DC Universe Online interview - Part 5: Raids and Endgame

Josh Augustine at

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In the final part of our interview with DC Universe Online’s Game Director Chris Cao, we ask him about SOE's plans for the game's endgame. You can read the earlier parts of the interview, where Chris talks with us about the UI and modding, animation glitching and developer priorities, the planned monthly content updates, and Power Sets we can expect to see in the future.

PCG: So let's clear up some facts before we get into anything else. There doesn’t seem to be a reward for completing the starred options in group-finder queue.

Chris Cao: That was a total bug. We just put in the fix with the Feb update, but you [should be] getting a tier 2 badge if you are doing the Alerts or Duo dailies--you’re actually getting the highest armor badge. If you do a Duo daily, you get 1 tier 2 badge and if you do the alert you get 2 tier 2 badges.

PCG: And that's a one-time-per-day reward?

CC: A one-time daily reward. It lets you slow boat your raid armor. Some of our guys playing here don’t have as much time as others running around in tier 2 batsuits but we are getting up there to start buying our pieces. Even if you can only play with one other person it gives you a route to get that end game armor

Together we must stop the giant bird people!

PCG: How do raid lock outs work? When do they reset? Are you locked to a single instance?

CC: This is actually something we're adding in the near future: an in-game help resource which will be explaining a lot of things including these things because there are a lot of subtleties that are unique to our game. Actually what's interesting is some of the players don’t understand roles fundamentally because they haven’t played MMOs before. While we do list them and show them the abilities, we need a clear place that goes "OK, here is how this works".

So in the case of the lock out timers (which are actually victory flags), when you look at your UI you'll see that red flag which means you’ve actually taken loot off a boss. Coming up in this update or the next we are going to tell you per instance when you queue for an instance if you have victory flags for bosses in there. Our loot system doesn’t actually lock you out of the instance, it just keeps you from getting loot off a boss. The reason we did that is because we wanted people to group with their friends so you can raid as much as you want per week but you can only get loot off a boss once within a given a week and then it resets. The dailies and the weekly victory flags reset on the cycles so you can do that stuff but you can’t get loot off that given boss.

PC Gamer: I often see readers comparing the amount of content or polish in DCUO to MMOs that have been out for 5+ years already. It's gotta be tempting to go for that quantity approach just so you can say, "Look we have as much content as these other games", right?

Chris Cao: Exactly. I think those games had more [at launch]. If you're taking about City of Heroes or Champions, its interesting because if you compare it to WoW (which only had 9 classes at the beginning, total)--I don’t often compare game to game but the reason I’m doing it is because they controlled the number of interactions. That’s what made their game fun in the endgame. They presented diverse classes that had different combos, that players could play test and have fun at endgame with. It's never been tempting to me [to go for quantity over quality].

Batman didn't know that Captain Uppercut would soon betray him.

Some people may go for the popular side of that choice, but we know that in order to create an endgame that will have robust raiding and awesome pvp, Mark, our lead combat designer, I and a few other people are going to have to play every combination. And so we already have 300 something combinations in-game. If you take our movement types, our weapons types, our power set--that's already a ton, not even counting roles. We did a good job, but we found a few things that didn’t work out. Super strength can do a ton of damage and if you're Bane in the legends system it creates this awesome, kill-the-other guy scenario. Which is another layer upon top of it, but to answer your question, I’m always wanting to go with a quality experience over a quantity experience, because it goes with the content we built in the game.

Ultimately it has to get to an endgame and the games the [players are comparing DCUO to] don’t really have an end-game. We built a game that would be fun to play with your friends for months. There is gear at the end, PvP, the Legends stuff, Collections. There's a bunch of stuff that's fun. But why make the process take longer to have your fun? Yeah, it's [shorter than other some other MMOs], but what's funny is that it's still longer than most action games you play. I think, honestly its funny our reviews are polarized: some are really good, some are really bad. And I think its because people go "OK, I’m going to compare this to the other thing that’s like it". Which is completely natural. But when you do so, you don't just play it and see if you have fun with it. We decided to make MMOs more fun to play moment-to-moment and those are the guns we are going to stick to.

Collectables don't prevent you from being hit really hard.

PCG: Another major element of endgame is collecting. But collections haven’t really come into their own yet, because of the lack of auction houses. You've said before that crafting professions don’t make a lot of sense in a superhero world, but do you ever foresee crafting professions being added to the game?

CC: First off, the Broker is going out in the February update so that will help in the collection side--a lot--because people haven’t discovered what cool things there are from collections yet. Collections give you things like temporary pets, unique abilities, superpowers and clickable things that you can get. There's a lot of stuff there and there isn’t a great way to trade them, so its hard to complete those collections.

At the end of the day, MMO guys get into the checklist side of things: I’m an MMO gamer and I see this new game and I go, "OK does this new game have this checklist?" and then I play it and then I complain that its exactly like everything else I play. At the end of the day we changed combat, we changed movement and we changed it to some degree that we still have very classic endgame very classic PvP matches. We have badge hunts and the rest of it. But it’s the interesting [elements] that are specific to DCUO.

First, in DC you move quickly, which is the reason collections are so big. If you notice when you stand to them, they are half the height of a character because its hard to see things at the speed that a superhero is moving at. I bring this up, because what I like out of most trade skill systems is the harvesting side of it, not the combining side of it. That hunt and peck for something you do in the universe, we’ve got that. Its not just, hey go out and go pick the same thing to make the same thing. That’s the part we don’t have.

We want you to go look for the stuff, trade with your friends and get cool rewards on the other side by collecting it. I can see putting [crafting] in there. But there's fundamentally two types of games: Games that have cool harvesting and that’s part of the regular gameplay, and games that have trade skills where they dedicate time to the actual crafting of items--I don’t think that’s ever in DCs future. That isn’t the superhero style.

That doesn’t mean the harvesting side won’t be there or we might not continue to build on our collections. But I think its still gonna be something you can do at your superhero speed in those cases that ultimately get you those rewards. I’d like to see how collections pan out for people. I think ultimately, because they are not making armor repeatedly or making a hat, the hardcore people will go, "This isn’t trade skills!" But at the end of the day what you really want is something else to do besides fighting.

That’s what you're looking for: rather than "trade skills," you're thinking, "Hey what is something else I can do?" Like I said ,downtime is a different kind of fun. Not an end of the fun. It's gotta be something else you can do that's fun that you can do while you're waiting for a queue or your friends. There needs to be something more that you're doing that isn’t necessarily beating on a guy.

We have races and we have this collections and investigations, and we are going to continue to fatten out that side of things as well as add more dudes for you to punch in the head. That's our tactic. I’m not going to say "never," but I think when you go with the MMO checklist, you get locked into the MMO checklist and you don’t look at what it's going to make a great experience based on the game you’ve made.

And the flip side of that it works as the same thing, we are just at the beginning of this game. This game is evolving and what we are talking about at launch is just the tip of the iceberg of what players are going to experience.