CO: Exclusive Interview on Sidekicks, Super Groups and Supervillains
less than a month to go before the September 1st launch of Champions Online
and the open beta just around the corner, interest in the latest MMOG
from Cryptic Studios is at an all time high. We’ve learned
many interesting details on everything from power sets to PvP in Ten
Ton Hammer’s series of exclusive interviews
with Bill Roper, but we were also curious to learn more about grouping
opportunities in the game which is exactly what we set out to discover
in our most recent discussion.
Ten Ton Hammer: It’s inevitable that even superbeings are going to fall in battle from time to time. Could you give our readers an overview of how death or defeat is handled in Champions Online?
Bill Roper: What we wanted to do is really push the heroic aspects. As heroes go out and fight, they build up what are known as Hero Stars, which are represented as part of your hero’s portrait. Every time you gain a star you’re actually gaining a bonus to your overall character’s combat efficacy and abilities. You can gain up to 5 of these stars simply by going out and adventuring, completing quests and defeating villains. When you die you lose one of the stars.
You start out at a baseline which is your character’s normal ability level, and from there you earn these bonuses. So the penalty for being defeated then is losing those bonuses, or that momentum that you’ve built up.
Ten Ton Hammer: What options do players have then upon being defeated? For example, do you simply respawn at a set location or are you able to select where to respawn at all?
Bill Roper: You do respawn at set locations unless you have a hero with you that has the ability to bring you back up right there using one of the resurrection powers.
Ten Ton Hammer: Cool. Could you give us an overview of how the Sidekick system works?
Bill Roper: You can basically select any hero in the world and then right click on their portrait once you have them targeted to bring up the sidekick option. Essentially what you’re doing is setting one of you as the ‘champion’ for the group, which then allows you to either sidekick down or sidekick up from there; so by setting the group’s champion, that sets the sidekicking level. So if I’m a level 22 hero and I’ve got a friend who’s a level 12 hero, he can either sidekick up to my level or I can sidekick down to his level. That allows me to go through content with him, or he can go through content with me at my level.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any set level restrictions on who you’re able to sidekick in either direction?
Bill Roper: I don’t believe we have any set restrictions going either up or down. Now, you don’t gain additional powers, so if you’re too low of a hero you wouldn’t have a lot of powers to contribute to the fight. So the further you get outside each other’s level range, the less you’re going to be able to help going up. It’s really designed more to let players who are fairly close to one another to be able to help out.
Ten Ton Hammer: Once you set yourself as the Champion for a team, is it possible to have more than one sidekick?
Bill Roper: The whole team can sidekick, so everybody can play as the same level. So if I have a bunch of missions to go on I can grab people that are different levels to help. And there’s not a level restriction at all, so a level 5 could sidekick up to level 35 if they want, but again they’re not going to have a lot of powers to be contributing with. So they can be there and will have increased hitpoints, and the powers they do have will be geared up to level 35 but they’ll obviously be limited in terms of flexibility.
Ten Ton Hammer: Aside from being able to tackle content with friends who might not be at equal levels, are there any other associated bonuses connected to the sidekick system such as an XP bonus for being the Champion of a team or even for the lower level players being sidekicked?
Bill Roper: Experience gain is still based on your actual level, so it’s just like adventuring at your normal level only you’ll be able to take on higher level content.
Ten Ton Hammer: While we’re on the subject of grouping, are there any associated bonuses once you have a full team put together?
Bill Roper: There are definitely bonuses for that, for example there is an XP bonus for being in teams. Also there’s certain content that you can get into by being in teams such as the 5 man lairs and things of that sort. So there is some content that requires you to be in a team of 5 players, or I suppose I should say we greatly suggest it, though if you’re well over equipped you could probably do it without a full 5 man team. The main thing is that, as bonuses, you’re getting better XP and more loot drops, so it increases your chances of getting better or rare items.
Ten Ton Hammer: You’ve also mentioned previously that certain content will dynamically scale depending on a team’s size. Could you give us a brief overview of how that system works?
