Champions Online Powers Interview #1 - Gadgeteering, Munitions, and Archery

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Character creation is a vital portion of any MMO. Whether you’re just naming your character or – if you’re like Champions Online – specifically customizing every piece of equipment down to the codpiece, it’s incredibly important to nail the player’s sweet spot. One of the most critical elements of the Champions Online creation scenario is the selection of the super hero’s powers and deciding whether they’re dishing out fiery blasts or sucking the life out of their enemies.

To help the player’s decide, Ten Ton Hammer has scheduled a number of exclusive interviews with Cryptic Studios’ Bill Roper focusing specifically on the various powers that players can choose from. We started with three “implement-wielding” power sets – Gadgeteering, Munitions, and Archery – and we’ll continue to expand this list as the weeks go on. For now, settle in and enjoy a look at these upcoming powers in Champions Online.

Ten Ton Hammer: The three power sets that we’re covering in this interview - Gadgeteering, Munitions, and Archery - all seem thematically similar. For someone that hasn’t played the pen-and-paper version of Champions or been able to check out the beta test, what are the differences between those three power sets?  

Bill Roper: Thematically, you’re right; they are all very similar. In fact, Archery was originally part of the Gadgeteering set – it was a few powers within that power set – but the players in the beta told us that they wanted to be able to build a whole archer. So we decided to fill that out into an entire power set.

Obviously the Archery set is oriented around ranged combat, but there’s a diversity in the power set as well. You get lots of different arrow types, and you’ll see everything that you’d expect from a super hero archer – penetrating and sonic and energy blasts. It’s the very strong, four-color, archetypal archer set.

But we wanted to make it that way, and make it a very strong heroic theme for a character. Every major comic universe has their archers in it, but the existence of the Archery power set is in direct response to what we heard from the beta players.

In terms of Munitions, it is very much for those players that want to make the type of hero that has that complete arsenal. If you want to make a high-end, special ops, military type character…

Ten Ton Hammer: Someone like the Punisher?

Roper: Yeah, or maybe a character that is a super soldier with a whole diversity of high-tech weaponry. Also, Munitions is a good power set for those folks that are looking for the “Gunslinger” type of classes, especially with the different types of weapon replacements you can get in the game so you can wield six-shooters or shotguns. You could even make an entire “cowboy” outfit if you wanted to.

Munitions is also one of those powersets that will be fairly usable across the different power sets. On top of that, a lot of the NPC enemies in the game use a stripped down version of the Munitions power set. For example, street gangs are definitely going to use a lot of Munitions powers. That isn’t just limited to Munitions though, a lot of our enemies use stripped down PC powers.

The Munitions set, however, is very broad ranging and really helps us populate the world and also allows players to make a variety of different hero types, although I imagine anti-heroes will definitely be drawn to this power set.

Ten Ton Hammer: What about Gadgeteering?

Roper: Gadgeteering is more along the lines of one of those “mad tinker” character types. There are a lot of pet powers you can use in that power set. That’s everything from robots to attack toys.

That’s actually one of the crazier Gadgeteering powers. You basically have constructed these attack toys, so you can adventure through the world as this wild toy master. Some of the toys include helicopters and little soldiers.

There’s also an experimentation ray, which is this wacky looking ray gun that does a de-buff on your enemies but also has a chance that there’ll be a sort of side effect. An example of that would be actually shrinking your enemies.

Really, the Gadgeteering powers are really going to encompass a lot of the less serious, more tongue-in-cheek sort of powers. It’s really just a crazy mélange of the “everything else” that isn’t encompassed or doesn’t thematically fit with a lot of the other “gadgety” power sets. It’s a big catch-all, and that’s why there are so many different types of powers and/or pets in this power set.

Ten Ton Hammer: Out of the three, I was going to mention that Gadgeteering seemed the least focused of the odd man out. Are you planning on splitting off additional powers from this power set similar to what you did with Archery?

