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Champions Online

Combat Interview

Jon Wood Posted:
Interviews 0

Champions Online: Combat Interview

MMORPG.com's Jon Wood recently caught up with Champions Online Lead Designer Bill Roper to talk about the combat system in Cryptic's upcoming super-hero game.


Can you give us a quick overview of how combat works in Champions Online?

Bill Roper:

Combat is designed to be very action-oriented while maintaining a tactical edge. Players can use a run-and-gun style to not only gain the best positioning in a fight, but also avoid certain kinds of powerful attacks from villains. Certain powers drain endurance while others build it back, and every power set has a special endurance-building mechanic that can be combined with other sets to allow for unique character builds and combat styles.


How does Champion Online combat differ from City of Heroes combat?

Bill Roper:

City of Heroes is very modal while Champions online is more fluid. Also, because of how the endurance models interact, characters can really actually help their teammates play more effectively by how their powers intertwine. Champions is also much more focused on providing the kind of action-packed battles you see in four-color comics.


It has been mentioned previously that Champions combat will have more going on in terms of the environments: parts of buildings being blown off, ripping chunks out of the ground, etc. Can you go into more detail about how interactive the environments will be in terms of combat?

Bill Roper:

The environment is specific in terms of what we allow players to interact with or destroy. An example of this would bethe varying types of items that a character can pick up and throw depending on how strong they are. This ranges from small things like blocks of concrete or street-signs up to cars, busses, tanks, and more. We've also put in puzzle and trap elements into certain special areas that are based on interacting with the environment. The actions of heroes can also visibly change areas of the world, such as cleaning up the streets of certain gangs in the Westside section of Millennium City.

Champions Online Screenshot


It has been mentioned before that you are trying to avoid the "static" forms of combat found in some other MMOs. Can you tell us how you define "static" and how Champions combat will differ from that norm?

Bill Roper:

Static combat is when you select a single target, and then primarily stand still while you fight them. With Champions, we want players to be moving - to be changing their tactics based on the type of villain they're fighting. This is accomplished not only through the varying powers that players can choose for themselves, but also with the powers that the villains use. It behooves a player to pay attention to what his enemy does so devastating attacks can be blocked, dodged, or interrupted!


The Champions Combat system has been described as "Immediate and intuitive", can you tell us what exactly that means? Should we expect "twitch" style combat?

Bill Roper:

The combat is less "twitch"-based and more fluid. Battles in comics are fast-paced and filled with exciting maneuvers and flashy powers. But at the same time, there is a strategy behind the assault - finding a weakness to exploit, using the powers of a single hero or a super team in unique combination, and of course, keeping on the move. Combat in Champions Online follows these tenets. You can try and stand toe-to-toe with a villain, but you're going to do much better if you use tactics both offensively and defensively.


There is some fear from PC MMO gamers that combat will be "button mashing" and "dumbed down" to fit the Xbox platform. How do you respond to this, and will there be marked differences in the combat found in each version of the game?

Bill Roper:

While we have worked very hard to make the combat in the game easy to perform, it is certainly not designed to be simplistic. This is important for PC gamers as well as players on a console platform. We do make sure to design with the interface differences between PC and console in mind, but our solutions must be elegant and intuitive as opposed to moving to simple button mashing. Our current changes to the powers system and combat are a great example of this.

We felt that combat had indeed become too reliant on repetitively using a single power. This was tied directly into the endurance model, or how characters gain the energy that fuels their powers. So our powers lead was tasked with finding a solution that would move players off of needing to overuse this power so much while also keeping combat simple and fun.

After a lot of thought and some trial implementation, we've found a solution that we, and our testers, like very much. The powers chosen by a player now often guide the flow of combat as different things are important to different power sets. For example, someone who is focusing on fire powers gains endurance by setting things ablaze - both enemies and the environment. So the tactics of this character will involve immolation and the duration of those effects. That hero would also probably prefer playing against enemies who are already ablaze, or in areas where open flame exists as a part of the world. And while a character can still use his most basic power to build up endurance, none of the methods above depend on it.


Jon Wood