Tag Archive: MMORPG

Set in a world just like ours, The Secret World asks what would be if all the monsters, myths, and legends we’ve told over the years were actually true…and gives you a chance to kick their butts. We sat down with Martin Bruusgaard, Lead Designer on The Secret World to pick his brain about it all as the game launches today.

EGM: Instead of your typical class or level systems, The Secret World touts being ‘highly customizable’ when it comes to your characters so there isn’t the standard level grind of a lot of other MMOs. How do you think this will affect the draw of your game to the more hardcore MMO player who is used to these systems and how does this customization feature work in powering up your character?

Martin Bruusgaard, Lead Designer: I think hardcore MMO-ers will find this as a very welcomed break from the norm. I think players have been waiting for a game where they’re not locked down to a class, but rather let the players forge their own play style. Remember that when you play a class, you are locked down to that class forever. If you want to try a new class you have to start a new character and then play through all the content you played before, while your friends are all in the endgame. In The Secret World you can swap out abilities whenever you want, except for when you’re in the middle of combat. This means that the different strategies to take down a difficult encounter multiplies thousand fold, and this has always been the design intent; To give players the freedom to make smart decisions, and reward them for it.

EGM: The game takes place all over the world in both real world locales and fictional settings. With the real world settings it is easy to draw inspiration from, but where did you get your designs for the mythical places your adventure in The Secret World will take you?

MB: What do you mean by fictional setting? Everything is true! Hehe, joke aside, we have a fantastic team who have investigated all types of myths and legends all around the world. We developed many different concepts for the different locations, and went with the ones that seemed most plausible in our real world setting. Since we are mimicking the real world, OUR real world, it’s very important that even the fictional locations are believable. We are trying hard to make it feel just like another place you can visit. What does El Dorado look like today? What is all this machinery doing in Hell? Play the game and find out!

EGM: Aside from these mythical locations, much of the game draws from various mythologies, local legends, and pop culture and even features time travel. How was it to try to strike a balance between these creative elements to make them still feel new and refreshing to players?

MB: As I mentioned, we have a great team that investigates all these different elements of our world, and a lot of the challenge are incorporating this into the game world in a believable fashion. I really hope players will appreciate the amount of research that has gotten into the game. Everything from NPC names, to item names to little snippets of information you can pick up through the lore system. Some players will probably enter our travel hub, and think “Cool, they have a travel hub”, but I hope most of our players will actually Google why it’s called Agartha…

EGM: A key to any MMO is PvP. Talk to us about how The Secret World‘s PvP works in a world without leveling and what makes it stand out from the competition. 

MB: First of all I should mention that we have 3 factions, The Templars, The Illuminati and The Dragon. Having three sides in PvP always creates more interesting gameplay. There’s never 2 sides just butting heads, but one always have to look out for that joker in the mix.

We have 3 different kinds of PvP. In each hub, we have a fight club, which is a free for all PvP arena. This is a perfect spot for players to practice dueling, or just to test out their builds. Players are also already making plans to host PvP tournaments there. In addition to that we have the Battlefields. These are legendary locations all over the world, which the secret societies fight over. The two locations we launched with are Stonehenge, and Eldorado. Stonehenge is a king of the hill type of match, where each of the three secret societies has sent a team of five players to battle over who gets to control the power of Stonehenge. In Eldorado, the secret societies have sent a team of 10 to battle over some ancient Mayan artifacts. This is a capture the flag type of gameplay, but the twist is that instead of bringing the flags back to your base, you have to pick a spot on the map and defend them with your life.

Finally we have the Warzones, which are persistent PvP playfields that can hold up to 275 players simultaneously. Players fight over control of different facilities, and the cool thing is that the bonus for controlling these facilities is distributed across the whole secret society, not just the ones fighting. So you can basically go in there, kick ass, and become the hero of your secret society, since they all benefit from your efforts.

EGM: Another thing that we noticed makes The Secret World stand out a bit is the audio. From the moans and groans of the undead to the citizens you try to help, it sounds like there is a voice actor for every character in the game! What went into the audio production in the game and how important do you think it is to setting the supernatural mood?

