It has been a known for a while now that female gamers are becoming a force to be reckoned with in the online gaming market. In hopes of harnessing this emerging demographic, Sony Online Entertainment has been working hard to appeal to the female gamer and this has become a clear goal in the production of DC Universe Online. Tracey John talks with developers about what appealing to the ladies will mean for DCUO and for female players.
MTV Multiplayer: A few months ago, I spoke with John Smedly and he said that ÂDC Universe OnlineÂ is trying to be more female-friendly. Can you elaborate on that?
Creative Director Jens Andersen: Well, we definitely want to make sure that people can participate in the action. Obviously, itÂs a comic book game, right? So thereÂs a lot of punching and stuff like that. A lot of my friends play with their significant other or spouse, and they usually like to play the stuff thatÂs not so up-front combat-wise; they like to do the healing, the support, the buffing, and that sort of group management. So we made sure that we tried to make that more than just watching peopleÂs health bars on the side of the screen. It wasnÂt just playing the interface; it was actually still just playing the game. So our concepts for having the support people involved are very different from what other MMOs have.
And also, we donÂt have death in the game; we just have knock-outs so when you do Âdie,Â you can get right back up again and into the fight. So thereÂs less critical failure points for people who are more casual and arenÂt necessarily as into a hardcore of an experience. ItÂs a lot more forgiving in a lot of ways. And itÂs not a necessarily a male-female thing so to speak, but itÂs just what IÂve noticed when it comes to what characters females tend to gravitate to gameplay-wise as opposed to men.
Wonder Woman is in our game; sheÂs one of the most recognizable female characters in the world. So the appeal that we have as far as just female presence in the [intellectual property] is very large. The amount of customization that you get to do Â weÂre taking a lot of care in terms of like what types of characters and archetypes that women gravitate to when they play Â have the cute character, we have the motherly character, we have the sexy character Â all the different kind of traits you can kind of choose from and can identify with.
MTV Multiplayer: Have you had a lot of women try the game?
Andersen: We actually have a lot of female team members, but certainly, theyÂre outnumbered by the males on the team for sure. And since weÂre not in the open beta or anything like that, itÂs typically been skewed towards men but we do let people play our game at all the conventions that weÂve gone to. I would say that the response is both good from men and women that have played the game. And weÂre also live within the company, so there are a lot of females in the San Diego office that have played the game, too. and I think that theyÂve responded to it very well.
MTV Multiplayer: Do you find it challenging making a game thatÂs aimed at hardcore MMO gamers and the more casual gamer whoÂs just a big DC fan?
Andersen: This game is about the DC universe, bu itÂs not just about the DC universe fans. WeÂre not making specifically for that one gorup. WeÂre making it for everybody including that group. So we have to inlcude a lot of mainstream concepts. Like whatÂs the ideal version of Batman, right? ItÂs Bruce Wayne as Batman. If theyÂre writing a story in the comics where BatmanÂs back has been broken and itÂs actually this other guy playing Batman right now Â several people have actually played Batman Â it wouldnÂt be Harvey Dent as Batman. That doesnÂt make sense [for this game].
What weÂre trying to do is make a game that is for the action gamer and the MMO gamer. thereÂs a market there already, and what we want to do is bring a new take to the space. We want to make people that like playing that long-term game, we want them to not play the same game only with capes.
Senior producer Wes Yanagi: I think your question is also about function or usability as opposed to the design. Maybe ÂWorld of WarcraftÂ would be the best example Â people say itÂs easily accessible, right? And I think itÂs really because their usablilty at the early stages was really well done. If you took someoneÂs ÂWoWÂ character at level 70 Â even if they didnÂt use any interface add-ons and if it was just their default interface Â youÂd be overwhelmed because thereÂd be too many options. But what [Blizzard] did, they did a good job at gradually teaching you how to become an expert at that game. And I think that a lot of other games, especially MMOs, donÂt do that very well.
Andersen: You do need to teach people how to play your game early on. Product knowledge is really important Â to know whatÂs great and not great. But weÂre such a differet game fundametally [from "WoW"], like how you play moment-to-moment is completely different, how you team up with a player or tactically fight against another player because of the physics nature of our game, how you target things is completely different because weÂre not pointer-driven. So there are certain things that we canÂt take from them. But we can say overall, ÂHey they did a wonderful job in ramping players up on how to play their game.Â We should that. But how we do it is dependent on our game.