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Alter-Ego: Let's get this character started


This week, I'm going to start off with a bit of controversy. Are you ready? Here goes: I actually think the DC Universe Online character creator makes sense in terms of its costume limitations. Now, before you come at me armed with pitchforks and hateful comments, hear me out. Looking at DC Universe Online as part of the greater DC Universe, I note that not all heroes are welcomed by the public -- and villains even less so. There are no "Costumes R Us" on every street corner, and there aren't copies of "Superpowers for Dummies" one can snag from the shelves of the local bookstore. As much as we may know as players ahead of time, our characters are assumed to not have the same level of knowledge from a story standpoint. In short, new characters are not going to roll out of the creator as a fully realized Captain Badass or Madame Awesome.

Instead, new heroes and villains would probably be highly confused about any powers that showed up out of the blue. Once they've come to grips with the basics, only then would they likely be trying to piece together a new secret identity with all the gusto that someone with a glue gun, duct-tape, and half-remembered sewing lessons from 7th grade home economics classes could muster. To a character starting out with basic knowledge, character costumes would probably look like someone threw a goth and a cosplayer in a blender and then added a dash of drag queen for extra fierceness. Call it an edge of realism. Thankfully, SOE has saved our characters from their first embarrassing steps involving costume malfunctions by offering a number of cool-looking yet basic options in the character creator. As you level, so do your powers -- and your gear.

Now that I've gotten your blood boiling (or hopefully a chuckle or two), it's time to dive into the first days of being a hero or villain in DC Universe Online. For those of you who have already jumped in and are well on your way, don't worry -- I haven't forgotten you. I'll also be adding in some tips and tricks I've picked up from playing as well as telling you how you can join up with us in-game as part of a heroic new League: Massively Overpowered!

It's not the size, it's what you do with it

Characters come in two genders and three sizes: small (think Teen Titans), medium, and large. None of these options actually does anything in terms of gameplay, so feel free to pick whichever ones fit your concept best. The differences between medium and large for females is primarily one of height, whereas males go from muscular and tall at medium to enormous and losing their neck in all the muscles as large characters. There are no size customization sliders for fine-grained control.

You can go your own way

From there, characters have the option of going for either custom builds or builds inspired by characters in the DC Comics universe. "Custom" is pretty much what it implies -- you're doing your own thing, your own way. "Inspired by" offers several different inspiration options:
  • Batman: Heroes who love gadgets, martial arts, and acrobatics can pick this option. It kits you out in a black, grey and yellow costume that hearkens back to the bat himself, only sans the official logo and the pointy bat ears. The male costume thankfully appears to be devoid of rubber nipples.
  • Superman: While brawling is a combat style, it pairs with ice in this powerset to give you tanking abilities that aren't too over the top. Add in flight as the travel power and a rather cool-looking red, blue, and yellow costume with a cape, and you're all set to start beating thugs down in Metropolis.
  • Catwoman: If tight black rubber suits are your thing, then you'll want to look into picking up Catwoman as your mentor. With gadgets, martial arts and acrobatics as your choices, this is essentially the villain counterpart to the Batman inspiration character, only without the cape and yellow bits.
  • Lex Luthor: Green and purple are the order of the day, and don't be surprised if you start out bald. This villainous archetype uses gadgets and hand blast powers coupled with flight to control the action.
  • The Joker: What is it with DC villains and green and purple? Well, no matter, because the Joker offers the up-and-coming villain with gadgets and dual-pistols -- a truly fun control combination. Add to it the acrobatic movement set and a wicked-looking costume (especially for the ladies) and this is one to roll if you're in the mood for madcap violence.
  • The Flash: In playing this heroic tank archetype, characters inspired by The Flash pick up fire powers, brawling, and of course, the ability to zoom around at obnoxious rates of speed. Run up the side of a building and set your foes on fire in a nifty red and yellow costume? Don't mind if I do.
  • Wonder Woman: Not just for the ladies anymore! Picking a Wonder Woman inspiration grants you another red, blue, and yellow costume as with Supes. However, aside from a lack of cape, this hero will find her powers more towards the control side of the house with mental abilities, brawling, and flight.
  • Deathstroke: For the villain who just can't resist a buckled-up bundle of gizmo badassery, Deathstroke offers gadgets, control, one-handed combat and acrobatic movements in one ornery package. You might want to turn the brightness down on your monitor for this brightly colored yellow, blue and teal costume, however.
  • Bane: Speaking of ornery: This next inspiration offers villains a dark, grungy, tattooed villain with gadgets, brawling and acrobatics. Add in some big stompy black boots and you're ready to kick the crap out of anything that's in your path.
  • Circe: With sorcery, hand blast, and flight, this villain leans more towards the healing side of things, but as with any magic-user, don't be surprised when she unleashes hell on you. The costume is a combination of eyecatching yellow and red accents on purple suit. Depending on your tastes, it will either look completely awesome or like an astrological chart threw up on a tarot deck. There's really not much middle-ground on the starting look.
  • Beast Boy: Are you in the mood to shift shape? Then this hero inspiration is absolutely for you. With nature and martial arts, you're ready to lend a helping hand or a smackdown, depending. Acrobatics also couples nicely with the ability to change forms. Add to it green skin and a red, white, and black costume, and you're set.
  • Mister Freeze: If you're out to show the world what kind of a frosty-cool villain you are, this ice-powered inspiration is a great choice. Ice, rifles and acrobatics ensures that your enemies won't ignore the awesomness of your freeze ray. Bad Horse might even let you into the Evil League of Evil. Oh wait, wrong fandom. Sorry.
  • Green Arrow: What wears a hood and fights crime? You! Heroes inspired by Green Arrow use bow (duh) combined with gadgets and acrobatics to get their point across. Some say it's not easy being green, but the costume offers both dark and light shades of that beloved color, trimmed in gold. Or, you know, yellow for those of you who aren't using your imagination.
  • Steel: If you're planning to be a scientist with a wicked set of power armor, look no further than Steel as your inspiration. This heroic offering offers a tough metal shell with ice, two-handed combat, and flight. The costume offers a sleek metallic look punctuated by grey, black, and red accents -- but don't expect to take over for Supes anytime soon.
  • Martian Manhunter: Green skin? Check. Mental powers? Check. While you likely didn't come from Mars, this powerset gives you that "been there, done that" look by offering red and yellow accents on a blue costume. Add in the ability to fly and beat things to a pulp with brawler powers and you might even pass as a native Martian.
What's your frame of mind?

