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Archive for November, 2010

Now that SOE seems to actually be stepping up the exposure of DC Universe Online since they are on the final stretch to opening their beta to all customers who pre-order on either the PC or PS3, I’m finding even more footage and coverage and my excitement level continues to grow. DCUO has a great podcast devoted to the title, in DCUO-Unlimited (their site is unfortunately a bit FUBAR while they do some database mojo, but backups of all but their latest issue can be found at Blubrry here). There you can find snippets of interviews with the dev team and bits of information I’m not sure even gaming sites have reported on (like the bit about secret identities being a key part of the game, not that you heard it from them, of course).

As excited as I am to have a new game to sink my gaming talons into, not to mention one that Mr. Randomessa wants to play with me – a rare combination of events – I look back upon my gaming history and wonder how DCUO might avoid becoming one of those games I used to play. Conversely, I might find signs pointing to DCUO being precisely one of those games. We’ll see!

  • We’re not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and we like it that way: It just might be the case that I can’t quite immerse myself in a game that isn’t high fantasy, or at least swords and sorcery. I couldn’t get into Fallen Earth for long, I’ve already expressed my difficulty in watching my ship do things in Star Trek Online, and even Star Wars: The Old Republic isn’t helping me shake the feeling that I just won’t enjoy being a Jedi all that much, Wizard-like as they are. I did enjoy my time in both City of Heroes and Champions online, despite other issues, but my time with them was so brief that I can’t say I would have stayed on even if all else was perfect. Maybe the presence of sorcery in DCUO, and characters like Circe, will make all the difference… maybe not.
  • Something to play while the Spouse is away: Big problems with Champions Online and Star Trek Online were that there was really only one path of advancement (10 levels in the Desert/Canada and Klingon PvP notwithstanding), and this meant that if I adhered to the Spousal Leveling Contract, I didn’t have anything to do if Mr. Randomessa latched onto a single-player game for a week or two, or wanted to PvP when I wasn’t in the mood, etc. With DCUO there are both hero and villain paths of advancement, and each side has three mentors to choose from who provide completely different storylines. This worked for us with Warhammer Online where I had an array of alts and was still able to play with my partner when we had the time for it.
  • PvP is more than stun-locking or cage-fighting: PvP is one of the activities Mr. Randomessa and I enjoy, but we prefer either the balanced arena type, such as scenarios if you’re Warhammer-minded, or objective-based, such as keep raids. DCUO appears to promise both, with the added bonus of iconic PvP taking gear out of the equation and making the whole affair entirely skill-based, something like Guild Wars’ Costume Brawl. I plan to stink up the place with my lack of aptitude, but appreciate the option nonetheless. As long as we don’t spend the entire match stun-locked, as occurred in certain Ettenmoors that shall not be named, this should provide us with several evenings’ worth of entertainment.
  • Crafting isn’t done AFK: I appear to be part of a strange non-audience who simultaneously looks forward to games that are casual-friendly with ease of travel, low death penalties, and heavy story-based formats, while still enjoying activities typically considered mundane such as crafting. The recent revelation that crafting in SW:TOR will be done entirely by one’s companions left a sour taste in my mouth, not because I enjoy being a merchant or career crafter, but because crafting is a non-combat, non-questing activity that doesn’t require me to log out of the game when I tire of one or the other. In games like Everquest II where crafting is a minigame, I rather liked making rush orders as an opportunity to stay in one place and yet have a chance to actively participate in something.

    DC Universe Online, too, has indicated that crafting will not be a part of the game, yet I feel SOE speaks to my condition a bit more closely when MMORPG.com notes that there will be a system that provides players with the chance to participate in something that is not combat or questing. I hope I am not just hanging my dreams on a cloud, here. If there isn’t something satisfying and peaceful for me to do at the end of a killing spree, I’m going to be a sad superhero.

With these points on file, it becomes more apparent why other games have failed to stick with me (or, in the case of unreleased games, why certain ones have failed to interest me more). I will have to watch my beta time carefully to see how “sticky” DC Universe Online proves to be in the long run.

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Although I have only been following the progress of DC Universe Online peripherally (and even less so after it was revealed the game is going to adhere to the subscription model), over the past week this title has been pinging increasingly on my radar.

Through the initial release date pushback and the commencement of closed beta, I have seen a tiny flurry of features, videos, and, yes, beta leaks coming across the internet, and I am surprised to say that I like what I see, a lot.

I am also surprised to say that I feel DCUO has more in common with Guild Wars 2 than I would have guessed, from the multiple origin storylines to iconic allies who join you in storyline dungeons, to armor/weapon drops that you can either equip for the looks or the stats, to the ability to revive any ally from unconsciousness without a hotbar skill, to the comicbook cutscenes a la concept art that curtain each story act, to the tagline “The Next Legend Is You.”

Of course, several of these items overlap with both of Cryptic’s previous offerings, as well as the grandaddy of superhero MMOs, City of Heroes/Villains. But when I hear Chris Cao talk about the game, it feels less like a litany of game features and a little bit more like, well, a manifesto. When he declares that the level cap was set at 30 because that was the natural conclusion of the storyline, rather than choosing a level cap and trying to come up with content to satisfy the leveling curve, I feel he’s making a statement about content vs. filler that I can agree with wholeheartedly.

I had been expecting to pass DCUO on by, but the knowledge that pre-ordering before the 15th of this month will guarantee closed beta access has brought Mr. Randomessa and I on board. The fact that the videos we’ve seen are enthralling, action-packed and well-voiced is what tipped our wallets in that direction, as well as the knowledge that we both enjoyed ourselves in City of Heroes/Villains and Champions Online (though the PvP in the former was non-existent at low levels and the art style of the latter grated on our senses).

While I am still leery of subscriptions, there must be something earnest about the faces of SOE’s people that makes me re-consider when I read things like this:

“You’re giving us $15 a month, so we have to give you something in return. Every month we’re going to give you a new episode, a little something more to do,” he said. “It’s not going to be an expansion, it’s not going to be a huge amount, but it’s enough that you’re going to continue to see the expanded and explored DC Universe. Every trimester or so, we’re going to give you a much bigger download, something with new maps, a whole bunch of new stuff to do, new armor to chase and that sort of thing. Really, it’s based on what we can build and how fast we can build it for all of you. We want to make sure anything we add actually adds something to the experience and isn’t simply ‘more.’”

While subscription proponents have long argued that subscriptions net more content over time, and while I question that conventional wisdom, I can accept the idea of monthly content packages – more frequent versions of CoX’s “issues”, if you will – per subscription installment. I’m never going to be pleased with the fact that I am merely renting access to that content, but fortunately that’s not a decision I have to make just yet.

The only decision I have to make is how I can best replicate a Sylvari Elementalist using DCUO’s character creator.

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