Champions Online: Jack Emmert Interview from GenCon Indy '08
The folks at Cryptic Studios have had a busy week, what with announcing Star Trek Online and covering two significant fan events. And none have been busier than Director of Creative Development Jack Emmert, who delivered the STO announcement with none other than Leonard Nimoy, then changed hats to come spread the good word about Champions Online at Gen Con. We caught up with the super hero games guru to learn what we could about the new mechanic revealed in Champions Online, "pick up and throw", and also gather a few juicy clues about the next big thing on the development horizon. And, if we can take him at his word, we should see a busy ramp-up for this visually compelling comic book MMO leading up to its 2009 release.
How many years has it been at GenCon for you?
I think seven or eight. I haven’t really sat down and thought about it, so I’m not sure how many I’ve been at.
This seems like it would be your event.
Yes, this is my event. You can guarantee that as long as I have a say in it, Cryptic will be here with whatever we’ve got. These are the best gamers in the world, and its a great place to reach out to them. I’d like to think that Cryptic’s MMOs offer something to RPG players maybe above and beyond the normal, maybe because it’s in our blood; it’s in our souls.
What’s the buzz for Champions here at GenCon? What are you showing here that we haven’t seen before?
Pick up and throw. Everybody was wondering ‘When are we going to get that?’ - we’d mentioned it but we’ve never shown it before. We’re still working on the animations and getting everything right, but you can pick up stagecoaches, barrels, crates, bales of hay, trash bins - that’s one of my favorites.
We saw a few movable objects at media day, but they were just for show. These thrown objects cause damage as well?
Could we talk a moment about customization in Champions, I imagine it’s something you’ve carried forward from City of Heroes.
Yup, it’s from City of Heroes - we learned how successful a game can be if we just give players options. And people may forget - or maybe they haven’t, I don’t know - in an MMO, that had never been done before. Nobody gave players those customization opportunities right off the bat. Quite frankly, we’re going to continue to do that, and we’ll do that in Star Trek as well.
Would you explain what you’re doing with the character development skill system in Champions? It’s not a class based system like we’re used to, is it?
You’ll level up, and as you level up you’ll get access to things and spend points in that fashion. So you’ll have a certain amount of points to buy power advantages, a certain amount of points to buy powers every level. It might not all be the same economy; in other words, it might not all be hero points in Champions. We might be breaking it up between, you know, these are your talent points, these are your power and advantage points, these are your powers points, but we’re still working on that.
There are no distinct classes; pick any skill you want. We’ve got a really cool methodology that takes the place of classes that we haven’t discussed yet. I’m really excited; I can’t wait to show it off. I think it’s something off-the-wall that hasn’t been tried before. It’s a twist on something that’s familiar.
But it will allow players to see what potential groupmates have complementary skills?
Yes. Oh yea.
Moving on to Champions Online’s much more active combat system and its extremely lavish support of the X360 controller [even on a PC], do you foresee that players will have to rely on voicechat?
I’m hoping not, no. We put effort into the controller and effort into the keyboard. And, hey, PC and MMORPGs - well, that’s like peanut butter and jelly. So, of course, we’ve got a full chat system. Voice is just something that might augment the experience. It’s an alternative, but we don’t want it to replace old-fashioned chatting.
I can see that the different areas that we saw on media day, Stronghold and Snake Gulch, are now tied together along with other areas like them and that the game is very much playable. It’s worth noting that while other superhero games focus on just a single urban environment, Champions spans the entire world...
Yea, I even looked at DC and its metropolis, it’s Gotham City, right? And that’s great. But as I said or I think I said, we did that game. We did City of Heroes. We loved the fans, loved the community. But now we want to make a game that captures a wider scope, I guess I’d say. Justice League, Avengers, they’re going everywhere, and that’s really what I wanted to hit in this game.
In closing, would you share the development status of Champions Online with us?
It’s in full production, chugging along. Content complete is within sight - that isn’t saying when, that’s saying ‘within sight.’ The great thing is, Champions works. I can play from home today. We work long and hard at Cryptic to lay the foundation that we can build games on, so we’ve got a ship date of next year and we’re going to hit it because the game works today. Now it’s a matter of adding flashy elements that make the game even better, like pick up and throw.
Our thanks to Mr. Jack Emmert and Cryptic Studios for their time during a very busy weekend at GenCon Indy 2008.