Bill Roper: The Reinforcements system triggers at having 3 and 5 heroes going through an area. What it does is sets how aggressively NPCs go to other similar groups in the area for backup. So say you find some VIPER agents and you come at them with 3 heroes in your team, one of their members will run and get help.
You can always identify it; they’ll jump on the radio or there will be some tell that they have that basically says, “I’m going to get help!” before you see them running off. So if you want to, you can focus on the runner and attack him using holds or slows to manage the reinforcements even.
Then at 5 team members they’ll be even more aggressive and attempt to bring in more or bigger reinforcements.
Ten Ton Hammer: So do the runners simply attempt to gather other enemies of a like type from the surrounding area, or will you see fresh spawns appearing around your team as you engage in combat?
Bill Roper: When you have a team of 3 people they usually run and grab other people from the area, and then at 5 team members on rare occasions some will additionally spawn, so there’s kind of a mix. Usually though, they will go and attempt to pull from like groups that are nearby.
Ten Ton Hammer: Are there any advantages or perhaps additional content that’s unlocked by forming a Super Group?
Bill Roper: There are definitely some things that you’ll get by being in a super group. One that will probably be exciting for players is the fact that there is a super group-specific bank; more storage is always good, right?
Then there are also a lot of the typical things you might expect from being in a super group like being able to choose super group colors and an emblem and being able to apply those. So if you wanted to all go out adventuring together everybody can have an identifying or unifying look. There’s also a lot of the chat-based stuff like being able to set the MotD; so really all the core things you’d imagine might be associated with having a super group.
Past that, probably close to launch, we’ll start on having things that are super group specific. One of the things I really liked about Warhammer Online is the way that they built in long-term goals for guilds with associated rewards. So I really want to do something along those lines; it’s a great idea that Mythic had for the game. The way I thought about it is almost like treating a super group like a character; so you’d have different achievements or once you get to a certain level with the group you’d get certain things.
So I’d love to be able to have rewards that groups could focus on. Then your super group could say, “If we get this many people we’ll get this, or if we complete this many missions we get this.” There’s all sorts of things you could do as a super group that are heroic and then have those reward structures built into them. That’s kind of the super group focus moving forward.
Ten Ton Hammer: Will there be something like levels that the super group could gain as a whole to mark progression?
Bill Roper: There will probably be some type of notoriety system, or some way to factor in a recognition system that fits in with the theme of the game. But I definitely love that idea that you’re basically leveling as a group, though it may not be levels so much as a series of achievements or milestones that you can hit with the super group. I think it’s really important to have almost a checklist of things that you can focus on to have additional motivating factors to get your group together to do stuff.
Ten Ton Hammer: Going back to the shared banking for super groups then, is the system set up to allow players to pool their resources as well as acting as a shared storage space, and if so, are there any super group-specific rewards that players will be able to purchase?
Bill Roper: We’ll definitely have things that can be purchased for super groups; if not for launch then as we move forward and do things like implementing bases and headquarters. So there will be some big goals that whole super groups can aim for and pool their resources together to achieve. There will be a mechanic, most likely through the shared bank where members of the super group can add money, and then that’s where any super group-sized purchases could be drawn from.
Ten Ton Hammer: Awesome. One issue that occasionally pops up with free-for-all PvP maps like B.A.S.H. is that groups of players from the same guild will essentially ‘team up’ against everyone else on the map. Will there be any mechanics in place to discourage players from doing so, or on the flip side, encourage super group teams to focus more on the group-based PvP arenas?
Bill Roper: There are going to be different rankings for all the different PvP types, so I think players are going to be more encouraged with teams and super groups to go into the arena combat, like the UTC which is 5v5, and really build up their rankings there because you can group queue to go in if you want. In B.A.S.H., because it’s so big and open, I’m not really sure how much benefit you’d gain from that since it’s an individual event. I guess that players could all be working together to try and get one guy to get the credit, but I think where we’re going to see guilds really shining in that regard by going into UTC as a 5 on 5, or going into the Apocalypse maps which are also team-based. So I think for players that like to be organized and put teams together to PvP in groups, they’ll really enjoy the Tournament of Champions stuff and also the Apocalypse maps.
