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This fall Sony Online Entertainment will launch DC Universe Online, an MMORPG for the PS3 and PC. It allows players to create their own super heroes as well as play classic DC Comics in player-vs-player battles.
Naturally, this was a pretty big draw at this year's Comic Con. Nonetheless, we managed to get a few minutes of senior producer Wes Yanagi's time to ask some questions.
How did you determine how you'd condense the controls for the PS3 version?
I think really from day one, we wanted to target both platforms. A lot of MMOs are out there right now that are virtually impossible to distill down all the toolbars onto a controller. We've done a lot of iterations for this. [We showed it off] two years ago at E3, then Comic Con, then New York Comic Con, and just about every time we show the game I think the UI and controls have changed. It really comes from the philosophy we have internally. We'll have a set of controls that we think work well but then we'll play it over and over again and figure out what's all broken. That way, we really get down to what's really necessary and what works
What are the differences between the PS3 and PC versions?
They're virtually identical. The only real differences are subtle things like how target lock works. On console people are used to target locking automatically whereas on the PC it's a lot freer. The other differences are going to be the way people chat, whether you do voice chat or text chat. That interface is going to be much different. We decided at last E3 that we're going to separate the platforms so PS3 players can play against other PS3 players and PC players play against PC players. Ultimately that was done because we wanted to have the best experience for everybody and we didn't want to have any kind of situation where one person has a hard time communicating to another because they use different kinds of chat.
Is it also a balance thing? You don't want people going, "Oh, it's so much easier with this platform's control"?
You know, actually that is a concern but I don't know if that would be a major concern for me personally. We've been playing so much with both of them that even inside the office, half of the people play with the mouse and keyboard and the other half with the PS3 controller.
So you guys are starting up the VIP beta...
We announced sign-ups and that will be going online at some point in the future. We released it internally and we're really working through all the content. Obviously it's a big game with lots of bugs and so we want to make sure we get through at least some of those before we push it out to the public.
What surprised you the most when you started the internal testing?
I think really it's just the scope of the game and the variety and the breadth of the game that we have available to the players right now. We really designed it with three main phases. [First, there's] playing by yourself, creating your character and doing your own hero's journey and progressing through the content and the storylines. Then there's playing with other players in a group. You'll grab your friends and break into Arkham Asylum or go into S.T.A.R. Labs. The third one is PvP, and that's what we showed here and at E3. These matches are anything from 2 on 2 to 16 on 16 on the largest levels. When you start playing it altogether, with the trait system, the voiceover - I don't know if you heard the announcement but we've got Mark Hamill voicing the Joker and Kevin Conroy as Batman and the rest of the cast - the game just completely comes alive.
Right now the hands-on demo is a "capture the territory" type match. What other sort of modes are you looking at?
We've got Capture and Hold, Capture the Flag, and we are also working on a Sabotage map. You know, take the big bomb and take it to the enemy base, break through the defenses.
So it's the villains carrying this bomb?
It could be heroes too depending on the scenario, like destroying a villain base.
As far as the group PVE, how do you split up the roles if they're all super heroes? Are players going to be split up into Tank, DPS, and healer roles like in other MMO's?
It'll be a variant of that. We definitely have that. It's going to be based on the powers you have. Ice powers, for example, might be more of a classic tank because you can create ice armor and ice shields and stuff like that. And then you might have Mental guys that might be more of a control class so you can do crowd control. Then some other powers have healing. And obviously, as super heroes, everybody can do DPS.
How does PVP tie into the PVE side of the game?
We think of [PvP] as, "In order to become a legend, you need to learn from a legend." You play as Batman, play as Joker, play as Harley, play as Nightwing and by doing that get a deeper understanding of what their strategy and tactics are, what their strengths and weaknesses are so that you can take that knowledge back with you into the open world. If I play as Joker, I could be thinking, "I'm having a tough time against someone who is really good in close range combat." When I'm fighting against the Joker [in PvE], I'm going to try and get in close to him.
Does advancing in PVP bleed over into PVE?
In the sense of raid suits. As a player, you might eventually earn a Batman raid suit by doing stuff for Batman. You've done so much for him that he's actually crafted a suit of armor for you. You earn the right to represent him and wear the emblem on your chest.
When you said "did so much for Batman," you mean playing as him in PVP?
No no, it's any kind of PVP mission for the heroes. We'll have suits for a lot of different icons like Wonder Woman, Metallo, Lex Luthor, Super Man, Black Adam, and Joker. There will be certain suits for PVP and PVE. If you go through the big raid missions, you can eventually earn the suits through that. All that currency goes into the same pot. If you play as an iconic [in PVP] or you play a standard PVE mission that you do with your own character, you earn currency on a new suit or to unlock new iconics.
Finally, do you know when you expect to launch the beta?
It's still TBD. We're really trying to work out all the kinks and make sure all the really egregious things are dealt with before we push that out.