DC Universe Online interview - Part 4: UI and modding

My personal favorite graphic in the game at launch: placeholder rockets!

Today, we talk with DC Universe Online's Game Director Chris Cao about player's issues with the UI and future plans to add mod support, which would let the community solve the problem. You can read the earlier parts of the interview, where Chris talks with us about animation glitching and developer priorities , the planned monthly content updates , and Power Sets we can expect to see in the future .

PCG: Mod support is a great way to let the players' create their own workarounds for UI issues. Are there any plans to add mod support in the future?

Chris Cao: Possibly. We made a decision to not have a modifiable UI because [it's easier on] the development side. We already cleaning up some issues with the UI, but the updating the UI on the PS3 is the unfriendliest thing that there can be. So we've had to be really careful with it. What we thought we would do is, "First off, let's launch the game and figure out what works well, then [see what] options we have to work with it."

I think that's a good reason why we split the two platforms. Not the UI specifically, but because sometimes there are things that need to go to one audience that doesn't need to go to another. That said, there are things we could do that are much more PC-sensible, without necessarily trying to create a disparity between the products. [For modding in particular], we want to make sure, that that we're allowing it because we really value it, not just "Hey, the PC guys want to be able to mod their UI," but more, "As a product, how are we going to make DCUO for both audiences? And what can we do to customize it to each one?"

We had discussions internally about allowing modding, but haven't come to any decision yet. It's the obvious that a lot of other games allow modding, but they don't have the same constraints that we do: we have to keep making stuff for both audiences. I don't have a final word on it, but we're watching and seeing what's going to be the most important thing.

I think i some cases [we'll do platform-specific changes] even the little things like, we've now added support to make it easier to use a keyboard if you have a Bluetooth keyboard for PS3. Quite a few people are using it for text chat, so we've said, "OK, for that audience we need to do PS3-specific things to make it easier to communicate there." On the the PC, we've done some of the same things to help people have better access to slash commands. Overall, for the customization, we're going to start off with careful steps to improve the UI, and then look at the other things. I don't want to say there won't be mods, because these games live for years and obviously more stuff is gonna be added, but we have to be careful that it doesn't create such a disparity between the services that suddenly the game gets different at a root level.

PCG: Do you think it's possible to keep the two platform versions similar in the long run, with only small deviations along the way?

CC: I think the big deal is that there will be camera and control and UI changes that will be at the forefront of everything as we find what works better [for both platforms]. Moving social elements to the Quick Menu is a good example: having a few extra steps of delay whenever you wanted to look at your PDA [or friends lists] was clunky. So we moved it to the Quick Menu, because the Quick Menu has become a great place for us to put the things we do repeatedly.

Those types of changes are easier to make because what it comes down to is: if we do anything that starts to affect gameplay balance in PvP or PvE, we have to start balancing the game in two different ways, and that starts to create two different experiences. As soon as I start to imbalance the experience on the PC vs the PS3, one is easier than the other. I think a good example of this is our races. Some people find races easier on the PC than the PS3. We didn't intend for that to happen, but because of the nature of the race [which you hurdle around the city at break-neck speed following through a series of rings -Ed.], having a mouse point where you want to go directly is easier, with some movement modes, than controlling the camera independent of movement with a stick [on a gamepad].

In those cases that [the controls cause the difficulty to] actually diverge, and we have a case where in some ways its easier on the PC than the PS3, we aren't gonna try to forcefully lock-step them. We're going to take that in stride and do what we can, but we want to be careful of those because we don't want it to be so radically different that when you're talking to your friend about playing DCUO and he looks at you funny because on the PS3 it was completely different. We still want it to be one universe conceptually, because then its easier to tell the story and keep things going.