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Wes Yanagi Interview

DC Universe Online Interviews - By Drew Wood on November 10, 2010

Wes Yanagi Interview

SOE Disclaimer: I attended a DC Universe Online event hosted by Sony Online Entertainment. Sony Online Entertainment paid for my flight, hotel and meals in connection with the event.

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MMORPG.com:

I just had the privilege of playing the game for almost four hours and obviously the first thing I noticed is something that has been touched on a bit; it's a completely different combat formula from the traditional MMO. What prompted a different approach, when it could have been very simple to say "Let's stay with the status quo", what was it about this property that made you want to diverge from that?

Wes Yanagi:

Ultimately, what we decided was that we wanted to deliver on that Super Hero/Super Villain fantasy. Everything kind of went back to that. One of the things we decided on early on was that we wanted to get that action game feel. We wanted you to be able to pick up a car and throw it down the street. Punch people and knock them back and all of those things. Then, we talked a little about the action/reaction and connectedness to your character and I think that was the other part of it, to give that fast-paced feel you had to be able to control your character, move your character, through the controller or mouse and keyboard, if you push your button once, you throw a punch, if you push it twice, you go into a combo. Maybe you throw a bus and there's reaction within the game world. A lot of that was trying to deliver on that goal. It's easy to look at games we've already done like Everquest, or Everquest II, or games that are already out there like WoW or Age of Conan, we felt like we wanted to take a different route. That was a huge risk for us because we didn't know if you could build that type of action, fast-paced gameplay that would span the internet and be tolerant of lag and latency and all of that stuff, so we spent a lot of time refining that combat and building the technology to support it. Early on, we did a lot of prototypes and when we showed the game at E3s and Comic Cons in the past and those were all iterations and progressions through that. Once we had that, it was an easier problem to solve in terms of the content. It's a little bit more refined and, I think, a little bit higher fidelity because we do want to craft the storylines and involve these characters into the gameplay. Building the content was something we felt a bit more comfortable with, we weren't necessarily trying to blaze any trails.

MMORPG.com:

With launch approaching, do you guys worry that maybe this fast-paced action could potentially alienate some of the hardcore MMOers that are out there right now?

Wes Yanagi:

There's always a risk of certain gameplay not meshing with people's expectations or style. It cuts both ways, in terms of there may be action gamers who shy away from MMOs fearing the grind or maybe the time commitment. Again, we wanted to make something very accessible, that has meaningful segments of content that is fast-paced, that appeals to being that super hero, not having to trudge across the continent spending 30 minutes getting from Point A to Point B. I think that there's a potential for that (alienation) but the good thing is that early on, in terms of early beta testing, the feedback has been pretty positive and the segments that you might think might not be as appealling are being embraced and looking at it as a fresh new take on something they like, so, so far it's been pretty good.

MMORPG.com:

During the [recent] presentation, there was some discussion about new monthly content, post-launch. Would you be able to give us a taste of, not necessarily specifics, but just the sort of thing that we can expect to see?

Wes Yanagi:

Yeah, we definitely want to add things like new Arenas, new maps for, say, PvP or content like that. Adding Iconic Characters that you can play as (for PvP Play as Iconic), you know, like a Mr. Freeze. Further in the future down the line, we want to have a Super Hero type level. We have the human class characters, like Batman, but eventually we'll be adding the Super Powered Iconics like Doomsday into that system. Then we'll have updates in terms of seasonal updates and open world content that are associated with that. So we might have like a Poison Ivy or Catwoman thing on Valentine's Day, things like that. Those types of refinements are what you can expect to see.

MMORPG.com:

It's relatively robust as it is, but is there any talk to, obviously down the line, expanding the mentors, the movement types, the power types...

Wes Yanagi:

A lot of things we've been talking about. Right now, it's all still kind of pie in the sky because, obviously, we haven't launched yet. Don't want to get too ahead of ourselves with that and distract everybody into working on other things. But yeah, we've talked about that, we've had questions. I mean, a lot of people ask us, can I be a Green Lantern, where are light powers in the game, and sort of things like that, we want to make sure that if we do that sort of thing that we can really sit down and sort of think them through as best as possible.

MMORPG.com:

PvP is obviously going to play a big role in the game. We already know about the Play As Iconic, which is quite exciting to a lot of players out there. Is there anything else you can tell us about the PvP that maybe is going to appeal to some of the more hardcore PvPers that are out there?

Wes Yanagi:

We do, we have a couple things. We have, obviously, the open-world PvP servers that are...really interesting... So we have some powers that are particularly interesting for that world. Chris has a mental character that he uses for PvP and one of the power sets in mental is Illusions, so you can turn yourself into a civilian and walk down the street, and so an unsuspecting hero walks by thinking you're just a civilian and then you surprise attack them. The other aspect is our PvP arenas, which we showed at E3 this last year. But the arenas are different types, you can bring your own character into these arenas, work to obtain these PvP Battle Suits and customize your build. The most interesting part of the PvP arenas though, are the game types; there's a Capture the Flag, we'll have Capture and Hold, Assault and Defend, and we'll constantly be building on that.

MMORPG.com:

Alerts, what can you tell us about Alerts?

Wes Yanagi:

Alerts are basically the way that we want to introduce players into group content. To get into an alert, you queue up, be anywhere in the world, go about your thing and once a queue fills then you get transported off to the alert. You do that mission with the group that you are teleported in there with, and then you come back into the open world from where you were. The mechanic behind it is that we wanted to be able to introduce the people who are new to massively multiplayer games, or aren't in a guild or a legion or any kind of social group outside of that, and expose them into kind of that group content. Leading up towards the end game where you're raiding the Bat-Cave, or Arkham Asylum which is going to require a lot more cooperation, a lot more skill, a lot more knowing your role. The alerts also ramp up in difficulty. Initially it's just do enough concentrated damage on these bosses with enough people and you kind of get through it to the more complicated ones at the higher levels that do require a little bit of tactic and roles and things like that.

MMORPG.com:

We're crunched for time here, unfortunately, so I'll finish us off with a quick question. With an IP as iconic as DC Comics, is there an expectation, or an emphasis that you guys placed on drawing in Non-MMOers with this IP?

Wes Yanagi:

I think, again, we wanted to focus on getting that action super-hero fantasy, and I think that does lend towards action gamers. It's a genre that a lot of people play and I think they'll be drawn to the PvP aspects, bringing that crowd into this game, making it accessible for them and showing them what a persistent, online world is all about is something that will be really exciting for them.