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Alter-Ego: Update 3 and more in store

Good things are on the horizon in DC Universe Online, heroes, and villains! After having the chance to sit in on a roundtable discussion with Jens Andersen, Mark Anderson, and Lorin Jameson on Thursday, I am confident that the team in charge of the game's development is taking a good hard look at all the feedback it's been receiving from players. Aside from getting a chance to hear more about the soon-to-be-released Update 3, we were able to get a handful of answers for some burning questions that players have been asking about recently -- and some screenshots in the gallery below to give you a sneak peek!

Additionally, we managed to get a hint of things to come, as we're certain anyone who was watching Thursday night's DC Universe Online stickam chat noticed. For those who didn't make it, don't worry -- I'll be running down several interesting points from that event too since it meshes well with the roundtable discussion. All you have to do to get the super-scoop is join me behind the break!

Gallery: DC Universe Online | 77 Photos

Update 3, as you may or may not already know, will feature a "green" event themed on the growth of spring & summer. While villains will get to team up with Poison Ivy as she makes a bid to become the mistress of all through her plants, heroes will find a strange-yet-powerful ally in Swamp Thing. The other interesting thing to note about this particular addition is that Swamp Thing has been a Vertigo title for many years, despite crossing back to the main DC Comics continuity, most recently in Brightest Day.

I'd also take a moment to note that when we spoke with John Blakely and Chris Cao about DC Universe Online at E3 2008, we were told there would not be any crossovers from the Vertigo imprint into DC Universe Online since DC's main stable of characters was already very rich. With the appearance of Swamp Thing in the mix of game characters, perhaps the door is now open to other Vertigo characters in future. While there's no definite answer on this, it's certainly fun to Dream about running into some Vertigo favorites!

Next up: Not content to stick with the tongue-twister of Mister Mxyzptlk, Sony Online Entertainment has decided to add in Ra's al Ghul as well. This, of course, devolved into several minutes of debate as to just how to pronounce it, as generally happens anytime you get comic geeks together without a series author to clear it up. (For the record, Andersen thinks it's pronounced "raish" and Anderson thinks it's pronounced "roz.") Regardless of the pronunciation, those words have been known to strike fear in the hearts of denizens of the DC Universe.

Players will have a chance to face off against "Mr. al Ghul" and stop him from attempting to cleanse humanity of all the people who don't fit with his magically twisted worldview. His mountain stronghold is teeming with a special breed of ninjas known as the Claws of the Demon, a deadly team that will stop at nothing to prevent players from interrupting Ra's al Ghul's important plans.

This instance will be a 4-man Alert, offering players a great deal of choice as in the current Ace Chemicals run. Word is that players will face off against one of two master ninjas right from the start, which will in turn decide the direction players' paths follow through the instance, with different bosses along the way. The goal of this type of content is to offer players more replayability in each instance, rather than making them run the exact same fights in the exact same order every single time. Those who opt to take the hardest path will find special new Feats await them, and everyone who heads in there will have a chance to pick up shiny new ninja-styled gear.

The Two-Face duo will add in Clayface, an encounter that Andersen and Anderson noted offers a new challenge as players face off against a fancy new version who will prove tricky to defeat. We were told that Clayface's animations are much more fluid and that he will shape-shift into all manner of people (and puddles), throwing players off throughout the battle, never mind that he will also be making use of his ability to form all manner of weapons out of his own twisted flesh. There will also be more robot penguins, with Andersen promising that none is the candy-cane-striped rocket-wielding version from Burton's Batman Returns. Additionally, players will need to re-evaluate known tactics from the previous run as new challenges have been implemented to keep the fight fresh.

The devs also tackled other things players have been asking about. The MegaServers are coming, "soon(tm)." Name collisions will be handled by allowing the player who has put the most active time into his character to retain the name, while other players will be able to choose new names. Another interesting thing to note about the changes to names on existing accounts is that deactivated accounts will have their characters' names released back into the overall name pool for active players to choose from, freeing up a number of previously unavailable options. This will stop people from camping names and then leaving, which could be a good or bad thing depending on where you sit in the debate.

Aside from all the tasty content coming in Update 3, players will see some major UI enhancements, including the addition of scalable text sizes and further refinements to chat and voice systems. This should be helpful for PC players who feel the text is enormo-oversized as well as for PS3 players who may think the text is too small to read from the couch.

While Anderson, Andersen, and Jameson were unable to give us too many specifics on Update 4, all signs point to the new Superman Fortress of Solitude raid's landing in the next update; as Jameson posted on the forums, "It was not ready [for Update 3]." Heavy hints were also dropped that the team is looking into a Green Lantern-styled Light powerset, and the issue of Might & Mastery appears to be back on the table for discussion, although the devs were quick to note that new powers would be a little way off yet.

PvP and open-world content were also discussed, with a note that new Legends characters are in the works and that the development team "loves" open-world PvP content and "will build more [of it]." Leaderboards were touched upon with similar fervor, although no definite answers on potential implementation were given. Ultimately, the team's plan is to try to get more people out into the open cities and into the action as the game's development continues.

Free trials came up since many people have expressed a desire to try DCUO before buying it. The team stated that there is going to be a big push to get more people into the game sometime this summer after the adoption of the MegaServers and the fact that they allow players to queue for instances regardless of PvP or PvE server type. Unfortunately, Anderson, Andersen, and Jameson wouldn't give us a specific answer on a timetable for trials or servers save to note that the plan is to get as many people as possible into the game and playing together; they are evaluating how best to do that.

Overall, DC Universe Online's upcoming Update 3 has a nice mix of new and retweaked old features along with some solid improvements to core systems. Considering the team is tweaking the developmental map and taking time to polish up the raid content that didn't make the cut, I'd say that's not a bad thing. Better that than introducing a slew of new issues due to a rush to publish. Update 4 with Superman and Lex Luthor calls to us from the not-too-distant future, and the recent open communication from the DC Universe Online management team bodes well for the direction of the game in the eyes of the players.

I, for one, welcome our new DCUO overlords and their plans for the future -- even if they can't agree on just how to pronounce character names. (Sorry, Mark.)

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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