Roper: Probably not, because in the Champions pen-and-paper game, Gadgeteering is really a giant pool of powers. In the tabletop version, anything that your hero constructs it’s dubbed a “gadget.” Even something like Iron Man’s armor would have been considered a “gadget,” so the depth of the power set was enormous. The pen-and-paper game is much more complex in that players actually have to build their powers from scratch; it’d be like us giving players the dev power tool.

But that required a lot of number crunching and was too complex for our game. So instead of having everything fall under Gadgeteering, we pulled out some of the more thematic parts of the set – like power armor and Archery – but we stil wanted to have that large pool of powers for players to draw from. The things we left in were pretty broad based and didn’t really have a separate theme that we wanted to flesh out.

Ten Ton Hammer: Will players focusing on Munitions powers be able to get bigger guns through power replacements or something like that?

Roper: There are power replacers that fall in the Munitions set, there’s actually a large number of them. What happens is that you keep the same power that you have, but you’re augmenting that power based on the item that you’ve found or crafted. And sometimes this means that you’re actually replacing a particular item with the geometry of another item.

So for example, you might normally have a Munitions power that looks like you’re wielding a 9mm Beretta, but you can get a power replacer that looks like a six-shooter. In fact, there may be a whole set of power replacements that have a Western or “cowboy” theme around them. Or you might have a high-end special ops set or a street thug set.

The cool part about this segment is that you will always be able to choose the look of your character, despite the items that may drop. So even if you find something with terrific bonuses, you can still use the look you had before. You may be a modern gunslinger – like something from the Matrix – but an item drops that makes your guns look like a six-shooter. So you can equip that six-shooter, but we won’t force you to make a cosmetic change. You’ll still get all of the bonuses associated with that item you found without changing your look. And once you’ve unlocked a particular look, you’ll always have access to it, even if you don’t have a particular item anymore.

The only time that we ever “force” a look is if there’s something in the storyline or scenario that would require a player to disguise themselves or wield particular weapons.

Ten Ton Hammer: Are the power replacements easy to come by in the game? Will players be able to make a particular look easily?

Roper: There are some that you can get initially, but then there are others that are part of special rewards and still others are crafted. These tend to be rarer items, but the “best looking” or “super coolest” items are the ones that you obviously have to do the most work for.

But you can definitely collect them all.

Ten Ton Hammer: We haven’t talked much about Archery yet. Since this power set was really fleshed out from existing powers in the Gadgeteering power set, is there really enough powers in the set to create a fully fleshed out, thematic archer?

I mean, when you think about Hawkeye or Green Arrow, their powers are pretty limited. They have a variety of different arrows, and that’s it. Did you really have enough there to work with?

Roper: There’s definitely a lot of different types of arrows that are used in Archery. There are also different ways that the bow is fired.  For one attack you might fire one arrow while another attack you’ll fire a volley that does an area effect.

That said, even if you were building a particularly thematic character, you’d probably dip into some other power sets.

Ten Ton Hammer: Like if a person was developing a samurai sort of archer, they might fire arrows until the enemy gets close and then pull out a sword.

Roper: Right. Or players might give them hand-to-hand combat powers. Or anything else that they think fits with their theme.

Ten Ton Hammer: Finally, are you ever going to entertain player-generated powers in the game? Maybe have a contest with the players and have them put together a particular power that you can implement in the game?

Roper: I think that most of the powers we’ve implemented that come from players have been due to feedback we’ve received from the beta test. Mostly these are suggestions on powers that are already there or wanting to add a particular type of effect to a power that we then flesh out.

The area that we’ve seen this the most is really in the travel powers. Swinging was something that players wanted to see for a long, long time, and we put in a lot of effort to make that work.

That said, I think the way we could implement something like this is through players creating an overarching idea rather than actually trying to figure out the mechanics of particular powers. The mechanics system in Champions is amazingly complex, and it blows me away on what the programmers and the designers can get the powers to do. It’s amazing.
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