Recently, I had the opportunity to ask a few questions of Cryptic’s Bill Roper about Champions Online and the public’s receptions of their game and the general perception that it carries.
When it first launched, Champions Online was met with a number of players who felt that the game simply wasn’t up to par with what they were expecting from Cryptic’s second stab at a superhero MMO.
To be fair, reviews of the game since its launch have been mixed, from 87 all the way down to 40 on Metacritic(with an average score of 72). Still, it’s the detractors of the game that are often the loudest and it is their complaints that this interview was at least partially meant to address.
“Champions Online was far from perfect when it launched,” Roper answered when asked about the perception by some that the game was a colossal failure, “and I think this generated a lot of ‘player rage.’ But no MMO is perfect when it first comes out.”
Roper continued, talking about his philosophy on MMO launches. “The fight,” he said, “is to be as good as you can when you go live and then stay alive long enough to work through your issues and stay connected to your players. If you didn’t like the game when it launched, check it out during one of our promotional weekends. You’ll be amazed at how much we’ve done in three short months.”
I don’t consider the game to be a colossal failure… in either sense since we have a very active and engaged community playing the game right now. Even in our harshest reviews, people think the game is fun and has the potential to continue to grow into something fantastic.”
Roper has a great deal of confidence in the game and the headway that has been made since launch, but has no problem admitting that there were issues from the beginning. When asked to respond to critics who say that the game was rushed out the door and into a live state, he isn’t afraid to admit that more time could have been useful and to point directly at what issues could have been better addressed at the time:
“We definitely needed more time on balancing the game overall, and that bit us when we had to do a large shift in the experience / difficulty curve after the head start program ran. We had the experience curve very close to where we wanted it by the time the game launched wide, but this definitely caused some of our early adopters to be upset that the game play changed after it went live. We also should have done a better job with balancing powers before launch.”
While willing to admit that there were some issues, Roper is by no means willing to admit defeat: “Over the past three months post-launch, we’ve been working overtime to correct issues, get new content and features in that line up with our players’ interests, and being very communicative and interactive with our community in regards to our plans.”
Proof that the development team has been hard at work on improving the game came with the recent rollout of Nemesis Confrontation, a large update to the game that brought in new costume sets, new nemesis lairs, and more. That being the most recent update on the books, I asked Roper how he felt it went and how it was received by players:
“We’ve received great reviews from our community on Nemesis Confrontation. It focuses on supporting our players that want more for both end-game content and play that centers on groups. Using the Nemesis system as a catalyst for this, we also allow players to share their villainous creations with each other and bring a new random twist into the Lair structure. Nemesis Confrontation is the first step in us combing existent game systems with new technology to create compelling new content and challenges.
So, with that in mind, no update is perfect, so I asked Roper whether there was anything in hindsight that they would have changed either about the implementation or about the content of the update. Roper maintained his confidence in the update in saying that, “I think that Nemesis Confrontation came out very smoothly and players have been reacting incredibly favorably to it.” with did, however admit that, as is expected with any new update, not everything was perfect. “There are some design tweaks that we would like to have made (or perhaps make in the future) such as increasing the difficulty of the Nemeses, and making them a bigger part of the final confrontation. But all in all, the new Lair and its launch was a real success.”
Roper is right when he says that no MMO is ever perfect, especially at launch. Even looking back at City of Heroes, the game that so many are pointing to as the benchmark for the genre, but that itself has evolved and grown over its five year lifespan. So, how do Roper and company plan to match its longevity with Champions. Roper’s answer was a simple one:
”By listening to our players, making changes in the game that reflect their interests, and not being complacent with what we have. We need to be willing to take bold steps as required to make the game bigger and better, and I think we’ve been showing our dedication to the game with all of the work we’ve done since launch.”
We ended the interview by talking a little bit about what the future holds for Champions:
“In December, we’re launching an event that features new technology that allows players of any level to fight side-by-side against a common enemy. This is important for us because it allows the balancing of an encounter for a number of heroes regardless of their level. The event will be based around traditional winter holidays and has some incredibly unique and new rewards.
“Moving forward, we have other new systems on the drawing board that will allow players to investigate and find their own crimes to combat, as well as a few other surprises to really extend the life and fun of the game. These updates are all designed to be usable by heroes of all levels so that we reach the highest number of players possible with our work.
”And of course, we’re coming up with more Nemesis-based missions and encounters…”
Whether you like Champions Online, hate it or have no opinion at all, it’s at least nice to see that the developers are not only aware of past mistakes, but they’ll talk about them while trying to continue to improve the game.