DC Universe Online at the SoE Fan Faire showed the same demo as shown at E3. To be fair, it has only been three weeks since E3 2009 so I did not expect any sort of update to DCUO since then. My best bet was the panel and Q&A with Jim Lee where the attendees got an insight into the creative minds of Jens Anderson, Creative Director and Wes Yanagi, Senior Producer for DC Universe Online and Jim Lee the Creative Director for DC Universe.
Wes was the first to admit that they were showing the same game play, "We're still pre-alpha," said Wes, "but we have demo slices of the game that are really fun to play." Indeed, during lulls when fans were not trying out the demo, Wes could be found playing the demo himself.
PvP in DCUO is strictly consensual and between heroes and villains only. It is a shared world but players will decide if they wish to enter PvP zones or tackle PvP quests. There will be some PvP servers at launch, but there will not be any open PvP, only between heroes and villains.
"Some of those quests are like battlegrounds," said Wes. Players will go into contested instanced missions like the one that was demo'ed at E3 and Fan Faire. There, they will support their side's Super Hero or Villain and they will have different objectives to accomplish.
The question that came up immediately centered around the "shades of grey" and the historical comic-book tension and sometimes, conflict between Batman and Superman, the Vigilante and the Super Boy Scout.
"There are shades of grey of being a hero," said Jens, "but players may not switch from hero to villain or vice versa." In other words, although there might be some quests that have players making choices to decide if the ends justify the means, we will not see Super Hero against Super Hero or Super Villain against Super Villain play.
"I'd create a villain [in DCUO]," said Jim Lee. "I spend 90% of my time writing the hero story, and this is my chance to write or play the villain story."
Jim also told us how important it was to him that the villain's journey did not just mirror the hero's journey.
"Each has to take their own path," Jim continued. "Encounter different situations, make different choices."
The psyche of a villain is different from that of the hero. Players won't be exposed to something as simple as encountering a puppy and having to decide between rescuing it or drowning it. DCUO will ensure that players who decide to play a villain will have a different experience than the hero - providing not just a different story but additional replay ability for the game.
"Economy, Yes. Grinding, No," stressed Jens as the panel moved along to the meat of the game. "Certainly there are level components to the game and some things are gated by levels, but progression is about skill."
There's the solo game, the grouping element and the guild element (leagues or legions) in DCUO, as well as getting to the end game. Secret Identity? Yes. Crafting? Yes. Talking about it now? No. Death mechanic? None. You get knocked out, you fail the content, but you get back on your feet. No XP loss, no repairs, just the loss of time.
DCUO will have a robust itemization system. Players will be able to keep the look they designed for themselves but the stats of better items if they choose to. "We don't want players to have to make a choice between looks and stats," said Jens, with Jim quipping that even Super Villains need to look coordinated while they are tearing up the side-walk.
Travel will be by teleportation devices as well as player character's own choice of super-speed skills.
There will not be a requirement for a "mentoring" or "side-kick" scheme in DCUO. "DCUO has a much flatter leveling curve than most MMOS," said Jens. "You can still play or group with players much higher or lower in level than you and both still gain experience."
The panel was light-hearted and punctuated with much laughter.
"No, we do not have an official launch date yet," Jens re-iterated a couple times, with Wes protesting "We're still in pre-Alpha, guys!"
"I'd LOVE to tell you more about the secret identity system," Jim assured the audience, "but that would have to be another time."
He did tell the audience, though that DCUO will draw from the very rich history of the golden age of comics and that there would be iconic items in game, although he once again declined to say any more.
"The concept art is all done by my team. What gets into the game, I can't say," said Jim. But he did say that as a long-time EverQuest player that he was looking forward to playing a villain in DC Universe Online.
SoE had printed a large number of DCUO posters for the Fan Faire and attendees lined up to have them signed by Jens, Jim and Wes. Some lucky attendees received fantastic sketches as Jens and Jim went into a little friendly competition drawing characters attacking each other.