Cryptic Studio's Champions Online MMO comes out on September 1st for the PC, and promises an improvement on Cryptic's already awesome super-hero MMOs City of Heroes and City of Villains. I recently got a chance to sit down with Cryptic's Chief Creative Officer Jack Emmert and discuss some of the details of Champions Online, the possibility of a villain-centric sequel, and even discussed the possibility of console versions of the MMO.
G4: Point blank: What's the single coolest thing about Champions Online?
Jack Emmert: The ability to create your own arch-villain. Your own nemesis, who you’re going to battle against, and you’re going to triumph against. But from a personal point of view, when I play, I love the look of the game. I love the loot. We really worked a long time on creating interesting, exciting awardsm that, in fact, help tell a story. I love the bright, vibrant colors. Let me tell ya, there are a lot of games out there, and I play a lot, and I dearly love many of them, but sometimes I get overwhelmed by the fifty shades of grey.
G4: Speaking of the nemesis system, what's going to prevent me from creating the weakest nemesis ever so that I can defeat them very easily?
JE: That was a concern. So we create templates for each of the power frameworks. So, you don’t pick the nemesis’s individual powers, you pick his framework. So, we have a template for a darkness villain. A template for martial arts. A template for super strength, which we call “might”. And so, this template behaves in a particular manner and we guarantee this. So, you can’t micro-manage the villain to the point where he’s gonna use certain attacks or not others. We’ve controlled all that by creating the AI and the powers and the build of the character.
Q: Cryptic MMOs are all about user-created content, but what about users who are bad at creating content? Like, if you’re playing Lord of the Rings Online, and you run across LukeSkywlker741, it’s a little bit jarring and it takes you out of the game. Are there any sort of safe-guards against that kind of thing?
JE: Well, there's the the typical name-filter stuff, but we found in City of Heroes there is a weeding-out process that is a subscription fee. People tend not to pay a subscription fee to play a game in which they don’t have a desire to be a part of it, if that makes any sense. It does happen. I’m not saying it doesn’t. Sometimes people just make silly characters for the purposes of silly characters. The great thing, though, is that, hey, comic books have had Howard the Duck, Bat Mite, Ace the Bat hound. Mr. Mxyzptlk is a major villain in the Superman mythology. At least some of that is within the corpus. So, it isn’t as jarring as it might be in a different situation.
G4: That’s totally true. Speaking of villains, your players are strictly heroes in Champions Online?
JE: Yes, they create nemeses who are AI controlled. PvEs, so to speak. If we were to do villains, I would definitely do it differently than we did previously and I would make villain gameplay extremely different. I think that was a mistake in City of Villains.
G4: So, if you were to make – I don’t know what the opposite of Champions Online would be –
JE:, Nemesis Online.
G4: Nemesis Online! Is that something you've talked about?
JE Yes, we have. Look, if Champions is successful and people want that, heck yeah. But, I think that I already have a very different idea in mind for that. I think in City of Villains, we were asked to make the game in about a year, and so we were kind of focused on “We gotta get this done.” So, we just took the template of City of Heroes and copied it. If I were to do it over again, I would create a very different type of gameplay for villain worlds.
G4: Speaking of it being successful, when you’re launching an MMO, like how many subscribers do you need in order to survive or thrive?
JE: Well, I think that number is the number for success is over 100,000 for us. If it’s over 100,000, I’m skipping the light fantastic. The break-even point is somewhere below 100,000. And that’s obviously depending upon – every MMO is different – depending on how much money is spent on it. But, clearly, we mark 100,000 as success.
G4: Any plans to bring it to any other platforms, other than PC?
JE: Our Cryptic engine, it works on the 360, and it is something that, ya know... PS3 we’ve talked about getting our engine working on that, but we haven’t announced anything, but technically speaking, that’s something we can do. Philosophically, we believe highly in putting MMOs in consoles, but we haven’t announced anything.