GamesBeat

DC Universe Online exec talks about the game’s future and competition from Star Wars (interview)

Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) is celebrating DC Universe Online’s one-year anniversary today. All current players (with characters created on or before today) will receive a mission allowing them to earn a unique One Year Anniversary Cape.

The massively multiplayer online game (MMO) is notable for a number of reasons, including a dynamic, real-time combat system unlike most other MMOs, which generally feature quasi-turn-based battles (a la World of Warcraft). This gives it more of an “arcade-y” brawler-type feel, perfect for a game based on the DC universe of comic super heroes and villains.

SOE was previously responsible for the EverQuest franchise and troubled Star Wars Galaxies MMO, which was recently shut down permanently to make way for BioWare’s Star Wars: The Old Republic. DC Universe Online is also the first MMO released on the PlayStation 3, where the majority of its users reside (2.3M, compared to 1.8M on PC, according to Sony).

GamesBeat sat down with Executive Producer Lorin Jameson to discuss about where the game has been, where it’s at, and where’s it going. The Old Republic and World of Warcraft make their way into the interview as well, naturally.

GamesBeat: What is your role on DCUO? Can you detail your typical day-to-day duties?

Jameson: I am the Executive Producer. In a typical day I am coordinating with the team on upcoming content, managing the team directors, analyzing data and planning future strategies. It is an interrupt-driven job really where I never know what may happen from one day to the next and what challenges I may face. It is really quite exciting.

GamesBeat: DCUO’s Game Director has undergone a few personnel swaps since launch. Can you talk about who has come and gone, and how that has impacted development?

Jameson: It is pretty common post-launch on a long development cycle like DCUO’s to have people shift around or seek new opportunities. Also, team requirements and needs change when you shift from development to live. I think the current team on DCUO is perfect.

GamesBeat: Has Jim Lee’s role changed much since the launch of the game?

Jameson: Jim is still involved with the product, but since taking over as co-publisher for DC Comics he has a lot on his plate so he is not involved with the team on a day-to-day basis. He is still a player though and provides a lot of feedback.

GamesBeat: For the uninitiated, can you detail the content packs that have been released since launch?

Jameson: Our first DLC was Fight for the Light which introduced light-based powers from the Lantern and Sinestro corps. It has a lot of new missions based around Green Lantern themes and a ton of new gear. Next we released our second DLC, Lightning Strikes. Themed around the Flash and his origins it introduced Electricity Powers and included a very large open play area for high level characters in Central City, Flash’s hometown. We have also released eight free updates as well during the year adding a lot of new content and features into the game.

GamesBeat: What’s next in terms of major additions, features, areas, characters, etc?

Jameson:Most recently, we released the Research and Development system in Game Update 8. This system allows players to gather resources, learn plans, and create powerful modifications for their armor as well as advanced buffs and other consumables. It is a great system that we will be building on down the road and expanding to every aspect of the game. Additionally, we are excited to be celebrating our one-year anniversary. As you guys know, to celebrate this milestone, on January 11th we are giving players a special one-of-kind One-year Anniversary Cape that features the number “1” on the back.

GamesBeat: Did DC’s New 52 impact DCUO at all?

Jameson: DCUO has its own cannon and continuity. We may integrate some aspects of the DC reboot but we will pick and choose what fits.

GamesBeat: The NGE in Star Wars Galaxies was seen as the death of that game, and Blizzard has also redone their talent system twice now, much to the disdain of longtime players. Is the gameplay foundation in DCUO safe from any similar overhauls?

Jameson: Changes in MMO’s are pretty unavoidable. What every online game developer has to ask themselves, and what I ask my team whenever they propose a major change, is: Whose problems are you trying to solve? If the answer is “The Player’s” then I am usually good with it. Where developers run into issues is when the answer is “Mine”. As a company we are dedicated to our players and as long as we see them as our primary concern I think we will be OK.

GamesBeat: What other lessons (positive or negative) have you learned from other MMOs?

Jameson: Every MMO, successful or not, teaches me something about the industry and the art. For myself I see a lot to learn from Eve Online. They have not been without issues, but I always sense they are building from their core. They have managed to grow a game by knowing their own customers. Many games fail because they are still chasing the customers they wanted and not catering enough to the ones they have.

GamesBeat: Looking at other games, like WoW or even iterative bite-sized experiences like Pocket God, the current version is a far cry from the launch version. With that in mind, where would you like to see DCUO in five years? What are some of the big ideas waiting to be implemented, and what’s holding them back?

(interview continues on next page)

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