lore in the future?

It's a great opportunity for us since DC isn't tying us to a specific current continuity. We just had a phone call with them last week just before coming out to E3 about the reboot and the issues going back to zero. For them it's great because they get to open up a new audience to the comic material, and that's some of what we're also trying to do with DCUO -- reaching players who might not have played a classic MMO before.

There are things we'll be looking at closely, like the Swamp Thing and being In Brightest Day now. It's something that if we can tie in with what's going on in our world, even if it's just bringing in the characters into our world, we like to do that even if we don't follow their continuity exactly. We like to tie into those things as much as we can.

Special thanks to Mark and the SOE guys for the interview and the sneak peek!

Massively's on the ground in Los Angeles during the week of June 6-9, bringing you all the best news from E3 2011. Whether you're dying to know more about Star Wars: The Old Republic, RIFT, or any MMO in between, you can bet we'll have it covered!
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