Updated Thu, Jan 20, 2011 by Ethec
Character creation in comic book MMOs is a closet roleplayers’ dream – it richly rewards your time and attention by allowing players to realize a vision for a character even before you gain any loot or levels, and DC Universe Online is no exception. But even as it breaks new ground - especially with the ability to create a color palette that follows you through the game, DCUO character creation has a few pitfalls that aspiring superheroes and supervillains should be aware of.
1. Powersets Determine Group Roles, and Movement Powers Affect Powersets
The number one mistake that new players make when creating characters is picking the wrong power set for the type of character they’re trying to create. Your power set decision is one of the most critical decisions you’ll make, since your secondary powers (which become active at level 10) directly impact the role you’ll take in group experiences later in the game.
While all powersets have strong damage-dealing capability, the power sets are divided by role: fire and ice are defensive powersets, nature and sorcery are healing powersets, and Gadgets and Mental are control powersets. Choose your power set carefully!
Also, each of the movement power talent trees offers abilities that augment a different power set. Flight has talents that affect healing, Acrobatics talents affect Control, and Super Speed increases Defensive abilities. These powerset-augmenting talents are found far down the movement power talent trees, so if you have a character concept in mind - go for it! But min-maxers should be aware that movement power selection can affect powerset abilities.
2. One Character Equals One Story - No More, No Less
Every character you create in DCUO will vary widely in storyline (including enemies, boss encounters, voiceovers, and rewards) depending on the morality and mentor you choose. These are among the choices that can’t be changed later in the game - a restriction that, at first brush, sounds incredibly limiting, especially in an age where it seems that, for a small fee, any decision in almost any MMORPG can be reversed. But, unlike in other MMORPGs, your DCUO character isn’t meant to encompass the fullness of your faction.
If you don't fight this "limitation." Instead, make alternate characters. Like City of Heroes and Champions Online before it, DC Universe Online richly rewards alt-a-holics, and the more characters you create and play, the more varied an experience you’ll have with the game. Once you’ve brought your first character concepts loves to life, experiment with other moralities, mentors, and powers. It’s worth stepping outside your comfort zone to hear the brilliant writing and voiceacting done by Mark Hamill's Joker and Adam Baldwin's Superman, for example.
3. Beware Character Creation Menu Pratfalls
Most DCUO players I’ve talked to have spent a significant time creating a custom character only to wipe out their customizations by backing out to the inspired-by screen to check out a template that they wished to partly copy. Inspired-by’s are an excellent shortcut to character creation, especially if you want the look but not the powers of a given character. But if you think you might like to use an inspired-by, it’s always better to start with an inspired-by and alter it to your purposes, rather than start with a custom character and align it to an inspired-by after you’ve already made the bulk of your decisions.
Along with the ease of unintentionally wiping out your custom work and the inability to see if your chosen name is taken until you’ve confirmed all of your character and costume choices, another big problem with the DCUO character creation user interface is that you can click ”Next” on a number of detail screens. Then, if you absentmindedly name your character, you'll be whisked off into the game with a half-created character. Remember that “Next” is always your last step in character creation, not synonymous with “Next Option”.
4. Know what you can (and can’t) change later
While costume and color palette decisions can be changed at nearly any time (through either loot or style menu options in game), a number of the decisions you make during character creation are permanent. Well, permanent, until SOE takes an item shop live for the game, but our sources at SOE tell us that could be a month or two down the line. Until then, Gender, Size, and Personality decisions are final, along with Morality, Power, Movement, and Weapon decisions. Should you make mistakes while assigning points to your , trainers in the Watchtower (for Heroes) and the Hall of Doom (for Villains) are currently available.
5. Take naming seriously, but be flexible.
You might be tempted to make a cutesy or silly name for your character, and you’re certainly entitled to make a Lunchlady or Akmed. With only thirty levels to work through, characters like these might make for fun diversions. But consider the story City of Heroes visionary Matt Miller relayed in a recent interview at Ten Ton Hammer. Put simply, if novelty (rather than creativity or wit) was the chief ingredient in your character name, you might become embarrassed of a character you enjoy or have a difficult time joining higher quality leagues and legions. Chances are such that SOE will have a paid character rename in short order, but by then the pool of names will be smaller. Why not pick a meaningful, intelligent name you’ll be proud of months down the line?
For those who do take naming seriously, nothing is as much of a killjoy as designing a character concept and costume only to find that the desired name is taken. DC fanatics have been planning their characters for months (and even years, based on some conversations I had at Comic Con 2010 so, at this point, it’s likely your first few choices are probably already taken. Don’t be discouraged by this. Instead, try long names that can easily be reduced to abbreviations or short names (for ease of chatting), breaking the name into two words, or using a thesaurus to find a different way to express the same name.
For example, I wanted to name my ice powerset archer Frostbite. Alternatives like Blizzard and Hailstorm were taken and Icicle and Hypothermia sounded too feminine, but Frost Bite was available. I actually like Frost Bite better since it’s sensibly abbreviated to FB for chat purposes, and you might even glue together a name you like better than the first name you had in mind.
Have other character creation tips to share? Tell us in the DCUO Ten Ton Hammer forums!