Champions Online: Nemesis and Omega Interview with Bill Roper

By Reuben Waters -

Ever since our Champions Online community site went live, the superhumans otherwise known as the Ten Ton Hammer staff have been diligently putting together an excellent collection of new player guides, but we also understand that many potential players are interested in hearing more about what type of high end content the game will feature. With that in mind, we recently sat down with Bill Roper to discuss what types of challenges await players with the Nemesis and Omega systems.

Ten Ton Hammer: You recently mentioned that the Nemesis system has returned to the beta, and I know that some aspects have changed a bit from when details first emerged last fall. Could you give our readers an overview of some of the tweaking and polishing that went into the system with the latest iteration?

Bill Roper: One of the big things we did is we lowered it from level 30 to 25, so we had to build the content to fit into those extra five levels. I think the biggest thing is that Nemesis really has gotten a lot more detailed and almost even cinematic in nature.

There are basically two types of missions you go on. One is what we call ‘popcorn’ missions that just kind of pop up anywhere. A lot of those would be ambushes, or you stumble across the minions of your nemesis doing something. Those tend to be driven more by the supporting cast that you build out for your nemesis.

Then there are also these challenge and showdown missions which are linked together. They’re very thematic, story-driven and hand-crafted to a very high degree. Within those there are a lot of different variations because we really designed them for a high amount of replayability. So certain missions you go on from challenges and showdowns, for example, they always feature your nemesis, and they’ll feature some of that supporting cast; not only the ones you’ve designed as assigned minions but also different villains that come up that are specific to the nemesis storyline that may float through parts of that whole storyline.

There are different things you’ll find, or different ‘Easter eggs’ that open on different maps depending on whether you’re going through solo, or whether you’ve got three people in your team or there are five people in your team. So there are chances for other things to happen on those maps. This encourages players to make a ‘nemesis gallery’.

When you go through and complete the storyline chain and arc that ends with putting your nemesis in Stronghold, the supervillain prison, you can then create another nemesis. It’s kind of like building out your own villain gallery of the villains you’ve made. Then as you go through another nemesis story arc it might have some of the same stories or you might have some different challenges and showdowns, but even if you get one that you’ve been on before there are different things that can happen on the map because there’s a lot of randomness inside of those maps.  So you might say, “Oh, I got this challenge or showdown again but I did that solo last time. I’ll be sure to take a team with me this time because I couldn’t get into that one area before” or “I’ve heard that there’s this cool thing that unlocks because I’ve got five players” So different villains could show up and that kind of stuff.

So a lot of it’s been putting that effort into having that randomization within the system, and having really highly crafted challenge and showdown stories that you’ll go through. I think it’s very telling that when the Nemesis guys handed it off to the sound and they saw some of the cinematic sequences – the in-game cinematics that happen in the personal storylines – they were like, “Oh man, these are like little movies!” They were really blown away with just how much work was put into them.

I’m really excited; I think the Nemesis challenges and showdowns are going to be very challenging and engaging instances for players. And the system itself is just so cool; I love the idea of being able to create a villain and then show it off to people.

I think the last part then is that we wanted to devise a system that was really fun, really engaging in and of itself at launch but then also gives us a huge foundation to be able to create new content post-launch. That’s part of the reason we want players to build up their nemesis gallery, so then we can start doing things where you have more than one nemesis so there can be new maps or missions that use that. Or if we have multiple players going into a map that all have nemeses we could do some things with that even, or whatever else we can think of past that.

I’d love to be able to have nemeses randomly appearing in other people’s missions. It would be cool to be fighting and say, “Oh wow, here’s a villain!” You’re used to fighting villains obviously but you know it’s a nemesis because they don’t play like any other villain in the game. So seeing that and then going, “Wow, who was I fighting?” and somebody else says, “Oh dude! That was my nemesis!” because they were on your team or something.

So there’s a lot of different things we can do to make the Nemesis system extensible in a lot of  different ways moving forward, but it was really important for us to have a really engaging and engrossing system in when the game launches and I think we’ve really accomplished that.