Assuming you didn't opt for an inspired by path, you're presented with another cosmetic option, this time for personality. Players can choose between powerful, serious, primal, flirty, and comical. As with the earlier cosmetic options of size and gender, these choices don't affect your combat skills, so pick whichever one suits you best.

Choose your own Powers

There are six power types in DC Universe Online with two different forks per powerset. If you're out to stand toe-to-toe with your adversary and soak up damage, then Fire and Ice are the two that you'll want to look toward. If dealing devastating damage with some crowd-control elements is more your speed, then you'll want to look into the Gadgets or Mental abilities. Finally, for those who relish being able to heal themselves and others as well as doing damage, there's Nature or Sorcery. However, I'd caution that there's a lot of leeway even with those roles largely assigned. You can skew your powers however you'd like, offering a customization that's ultimately going to take tweaking to get used to. (Thankfully, you can can use in-game cash to change your power loadout in case you find your initial direction doesn't suit what you were after.)

Under each of those specific powers are two distinct trees for you to pick from. They shake out like this:
  • Fire/Immolation -- This is your quintessential tanky fire path. A lot of the powers will offer buffs to your character and overall stat increases.
  • Fire/Ignition -- If you lean more towards heavy damage, you'll definitely want to look into the Ignition tree. These powers will build on the AoE fire laid down by the Immolation tree causing even more damage than they would on their own.
  • Gadgets/Tricks -- Much as the name implies, tricks slow your enemy down by using obvious gizmos to deter, confuse, or otherwise annoy enemies.
  • Gadgets/Traps -- Traps, however, are your sprung-out-of-nowhere gotcha devices, offering an element of surprise combined with potentially deadly accuracy.
  • Ice/Cryogenics -- By covering yourself in a frosty defense, you ensure that others are going to be less likely to hit you -- assuming they can land those hits anyway.
  • Ice/Storm -- This side of things allows you to use those cool moves on your enemies by causing damage as well as controlling the tide of battle. Storm is also a great deal of fun as you can encase enemies in a block of ice and throw them down the street -- or beat others over the head with them.
  • Mental/Illusion -- I'm here. No I'm not, I'm over here. With the ability of illusion you can impress your friends and confuse your enemies. Also great at parties!
  • Mental/Telekinesis -- Pick up something and fling it at your enemy. Pick up your enemy and fling it at something. The combinations are endless and certainly fun to experiment with.
  • Nature/Shapeshifting -- I'm not going to insult your intelligence by explaining this one. it's pretty much exactly as described with a few varied forms and some nifty extras like stealth as you level up. Bonus: you can turn into a flying dinosaur. Rawr!
  • Nature/Plants -- Sending vines up around enemies seems like an odd way to do damage, but when confronted with Audrey 2, people will learn pretty quickly not to mess with the plant. (Oops, wrong fandom again.)
  • Sorcery/Summoning -- If the idea of demonic minions that do your bidding fills you with glee, then summon on, friends. Sure, you start with an odd disembodied head, but later you can get up to three magical minions to lend a hand.
  • Sorcery/Destiny -- Damage and healing, all in one tasty fork. Smack down some Bad Karma on your enemies, or heal friends and allies. It's up to you to pick the destiny you want.
Traveling in style

Of course, no hero or villain would be complete without a way to get around. Whether you're able to fly, zoom across the ground at super-speed, or grapple and climb, you've got to pick something that will work for you. The nice thing is that at level 9 characters gain the option to add on to their travel trees, marking a certain basic mastery that now gives them the ability to use them like additional powers in their own right.

