Champions Online Q&A

Reoh | 27 August 2009 | Comments off

I’m sure you can all understand just how busy things have been with the impending launch and while it took a little longer than I had hoped, I am happy to reveal the Q&A which was done recently with gratitude to Bill Roper who spared the time to answer our questions. I’m sure many of you will know some of these answers now with the NDA lifted but there’s still a few interesting tad bits for you to enjoy!

TOG: From the announcement of the Unity missions it sounds as if players could access this content both solo or in groups. In picturing this I have come up with a Warhammer-esque public quest system, however with the added benefits of focusing the community towards particular areas each day to encourage their use. Is this an accurate perception?

A: Not really. UNITY missions are set up as instanced mission that scale for 1 – 5 players. There are five different missions available every calendar day. Completing that group of missions makes a sixth, Special Ops Mission available. These special missions have different rewards, including “key fragments” that can be used to gain access to high-level, repeatable Lairs that are designed to challenge groups of five heroes. That being said, we DO have Open Missions which are reminiscent of the public quests you mentioned, but those are found in persistent zones and usually require anywhere from 10 – 20 heroes to complete.

TOG: Would you say that the Omega system is the pve endgame or are non-unity missions also available at earlier levels? Will these be repeatable or can you only complete them once per day?

A: The UNITY Missions are a large part of the initial PvE end game, along with tracking down the Cosmic-level villains such as the giant, fiery, Gorilla Qwyjibo. Any of the end-game missions are either repeatable (such as the high-end Lairs) or change every day to present new challenges.

TOG: Are there any other options, such as more traditional dungeon crawls, that are available to players? Are these repeatable anytime or would they be limited to once per day/week/etc?

A: The Lairs are probably what players would think of as Dungeon Crawls as they’re designed to provide a sizeable, instanced challenge that can be entered as often as “keys” can be obtained by going through UNITY missions. We also have other areas of the game that can be repeated and / or have new areas unlocked.

TOG: How has the re-introduction of the nemesis system to the beta faired?

A: Players love the intense, story-based missions where they villain they have created is the main antagonist.  The ability to design your own arch-enemy and then share that creation with others has been incredibly popular. We’re very excited to see players not only making a single Nemesis,

TOG: I noticed that B.A.S.H. has begun testing, the free-for-all Player vs Player bouts where lots of champions are brought together to fight it out until one is left standing, can you comment on how the testing is going?

A: PvP has been FAR more popular than we anticipated in the open beta. So much so that reworking our queuing code to handle the influx of participants. With four different ways to engage in hero-vs-hero combat – B.A.S.H. (free-for-all), Tournament of Champions (5v5 Arena), Apocalypse (5v5 scenario maps), and Dueling (anywhere in the world) – we’re seeing a lot of players having a great time with the system.

TOG: Will players be able to play as themselves or their nemesis in the apocalypse scenario sometime post-launch?

A: Apocalypse maps represent special scenarios devised to push superheroes to their limits in extreme situations. The initial scenario is set within a simulated Stronghold prison where some heroes take on the roles of assisting the prison guards and others play the parts of super-powered individuals trying to break out with the other prisoners. This prepares all those involved to either quell a prison uprising or shake free unjust shackles should the prison ever fall into the wrong hands. In all cases, the players control their own heroes and not Nemesis or other villains.

TOG: The news release also mentioned stat tracking; will character and group battles in pvp be highlighted in game as well as on the web?

A: We track a massive amount of statistics in PvP and will show these both in the game and through our website.

TOG: One of the great things about City of Heroes/Villains was their Sidekick/exemplar system. Is anything like this going to be featured in the game at launch, or is expected to be added sometime after?

A: We not only allow players to freely sidekick either up or down in level, but the leader of a team can set himself as the “Champion” and the entire team can then automatically sidekick to that level. This makes it very simple to get people to help you complete those tougher missions.

TOG: The depth of your character generation is impressive and I’m really glad there’s a trial period on powers to test them out, can these tested powers be dropped without a cost (or a reduced fee) if they’re found unappealing to a particular template before you leave the special area?

A: The whole idea behind the Powerhouse is that it’s a place you can “try before you buy” in terms of getting new powers. You can feel free to spend available power points and see the effects of a chosen power or talent on your character and if you want to make a change, it costs nothing to retcon that power. Any powers you decide to keep only “lock in” to your power framework when you leave the Powerhouse.

TOG: Any plans on adding the ability to scale walls and buildings?

A: We’d love to add the ability to climb and stick to walls, and in fact, had the technical functionality for this in the game at one point a few months ago. The issue came down to animation and power integration time and we had to pull it. I would expect we’ll get this back in sooner rather than later.

TOG: What plans (if any) have you for Game-master organized and run in game events?

A: We do have the ability to run in-game events. In fact we’ll be running both an End of Beta and a Head Start event by the end of the month. Once the game launches, we’ll be looking for appropriate times to run these types of events and get some great interaction between our players and our GMs and developers.

TOG: Given the distances around the world for the various locale’s featured in the game, how prevalent are loading screens and zoning phenomenon in general?

A: We only use loading screens when we’re moving to a completely different location that has another art set. You can travel all over Millennium City, for example, without loading screens. But if you then travel to Monster Island or Lemuria, a loading screen will come up. Also, if you enter into a special instance, you’ll get a loading screen. The load times are quite short, especially into instanced content.

TOG: Given that Champions Online will be playable on both the console and PC, just how reconfigurable are the controls for players?

