Interview With Cryptic Software (Champions Online) CEO John NeedhamBy Stephen Johnson - Posted Jul 15, 2009
I've been writing a lot about Champions Online this week: I'm a super-hero nerd and, from having played this game, I'm already half-fanboy, so it was cool to get a chance to chop it up with Cryptic CEO John Needham about the game. Needham let me (and by extension, you) in on some pretty cool details about Champions Online, as well as Cryptic's plan for more user created content.
G4: We've heard rumors that Champions is going to be out for the 360. Can you can say anything about that?
John Needham: I can’t say anything about it. Our technology’s 360-compatible. We’d love to be on the platform. So, we’re working with Microsoft on how we can do that. They don’t currently support MMOs right now on 360. So, there’s a lot of complexity in working through those details.
Q: but you have been talking with Microsoft?
A: Yes. They’re great.
G4: There’s a lot of MMOs out there, coming from a lot of different places. Say I have a couple hours a day to play MMOs. Why would I choose Champions Online over something else?
JN: One of the things Cryptic does really well, and I think one of the reasons why City of Heroes was so successful, was that it’s very accessible and it’s not a grind-fest. You don’t need to invest 20 hours a week to really keep up with your friends. So, it’s a very fast-paced game. You can jump in for an hour or two and actually advance in the game. So, we’re not into making quests that take you 4-8 hours to complete, right? It’s not like that. We have quick missions. Take you about 10-15 minutes to do them. You’re back. So, it’s more bite-sized content than it is these big, arcing quest lines.
G4: You really can’t have an MMO come out with out people talking about World of Warcraft. How would Champions compare to World of Warcraft in terms of scale?
JN: World of Warcraft has a huge team. So, they probably have – well, I know they have – a ton more content than we have. That’s why we build out systems like PvP the way we’re doing it. To give players a lot of different things to do in our game. We don’t want to be a company that’s producing huge, massive, kind of inaccessible games. Like, World of Warcraft’s very accessible, but it’s a massive game. I mean, you’ve really got to commit yourself to play it. Our games are lighter.
G4: This is a question that kind of relates to that. Classically, in a comic book, the entire world revolves around the main character. In Superman, the entire city of Metropolis is about Superman. How can you get that experience to 100,000 people at once? How do you give the feeling of being super powerful when everyone else is super powerful?
JN: So, we took a lot of time, particularly in the beginning, of Champions Online to give you thematic story lines to play through. So, I mentioned the mission in Millennium City, when you first come in the game. There’s this insect race that has come in and invaded Millennium City – you’ve got to destroy them, right? So, you and there are other players in the zone, but it’s not thousands of players, right? It may be 40 or 50 players. You’re working through to ultimately defeat the Quelar. We tried to develop these storyline, these thematic pieces where we take our bigger zones, shrink them down and we put a story in them. So, I mean, this Quelar invasion happens in a small part of Millennium City. There’s a dome over it, that you can’t get out of, right? We can do this set piece story that really makes you feel like you’re the hero who is saving Millennium City. And that’s how we’re going to do it. And we’ve got other crisis zones that introduce you to each of the other zones that are very similar that way. There’s a very thematic story. There’s a heroic quest that you need to do. Usually, at the end of it, you’re alone in an instance, you’re defeating the ultimate boss.
G4: Cool. I know that with City of Heroes there were some issues, toward the beginning, with people creating characters that are licensed characters, basically, and when you have this kind of user customization, how can you prevent that from happening?
JN: We're not going to. We’re gonna let players make what they want. If we see IP violations, ya know, we’ll just, we’ll pull their character.
G4: So, it’s just on a case-by-case basis?
G4: So, if I made Wonder Woman, you would, somebody would see Wonder Woman and go “ehhh..”
JN: Yea, exactly, and report them. We’re gonna let the community kinda police it. Obviously, if our customer service people see something like that, they’ll deal with it, but we don’t want to restrict people in the character creation in any way to protect IP. Uh, so we’ll police it afterwards.
G4: Are you guys planning on any other kind of user-created content besides the nemesis and the heroic characters?
JN: Yea, in fact, a big strategy of Cryptic is using user-generated content. So, we have the technology platform that we’ve developed over 8 years. We have amazing content tools, right? We’re working on an interface for those tools. We can hand them off to players, let them make content for all of our games. So, this will probably happen some time next year.
G4: So some time next year, you’re gonna see that?
JN: I hope. That’s the plan.