our first glimpses at DC Universe Online
Ten Ton Hammer has been panting like the fanboys we are to get some
details on this upcoming MMOG. Fortunately, Doctor Fate owed us some
favors and, therefore, he summoned Wes Yanagi, senior producer for DC Universe Online
to the Tower of Fate to answer our questions. Forcing Wes Yanagi to
choose between answering our questions or being locked in an enclosed
room with Ambush Bug, Wes Yanagi chose to answer our questions!
Ton Hammer: Ever since E3, we’ve been practically salivating
Universe Online and we have a lot of
questions to ask. For those people who have been under a rock or living
on a distant planet, what can you tell us about DCUO and what can they expect
when they play the game?
At its highest level,
massively multiplayer action game. The fantasy that we’re
trying to fulfill is you being able to create a superhero or
supervillain and build your own legacy in the DC universe.
How would players go about doing that? What sort of role do they play?
Are they sidekicks or are they their own superhero? Do they help out
the famous superheroes? What kind of cool things can they expect?
What we really want
to do is that hero’s journey, from zero to hero. Initially,
you’ll create your own superhero/supervillain.
You’ll choose what kind of powers you have, such as fire or
ice powers, and combine that with a power source like a rifle or dual
pistols. On top of that, you’ll add a super movement power
like super speed, flight, or acrobatics. From all of that,
you’ll be able to create practically any hero you have in
your mind’s eye and take them into the world and interact
with those iconic characters such as Superman, Batman, the Joker, Lex
Luthor, and many more.
When you say you start from zero to hero, does your character have any
sort of back story that you can give them or do you start out as Joe
Blow on the street who decides one day, “You know what? I
think I can do this!”
actually part of the game. That’s what we’re
initially launching with. We’re working really closely with a
bunch of DC writers like Geoff Johns and Marv Wolfman, and alongside
Jim Lee, who’s overseeing a lot of the art direction. In
fact, he’s the Executive Creative Director for the game. One
of the biggest challenges is explaining why all these superpowered
beings are suddenly appearing on the Earth, and that’s what
the initial story is all about.
That’s a very good plot point because that’s
something that we would have overlooked to ask: why are so many
superheroes all of a sudden. The fact that you’re going out
of your way to write a story about that is great.
it’s all going to fit in together.
Universe Online was confirmed to use a
subscription based model over this new free-to-play one that everyone
is getting hammered with. Why did you choose to go in that direction as
opposed to free-to-play?
At the end of the
day, we felt that this was the best decision to provide users with the
best experience. This is a game that is going to constantly grow and
change with monthly updates. We’re going to be adding new
missions, new adventures to uncover, new areas to explore, new rewards,
and new storylines so it’ll be constantly growing. In
addition to that, we want to provide really strong support to the live
community. We want to make sure that we ensure fairness, security, and
overall integrity of the game.
What I think is great is that the PS3 and the PC versions of the game
are being separated. A PS3 player will only be playing with PS3 people,
and a PC person will only be playing with PC people. Does this mean
that there’ll be a large difference in the actual games in
the way they’re played?
Independent of the
platform, we really wanted to deliver on the superhero fantasy and we
wanted to get that experience from launch in, and so all our decisions
and everything we decided upon, such as how the input works and how the
controls work, were bases upon these goals. At launch, they will be the
same game. That being said, we understand that there’s
differences between the two player bases in terms of how they
communicate and socialize, so moving forward, we’ll evaluate
the needs of each group and adjust accordingly.
How did you come up with that decision originally? Instead of combining
them, why not separate them?
Well, what I think it
really comes down to is the IP. What do you imagine yourself doing as a
superhero, and that’s driven the type of gameplay that
we’ve developed. It’s an action game.
It’s not like a typical MMOG that most people are used to
with kind-of turn based combat. It’s very visceral. We have a
lot of physics in the game, and you move around in the environment and
position yourself as well as launch your attacks and feel really
connected to the character. All of that has kind of wrapped into the
type of game that we’re building and that is kind of
independent of the platform.
So what you’re saying is that the actual process for
developing the game for both platforms is based upon the player base
you believe plays that particular platform? Like a PC player is
different from a PS3 player?
No, no, no.
Basically, we want to play an action game play experience that you can
play with lots of people. All of our decisions were based on that, and
that is separate from the platform.
Alright. Does developing a game for both platforms affect the overall
design and development process?
it’s affected through the input and the UI. Most PC players
play keyboard and mouse, and virtually all console players play with
controllers on the PS3. So, we had to spend a lot of time making sure
that they work well together. That you could support moving around the
world and firing off your powers. Instead of using hotkeys, we could
have all those controls available on your controller, even with little
things with the UI, such as how you enter text in the game, how you
communicate, or even how you navigate through menus.
Is it safe to say that that’s been the biggest challenge so
far to the game or has there been a bigger challenge in creating a game
in the DC universe?
I think that
that’s been kind of a layer on top of everything else. The
core of what we’ve spent years developing is the action
combat, making sure that it feels visceral and that it works really
well in a latency filled environment. A lot of what you saw at E3 was
running off our live servers in San Diego and it didn’t feel
like it was running in a latency filled environment there. The other
part of it is that we have a full physics simulation. One of the rooms
that we showed in the Joker’s Funhouse, we had thirty to
forty balls bouncing around the room and those were replicating over
the server to the client, so if you were in the room with somebody
else, you would both see the exact same thing being modeled. Bringing
that kind of action experience to this online experience is something
that we’ve spent a lot of time and is probably the biggest
challenge in making sure that it feels right.
Did you use your own proprietary engine for that or did you have
something that you could go off and help build that up?
using havoc for the physics and we built our own server on the back end
and we’re using Unreal on the client side.
This game is being pitched as an action-packed experience where players
are going to love beating the crap out of all sorts of things. How fast
paced is the game? Is it faster? Slower with more thought processed
combat? Is it a quick beat the crap out of somebody fast and then move
on type of game?
It plays like a third
person action game. We do have tactics in the game; a lot of it is
using the environment positioning something between you and your enemy
giving you something to hide behind or if they shoot at you, the
projectile will hit the object and not you. Or if you’re an
acrobat, climbing up the side of a wall and you can fire down on an
enemy that might not be able to get up to you. It’s all of
that, plus the visceral combat like, “If I push a button
once, I punch once. If I push a button twice, I start going into a
combo.” It feels like an action game you would expect on a