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DC Universe Online Hands-On PvP Preview from Comic-Con

Posted Mon, Jul 27, 2009 by Cody Bye

Super hero MMOs are a tricky business. Unlike their fantasy brethren, the realm of super heroes is often very black and white: the good guys are very good and the bad guys are very bad. Their conflict is at the forefront of every issue, and even when the panel writers begin turning an artistic flair, the battle between the forces of good and evil still remains an ever-present figure.

For comic book MMOs, finding that PvP sweet spot is an absolute priority. While I was attending San Diego’s Comic-Con International ’09, I had the chance to take a swing at Sony Online Entertainment’s player versus player encounters in their upcoming super hero online game known as DC Universe Online. Unlike previous demos that the SOE team has run, Comic-Con’s entertainment was focused squarely on providing fans with quick spurts of (what appeared to be) high level PvP action, which was a different tact than what reporters and fans had seen previously in the quest walkthrough. To make sure all of my details and impressions were accurate, I grabbed DCUO developer Wes Yanagi to answer some of my questions whenever I was confused.

Before I jumped onto one of the available SOE machines at Comic-Con (all of which were constantly packed with eager participants), I took a few minutes to simply observe the game as played by others. The pace was fast, the combat was over-the-top, and the fights were frenetic. Explosions and earth-shaking effects were appearing at every turn. The heroes and villains were divided into three-on-three pairings with two “boss” NPCs also engaging in the fight. Depending on which encounter you were running, you had the potential to run up against Superman, Green Lantern, Batman, Lex Luthor, Bizzaro, Joker or Sinestro among others. According to developer Wes Yanagi, this PvP encounter was created specifically for Comic-Con and probably wouldn’t make it into the finished game, but was built to recreate the sort of PvP action players might see in the finished product.

Another notable aspect of this year’s Comic-Con was the fact that the DCUO PvP battle was being fought on both PCs and PS3s, making DC Universe the first MMO to successfully integrate an MMO experience into a next-gen console. While Yanagi still couldn’t confirm whether we would see PS3s and PC users being able to share the same world at launch, the fact that the demonstration at Comic-Con was achieving that type of gameplay showed that the potential will certainly be there. On that note, I grabbed the first open PS3 controller I could find and immediately set to work wreaking havoc upon my foes.

Unfortunately, I’m not a huge console gamer, so it took me a few minutes to really get the feel for the title on a gamepad. The general lack of precision there is while trying to target characters with a control stick rather than a mouse was disconcerting at first. Targeting, from what I could extrapolate and what I was told, is done in one of two ways with a controller. You can either turn on a sort of “soft target” mode where your attacks generally fly towards the nearest enemy to your targeting reticule (center of the screen) within a certain distance (no fiery curveballs from these heroes), or you can go into more of a hard target manual mode, that allows you to stick on one enemy to keep him locked into your display. With the controller, this was achieved through holding down one of the L or R buttons and cycling through your targets with the right control stick. There may be other ways to target your enemies in DCUO, but I couldn’t explore every option during my limited time with the demo.

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