Heroism Denied! The Failure of DCUO’s Character Creator

After much anticipation, I logged into DCUO for the first time with multiple character concepts in mind, but then I encountered the game’s pitiful character creator. Read about DCUO’s utter failure of character creation.

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you think of a superhero, what’s the first thing that
comes to mind? Is it their origin? Their secret identity? Their powers?
The answer is usually no. The first thing that enters a
person’s brain when you mention a superhero is their costume.
The costume of a hero or villain serves as their identity, their
superpowered fingerprint if you will. Naturally, a superhero-themed
MMOG will allow for the greatest possible flexibility when creating
your hero’s costume. Both href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/140"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
and style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online
have robust costume creators, so href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/dcuo"> style="font-style: italic;">DC Universe Online,
being the latest and greatest, should up the ante. Sadly, that is not
the case. Like an evil plot by Darkseid or the utter futility of Ambush
Bug, the costume creator in style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
is disgraceful.

Before I start my rant, let me digress for a second so that you can
more easily understand my rage. I love superheroes and comic books. I
grew up reading Batman, Superman, Alpha Flight, the X-Men, the
Question, Magnus Robot Fighter, and many, many more. In fact, I learned
to read from comic books (my dad used to read me Donald Duck comics as
a kid and he would go over the words with me), so to say that I have
had a long love affair with comics is stating it mildly. While I no
longer collect comics (things like property taxes get in the way), I
still love the genre so it’s a no-brainer that I would play
comic-themed MMOGs. I’ve played for years with style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes,
then Champions
, and now I entered the
world of DC
Universe Online

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alt="dcuo" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/100025">

The graphics quality is
impressive, but the lack of true customization is appalling.

Out of all the comic book companies I patronized over the years, my
favorite was easily DC. The heroes in DC were heroes because it was the
right thing to do, the honorable thing. They saw evil afoot in the
world and they felt compelled to do something about it. These mighty
titans were not the sniveling, navel-gazing whiners of Marvel, no sir!
They didn’t put on the costume because of some angst or
emotional guilt; they donned the mantle because good must stand and
confront evil. The ultimate example of this philosophy is, of course,
Superman. He could be ruler of the world if he wanted or use his powers
for self-gain, but he does not. He only seeks to serve and by doing so,
serves as the pinnacle of the superhero creed.

I became hooked on DC when they published the original Crisis on
Infinite Earths when they shook up the cluttered universe that defied
rational continuity. From there I branched into the multiple Batman
titles, then Action Comics when it went weekly for a bit. I loved the
Justice League, Hitman, John Constantine, Preacher, Sandman, Arion:
Lord of Atlantis, Green Arrow, and tons of other titles. I read Marvel,
Dark Horse, Gold Key, and other comic companies, but DC was my true

The rush of joy when I finally got my chance to enter style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
was even more pronounced as that I was forced to wait after the
game’s launch to begin my DC-themed do-gooding. Nefarious
plots such as car repair bills and Sony being hacked delayed my entry
into the world of Metropolis and Gotham.

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alt="dcuo" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/100027">

The Bane-inspired costume
looks damn cool, but remember to color within the lines!

Whenever I start a character, I usually have a concept in mind. I
don’t necessarily min/max my character and I’ll
make some odd choices, in the eyes of power gamers, because those
choices fit my concept. I sometimes have to make an exception to my
concept based on what the game provides, but I normally stay close to
my idea. Sadly, style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
takes a lot of those choices away from me.

Overall, DCUO
has 10 steps in their character creation process. Let’s take
a look at each and see how they measure up. Remember, style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online
is two years old and style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
just celebrated its seventh year of operation. Therefore, style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
could have built on what went before and created an even greater
character creator, but they didn’t. The one aspect that is
superior in style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
is the detail of the graphics. Everything looks beautiful, but who
cares if you’re not running around with the character you

DCUO Character Creation

1: Choose a gender.
problems here.

2: Choose a build.
You have
the choice of three builds: large, medium, and small. Is that it? No
slider to make a freakishly tall or short person? What if I wanted to
play a hero similar to the Atom? Both style="font-style: italic;">COH
and CO
allow you to modify your height. style="font-style: italic;">CO
even allows you to make a fat character if you wish. I guess every hero
and villain in style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
have a really good gym membership. Not having the basic tools to modify
your character’s body type is pathetic in this day and age.

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alt="dcuo" src="http://www.tentonhammer.com/image/view/100028">

Am I creating a hero or
ordering a soda?