More choices than you can shake a bow-stave at

Finally, in terms of powers, players have the option of a number of weapon styles to further delineate their characters and set them apart from the masses. Overall, they're pretty self-explanatory: bows, brawling, dual pistols, dual-wielding (more for melee weapons like swords), martial arts, one-handed weaponry, rifles, staves, and two-handed weaponry. About the only one that might cause a moment of "wha?" is the hand blast set, which really just allows you to direct showy bursts of power through your hands for hybrid melee/ranged style.

Now comes the part that will take the most time

I'd suggest grabbing a drink because after all those choices you'll get down into the deepest part of creation -- customization. While costume choices are relatively limited (see earlier bit), mastering the system can take a little getting used to. You begin with the basic options for skin and hair, which start you down the long and winding road. Once the formalities are dispensed with, you can move on to picking the costume specifics under the Gear button. Options for head, face, emblem, chestpiece, back, hands, waist, legs, and feet are open, and drilling down into those will offer even more options.

Rather than run you through all of those, I'm going to offer up an important note instead. While you are restricted to a certain palette, you can modify that later in the game and re-choose costume color options if you find that you absolutely hate what you picked in the creator. There's no need to go anywhere in particular to do that, either. All you have to do is open up your menu, pick through available costume options, and click the "Colors" option at the top left-side of the Style pane to start playing with the colors.

From there, you'll pick your name and confirm your choices one last time, and then you're dropped smack into the middle of the action.

This is all old to me. Where are those tips and tricks?

For those who have already been through this and are instead looking for a little nugget of wisdom, here are a handful of things I've found from my time playing DCUO. I'll probably continue to offer these up as I find more, and you're more than welcome to share your own in the comments if you have any to add!
  • If you're playing with a keyboard, save yourself the hassle of hitting E every time you get near something that has to be interacted with. Hitting both right and left mouse buttons will interact with it and free you up from having to move your hands around.
  • Chat frustrating you by making you hit enter several times to bring the interface up, or perhaps you forgot a command? Hit O to bring the chat interface up. Yes, it blocks out most of your screen, but if you're just standing in one spot trying to herd cats get your group together, it will save you a great deal of time and annoyance.
  • The mouse wheel will scroll through character options, vendor options, etc. If there's a scroll bar in the game, it generally works.
  • Holding shift and moving in a particular direction will do a rolling dodge movement that can get you out of the path of a beatdown quickly. It's very useful in PvP unless someone's got you target locked.
  • As you level up and get better gear with better stats, don't worry about the odd bits of gear making you look bad. Just bring up the main menu, click on the mask icon, and pick cosmetic options you prefer. You can even lock those styles if you'd prefer they stay one particular way until you can sort through them.
  • Make sure you visit the vault every single day by hitting Y and selecting Vaults from the bottom. While Ambush Bug is cool, traveling to see him daily can be a real bother. You have a chance at more free costume options as well as other cool things in the vault, and it's totally free, so why not!
  • If you see the skull and red arrow over a nearby enemy's head, block. You'll mitigate a good portion of the damage and generally save yourself from annoying effects like knockback, etc.
There are even more I could suggest, but that should get you started.

We are Massively Overpowered, and so can you!

Finally (finally!) this week, we'd like to announce the formation of the Official Massively League in DC Universe Online. For those of a heroic bent, you can catch us on the Zero Hour (PvE) server. Look for Shambleau (me), Nature Lad (Ryan), Shaddoe (Larry -- pictured above), or Beau Hindman (three guesses who that is) in the game. At the moment, we're recruiting heroes who want to make a difference -- or just have some fun in a casual, laid-back atmosphere -- and who don't mind winding up on Larry's Alter-Ego livestreams, like the one embedded below. As for villains, we're still working on that, so keep an eye out on future editions of Alter-Ego for more!

Watch live streaming video from massivelytv at

Every week on Saturday, strip off the mask of your Alter-Ego and soar through the world of DC Universe Online with Krystalle, then catch up with Larry on Wednesdays as he showcases the superhero game on the Alter-Ego livestream. Send up a bat-signal to ping Krystalle or Larry with your burning questions. (Packages wrapped in green with a purple bow will be returned unopened.)

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