Champions Online Powers Interview #3 - Ice, Fire, and Electricity
The standard four-color comic book has its essential powers. You need your super-strong individual, a toon that can be acrobatic in some way, a foxy super heroine, and the brash individiaul that wields the book's elemental forces. In our continuing series of power-focused interviews with Cryptic Studio's Bill Roper, the Ten Ton Hammer staff grilled the Champions Online developer on the Ice, Fire, and Electricity power sets. Keep reading to see his answers, including whether or not "Earth" is ever going to be in the elemental set!
Ten Ton Hammer: The elements are kind of like the "standard" super hero powers for any universe - you've got your Iceman, Sandman, Human Torch, and lots of others. What did you do in Champions Online to make player heroes stand out but also give them a traditional sort of feel?
Bill Roper: I think because we've always been trying to strive for that four-color comic appeal in an MMO for, all of those examples you gave are perfect for what we're trying to strike. Obviously characters within the Champions Universe and player heroes will use those elemental powers, and really what we wanted to be able to do is really play off of how those powers work with other powers that you may have and any sort of special effects they might produce.
With Fire for example, we make sure that there's this synergy within the Fire power set so the more you use your fire powers, the more they all work together. For instance, the fire powers build endurance whenever you're around enemies that are on fire or generally around fire. Another interesting one is the synergy with electricity and how it has a chance to do a negative ion charge which basically means that the next time you do an electrical attack there's a chance it might arc to an additional enemy.
So basically all our powers have things built into them that if you elect to stay within that power set you get a different side benefit to those powers. That's where the uniqueness of our power sets come in. We're sticking to the traditional powers in fire, ice and electricity, but we're then giving you an added bonus in how those powers interact with each other.
Ten Ton Hammer: What gameplay archetypes do the elemental powers fall into. Are they all ranged DPS oriented? Or are there some powers within Fire, Ice, and Electricity that are more melee-focused, maybe in the DPS or Tank areas?
Roper: There's definitely a broad range of powers. There's offensive powers, defensive powers, ranged powers, point-blank AOE powers, and we even do things where you can take certain elemental powers and apply them to weapons. For example, you could have claws that are electrically charged. In this way, you can build a lightning martial artist that has a lightning shield and uses hand-to-hand attacks but has that with lightning powers tied in.
We tried to allow players to have powers that aren't just tossing lightning bolts or doing ranged DPS. We give you a lot of ways to change it up.
Ten Ton Hammer: In our initial powers preview, our writer was amazed that you had gone out of your way to make each of the elemental tracks unique. You weren't just doing Ice Blast, Fire Blast, Electricity Blast. Was this always your intention or was it something that came up during beta?
Roper: We definitely wanted to make sure that there was a big difference in the powers. We didn't want Fire to work exactly the same as Ice or Electricity, albeit blue-white-and-icy or yellow and sparky. We wanted to have different ways of how they work as well, and I think the best way to put it is "secondarily" in that each of the elements has its own little effects.
We wanted to have - as best that we could - all the different power sets have a different feel, flavor and gameplay mechanics - both primarily and secondarily.
Ten Ton Hammer: Do each of the three elements have key points to them? Like you mentioned that fire does some damage over time - do all the powers have something like that? Is that something that all the fire powers have? Or is that just something that only one or two powers in the fire set have?
Roper: It definitely is something - for the most part - that is across the powers. Obviously this isn't the case for all of them, but most powers have this secondary thematic element. With fire, if you catch things on fire it can spread. With electricity, it's the negative ions where you're setting up to arc your powers to secondary, and possibly even tertiary, targets.
Ten Ton Hammer: Out of the three elements, Ice seems to be the most variable in term of usage that we see in comic books. There are options for it to become a shield, slide, ice construct, etc. in the comics. Are all of those power options available for players to pick up?
Roper: One of our big focuses when building powers is to give players a diversity of powers that they can use to build a theme from each of the various power sets. For example, you can take ice slide as a power specifically, so we tried to take some of those big thematic elements and implement them into the powers. Fire has the same thing in terms of fiery flight where you light on fire and there's a fire trail behind you as you fly. I also think we were doing electrical teleport, or something along those lines.
Blocking powers, buffing powers, we wanted to give all of these power sets these different aspects in each. I don't think we have a summonable in each power set, because we separated summonables out into different power sets because it's such a different gameplay mechanic. It was odd to just kind of paste summonables on into the power sets at the end just for the heck of it.
However, there are all sorts of powers that we may release post launch and give every one of those powers a summonable creature, like an ice golem or a fire sprite. That's the cool thing about this game, we can continually add powers into the game. Like, we might decide to one day create a batch of summonables for players to use.
That said, there are a bunch of different powers and abilities in each power set that provide you with both offensive and defensive categories, along with a number of other elements.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there power replacers specifically for the elements? We've talked about power replacers a lot in the last interview, and I was just wondering if there were things that could "alter the geometry" of the element powers? Maybe altering the looks of the powers or the way characters go through animations or something like that?
Roper: Not as much in the direct powers that way, but one of the things that is available is the ability to take elements and apply them to weapons. You can attach fire or electricity or ice to weapons, and that's spread across all the melee weapons. Again, if I want to make an ice-based character because I like Ice Form, but if I want him to be melee oriented I can just stick in some of he martial arts schools and use ice as power replacers for all my melee weapons.
Even on the normal attacks, there's this kind of "swoosh" trail behind it that's colored, and I can go in and change that color.
Ten Ton Hammer: After playing through some of the beta sessions, it's becoming apparent that each power set has a variable amount of powers that it includes. For people that aren't in beta, are the elemental power sets fairly robust? Gadgeteering obviously has a lot in it, but are the elemental sets anywhere near as large?
Roper: I think gadgeteering is such a catch all that it's definitely the biggest out of them all. It would be like us creating one general elemental power set and cramming all the elements into it at once.
That said, I do think each of those power sets is really big and really full. The goal was to allow players to be able to simply make fire or ice or electrical characters, and I think we were able to do that. We wanted characters that could remain within their power set and really be able to succeed within one alone.
Ten Ton Hammer: Oddly enough, "earth" or "soil" seems to be the one element that has been left off the list. Do you have any plans to include this in the future? Eventually be able to make our own little Captain Planet team?
Roper: It's funny that you mention that, because every day we have an email within the company that tells us the new stuff that's gone into the game, and even though we don't have the full earth power set, we did want to include it as a travel power. So, I just received this email and it had a screenshot of a guy riding around on a flying chunk of earth. It looks awesome.
I think in the future we may have a full earth power set, simply because there are some players that are talking about it now but we don't want to put a full one in just yet.
Ten Ton Hammer: Is there anything else that you think is really striking about the elemental power sets?
Roper: The elemental set is striking both visually and in the sense that you can really build a character within these power sets and make really cool characters that have very interesting mechanics. When you stay within the power sets, you get very interesting synergies and you can build great characters that feed off those strengths. Even if you blend them together, you still get something with an "elementalist" sort of feel in the end.