Champions: Building A Better Superhero

imbatmanIt’s interesting to me that, after only one MMO to really tackle the superhero/comic book genere, there’s been a rising voice of popular opinion saying that, hey, we tried the “hero” thing, it did okay, but we really can’t expect much more out of it.  Even with three major superhero MMOs in the works — Champions, DCUO and Marvel’s newly announced title — there’s some that just assume they’re going to flop because City of Heroes didn’t break a million subs, because of growing malaise amongst jaded MMO vets, and because it’s just a silly kids’ genre.

Maybe this isn’t your observation, but it is mine, and I’m really wondering why folks aren’t being the exact opposite — excited beyond belief that this once-stingy genre is now opening up to multiple titles (competition and a break on monopolies generates higher quality, typically) and feeding a realm of fiction that the average person has more experience with than fantasy.  Fantasy MMOs might dominate the scene now, but that goes pretty against the grain of most fiction in entertainment.  Even with Lord of the Rings factored in, more superhero flicks have been released in the past ten years — by FAR — than fantasy, and raked in far more moolah.  Not to mention that superhero fans haven’t had to fight the negative “uncool” stigma that fantasy fans have faced.

In my opinion, the time is quite ripe for superhero MMOs to make it big, pop culture big.  It is, at its core, all about wish fulfillment — for us to become something “special”, to have unique powers that can be used for personal gain, glory and heroism.  Public awareness of the genre is high, and if City of Heroes could still be doing quite decently for itself many years after launch — without a previously established IP, I might add — why can’t upcoming titles with a fixed IP and years’ of previous MMO development lessons do better?  Anyway, I’m psyched.

Oh, and did I mention I’m in the Champions Online beta?  (Woohoo!)  Guess I can’t say more about that, other than to comment on what’s been released over the web lately:

  • IGN’s got a dev interview with Jack Emmert, concerning the beta, loot, travel powers and other design decisions.  I thought this quote was quite interesting: “I think that I felt that the players would eventually like the way we implemented it and that the complaints would eventually fade. City of Heroes did just fine, so I could have taken that approach to heart. I’ve talked to many designers who take an almost adversarial approach with their players.  In Champions, I think I’ve learned to listen a lot more and I can say that we’ve made tons of changes based directly upon what the beta players have said.”
  • The Champions site has a new critter article on the Bleak Ones — or as I shall now call them, Mr. Fish Face.
  • Over on Massively, they snagged a developer blog with Randy Mosiondz who discusses how they can balance between good roleplaying and good gameplaying.  Is gameplaying a word?  It is now!  Call Oxford!
  • And my friend Werit has posted three things he wants and three things he doesn’t want to see in Champions.  I agree about the PvP thing, but that’s a rant for another day.

13 thoughts on “Champions: Building A Better Superhero

  1. If I loved superheroes then maybe I’d be excited beyond belief about all the upcoming games 🙂 I just don’t see them doing the things I would want with the genre, which is getting a lot more story based.

    I want to see a non-DIKU superhero game before I get excited. I know I’ll be playing Champions because my husband loves the idea and I like playing with him, but I can’t get enthused about the same old same old. Just with different settings.

  2. I was going to say you suck but Werit beat me too it. So I say GRATS!… how bout trying to get me in? I said grats and I ment it… Mostly… Kind of… Not really… Ok you suck! (jk of course)

  3. I think that a big part of the “meh” with Champions comes from the general lack of story which MMOs have been able to convey.

    Excluding some of the big, impressive stories, comics would seem to make the perfect framework for an MMO – limited story with lots of bashing. Unfortunately, MMOs have failed to deliver even a comic-level of story. You’ve discussed this before, and I’ve generally agreed with you.

    I think it’s even worse in a superhero MMO because, largely due to Cryptic, there’s a greater level of identification with your hero. 99% of the MMO players out there have no connection or concept of their character beyond “Night Elf Hunter”. CoH changed that – the customization options made your character truly unique, and the origin selection encouraged SOME thought as to how your character got their powers. Plus, when you consider the recent growth of superhero movies, how many of them haven’t been origin stories? The concept of an origin story is so ingrained into superheroes that it’s almost impossible NOT to think about it.

    So: We now have a character who you spent two hours perfecting the look of, and actually have a background idea for. And you drop them into stories so mindless, and environments so repetitive, that it sucks the life out of them.

    I don’t know that many would articulate it that way, but I think a lot of people would say that there’s just something missing from superhero MMOs, and that’s why they aren’t excited. And that’s what I’d think it is.

  4. I know you’ll love what you see Syp, hope to hear lots of feedback from you in the coming weeks.

  5. As with all upcoming games, I wish them the best and I’ll believe the hype when I get to play the finished (or near-finished open beta) product. 🙂

  6. “Oh, and did I mention I’m in the Champions Online beta? (Woohoo!)”

    You sir, are an arsehole!

    where’s my beta? What about beta’s for your returning blog posters? Share the wealth!

    Seriously, grats!

  7. Gratz on the beta invite. But I agree with everything you’ve wrote, and I am excited that we are seeing more MMO’s being developed that are not fantasy based.

    I have not been following CO news, so I look forward to reading your thoughts about the game at some point.

  8. You and your betas!!! Bullhonkery! I think you’ve found some mythical power that enables you to get access to them.

    Well at least I can quell my jealousy with the fact that Bio Break will feed my growing obsession for CO info.

  9. “I think that a big part of the “meh” with Champions comes from the general lack of story which MMOs have been able to convey.”

    /agree. I am not really excited about any of the new MMO’s coming out. Sure it will be fun for a while to control a different looking character or kill things in a different way (which is why we all create so many alts). But in the end, have we experienced anything?

    No matter how many raids we are on, or how much loot we get, or how big our warbands are, we don’t have the ability to have an impact on the world, and the story we tell about our experiences is usually about how someone said something inapropriate in vent.

    Wow started to scratch the surface with the death knight starting area. WAR had a lot of promise, but turning the guards of a keep from enemy to friendly for an hour, is hardly legendary.

    Let me destroy buildings. Let me pave a road through a forest. Let me build a statue of myself. Let me start a business selling hotdogs with +100 ballistic skill. Anything except killing the same spider 26,000 times that is going to respawn 30 seconds after you do.

  10. I’ve played fantasy MMOs, I’ve played Sci Fi MMOs. Genre didn’t influence my decisions to try new games.

    What people want is a fun game to play with people they like. Too much emphasis is put on the genre or the IP without appreciating that we play because we like the gameplay.

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