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Update 3 Developer Roundtable

William Murphy Posted:
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Recently the folks at SOE Austin conducted a Roundtable discussion about DC Universe Online’s upcoming Update 3.  In attendance were Mark Anderson (New Game Director), Jens Anderson (Creative Director) and Lorin Jameson (Director of Development), ready and willing to answer questions about all manner of things DCUO.  The team was pleased to be back to “work as normal” with the PSN and SOE services back online, adamant about the MegaServers and how it will help the population of DCUO, and they were also glad to introduce Mark as the new Game Director.  But before we get to the Q&A, let’s highlight some of what Update is looking to bring to the table.

Update 3 Overview

The “featured character” for Update 3 is none other than Ra’s al Ghul of Batman Begins fame.  Yes I know he’s been around a lot longer than that, but it wasn’t until the reboot of the Batman films that Ra’s got the attention he deserved.   There’s a brand new 4-person alert centered entirely around Ra’s al Ghul and the League of Assassins, as well as a whole new set of League of Assassins gear to track down.  The seasonal Spring content is all about Swamp Thing and Poison Ivy’s struggle for control of the title “Servant of the Green”.  And of course there’s the brand new level 30 Hard Alert for Oolong Island.  Due out in the beginning of June (thanks to the PSN outage), the team really believes this batch of content is their best yet.  Because we only had an hour to talk about it all, and because there were close to ten press-types in attendance, we quickly got to the questions.

MegaServers and Name Collision

First up was Krystalle from Massively.  Her question centered around the MegaServers and just how the team will go about dealing with name collisions and the like between characters.  For those who don’t know the MegaServers are DCUO’s way of paring down the existing servers into one giant cluster using phasing technology to allow all players on PC to play and queue together and all players on the PS3 will do the same on their platform (though it’s still not cross-platform).  Lorin answered first saying that they’ve thought long and hard about how to fairly deal with naming collisions, and it comes down to three things.  Firstly they give the name to whoever has the active subscription.  If each player is active, they then give the name to the character that has the most time invested.  But lastly, if there is a naming collision, but no one who has it is subscribing the name will be freed up for use.  Additionally Lorin said that while these sorts of hurdles are inevitable, it’s more important to get players back to playing together and to eliminate the queue times with the MegaServers so they see it as a worthwhile headache for staff and players alike.

Swamp Thing Comic Push

Next up was Sean from Comic Book Resources.  He wondered if Swamp Thing was suddenly getting some DCUO love because in the comics he’s currently seeing the same.  Jens Anderson came right out and said they were surprised DC allowed them to use Swamp Thing because he’d traditionally been a “Vertigo” label character, but now that he’s back in the DCU fold they’re glad to use him.  But no, the use of the Servant of the Green is merely coincidental with DC’s current push behind the character.  On the topic of the update Jens also mentioned that the seasonal content this time around builds more on the open world content we see with the Mr. Mxyzptlk event currently on the servers.  In that it’s goal is to get players out in the open world and utilize the game’s strong points rather than try to tack on goofy platforming mechanics. 

I Can Haz Open World Content?

Then it was my turn and I begged the team to give me some good news about the future content and getting back to the Open World.  Mark laughed and said he truly knows how I feel, and that the whole team is aware that the 1-30 game is filled with exciting Hero and Villain encounters out in the open world and that their end-game then keeps everyone inside of instances.  First they’re hoping the MegaServers address some of this, since everyone will be back together in one cluster again.  But they absolutely agree that the future content needs to bring people back out into the open.  They couldn’t give more details yet, other than to say that they’re working on stuff for the near future.

What’s the Story with Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing?

Next we took a turn back to Poison Ivy and Swamp Thing.  What’s the story there?  How does the team tie two relatively “gray area” heroes/villains together.  Basically what it amounts to, according to Jens is that Swamp Thing is Earth’s Plant Elemental or “Servant of the Green” as it’s called.  And Poison Ivy is none too happy about someone besides herself holding that title so she recruits villains to help her take it from the Swamp Thing.  Heroes on the other hand will help him fight off her attacks.  Jens also said that their version of the Swamp Thing is the traditional version, and not the Brightest Day variant.  In general, DCUO is almost creating its own version of the DCU, and they’re quite happy so far to sort of draw upon all of these different stories.

Um… What About that Green Lantern Guy?

Finally, because we all knew it was coming, Albert from Newsarama asked about the kind-of-a-big-deal Green Lantern movie coming out soon and whether they planned on doing anything towards that end.  The team was very coy and said they can’t talk about it right now though a tie-in of sorts is still on their minds.  My guess however is that we won’t see anything major in time for the movie’s release.  Just a hunch.

No More Monthly Updates, eh?

Jeff from Ten Ton Hammer then asked why the team couldn’t seem to hit that monthly stride.  Essentially, Mark says, they just found out how hard the process was once the game was launched.  With the necessity of submitting updates through so many different approval processes while trying to maintain quantity and quality, they just haven’t nailed it yet.  Mark things they’ll still be able to do it every six-eight weeks, alongside larger updates every few months, but that they’ll freely admit they’ve not hit their stride yet.  However he did say he believes Update 3 is their best work, and that’s their goal: quality should be paramount.  If they can nail that down, then the speed at which they turn around updates should follow.

The Cao’s Out of the Bag

Chris from ZAM then asked the team if they could elaborate on why Chris Cao left the game, and additionally whether Mark could define what his goals are for the game.  Mark said that he couldn’t comment on Chris’ decision, but that it was voluntary and that he’ll definitely be missed.  His main goals are to really hone in on the quality of the game’s content and updates and to do that they’re going to see a lot more vocal presence in the community and on the boards.  They’re going to concentrate on the content that players really crave (such as 4-man content in Update 3) and shy away from trying anything too weird or goofy.  Jens chimed in and said that he thinks Mark being the driving force behind DCUO’s combat is a good indicator that he’s the right guy to helm DCUO because that’s where the game excels the most. 

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William Murphy

Bill is the former Managing Editor of MMORPG.com, RTSGuru.com, and lover of all things gaming. He's been playing and writing about MMOs and geekery since 2002, and you can harass him and his views on Twitter @thebillmurphy.