Ten Ton Hammer: You’ve mentioned that players can only have one ‘active’ nemesis at a time, but once they’ve been defeated will you be able to revisit them later on?

Bill Roper: We’ll definitely have ways you can reactivate nemeses where they break out of Stronghold and you’ve got to go stop them again. We know that players will want to be able to go back and revisit some of their old enemies which is the reason we wanted to have these galleries so that you won’t be making these villains that are just gone; they’re there to be used again and again as players want or as we come up with clever and evil ways to do so.

Ten Ton Hammer: You’ve been doing some pretty cool things with social networking so far. With the Nemesis galleries, will there be a place where players can go, for example a page on your website, to show off their various nemeses to other players?

Bill Roper: That’s an awesome idea. I don’t have any empirical knowledge of it, but I would not be surprised if the web team already has that kind of stuff planned. The Nemesis system uses the same kind of character data that your characters do when you show them off, so we should be able to do that with your nemeses as well. That’s probably something that, if they haven’t already started on, will be on their list of things to get done.

Ten Ton Hammer: How intuitive will the Nemesis system be overall? Will players be given in-game alerts or be prompted in some way when Nemesis missions become available?

Bill Roper: There’s tons of ways we let you know. There are Perks associated with Nemesis, so not only are they in your Perk chain, but you’re also getting notifications on-screen. We also use classic in-game missions with the question marks and exclamation points, and we even use your in-game email, so don’t be surprised if you get a piece of mail and it’s someone talking about your nemesis.

Once you’ve created a nemesis, we also bring the action to you by ambushing you with your nemesis’ minions and then sometimes when you defeat them, the minions might have clues that push you further down the story chain. So there are a lot of different ways we give you that push down what’s happening with Nemesis, keeping players easily informed.

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Ten Ton Hammer: One of the things I’ve really enjoyed about the game is the way many of the major systems and gameplay mechanics all link together in some way to form a cohesive experience. Do the Nemesis and Omega systems share that type of direct link at all, or are they wholly separate aspects of the game?

Bill Roper: They are mostly separate but we do have plans moving forward for how to tie those together to have some cool Omega/Nemesis stuff, although that’s more a case of being something for once we get out the door. I think the way that they’re the most directly linked is the fact that they’re both designed to be repeatable systems, so we anticipate players going through and doing a lot of the Omega stuff in a way that it’s something they’ll want to come back for every day and I think the Nemesis system is going to be the same way. But in terms of direct tie-ins between the two, I think that is definitely on the plate.

Ten Ton Hammer: Awesome. The Omega-class villains obviously played a large role in shaping major aspects of the Champions universe - for example Millennium City wouldn’t even exist if it weren’t for Doctor Destroyer. Is the Omega system in Champions Online built around that same notion of massive confrontations with some of the world’s most powerful villains?

Bill Roper: The idea behind the way the Omega system works is that, UNITY, which is an organization within the Champions IP that is basically the high end global threat response team. They’re an organization that looks at threats worldwide and the ones that are the most dangerous are the ones that UNITY finds out about, and has a superhero response team that they send out.

What we wanted to really do with that was to make sure that these were really fun, really challenging high end instance-based content, and kind of having that ‘global crime computer’ feel where they’re finding out what’s happening. Then once you’ve been invited in and accepted into UNITY which is really the best way to put it in terms of storyline, once you do that you can go to UNITY’s headquarters in a hidden area of Millennium City. Then there are basically five threats a day that have been identified, and those threats will change every day so there will be five different missions you can go on each day. When you complete those five missions you’ll be able to get a sixth which is a ‘higher-end’ mission.

As you’re completing these chains of missions you’re earning commendations within UNITY, and then you’re able to use those commendations - which is an alternate form of currency that you’re now able to use - to get special Omega rewards which will be gear and costume pieces or titles and some other things like that. And then you’ll also be able to use those commendations to get access to high level, repeatable lairs.

