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Cryptic Studios | Official Site
MMORPG | Setting:Super-Hero | Status:Final  (rel 09/01/09)  | Pub:Atari
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Interviews: ION Interview with Victor Wachter

By Carolyn Koh on May 15, 2008

ION Interview with Victor  Wachter

Cryptic Studios has stirred the waters recently with a few announcements. They announced that they had sold their City of Heroes/Villains game to NCSoft, they had ceased development of Marvel Universe Online and they announced a new game in development, Champions Online.


I finally caught up with Victor Wachter, Community Manager for Cryptic Studios, here at the 2008 ION Games Conference in Seattle and I pried what information I could out of him.

“Lock, stock and barrel?” I asked of their sale of City of Heroes/Villains. “Pretty much,” he confirmed. “We sold them the game together with the development team. That was part of the deal, that they hired the CoH/CoV development team.”

In reference to Marvel Universe Online, Victor let me know that Cryptic Studios chose to go their own direction. “The time was right for Cryptic to run by themselves. We done our growing up. We’ve been published. Now we want to be our own publishers.”

Basically, when it looked like that Marvel Universe was not working out the way they envisioned, Cryptic made the decision to walk away. Then they sought another IP that they could develop, and Champions seemed a natural fit in their experience.

“So you divested yourself of City of Heroes/Villains in order to concentrate on Champions?” I asked.

“You got it,” was the prompt reply.

“We wanted a comic-book style setting akin to CoH/CoV and Marvel Universe. A few of our guys here are Champions fans, and the long and short of it is that we bought the Champions IP but not the Hero system. We then licensed Champions right back to Hero Games in perpetuity so they can continue developing Champions the pen and paper game, but we have the right to develop Champions the Online game in the direction we wish.”

“The Champions IP is just a better match for us. With our ties to traditional PnP games, it was easier for us to envision the hooks. It’s total action combat – more action oriented than anything else.”

Victor went through the entire list, many of which hearken to City of Heroes/Villains. In the total action combat, collision detection will be important. There will be some real time twitch factor to enhance the moment to moment experience in combat.

“Like playing DnD or Dungeons and Dragons Online, you will be able to react to actions. You can dodge and duck.”

Other features will include total customization, which draw their roots from CoH/CoV. Champions will double the parts of the body that can be customized and costume customization will continue in game and likely some body features such as hair will also be customizable in game after character creation.

Power customization will also be available within a defined framework, and one item which Victor was excited about, was stance customization.

“If you choose to have your champion be heroic, you can have him stand tall with his shoulders back, chest out and his chin high. Or if you create him as beast-like, you can have him hunched over, and shamble when he walks.”

I approve. It would be marvelous to see a world of diverse characters. To see characters that do not all stand and rest their weight on one leg with a hip cocked out or all fold their arms in exactly the same manner.

A feature in Champions Online that Champions (PnP) fans will recognize is the arch nemesis system. The player essentially creates their own nemesis, who will follow them through out their career in the game. To explain, Victor turned to well known comic book characters.

“If you create Superman, you will create Lex Luther and they show up at different times of your gameplay. For example in quests that you may initiate.”

Victor indicated that the nemesis of the quest initiator would be the one that showed up to throw the monkey wrench in the works, but I asked if it would not be more fun if it could be any one of the group member’s nemesis? To which he responded, “Oh, that’s a great idea! That would make it a surprise factor. You wouldn’t know who to expect.”

Exactly. That would make game play more exciting and challenging, the outcome much less predetermined. The group would have to prepare themselves for any one nemesis to appear to thwart them.

Champions fans will recognize what’s in the MMOG as Cryptic will incorporate the advantage and disadvantage and limitation system, much of the language and the customizability. As the needs of an MMOG are quite different from that of a pen and paper RPG game, there will be differences. For example, Champions Online will not utilize the Hero system, but much of the feel of the PnP game will be retained

Hero games will work closely with Cryptic so that future books will “match up” as much as possible, to the look of Champions Online in terms of art and content. As stated on the Hero games website:

“The Champions Online MMO is going to be based on the Champions Universe setting and characters, so it will contain a lot of people and places that Champions fans know and love - Dr. Destroyer, Millennium City, Mechanon, VIPER, Vibora Bay, and so on. However, characters and organizations in the game may not be exactly like they are in published Champions books.”

Champions Online is not quite a year into development. Per Victor, although Champions builds on the legacy of CoH/CoV, it is being developed on Cryptic Engine 2.0 – a new and improved engine, and all assets are being built from scratch. In terms of information, the website was launched recently and content is updated weekly. A new and improved version of CoH/CoV? That’s exciting.

Carolyn Koh / Carolyn has been writing for since 2004 and about the MMO genre since 1999. These days she plays mobile RTS games more, but MMOs will always remain near and dear to her heart.