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Champions Online Q&A with Shannon Posniewski – Fighting Crime without Spending a Dime!

Posted Mon, Nov 01, 2010 by B. de la Durantaye

champions online heroine
Champions Online 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.



Ten Ton Hammer: The big news is that Champions Online is going free-to-play. What prompted the choice to go free-to-play?

Shannon Posniewski: Well, 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. 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.

champions online screenshot

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.

Ten 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?

Shannon Posniewski: 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.

"Champions Online is a blast to play. As a free-to-play game, it’s really a perfect game."
Ten Ton Hammer: So this has been under consideration for awhile then?

Shannon Posniewski: Yes. Cryptic 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 good spot.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is the C-Store an in-house solution or did you go externally to develop that?

Shannon Posniewski: We developed that in-house.

Ten Ton Hammer: Obviously, Cryptic points are the currency. Are they usable across other Cryptic games?

Shannon Posniewski: Yes. Cryptic 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.

Ten 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?

Shannon Posniewski: Well, an 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 Lantern, 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.

champions online screenshot

Ten Ton Hammer: Will you be able to buy these on the C-Store?

Shannon Posniewski: Subscribers get 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.

Ten 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?

Shannon Posniewski: Demonflame 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 kill.

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.

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