So the idea is that we wanted to make a system that changes every day, somewhat along the lines of daily missions. But as opposed to doing the same ones all the time or having them on timers or anything, every day there are five new missions that you can go on.

The thing that I like about it is the way that our mission tracker system works you can have up to 15 missions active at a time. So if I’m level 40 and I’m really not doing any other story missions in the game and I decide to go do some Omega missions, but say it’s a Thursday night and I’ve got to go to dinner with friends and family and things like that so I’m not going to be able to play but I know my friends are going to be on this weekend. I can go Thursday to UNITY and get the five missions and then the next day I can go and get Friday’s missions from UNITY and I can still do all 10, because they’re still in my mission tracker.

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This is something we wanted to do so that it’s a bit friendlier to players that don’t have the ability every single night to be playing. I know that there’s players who will do that, and that’s what the system was designed for is those high end players who will want to run these missions but maybe they’ll want to store up a couple of days. Then they can go do them all, so say it’s Friday night and you can say, “I’ve got both Thursday and Friday night’s, let’s go do those.” Then since the associated missions, that sixth mission is tied to the completion of the first five you’ll also be able to do that one.

Ten Ton Hammer: So you’re avoiding that kind of pressure where players feel like they have to complete something that same day once they’ve started it…

Bill Roper: Right, so even if you don’t have time to play you can pop in and grab the missions for later.

Ten Ton Hammer: The Omega system seems custom tailored for being able to host live events as well. Are there any plans for events that might be linked to the system, or at least possible as future content?

Bill Roper: Probably possible for the future, but we don’t necessarily have anything planned on day one. We can definitely do events but I think the hardest thing for us with doing them is doing anything that’s a “live event”. With the way our system’s set up you can be in areas that have multiple instances, so you can have different instances of Millennium City or even different tiers of Millennium City, so it’s hard for us to say, “Hey everybody – come to Millennium City!” because we don’t know which version of Millennium City you might be in.

But definitely the system is set up for us to be able to do things like setting events that happen after specific amounts of time, or happen daily or that kind of thing, and I think that’s something we’ll be able to do a lot of really fun stuff with.

Ten Ton Hammer: Going back to the Omega system then, is there an overarching progression apart from the daily mission chain that might be comparable to traditional end game raiding where you might need to defeat a certain villain or complete a given challenge in order to progress to another, more difficult one? Or is the system built to be more dynamic in terms of what path you choose to follow?

Bill Roper: There’s definitely both, so I think we’ll have a nice mix between the two.

Ten Ton Hammer: Awesome. Then shifting gears a bit I wanted to briefly touch on costume slots in-game. Will players be able to open up or unlock additional costume slots through normal play, or is the focus more on having a base costume that you create up front and then continue to add to or tweak as you progress?

Bill Roper: There are definitely more costume slots that will open up. A couple of weeks ago that’s one of the things that came up where we were like, “Hey! We’ve never turned on the rest of the costume slots!” in our beta, right? But everything’s been built in terms of, yes there are more costume slots and this is when you get them, so it’s all in our master rewards table of when players get them; we just didn’t turn it on yet. That’s one of those challenges of development when you’ve got a game that’s so big and has so many moving parts. Literally twice a week we have meetings where we go over the list of these things and then assign them out to make sure they get addressed, and costume slots was one of those things.

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So yes, there will definitely be more costume slots available. I think one of those things that’s really fun is that when you’re making a hero, being able to say here’s my costume that I wear every day, here’s my cool battle armor version or here’s my ‘golden age’ costume. Players, I think, like to have all of those different costumes they can drop into. I know I did tons of that in the ‘City of’ games so we’ll be sure you have that same possibility.

Ten Ton Hammer: Is the plan to still have costumes linked to swapping out different builds, so that you have the option to swap into a different costume when you change builds?

Bill Roper: Yep, you can definitely still do that; it is a part of that build screen so if you want to you can also assign a costume.

Ten Ton Hammer: Sounds great. Thanks for taking the time to answer our questions!

Bill Roper: You bet!
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