2K Games, Cryptic Explore Champions Online
07.16.08 - 9:19 PM

In Champions Online, the newest MMORPG from Cryptic Studios and 2K Games for the PC and Xbox 360, you can make a fat, bald guy in a wifebeater and name him Carl. While the game is still almost a year out from its Spring 2009 release date, the producer and designers of the title confirmed for me that I'll be able to make our friend from Aqua Teen Hunger Force.

As it is a Cryptic Studios game, Champions Online will feature an incredibly robust character creation system. While we weren't demoed the system itself, the two demo characters were incredibly different, one Cryptic employee played a woman in skintight leather with Psylocke-style psychic powers as well as shadow-based powers and the other played a large man in a robot suit who wielded electric powers. One of the nice things about Champions Online is the fact that players will never have to change their looks even when they get new, better loot. Unlike World of Warcraft or EverQuest II, where characters can look like hobos fresh out of a Salvation Army store, players will be able to apply bonuses from new equipment and keep their superhero look.

Champions Online features an action-oriented battle system that controls differently based on whether a player is playing on the PC or Xbox 360. Players will be able to use a keyboard and mouse with the PC version, which will control like a standard MMORPG, or players on either platform can use their controllers, which has a control scheme not unlike Marvel Ultimate Alliance. Players will be able to map up to eight powers to their face buttons; one set for standard powers, one set for powers accessed while holding one of the triggers.

Players will be able to form groups up to five to explore the seamless world of Champions Online. There are still instanced group zones, but the majority of the content is part of the persistent world. While there's been no raid content announced, there is content for larger groups of players, similar to the world encounters in World of Warcraft. Cryptic learned many lessons from City of Heroes, and will be providing enough content for hardcore MMORPG players as well as making it accessible for newbies in the MMO genre. As such, there is a full inventory system in Champions Online.

In addition, Player versus Player combat will exist in one form or another, but this sort of content hasn't been finalized yet. What Crypic did say was that every time a power was inserted into the game, it was thought of in both a PvP and a PvE perspective, so there shouldn't be any imbalances due to abilities meant for one style of play or the other.

There are no classes in Champions Online, players are not limited to put their points into a single skill tree, and will be able to return and redistribute their points. Cryptic Studios, clearly fans of comics, have named the process of redistributing points "retconning", the term used in comic books when a character's past is changed. Keeping in line with the comic feel, all the environments and characters in the game are "comic shaded", similar to cel shading.

Champions Online is still a ways out, but in the hands of a seasoned developer like Cryptic Studios, players should be ready to kick butt and take names when it launches in Spring 2009.


John McCarroll