Ten Ton Hammer: Recently we discussed the high-end UNITY missions in the Omega System. Will there also be group-based instanced content available at lower levels as well?
Bill Roper: There is a lot that is spread throughout the game. There are lairs that are recommended for 5 players, and if you’re over the level for those or are really powerful you might be able to solo in some of those. There are some recommended for 3 players as well where we think players will really want to go out and find a couple of other players to go through and do them with.
Also, a lot of instances do scale, so even if you’re going through an instance which is the end of a storyline mission arc you’ll want to grab some people before going in because you do get bonuses for going in as groups. So there’s a lot of instance content that’s designed specifically for groups and then some that’s designed to be soloed that will scale up to meet the fact that you’re grouped, so it’s pretty friendly for getting a team together and running around.
Ten Ton Hammer: Cool. Are these instances that can be discovered out in the world and then entered, or will there be any kind of entrance requirements that need to be met such as completing specific quest chains before they’re ‘unlocked’ to players?
Bill Roper: Both. Some you’ll just find, and others are quest chain specific where there might be an item you need to enter or a quest to get in the door. We really tried to mix it up and have both though.
Canada, Millennium City and the Desert will have Patrol Missions which any player can get. Citizens will come up to you in the streets of Millennium City, for example, and ask for help and give you a patrol mission, and all of those scale for team size too. So those are instances that you don’t need to have expressly gone through a chain to do, they’re just missions that you’ll randomly find. All the patrol missions support solo play, but again, they’re all designed to scale up for teams.
Ten Ton Hammer: Once you've completed specific instances, can go back through them later on, or are they more of a one-shot deal?
Bill Roper: There’s a little of both, where with some once you’ve defeated the boss you’re probably not going to go back. Others are definitely designed for replayability, and then some on the high end are designed where players are going to want to go back through multiple times. So it’s kind of a mix across the board. But once you’ve gone through, you can go back, so we know there might be some that we didn’t anticipate players really like and might want to do more than once, but once they’ve opened up we don’t limit them. So if they felt like an instance was really fun and wanted to go back and run it again, or want to go back with their buddy and help him do it they can always go back and do that.
Ten Ton Hammer: The robot factory in Millennium City is one of my favorites so far, lots of cool stuff going on.
Bill Roper: Yea, that one’s pretty fun.
Ten Ton Hammer: Last week I made the mistake of flying up to Grond to give him a handshake while he was rampaging through Snake Gulch…
Will we be seeing many of these overland group bosses throughout the game?
Bill Roper: There’s a handful. I mean, they’re not everywhere; we want them to feel pretty special. But yes, they are out there and some are more advertised than others, but they all get talked about in the game. For example if you’re talking to an NPC and you’re paying attention you’ll hear about them before you get to see them for the most part.
We even have a couple that we’ve hidden around in different areas, or that get triggered by specific events. Kigatilik is a good example of that in Canada - a boss that gets triggered through player events, so he’s not there all the time, but people can get him to come out.
So it’s a nice mixture – there’s probably a dozen or so of that level of boss to fight in the game, and they’re really fun. We were talking about the robot factory earlier; there’s a Doctor Destroyer open mission that you start that culminates in fighting a Mega Destroid, which is this huge, gigantic robot. When we were testing that at the office there were about 15 or 16 of us all trying to take it down – that was a lot of fun.
Ten Ton Hammer: Awesome. Once the overland bosses have been defeated will they be on a standard timer before respawning, or will there be any other conditional elements that have to be met to get them to spawn again?
Bill Roper: It depends on the boss, the big cosmic-level villain. Some are on timers and some will have events that will trigger them, so it’s kind of a matter of learning which of those it is for which boss.
Ten Ton Hammer: Great, thanks for taking the time to talk.
Bill Roper: You bet!