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The Current State of the Game

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The Current State of the Game

Champions Online correspondent Dana O`Shea looks at various sources, from official information to speculation, to report on the current state of this superhero MMORPG under development at Cryptic Studios.

Super-heroes will come alive again with Cryptic Studios' upcoming Massive Multi-player Online Role-Playing Game Champions Online which is currently being developed for both PC and Xbox 360. As we get closer to release lets take a look at a few features and news currently being discussed. We can take a look at what the game is all about, what is rumored to be included, and what we would like to see.

Champions Online is all about the super-heroes! Custom-built costumes and powers will give us the excitement of creating any hero we can imagine and then battle evil in an expansive environment. The world is full of opportunities for a young champion to set out and right some wrongs! And, as the player gets involved in the stories and adventures of the world they will also be rewarded with their hero's own personal arch-enemy and plot.

It's worth taking a look at Cryptic Studios and their previous success with the long-standing MMORPG City of Heroes. City of Heroes has maintained a devoted following from launch right up to the present time. Along the way we saw the release of City of Villains which doubled the game's content by introducing a whole new city where the biggest and baddest rule. And, as time has gone by Cryptic have been good to their loyal fans with several free expansions and updates that address the needs of the community. This gives Cryptic the background knowledge and experience to know exactly what a super-hero fan really wants and how to make that work.

Champions itself is a popular pen-and-paper Role-Playing game that has been around for quite some time and has a large fan base that are expecting something special. Though some elements have been changed or revised to suit a real-time-action online game, the setting and citizens of Millennium City are taken from the pages of the text. But, it is worth adding that we will not be limited to adventuring in Millennium City. We will see a rich, detailed world with varied and diverse climates and locations each with their own criminal activities and events to explore. Looking to the horizon, a pillar of smoke in the distance might be an explosion or crash that needs investigating. We might investigate a crime and find clues leading to a villain's secret base. Crime-fighting could take us to a jungle, or remote island, perhaps a desert or snow-filled outpost - each with their own criminal activities and events to explore.

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Perhaps the most important aspect of Champions Online is the customisation. We will get the power to choose not only exactly what the character looks like - but, also exactly what they can do! A revolutionary new system will let us combine abilities without the restrictions of class or archetype and will open up a multitude of character builds. It will not be so much character creation as character "invention". This could be the artistic gamers’ dream come true. And, as the character progresses they will of course become more powerful but also be free to try different powers to complement their current selection or diversify into different areas as they see fit. Which powers are chosen will affect how things like endurance are managed. For example, instead of having a set amount of endurance to spend and then rest to replenish we may find that some of our abilities will build endurance and others will expend it.

Want to use force-fields and then charge in with a sword? This should have an interesting effect on team dynamics. No longer will we be calling out for tanks or healers to complete a team. Yes, a well-built character may specialise in those fields, but each character has the option to pick from any set of powers as they see fit. A melee-style character may take their own choice of powers for buffs, or maybe a character focusing on healing will combine that with some combat skills so that they are still effective when playing solo.

The action itself is played out using a newly-developed engine that should do justice to the original RPG while providing an exciting 3rd-person game. This has been described as something that "evolved" from the City of Heroes engine. Knowing what players want, like customisable super-power visuals, Cryptic has incorporated a very versatile character animation system. If we want green fire-balls we can have green fire-balls. Want laser-beam eyes? All this in a style that looks like it has been taken right out of the pages of a comic book.

Real incentive for character progress is the "Nemesis" system. A good hero needs an evil villain! After a while a series of missions will begin to involve a super-villain of the player's own creation complete with minions and a diabolical scheme to thwart. Give your Nemesis powers, give them a sinister appearance! And, call in the help of other heroes to see just how evil your foe is! But, be warned, only the truly dedicated hero is powerful enough to be worthy of such a task - this is something for higher-level champions.

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This adds to the existing plots and main storylines and ensures that the super-hero has an important place in the world. And the world itself already has plenty to do. Just seeing something like a pillar of smoke in the distance lets you know that your help may be needed. There are also going to be several main plots and story-lines that will unfold as we explore. These will take us to new places and also feature significant challenges that may well require the assistance of other super-powered companions.

Do super-heroes "loot their kills"? Do they even have room in their costumes for a pocket to carry the loot? Perhaps loot is not just weapons and suits of armor. Yes, we might decide to take the sword that fell from the enemy's hand but we could be just as likely to find information or something else that might be useful. And, as time passes the hero is going to need to find a few things that they can use to enhance their own powers. Some of these are called Power Replacers. A super-hero might have a power that lets them use a sword but then finds a powerful katana-style weapon - the character then has the option to use the newly-found item as their own sword. There may also be other means of improving your powers such as scientific modification, or use of technology, or magic etc. This gives long-term purpose for a character as they get the joy of finding that one awesome item every now and then all the way into the higher levels.

So, come spring 2009 we might have to start wearing our super-costumes under our clothes again with Champions Online on the way! Whether you are a fan of Cryptic, a fan of super-heroes, or just looking for a great MMO this could definitely be a game to look out for.


Guest Writer