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MMORPG | Setting:Super-Hero | Status:Final  (rel 09/01/09)  | Pub:Atari
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General Articles: Ask Cryptic: Champions Online

By Guest Writer on March 18, 2008

Ask Cryptic: Champions Online

You asked, we answer!

Here are a few of the questions submitted on our forums recently. Thanks very much to Jackalope, Arkayne and Heretic for their answers!

If we didn't get to your question, don't worry. We're going to be doing this frequently, and you'll have a chance to ask again. We're as excited as you are about Champions Online – it's just that there's a lot to talk about, so we can't get to every question immediately.

Will we be told what decisions were made based on drawing Inspiration from the HERO system? HERO'philes want to know what parts of their beloved system to expect. (Drakos)

Jackalope: Well, Drakos, some of the stuff will be pretty darn obvious! We're lifting some terminology straight from the HERO System and putting it into Champions. However, the HERO System and Champions Online won't be identical.

For those of you who don't know Champions – go out and buy it right now – and just settle for my very brief description. A player receives a certain amount of points at character creation and then allocates them into a variety of areas: characteristics, powers, skills, etc. There's a single commodity, these hero points, which players use in both character creation and advancement. The beauty of the system is its flexibility. You can create just about any power, any character you can imagine.

In terms of powers, you start out with a very generic description. Let's say you wanted a long range flame blast. First, a player selects "Energy Blast" (every blast in Champions starts out as an Energy Blast). Then he'd select a variety of advantages to simulate long range and damage over time. After applying these advantages, a player calculates the final cost. There's another step – what sort of power structure you can place the power in – but I'll leave that alone for the moment.

To compare this system to others, there is no such thing as a "Dark Blast" or an "Ice Blast" in the HERO System. Mechanically, everything is just an Energy Blast, but with different advantages and even limitations applied.

If we turn to Champions Online, we won't be using the exact same point system, power advantages, characteristics, power limitations or disadvantages (all of this is Hero lingo). We are using systems that are essentially the same, but fit the MMORPG genre somewhat better. In Champions Online, we will have Dark Blast, Ice Blast, etc. Now, a player will be able to affect how these things develop, but this won't be an orthogonal to the choices in the HERO system.

Our inspiration from the Champions RPG is to allow players to customize their powers. Rather than trying to copy the specific power advantages and limitations (and the +/- fractions), we're trying to achieve the same goal of power customization. So yes, we'll have advantages and limitations, but they won't be the same type in the HERO System core rulebook. They'll be different ...

Will non-combat skills come into play?

As an example, if a level has a reactor which may explode, blocking off entry to an area, can that reactor be set to normal with a 'Science' skill? Can a 'Security' roll be made to gain entrance to areas that you couldn't otherwise enter? (rabb1t)

Arkayne: Yes there is rabb1t! There are skills you can learn, develop, and use to affect your environment. For example, while raiding a VIPER base you may come across a team of VIPER agents accessing a Draysha Gas station to make themselves more powerful in combat. If your Science skill is high enough, you may be able to shut down the gas vents or reconfigure it so you can gain the benefits (and drawbacks) of the gas! We have a good distribution of Skill-based interactions throughout the game so players will have lots of fun figuring out how to turn an environment to their advantage or unlock bonus elements.

How do you intend to avoid Archvillain fights that are nothing more than high hit point slugouts? (Ex_Machina)

Arkayne: Excellent question, Ex_Machina! One of the things we learned from previous MMOs is that while a bag o'hit points villain is fun to take down once in awhile, you also need more interesting boss fights. As part of the Nemesis system, there will be special "Showdown" scenarios based on forced confrontations with your Nemesis and his or her minions. The scenario differs each time with different objectives so it'll keep your Nemesis fights interesting.

What will the "death penalty" be? (Hythian)

Arkayne: The "death penalty" is fairly simple, Hythian. After a player is defeated, he or she can choose to wait until another nearby player with healilng powers puts them back in the fight. Failing that, the player can choose to go to a nearby recovery point. Those points are spread throughout zones and instance maps.

Regardless of what the player chooses to do, they have to pay a small price for defeat: upgrade degradation. Upgrades are pieces of equipment, imbuements, special training, etc., that players use to make their character more powerful. Every upgrade has a condition associated with it. Whenever a player is defeated any upgrades the player has slotted degrade. If the condition of an upgrade is reduced to 0, it stops providing a benefit. Upgrades can be restored to full effectiveness for a resource cost at most hero safe areas throughout the game. This represents items being repaired, re-exposure to experimental rays, combat technique montages, etc.

I've got a question about the new combat system. In the newest Game Informer, it said that the combat feels more like Marvel: Ultimate Alliance. So to touch upon a question from another thread, do we still auto-target our opponents and have a fireball follow them around corners and even through allies? Or can a selfless friend stand in front of you, defend you and take the hit? (Dusk)

Heretic: You will auto-target your opponent, but there are a couple of changes to how we are approaching player powers that should minimize the "fireball following them around corners" issue.

First, we have shortened activation times as much as possible. This makes the game feel faster and more responsive, but it also significantly reduces the frequency of projectiles following around corners.

Second, we are relying more heavily on charge-up and maintained attacks. The advantage of these type of attacks is that they give the player the opportunity to block or move to put walls and other objects in the way and close off line of sight from their attacker.