Thursday, February 21, 2008

Champions Online Info from GI

The same day Cryptic officially announces Champions Online, I get the latest issue of Game Informer which just so happens to have the 5 or 6 page spread on the game which first broke the story as people started receiving their copies a few days back.

Marvel Universe? Cancelled, leaving Cryptic entirely to their own devices right? And thank Jeebus for that, because if they live up to the promises in this article, CO will be just the kind of MMO experience I want on my Xbox 360 (it's coming out for the PC and 360 simultaneously and will be cross-platform sometime in early-mid 2009).

Let's go over a few of the touted features from the GI article (and also the official site). These are in no particular order and may have lots of typos in them, so bear with me.

  • The Champions table-top RPG game is now owned by Cryptic, giving them the power to fuly utilize the license, and they will be working with Hero Games on combining the RPG with the MMO and thus the story you see in the game will directly effect the RPG and vise versa.

  • Every character has access to EVERY power - your class simply determines how much it will cost to train a specific ability. I assume this means a tanking oriented class can be a healer if he wants, but at the cost of his more tanking focused abilities.

  • At character creation, you will also create your character's arch-nemesis who will follow you throughout your career as a hero. There will be game-wide baddies to fight, just like in CoH, but this aspect makes it so each player has his or her own storyline to follow, custom-tailored by the player. Your hero is a fire-blowing ranged attacker? Maybe your Arch-Nemesis is a master of water or ice-based attacks. "Players don't just customize their look, they customize their gameplay," says Emmert.

  • Action is the name of the game. Say goodbye to click it and forget it. More akin to Marvel: Ultimate Alliance than World of Warcraft, the action CO will be centered around real-time punches, kicks, jumping, and special skills. Face buttons on the 360 remote control attacks, whereas the right bumper is used to block, and the left one is used as a shift-key of sorts, brining up more special attacks on the face buttons. The idea is to maintain a focus on action and visceral battles, while also making sure that strategy and ability management comes into play via enemy AI and enemy abilities. Don't expect enemies to be fodder, in other words. They'll come packing their own brand of heat.

  • Loot will also play a role in CO. Not as big as in games like WoW, but obviously a far larger role than what was and has been seen in CoH. There will be several body slots to equip gear into, and if you don't like the way something looks you'll be able to toggle it on or off, or perhaps even customize it to fit into your hero's design scheme.

  • Whereas CoH took place in one large, but still small in MMO-terms city CO will have an entire world to traverse. The urban setting will be a mainstay of course, but so will sprawling underground ruins, underwater lairs, jungles, a dinosaur-monster infested island, military bases, and even the moon. All the areas from the Champions RPG will be available for Cryptic to pull from, and now with the license in their hads... more will be created.

  • Soloability will be key. And as Emmert states in the GI article, "I think we're kind of passed the point of forced teaming." Most of the game will be soloable, along the lines of WoW, but don't expect it to be like Auto Assault or Tabula Rasa and be a game where grouping becomes an after-thought. Super-Groups (guilds) will be in play of course, and there will be content across all levels for the solo-artist as well as for groups of up to 5. No "raids" were mentioned in the article. Though Jack Emmert made sure to say they have a desire to make sure there's plenty of content even at the level cap for solo folks, group players, and even PvP fans.

  • Initially, "Villains" won't be playable. They're focusing on the heroes first, and bringing the Villains in later. But unlike CoH the Villains won't be separated from the Heroes artificially when they make it in. Like WoW or EQ2, everyone will share (and fight over) the earth. Though I assume PvP will be consentual still as is the going trend. Until Villains get added, an "Underground Arena" system will be in place for competitive PvP.

  • At character creation you'll also pick whether or not you'll have a secret identity or be a public face. Which one you chose will fundamentally alter the course of your career. So aside from the many different ways you'll find to build your character, expect there to be reason enough to level 2 heroes from this aspect alone.

  • Missions will show up in persistent zones where everyone can access them, but the idea is to still use instancing... just not to the extent CoH did. Emmert and crew are fans of the practice, and instances will play a heavy role in a lot of the team-oriented content.

  • Basic attacks (punches, kicks, etc) are used to build up your power pool, which is then unleashed for special attacks. Balancing the amount of power you have and use will be where the skill relies in combat. I assume it'll be a good idea to have a bevy of lighter power-cost attacks on hand and not overdo it with too many power-heavy skills.

  • Death will have a light penalty as they expect it could happen a lot. Just respawn at a local checkpoint and try it again.

  • If you somehow manage to kill off or lock up your created Arch-Nemesis for good, you'll have the option of creating a new one... or not. Cryptic wants to make sure that the player is always in control of their own destiny. So while there will be a main story going on in the game like there was in CoH, the player will always have control of how their character looks, feels, plays, and even progresses. You should never feel shoe-horned into any specific role even if there is a class-system in place.

