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

champions online heroine
alt="champions online heroine"
style="width: 248px; height: 280px;">

style="font-style: italic;">Champions

has made a lot of news
recently. First, there was the release of the style="font-style: italic;">Demonflame
adventure pack, and after that came the huge news that style="font-style: italic;">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, style="font-style: italic;">Demonflame.

style="height: 2px; width: 55%; margin-left: 0px; margin-right: auto;">

Ton Hammer: The big news is that
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Champions
Online style="font-weight: bold;"> 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 style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 326px;"
alt="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 style="font-style: italic;">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
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">DCUO style="font-weight: bold;"> 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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

" style="font-size: 12pt; font-family: "Times New Roman";"> style="font-style: italic;">Champions
Online is a blast to play. As a
free-to-play game, it’s really a perfect game."

Ton Hammer: So this
has been under consideration for awhile then?

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.

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?

Yes. Cryptic
points are usable across other Cryptic games. In the future, we may
have a currency that is specifically for style="font-style: italic;">Champions.
Maybe you’ll get some style="font-style: italic;">Champions
bonus points that you can use for style="font-style: italic;">Champions
stuff, but Cryptic points are across Cryptic games, including style="font-style: italic;">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?

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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 443px;"
alt="champions online screenshot"

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

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.

Ton Hammer: Let’s talk a little bit about the newest
adventure pack, which is the
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Demonflame style="font-weight: bold;">. Could you summarize the
adventure pack for us?

style="font-style: italic;">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

The point of the style="font-style: italic;">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 style="font-style: italic;">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.

Ton Hammer: You mentioned that the typical gameplay for an adventure
pack is from two to three hours. Is this true for
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Demonflame style="font-weight: bold;"> as well?

that’s the case for style="font-style: italic;">Demonflame.
It depends on how many players you have on your team or if
you’re going in alone. Adventure packs are good for any
player from level 11 to level 40. They automatically scale to your
level and how many players you have with you. Anybody can play these.
You don’t have to be a certain level to play them. You can
play them multiple times as well.

Ton Hammer: How many locations does
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Demonflame style="font-weight: bold;"> offer? Are there separate

there’s a giant exterior zone that is through the portal that
is inside of the magic store. Then there are eight or so interiors,
which are basically small maps that you go on as well.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 332px;"
alt="champions online screenshot"

Ton Hammer: Veering towards the free-to-play market, when you buy this
pack or any adventure pack in the future, it unlocks for the entire
account, not just for a specific character?

Yes. Once you buy
an adventure pack, it’s for an entire account. In fact, when
you buy stuff that unlocks something, it’s for the entire
account. So when you buy costumes, they unlock for the whole account.
Once you buy the Egyptian set, you have it for all your characters.

Ton Hammer: That’s a big thing. In a lot of MMOGs, when you
buy something, you can only equip it on one character, so hearing that
you can do it on all of your characters is good news. Would you say
that this is a fairly typical adventure pack that players can expect in
the future when the game goes free-to-play?

Very much so.
We’re pretty happy with the way style="font-style: italic;">Demonflame
turned out and so are the players. Feedback has been really great. Now,
in terms of the subject matter, the subject matter changes every single
time. This time, it’s very mystical and deals with parallel
dimensions, while previously it was more dealing with military themes
and jungles with a very different story. The new ones are going to be
the same sort of thing. Again, it’s always going to be one
major story, be about 3 hours long, and big bosses and cool events.

Ton Hammer: When you were developing
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Demonflame style="font-weight: bold;">, did you already know
that style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">CO style="font-weight: bold;"> was going to go
free-to-play? Did you develop it with that situation in mind or were
you more focused on the current subscribers?

We were focused
on the current subscribers. We didn’t know that we were going
to go free-to-play until after style="font-style: italic;">Demonflame
had been basically completed. That being said, we had always been
keeping in mind the fact that these things are adventure packs;
bite-sized things that people want. They work pretty well for both our
subscribers, who get a bite-sized chunk of new adventures and they can
talk about that chunk, and for us as a way to segregate content.

href=""> style="border: 0px solid ; width: 580px; height: 363px;"
alt="champions online screenshot"

In general, the way that we’re approaching free-to-play is
not in terms of how we can maximize free-to-play players.
We’re thinking about what’s cool in the game and
what things can we sell. Obviously, we want to sell stuff. It would be
disingenuous to say otherwise. Instead, we take the approach of what
things can we sell to make the game more fun as opposed to what can we
do to the game to make people buy a whole bunch of crap.
That’s the wrong direction. It’s not the right way,
and it’s not the direction we intend to go.
There’ll be plenty to buy, but it’ll be driven by
what we think that players are looking for rather forcing them into a
particular set of purchases.

Ton Hammer: How often do you plan on releasing adventure packs after
the change to free-to-play?

That is still up
in the air a little bit, but we’ll probably keep close to the
same schedule we were on, which is approximately every 3-4 months.

Ton Hammer: Do you have any idea on the pricing yet for the adventure
packs once it goes free-to-play? Will
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Demonflame style="font-weight: bold;"> be purchasable when style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Champions style="font-weight: bold;"> goes to free-to-play or
will it be included in the free content?

All our existing
adventure packs will be purchased by our silver players, including style="font-style: italic;">Demonflame.
Although the prices aren’t set in stone, we’re
probably thinking in the area of five dollars.

Ton Hammer: Is there anything else you would like to tell us about
style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Demonflame style="font-weight: bold;"> or style="font-style: italic; font-weight: bold;">Champions
Online style="font-weight: bold;"> going free-to-play in

I hope that
people who have previously tried style="font-style: italic;">Champions
or people who didn’t want to pay for another subscription
game stop by and try us. style="font-style: italic;">Champions
is a different kind of MMOG. It’s a very actiony MMOG. Some
people who don’t like it don’t think that
it’s intense enough sometimes. There’s not enough
of this or there’s not enough of that. Honestly, style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online
is a blast to play. As a free-to-play game, it’s really a
perfect game. It’s something that you can go on and play for
half an hour if you want and have a really great time, or if you want
to play for a whole evening and have a great time. There’s
not a whole lot of slogging through giant raids, which some people
like, but on the other hand, people who don’t enjoy that
don’t want to pay a monthly fee. I want people to come in and
give it a shot, because it’s different from the MMOGs
they’ve tried, I think.

To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Champions Online Game Page.

Last Updated:

About The Author

Around the Web