Ton Hammer caught up with Executive Producer Shannon Posniewski on
the eve of the launch of Champions Online: Free
free-to-play revamp of the Cryptic’s crimefighting MMOG.
Shannon delivers new details about archetypes, downgrading characters
from (or upgrading characters to) premium status, and reveals the name
and a few details about the next adventure pack!
Ton Hammer: Champions Online
is the only comic book MMORPG that has gone free-to-play. Is this an
attempt to differentiate CO
based on price, a convenient way to relaunch the game, or do you
genuinely believe that this is the best possible model for where you
want to take Champions Online
it’s the best model. Back when we first designed Champions Online
which is years ago now, the market was a lot different. At least in
North America, people weren’t into being “nickeled
and dimed” through microtransactions. Since then,
there’s been a sea change maybe driven by Zynga or other
online games that have microtransactions. Given that, plus
the fact that these games existed in Asia for a long while, it allowed
people to say, ‘Hey, I’d just prefer to play for
free, and pay for the cool things as they come up.’
That’s been the change in the perceptions of players, so I
think it’s the right way for us to go. I think it’s
a good way for MMOs to go, because a good part of the value of MMOs
comes from the social interaction; the massively multiplayer
side of the game. Free-to-play brings lots of people into the game and
makes for richer gameplay.
In the last year
or so, other free-to-play ports around the MMOG market have met with
mixed success. What have you learned from other free-to-play efforts,
and what sets Champions Online: Free
we’ve looked at the various offerings that are out there, but
we had some of our own ideas as well. One major thing that we
weren’t planning on doing – and other games
confirmed this for us, which was great because otherwise
we’re out on a limb – is gated content. We
don’t make you pay $5 or $15 to get past level 15.
Archetypes are a
new and attractive choice for players who may not be comfortable with
freeform leveling. Along with players’ increased
comfort with microtransactions, do you view archetypes as another way
to meet mainstream players where they’re at?
a couple things in play here – there’s not just one
reason why we went to archetypes. For one, it’s easier
– when there’s a class – for players to
get a hold on… “ohhh, this guy’s
supposed to be a tank” or “ahhh, this
guy’s supposed to be a damage dealer.” Players of
other MMORPGs understand those classes and us providing those classes,
so us providing archetypes makes it easier for new players coming to Champions Online
At the same time, we know that freeform leveling can be daunting, and
this works out well because we know all these archetypes are balanced
pretty well and are going to be fun to play. Another reason is that, on
the microtransaction side, we didn’t want to hold up any kind
of content for silver members, but we needed to hold back
something. That’s why we decided to monetize these,
basically, so we’re going to be selling new archetypes as
time goes on. A bunch of these reasons work together, so it felt like
the right way to go.
Could you talk
about the differences between “core” and
Sure. A special
archetype is one that you pay for. In League of Legends
you pay for champions. The difference between the basic and the special
is that, as time goes on, the core archetypes will become really
obvious about what they are. We even specifically say that
they’re things like tanks, DPS, and so on. The special
archetypes might not fit in those slots quite as well and there might
be a little bit more nuance in playing them. On the other hand, we
might put out a new framework and put out a special archetype that will
players to play it.
"We are currently working
on our next adventure pack. It’s called Resistance. Players
have really enjoyed the Adventure Packs so far, so we’ve
taken what we’ve learned so far to make our next one even
more interesting. One lesson we have learned is that, in the past, we
had players do some things that were perhaps not fun, but took some
time. We’re basically removing that."
Under the basic
archetypes, you’ve listed 3 Avengers, 2 Protectors, and 1
each of Sentinels, Guardian, and Brawler. Why the disparity in numbers
between different archetype and role offerings?
In MMOs, you can
say that there’s only three or four classes : a tank, Melee
DPS, Ranged DPS, and Support / Healer. We already have more than that
in our core set. Why? Because we have one that’s a melee DPS,
one that’s a tank / support role, and likewise you might see
a special archetype be a blend of even more roles.
That’s really what you get in the freeform characters too,
except that you have these extra power points that you want to use to
pick up abilities that your friends don’t have, like
“Teleport Team.” Archetypes won’t have
these wildcards, they’ll be fairly thematic.
Player skill and
all other things being equal, will archetype characters be on-par with
freeform characters, or will freeform characters always have an edge?
that’s min-maxing, a freeform character almost definitely
will do better than an archetype because you can really tweak and tune
what powers you get. Your freeform character will most likely be more
powerful than any arbitrary archetype, if you’re min-maxing.
If you’re just playing the game, or maybe a role-player
that’s playing something themed, you’re probably
not going to end up being much better than an archetype, because
you’re sticking to your theme.
Could you tell us
a little bit about how the downgrade (from Gold to Silver) or upgrade
process works for existing characters?
you’re currently a subscriber (which means you’re a
Gold Member), and you decide to stop subscribing and still play, your
account becomes silver. Your characters are left unchanged until
you go into the game and opt to convert this gold character
to a silver character. When you do that, we’ll remove
everything from the character that you’re no longer entitled
to. That might include costume parts, inventory
slots, all sorts of stuff. Then we force you –
because you’re no longer a gold character and a
freeform character – to choose an archetype.
So you keep all your experience points and items –
they’re sent to you in email, basically – and you
keep all of your resources. Right after you login, you go to the
trainer and train up to whatever level you are at.
That’s when you downgrade.
Upgrading works in basically the same way. If you upgrade, you have the
option of converting your character to a freeform character or an
archetype, and you get whatever entitlements you don’t have
from before you upgraded.