Champions Online Interview (PC)

With the launch of Cryptic Studios highly-anticipated Superhero-based MMO 'Champions Online', we caught up with the developer to gain a little more insight into the future plans for a city under siege.

Strategy Informer: For those not lucky enough to be in the beta, can you give us a quick overview of the core ideas behind Champions Online, and what new players can expect come launch day?

Jack Emmert: We have three core principles: 1) customisation – we want players to be able to customise the look of their character and their gameplay as much as possible. 2) vast world – we wanted to take players and their superhero characters around the world to battle crime and evil. 3) action combat – we introduced console game mechanics into the MMORPG with a dynamic, fluid combat system.

Strategy Informer: Perhaps the most notable aspect of the game thus far is the striking visual style. How did the team come to make such a bold design choice and what impact will we see on lesser machines as a result?

Jack Emmert: We wanted to make playing the game like reading a comic book. So we invented a special style called comic shading. It just made sense.

Strategy Informer: With such a wide variety of superpowers and attributes to explore, was it particularly hard to balance quest difficulty for individual players?

Jack Emmert: Yes, it did. Balance in every MMORPG is an ongoing dilemma, and perhaps with our level of freeform customization it poses an additional hurdle. But as long as its fun, I’m happy.

Strategy Informer: The character creation tool is one of the most extensive ever seen in an MMO, but are there any plans to extend the variety of costume types and body parts in the future? Will we be seeing expansion packs in this sense?

Jack Emmert: You can absolutely guarantee we’ll be constantly adding to the costume pieces.

Strategy Informer: Drawing an obvious comparison to City of Heroes, does the Cryptic roadmap contain a 'Villains Online' or similar edition of the product?

Jack Emmert: We’ll look to the fans for what they want. I know that I was disappointed that we didn’t really nail the villain experience with City of Villains. We were given a hard deadline for that game and frankly we didn’t deliver as much as we wanted. If we were to do an “Enemies Online”, I’d really want to make it a game that featured dramatically different gameplay.

Strategy Informer: What sort of end-game content can we look forward to once the level cap has been reached, and did the team take any specific inspiration from alternative MMOs in that respect?

Jack Emmert: Champions Online has the Omega system – at maximum level, a player has reached the pinnacle of his powers. The United Nations calls on Earth’s most powerful superhumans to defend the planet against Omega threats – things that could end civilization. They’ve dubbed this group of heroes the Omega Team. Players will earn Omega points that can be used to buy unique items.

Strategy Informer: One of the staple bug-bears of any traditional MMO has been combat, and the lack of interaction and real-time feedback. Did you take this challenge into consideration when designing Champions? And if so, how successfully do you feel the resultant combat system has been implemented?

Jack Emmert: We strove from the start to create an action game, so that players aren’t just hitting the same attack keys over and over. Our bosses have “schticks”, so players need to learn to block attacks or move out of the way. Unlike other games, players aren’t rooted while attacking. They can move and fight freely.

Strategy Informer: For those in Europe that perhaps may have missed the phenomenon, can you briefly explain the lore behind the universe and the pen-and-paper RPG roots?

Jack Emmert: Champions is RPG that’s been around since 1981. It is to superhero RPG’s what D&D is to fantasy RPG’s. Throughout the decades, dozens of books have detailed different versions of the Champions universe. For Champions Online, the game revolves around the infamous “Day of the Destroyer” when Dr. Destroyer battled against Earth’s superheroes in Detroit, levelled the city, and slew many superhumans Dr. Detroit mysteriously disappeared, apparently committing suicide rather than fall at the hands of his enemies.

Strategy Informer: How closely do the character creation choices stick to the offline inspiration?

Jack Emmert: I’d say that character creation is inspired by, rather than based on, the offline version. We try to do the same things: offer players a high level of customization. The offline game focuses a little more on stats and generic powers than the online game. But otherwise there are a lot of similarities.

Strategy Informer: Does Champions feature the ability to re-roll character classes mid-game, or will players need to create alternatives in a traditional sense?

Jack Emmert: Yes, we do have retconning. Players can undo several levels worth of choices, though at a cost. We also have the Powerhouse, a place where players can go to test out powers before they take them.

Strategy Informer: How successful was the beta? Were there any specific lessons learned to take forward to the next development cycle?

Jack Emmert: The beta was better than our wildest dreams. The game’s reception has really been remarkable. I’m really happy thus far. As for lessons, I hope we’re shaking out all the bugs!

Strategy Informer: Finally, if you could state one location or one quest as your favourite for our readers to look out for, what would that be?

Ending: Champions Online is created by Cryptic Studios and due out on 4th September.


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By nobuargaoda (SI Core Veteran) on May 15, 2009
One word. Awesome! I think this game will overcome The City of Heroes!