less than a month to go before the September 1st launch of href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/co" target="_blank"> style="font-style: italic;">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 href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/co/features/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.
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 style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online?
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.
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?
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.
Ton Hammer: Cool. Could you give us an overview of how the Sidekick
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.
Ton Hammer: Are there any set level restrictions on who
you’re able to sidekick in either direction?
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.
Ton Hammer: Once you set yourself as the Champion for a team, is it
possible to have more than one sidekick?
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.
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?
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.
Ton Hammer: While we’re on the subject of grouping, are there
any associated bonuses once you have a full team put together?
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
Ton Hammer: Are there any advantages or perhaps additional content
that’s unlocked by forming a Super Group?
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
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 style="font-style: italic;">this,
or if we complete this many missions we get style="font-style: italic;">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.
Ton Hammer: Will there be something like levels that the super group
could gain as a whole to mark progression?
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
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?
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.
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?
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.
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?
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.
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
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.
Ton Hammer: Once you've completed specific instances, can go back
through them later on, or are they more of a one-shot deal?
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
Ton Hammer: The robot factory in Millennium City is one of my favorites
so far, lots of cool stuff going on.
Roper: Yea, that
one’s pretty fun.
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…
we be seeing many of these overland group bosses throughout the game?
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.
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
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.
Ton Hammer: Great, thanks for taking the time to talk.
Roper: You bet!
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