  • When creating your hero, you'll be able to not only customize his look, but his actual posture and movements too. If you have a robotic hero, you can make him move like a robot, or make a beast-man run on all fours, or make a mystical hero who can float around with some unknown power. The idea is to take char-gen in CO 10 steps further than in CoH.

  • Story will play a big part in the game. Cutscenes galore with plenty of voice-over will be all over the place during missions. Hopefully they can be skipped... because with alt-itis this could get old.

  • The game's in playable form already, and Cryptic is aiming for an early 2009 release at this point. According to Game Informer, the main bulk of their work from here on out will be adding content and finalizing the classes, balancing them for PvE and PvP, and then polish, polish, polish. Maybe early 2009 really can happen? Is it beta-time yet?

  • That's the bulk of what features have been announced, but I'm sure there's plenty more to learn. Like what Champions and Dark Champions from the actual RPG will be in it, what classes are going to be available, what guild features will be in, how heavily will instancing really be used, etc. But basically... what all this stuff says to me is, "Hi there, Bill. We're Cryptic. We hope you're prepared to lose your life in 2009 when our new game ships. Because this is everything we wish CoH could have been, but wasn't. Oh, and it's going to be on your lovely Xbox too. Have fun on the couch instead of at the desk - you know you want to. Start saying goodbye to your family now."

    Sign me up. Even if they only deliver on the character creation aspect and the action-skewed gameplay and nothing else... this is a game I'll be lost in for months come next year. Time to go purge it from my head so I can focus on other things. 2009 is a ways away and I'm already wishing 2008 was over. That's not healthy. I mean, imagine if they pull of combining that kind of character depth with that kind of action-game and accessibility... for a guy who loves MMOs but is running out of free time to play them as life rolls on, it would be a dream come true. AND IT'S COMIC BOOK THEMED, NO LESS! Yes CoH did it first, we all know that. But this may end up being the game Jack and team had in mind when they first set out to make CoH years ago.

    Damn the hype machine. I don't like being this eager. It hurts my brain.


    Thallian said...

    absotutely fantabulous.. can't wait to try it.. :D but unfortunately I have to.. :(

    brenda said...

    Thanks for the info from Game Informer. This game is so going to rock.

    Bildo said...

    Indeed, I hope it will too, Tipa.

    And you can even still get rid of the 360 you dislike and play it with me, too!

    If there's one thing aside from all that's been mentioned so far that I sincerely hope makes it in though, it's semi-destructible or interactive environments.

    What killed CoH for me, among the many things, was that I couldn't do squat to all the cars, lamp posts, etc (at least not until the later Mayhem Missions and even those were just about breaking things).

    Ideally, I'd like the ability to do in CO what I can do in Crackdown for the 360. Toss in the story-based missions, the character creation and advancement, and the awesome-sounding combat... and you've got a lifetime fan in me.

    brenda said...

    I don't like the 360 but I have it now and it's not going anywhere. I don't know how mixing console and PC users will go, though. In FFXI, you could tell the console users because they spoke only using the (menu driven) automatic translator.

    At some point my son will be out of basic training and living on a base somewhere and will probably take his Xbox with him anyway, so I expect to find myself with the PC version...

    A destructible environment is definitely key. What kind of superhero game doesn't let you punch through walls?

    I think CO will be better than CoH even without it, but I hope they are going for the gold here. They are pretty far along, since they have MUO to work with, and I hope they have time to make the game truly incredible.

    Hudson said...

    no one under the age of 30 even knows what champions is or was.

    Im not gonna get too excited about another super hero MMO until I am proven that we will FEEL like heroes unlike COH. Also is being able to solo so great anymore? Didnt work in TR. No one groups in that freaking game. Too much solo garbage is ruining most MMO's today

    Anonymous said...

    just read the article in game informer. iam already sold on it. wish it was coming out this year though ..... it looks great and i love the art style ... and on the xbox360, what with aoc and this looks like my xbox is going to be the mmo machine i always wanted it to be ....

    pixie styx

    *vlad* said...

    @hudson: If it's anything like I remember the original to be ( I know, rose-tinted glasses and all that), then it will be great!

    *Fondly remembers smacking the villian and watching him fly through the nearest wall and crush a nearby truck*

    Bildo said...

    "Also is being able to solo so great anymore?"

    Yes... most definitely. If you are a developer and think otherwise, you may as well call your game a failure from the get go.

    HOWEVER, there must be a balance. TR and AA for sure erred too far on the solo side, but their game systems also made grouping pointless not just needless.

    If CO wants to get it right with the action-based focus, they'll need incentive to group across all different areas of the gameplay. That means, quests and content that does require grouping, sidekicking/exemplaring, good party management options, etc.

    But most definitely, "solo-ability" really matters this day and age.

    Cameron Sorden said...

    Tell me about it! Jeez. I don't remember the last time I was this excited about a game.