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Heroes that makes sense – Champions Online

February 24, 2008

It all starts to make sense. When Cryptic Studios announced the Champions Online MMORPG website on the 20th, the bits and pieces from the past months such as the rumors and cancellation of Marvel Universe Online, and Cryptic closing down its game-related forums. The latter pretty much only covered Marvel Universe Online at that time.

One can only speculate what was going on between Cryptic, Marvel and Microsoft. But my guess is that the Cryptic forums closed down when they had the Champions deal in place and were leaving the joint venture with M&M. Combining the agendas of all three companies were probably far from easy, in particular the both Ms I believe. For Cryptic, the MMOG business is their only business, so I think it is perfectly understandable if they felt it did not quite go where they wanted to get out in some way.

Cryptic Studios has acquired the intellectual property of Champions and Dark Champions, which is the characters and places and events included from Hero Games. So they have effectively bought the framework for their lore and story-line to use as they please. They have not bought the game system that the Champions RPG uses (HERO System), but they indicate that their game system is inspired by the HERO systems flexibility.

Both parts make sense. They now have over a quarter of a century’s worth of story material to work from, with no restrictions from other parties on how to use it – other than possibly issues with fans for the original roleplaying game. I am pretty sure the game systems they have conceived are as much borrowing from HERO system in spirit, as things they wanted to have in City of Heroes/Villains and included in Marvel Universe Online.

Essentially what we will be seeing is City of Heroes 2 and Marvel Universe Online without Marvel. The game engine and everything related is something Cryptic developed in-house. Since they plan to release the game in 2009 I think any major feature is already in place to some extent. Story content need to be worked out to fit Champions universe and probably some modifications and continued refinement to game systems and engine.

Apparently there is an article in the game magazine Game Informer about the game. I have never read that magazine and normally do not read game magazines at all, so some of my speculation here might be way off. I’m not sure if that particular magazine is on sale arund here at all. There is also an article at Massively aboutthe game – that one I could read šŸ™‚

The game is said to be soloable through all levels, which means that there will be levels and lots of solo content. If City of Heroes/Villains is any indication, there will probably be scalable instances when content is instanced. Team sizes of up to 5 players sounds a bit small though; I like the upto 8 person sized teams in CoV/CoH. Although with the introduction of games to the consoles in particular there is probably a need to reduce the amount of information cluttering the screen.

One of the good things of CoV/CoH is the ease with which you can assemble teams. The sidekick/exemplar systems helps with that and I love that feature. That being said, I guess and hope they will not have that feature in Champions Online. I rather think they might pursue the level-less enemies that CoV/CoH has in the form of Giant Monsters and Rikti Invasion forces. In this case there is no need for sidekick/exemplar – anyone can team up with anyone anyway.

This would also fit in with the concept of a changing world a bit better. Anyone can play any content at any time and participate in events that change the world.

The customisation options sounds like they will be at least as good as CoV/CoH, which means that Pagaon City and Rogue Isle residents may finally fall to second place. Cryptic has before indicated that technical limitations with the game engine and graphics hardware limited them in this regard when City of Heroes was initially introduced and how much more they can do now (at the time they were working on MUO).

Adding alter egos and archenemies seems to be just natural for a superhero genre game, so one may just wonder what took them so long. Ayway, still good that it is being added.

I think there is great potential here, but I cannot say that I am particularly excited about the game. But then I cannot say that I am particularly excited about any future MMOG. Trailers, screenshots and feature lists may be great, but does not necessarily add up to a really good game play. In the end it is the people and company behind it. I think Cryptic is in a good position here. But time will tell.

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