3: Choose a template.
you choose to fully customize your character’s costume,
weaponry, powers, and such or you can choose a specific hero or villain
to emulate. I call this the lazy method, but it is handy for those who
want to quickly create a character based upon a specific hero or
villain. If you choose to emulate somebody, you are automatically
assigned everything from steps 4 through 9. For those of us with some
imagination, we press onward.

4: Choose morality.
Here is
the step where you choose hero or villain. There’s nothing
special to be found here.

5: Choose personality.
there is no controversy here. Your character’s personality
affects some emotes, but has no impact upon combat.

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alt="city of heroes"

In City of Heroes (and
Champions Online), you can randomize your
costume just to see what the game throws at you. DCUO doesn't give you
that option.

6: Choose a mentor.
choice of mentor determines the origins of your powers (tech, meta, or
magic) and the categories of weapons and armor allowed. Right off the
bat, your first big choice is a limiting one. Choose one way and you
limit access to certain items. Character creation should be about
options and choices, not limits.

7: Choose power.
Here is
where you choose your power and character creation goes off the rails.
You’re given a number of choices, but no real information on
any of the powersets. What powers become available at higher levels?
Since you forced to stay within that powerset, your choice becomes
crucial. There ain’t no mixing of powers from different
powersets here! Both style="font-style: italic;">CO
and COH
allow you to view the various powersets and what powers become
available later on. Why doesn’t style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
offer you the same courtesy? Epic fail.

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alt="champions online"

Knowing what powers you can
choose? The madness of Champions Online!

8: Choose movement power.

There are only 3 movement powers to be found in style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
for character creation: flight, super speed, and acrobatics. I guess
there’s no teleportation in the DC universe now. While there
are only 3 travel powers (which is kind of sad), at least you start off
the game with it. It’s sad that style="font-style: italic;">COH
and CO
both have more travel powers to choose from.

9: Choose a weapon.
In this
step, you’re basically choosing how you’ll attack
in melee and ranged. Once again, there is no more information on what
abilities you can learn later on as you level. If I’m doing
melee, but want some ranged, what is the best choice? I don’t
know as that I can’t look at what I can get down the road! It
seems that you have to practically design your character beforehand by
using the home site of style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
or other fansites that have all the abilities listed. It almost feels
like you have to study for a big test as opposed to messing around with
the options and seeing what works best and what appeals to you. style="font-style: italic;">DCUO’s
shame grows even more.

10: Make your costume.
is the final shame of style="font-style: italic;">DCUO’s
character creation process. On the surface, it looks like that
there’s a lot of options, but that’s not really the
case. Most of the costume pieces are variations of tights with some
armor pieces thrown in.

Take hair for example. You have to choose a hairstyle and facial
features together. Want an afro with old Western moustache?
You’re out of luck. You can’t choose a specific
hairstyle and then a totally different facial feature such as beards,
moustaches, scars, etc. Accessories? Don’t even think about
it! Want to wear some armored pads on your thighs? Have a cool belt of
knives slung across your chest? Well, don’t look here because
it ain’t going to happen.

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alt="champions online"

CO has body options,
unlike the generic soda options in DCUO.

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alt="champions online"

You can choose a variety
of features just for your head alone in Champions Online.

Basically, what we’re left with is some tights and armor,
with a few minor other pieces of costumes for us to mix and match.
You’re incapable of adding little flourishes that you can in style="font-style: italic;">COH
and CO,
both of which are older games. What options the game have look damn
good, but I would rather have more options to outfit my superhero and
look slightly less detailed in the old pixel department. Hell, there
isn’t even a randomizer (as can be found in both style="font-style: italic;">CO
and COH)
for you to see what mash-ups the game can throw at you. All you have is
some specific looks inspired by certain heroes and villains. I guess
the creators of the game never heard the old saying that variety is the
spice of life.

Overall, DCUO
fails in the central tenet of any superhero MMOG, which is that you
should be able to design a really cool looking character that will
stand out from the teeming hordes. A superhero’s outfit is
his uniform and it is what makes him unique. Both style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
(7 years old) and style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online
(2 years old) recognized this. style="font-style: italic;">DC
Universe Online
should have used them as a base and expanded from there, but they
didn’t. Instead, they took a few steps backwards. Was this
because the game was designed for the PlayStation console? I
don’t know, but style="font-style: italic;">DCUO
had a real opportunity to become the standard for superhero MMOGs, but
like a wrapped gift from the Joker, it blew up in our faces.

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