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Cryptic, Champions and<br> the Console MMOG


While
many of us were watching the clock in anticipation of the New
Year, apparently my PC decided it was the perfect time to take a long,
final nap. Showing signs of old age, one component after another began
to fail, as though it were forgetting the names of its closest friends.
Soon after, my trusty companion made its final preparations for a
permanent hibernation, and I had the sudden realization that I'd be
disconnected from the virtual worlds where I usually scamper around
until the wee hours of the night.  



My eyes drifted over to my neglected console controllers, sizing them
up with a bit of a squint. Not knowing for certain how long it might be
until I could get my gaming fix otherwise, I braced myself for the odd
tactile sensation of using my thumbs for something other than hitting a
space bar to jump.  



With the ghost of my now defunct PC egging me on, whispering promises
of iffy camera controls, unfamiliar key-mapping and a maze of menus, I
picked up my Xbox 360 controller. It was in that exact moment that it
hit me (no, not the ghost of my PC silly); not only is a fresh crop of
console MMOGs looming just over the horizon, but they're quite likely
going to be more successful than we realize. Sometimes all it really
takes is a change of perspective – unexpected or otherwise
– to help you see the forest for the trees.



At this point I'm sure Dalmarus is href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/52113">shaking
his head, waving his fists in
the air and emphatically exclaiming, “This will style="font-style: italic;">not
be the Year of the Console MMOG!” While I'm not entirely sold
on the idea, I style="font-style: italic;">do
think this year will set the tone for weather or not we see a larger
shift in that direction in the future. And if there's one company that
can make it happen, it's Cryptic Studios.


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Champions
is set to blast it's way onto PCs and 360s later this year.

Who
Got Their Console Chocolate In My MMOG Peanut Butter?




Ever since Cryptic first entered the nutty world of MMOG development in
2000, they've consistently taken the industry in new directions. While
many of their peers were focused on sharpening virtual swords and
scribbling down spellbook code for fantasy settings, Cryptic went and
pulled a super hero rabbit out of their hat. href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/140"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Heroes
not only offered a unique take on the concept of online RPGs, but
raised the bar for character customization so high that it still hasn't
been surpassed nearly five years later.



Not long after, Cryptic released href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/34"> style="font-style: italic;">City of Villains
as a stand-alone sequel - one that arguably puts most retail expansions
to shame in terms of accessibility, scope and spandex - while still
providing a meaningful link to the original CoH. This also sets a
precedence for how expansions could successfully be handled for
consoles, but hold that thought for now.



One of Cryptic's biggest surprises came just under a year ago - and no,
I don't mean the announcement that href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/289"> style="font-style: italic;">Marvel Universe Online
was canceled either. style="font-style: italic;">Everyone
saw that one coming … well, href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/node/51631"> style="font-style: italic;">almost
everyone.



Just one week after the MUO cancellation was official, Cryptic
announced that not only were they developing href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/taxonomy/term/860"> style="font-style: italic;">Champions Online
for the PC and 360, but they had screenshots, video and a spiffy new
website to prove it. In true Victor Kiam fashion, they even went a step
further and bought the Champions IP from Hero Games, which helped put
Cryptic in a prime position to make the game as they truly wanted it to
be.



By now I can hear you saying, “Yes, yes, that's all fine and
good, but what does that have to do with console MMOGs?”
 



PC
and 360 Live Together in Perfect Harmony


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More
action, less UI clutter.

There seems to be a general consensus among PC gamers that developing
an MMOG to be played on a console is like trying to force a square peg
into a decidedly penguin-shaped hole. But it really all comes down to a
matter of understanding the strengths of the platform you're developing
for, its limitations and how the preexisting user base interacts with
games.



Of the current generation consoles, the 360 sees the highest volume of
online traffic. This is in part due to the Live service which, when
combined with a consistently increasing focus on multiplayer modes,
sets the stage for a potential user base who's already comfortable with
the concept of online gaming.  



While no announcements have been made so far as to what business model
Champions Online will ultimately have, I'd be willing to guess that 360
owners with a Gold Account will be ready to play Champions right out of
the box without picking up a separate sub. Again, this would play to
one of the consoles biggest strengths – in other words its
online infrastructure and the playing habits of an existing user base.



The idea of patching and downloading new content has more or less been
lovingly embraced by console gamers, who typically even pay for some of
the same kinds of free content downloads we PC gamers take for granted
when it comes to MMOGs. One potential sticking point might be required
hard drive space, but that could easily be overcome depending on how
Cryptic chooses to release new content. This is where the stand-alone
nature of City of Villains comes into play. If post-launch development
focuses primarily on expansion content, then for the average console
RPG fan a stand-alone Champions expansion wouldn't be any different
than picking up The Shivering Isles expansion for style="font-style: italic;">Oblivion.



If 2004 marked the dawn of the Multicolored Spreadsheet Online era
(made popular by href="http://www.tentonhammer.com/wow"> style="font-style: italic;">World of Warcraft
AddOn addicts), 2009 could very well bring about a much needed shift
towards a more elegant, streamlined UI. With a primary focus on action
and compelling combat, Champions is suited particularly well for the
types of gameplay console users are already accustomed to, without all
the unnecessary screen clutter.  



Cryptic has also href="http://www.champions-online.com/node/103">already
said that PC users need not
worry about having a gamepad to play Champions, nor will 360 owners be
required to have a keyboard. So your preferred methods of scampering
around virtual spaces and interacting with other players will remain
intact without the need to pick up extra hardware.


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Cryptic
could lead MMOGs boldly into a console-friendly future in 2009.

Until
Next Time




Cryptic certainly faces a good number of challenges to have a
successful console title in Champions Online, no doubt about it. As
outlined above though, I think Cryptic has proven time and again that
they're more than capable (or, cape-able if you will) of thinking
beyond the norm and presenting concepts in new ways that many of their
peers seemingly overlook. So long as they play to the strengths of both
platforms, I can easily see Champions...well, championing the rise of
the console MMOG. I can't see it as anything other than a win for the
industry as a whole should it prove to be successful, as an expanded
market is good for all parties involved.  Unless you like to
party with flesh eating zombies, in which case you're on your own.





To read the latest guides, news, and features you can visit our Champions Online Game Page.

Last Updated: Mar 29, 2016

About The Author

Sardu 1
Reuben "Sardu" Waters has been writing professionally about the MMOG industry for eight years, and is the current Editor-in-Chief and Director of Development for Ten Ton Hammer.

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