A: We provide a massive amount of customization in the controls. There are several pre-set control schemes offered, as well as the ability to customize each key. We also allow players to use a console controller on the PC for combat, and will add full menu support in the future.

TOG: Can you share any support for players that may live with handicaps that will ease their ability to play (Such as support for the colour blind, click to move, or subtitles?

A: We have an amazingly strong UI team, and they have done a great deal of work

TOG: How configurable is the User Interface? Will there be support for user generated modifications and packages?

A: You have complete control over where the different UI elements appear on your screen, but we don’t yet support user-created UI mods. I am sure that after the game has been in service for a bit, we’ll look at opening up further.

TOG: What support does the game have for casual players to help keep them competitive against the hardcore element?

A: We feel that Champions is very friendly for the casual player while still appealing to the core gamer. We’ve worked hard to strike a great balance between easily getting players that are new to the genre into MMOs while also ensuring that our hardcore players have some real challenges and long-term goals in front of them. From the very beginning of the Champions Online experience, we push towards this goal. For example, players can easily select a super-heroic power set - such as Lightning, Telekinesis, Munitions, or Martial Arts – and then quickly move on to the costume creator. For players that want to get into the internal workings of the game, they can start a custom framework. This allows them to hand-pick every single power their hero gets over the course of their careers from any of the power sets in the game. If a hero wants to be a loner and fight crime all on their own, they can easily do so. Advanced players that want the ultimate challenges, however, will join teams and form super groups to assault villain hideouts and lairs that are designed for groups of five heroes.

The combat system is designed to be more action-oriented than other MMOs. We take the spirit of four-color comics – the high-energy, explosive combat where heroes can face numerous henchmen and then square-off against a master villain – and turn that into our combat system. Heroes can run-and gun or plant their feet and get into a slugfest as their concept and power-sets dictate.  We want our players to feel as heroic in battle as they characters they design.

TOG: Recently western mmorpgs have begun providing support for Oceanic (ANZAC / Asia) players, a particular concern for a fast paced action mmropg. Would Cryptic reconsider and launch oceanic servers if there was high enough demand for them?

A: We currently have no publishing agreements in place for Asia, but we would love to bring Champions to those gamers if there is a demand. Obviously we would support that in every way possible to make the game experience as smooth as possible.

TOG: Have you any new information about the possibility of a Mac or Linux client?

A: We don’t have developers for either of those platforms at Cryptic, so we’re not working on versions.

TOG: Will the game servers be coming down for regular maintenance, if so do you know how often that will be, or if a rotating schedule so as not to continually hinder any particular time zone regularly?

A: We will have regularly scheduled maintenance that is designed to fit into the best time slot to affect the fewest players possible.

TOG: In recent interviews you have spoken about the special mechanics for characters that utilize lightning (ions), power suits (combo), bladed weapons (momentum), and unarmed combat (stances and chi); do all of the power sets have these special mechanics or is it just some of them?

A: Every power set has a special mechanic, and some of them can build off of other effects from different sets. The ability to cause an enemy to “Bleed,” for example, can be utilized by numerous power sets. The same can be said for the Stun effect. A great part of the game is finding how different power sets interact and cross-synergize.

TOG: Are all powers available right away or are some reserved for higher levels? Are any unlocked only through completing things in gameplay (such as your nemesis confrontation for example)?

A: There are three “tiers” of powers that become available when you have already learned certain numbers of other powers. Powers within the same set are easier to unlock, but it is a simple enough matter to use powers from numerous sets to create your hero.

TOG: I have already imagined myself combining these different techniques into a single character idea. Can you combine both the special mechanics as well as the powers from different sets into unique combined character themes?

A: Certainly! You’re really only limited by how the powers work and your own imagination.

TOG: Besides the travel powers and crafted items, are there other ways to travel about the game world? Teleporting pads perhaps, trains and flying shuttle services, will griffons or wyverns make an appearance?

A: Other than the 13 personal travel powers available to players (who get to choose two over the course of their careers) there are numerous ways to traverse the great distances between areas of the world. Helicopters, Super Jets, and even Submarines are used to get around the world.

TOG: The announcement of micro-transactions has caused a bit of a stir; it is my understanding that these will be an optional and supplemental charge for players, which implies a monthly subscription will also be in place?

A: Champions Online will support micro-transactions, but contrary to the concerns of some people, the game is not ‘based’ on them. There are the basic tenets for our micro-transactions:

* The vast majority are aesthetic items, such as costume pieces, action figures, emblems, etc.
* A very few are account-level management tools, such as being able to rename a character
* Micro-transactions should never limit your ability to enjoy the game or reach the level cap
* Any micro-transaction that has a game effect can also be earned in the game through play. It is important to note that there are none of these implemented.

Also, it’s important to note that the overwhelming majority of micro-transactions are account-wide. This means if you buy a costume piece or an action figure, every character on your account gets it.

Finally, many of the pre-order programs that we’re finalizing now have cryptic points associated with them. This is a way for us to allow our players to choose their own pre-order reward(s) which falls into our whole customization concept for Champions Online.

TOG: This use of micro-transactions isn’t unusual, other subscription based games such as World of Warcraft also feature a number of paid for options; can you confirm whether the game will still be receiving further content development that does not require additional fees?

A: Of course! We’ve already planned our first free update and events and look forward to continue adding more and more to the Champions Online universe.

TOG: Speaking of pricing, are gamecards or perhaps an in game currency for game time, such as EVE Online features, being considered?

A: We do have Cryptic Points that can be purchased and then used for micro-transactions and we’re also looking to make game cards available in retail outlets.

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