has made a lot of news
recently. First, there was the release of the Demonflame
adventure pack, and after that came the huge news that CO
was going to go to free-to-play in early 2011. To get the lowdown on
all the recent events, Ten Ton Hammer talked to Executive Producer
Shannon Posniewski about the game going free-to-play, the reasons
behind the decision, and details on the newest adventure pack, Demonflame
Ton Hammer: The big news is that Champions
Online is going free-to-play.
What prompted the choice to go free-to-play?
we’ve been looking at free-to-play for a long time now. We
started with a subscription game a year ago. The game did pretty well,
but it didn’t do awesome. We think that the whole market for
MMOGs has been changing, especially since we started working on Champions Online
I think that it has been a big change. There are only a handful of
multi-player games that can be full-priced, subscription-based games.
Years ago, back in the beginning days of MMOGs, people were more
interested in paying higher fees because that’s what they
expected it. That has changed a lot over the last couple of years, and
there’s the advent of games such as Farmville
is an example of a game where they nickel and dime you every step of
the way. People are now used to buying an individual song for 99 cents,
as opposed to buying a whole album. We’re seeing that
reflected in the massive multiplayer space as well.
So we’ve been looking at free-to-play for a long time, but we
didn’t want to leave subscriptions behind because we felt
that there were some people who really liked subscription; they like
the all-you-can-eat plan. We decided to go with this hybrid approach
where you can play Champions
from beginning to end as free-to-play, never paying anything if you
don’t want, or you can get a subscription, if you like, and
get extra things as a subscriber.
Ton Hammer: The points you bring up are totally valid. We discuss this
a lot on Ten Ton Hammer of free-to-play coming on in a really big
manner and seeing big moves from companies such as Turbine and Sony
Online Entertainment and now Cryptic. The question becomes then was
there anything else that sort of instigated it in terms of other
companies doing it? We have DCUO coming up. Did that
factor in when you made the choice?
I would consider
it more of a happy accident, honestly. In a vacuum, except for the
market in general, we were looking for free-to-play stuff. As you lose
subscribers perhaps, you start looking at free-to-play as a way to
bring in new blood. We were looking at it along those terms.
It’s a happy accident that DCUO
is going to be pay, because we think that we have a better value to
start with, even for full pay. We think that they’re coming
in awfully late, honestly, with a pay plan. We were shocked when they
announced it. I think that it’s going to work in our favor.
We’re pretty happy about it, but it wasn’t really
driven by their choices. The timing here isn’t driven by them
either. The timing was driven that we felt that it was good for our
subscribers in terms of a transition and good for us in terms of
development plans and good for the game as a whole.
Ton Hammer: So this
has been under consideration for awhile then?
Online is a blast to play. As a
free-to-play game, it’s really a perfect game."
Studios is always very introspective in terms of what we do and how we
do. Even before we launched, I’m sure that we discussed it,
but we were still pretty certain that subscription was the way to go.
We’ve been talking about it internally off and on and paying
attention to what Turbine and other people do since early this year. We
were pretty certain that we wanted to do it mid-year, but the real
question was when was the right time to do it? I think that we found a
Ton Hammer: Is the C-Store an in-house solution or did you go
externally to develop that?
We developed that
Ton Hammer: Obviously, Cryptic points are the currency. Are they usable
across other Cryptic games?
points are usable across other Cryptic games. In the future, we may
have a currency that is specifically for Champions
Maybe you’ll get some Champions
bonus points that you can use for Champions
stuff, but Cryptic points are across Cryptic games, including Star Trek
Ton Hammer: I was looking at your chart showing what would be available
to the silver players as opposed to the gold players, and one of the
major things are adventure packs, which makes sense for a free-to-play
game with microtransactions. If you could explain to our readers, what
are adventure packs and how much gameplay do they offer?
adventure pack is a self-contained story arc. The game has many, many
story arcs in it, but an adventure pack is like a play-through movie
almost, an adventure. It has multiple missions or quests that are all
connected to each other. They usually start in the normal static world
where you’re used to playing, and they usually go off to a
new place. For example, in Serpent
that started off in the city and that moved off to jungles and
underground lairs. It provides a new place that you haven’t
seen before as well as a bunch of missions that all revolve around
that. It’s one giant story, with lots of action and a giant
climax at the end, and hopefully, you’re successful. There
are two to three hours long. Some people take longer whilst others take
a little less time. They are good bite-sized fun. Basically,
they’re a full evening of fun.
Ton Hammer: Will you be able to buy these on the C-Store?
all of the adventure packs for free. They just come in as part of the
subscription. If you’re a silver player, a non-subscriber,
you’ll be able to buy them in the C-Store.
Ton Hammer: Let’s talk a little bit about the newest
adventure pack, which is the Demonflame. Could you summarize the
adventure pack for us?
brings back a story that appears in the Champions pen-and-paper game,
where a particular person, called Luther Black, is basically trying to
become a god. He’s doing that by pulling in energies from the
Qliphothic realm. That was 20 years ago, and he’s trying it
again. He’s found a new way to become a god and
he’s busy capturing the avatars of these deities that are in
this place called the Qliphothic, which is this place of chaos and
madness. Basically, it’s an alternate dimension of chaos.
Luther Black is imprisoning these guys and sucking out their power in
order to try to become a god. It’s your task to defeat him
and prevent him from becoming a god, because gods are very difficult to
The point of the Demonflame
is to deal with this issue. It takes you from Millennium City, where
you first hear about this happening from UNTIL, where you’re
sent to a magical bookshop with a giant portal in the back that has
been broken through to the Qliphothic realm. The majority of the
adventure pack takes place in an environment that you’ve
never seen before in Champions Online
which is the Qliphothic realm. There’s a great big exterior
there that is all spooky, chaotic, strange, and warped, as well as a
bunch of interiors of these giant towers. We call them towers, but
they’re actually floating cities that you adventure through
and try to rescue things.