MB: We are putting huge emphasis on the sound in our game. We have gotten some fantastic music composed that really sets the tone perfectly if you’re walking in a back alley in London, exploring the forest in Transylvania or traversing the desert in Egypt. We have also gotten some world class voice actors to give life and soul to the various characters the players will encounter. We give out quests or missions as we call them, a bit differently in our game. The characters the players will meet in the game world will never ask for anything specific from the player, but rather tell them a snippet of their own life and the situation they’re in. Therefore it’s very important that their voices are first class, and that the players believe and empathize with them.

EGM: The elephant in the room is obviously you guys have a subscription base going in. You’re starting to see a lot of MMOs move towards the Free-to-play route. Was this ever an option for you guys? Is there a possibility of that happening in the future? What made you stick to this route?

MB: We’ve obviously considered several business models, and we concluded that the subscription model was the right one for The Secret World. There is definitely still room for the subscription MMO provided you can supply the level of quality both in the launch version as well as in the ongoing updates after launch.

EGM: You’re wrapping up the beta here as the game prepares to drop July 3rd. How important has the beta been towards making the push to the final product and making those last tweaks to the game world, especially so close to launch?

MB: It’s been incredibly valuable. We have had some fantastic testers, which actually focused on testing, instead of just playing the game for a couple of hours to see if they will buy the game at launch. We have reacted to their feedback continuously, and have patched very frequently. We have also set up runs with the testers where the developers went in as observers to see what issues the players were facing, what they could potentially exploit, measure the difficulty rating, etc.  It has been a very successful beta in our views, and we are very grateful to all our testers.

EGM: The game’s story does come to an end after a long and winding road, but are there any plans in the future for add-ons possibly already in the works or a fourth faction maybe to play as aside from the Dragons, Illuminati, or Templars? 

MB: We have lots of plans for the coming years! The story does not end, but a chapter finishes. It will give the players some closure and more understanding of The Secret World universe, but there are still questions to be answered. As the players play the game, they will realize that there are definitely other factions at play here, but if the players get to play as them remains to be seen. We will release our post launch plans, and our content update info relatively shortly after launch.

The Truth is Out There

In December, we here at EGM previewed The Secret World in our MMORPG issue of EGMi (Issue 76 if you’re curious to go look) and the excitement we felt then only carried over into a new demo we were able to get at GDC last week. And although it may have been pushed back from an April to June release, The Secret World shows they are pulling out all the stops when it comes to trying to be competitive in the subscription based MMO world.

If you need a little refresher, The Secret World is shaping up to be a cross between The X-Files, Fringe, and some obscure Norse mythology where you play as an agent from one of three very distinct and different secret organizations. The Templars are based out of London and have that old world charm and are zealots when it comes to hording power and control. The New York based Illuminati believe that only the strong survive. And the Korea-based Dragons, who we finally saw in action at GDC, worship and all its causes, including lust, jealously, and other kinds of extreme emotion.

The mythology is really where the action comes from as while playing your part for your respective organization, you have to try to hold back demonic forces that are trying to cross over into the real world and help out folks who are clearly in over their heads. Part of what is breaking down the dimension doorways and what not is something called the Filth, which we saw what happens when there is a full-on infestation of this stuff. People are completely consumed and turned into walking monstrosities when they make contact with the stuff and it is up to you tapping into some crazy powers and weapons to help drive it back.

Something else we saw in our original demo was when you are first brought into the fold of your respective organization is that you live the last moments of a life, flashback style, that came into direct contact with the Filth. At GDC, we saw a level that took that a step further as we were transported back to pre-colonial America and had to fight off a monstrous dragon-like creature and much like the Cthulhu type creature we faced off against back in December, you need a full-team before taking on any dungeon master as these creatures do monumental amounts of damage.

It should be interesting to see how well The Secret World can do in the AAA MMORPG space to compete against titles like World of Warcraft and now even Star Wars: The Old Republic as the market continues to move towards a free-to-play stance for the most part. But one thing is for certain, the concept is definitely there and I can’t wait to go hands-on with a finished product.

Brainiac Rises

Originally Published: February 27, 2011, on my StrongProtector account on GiantBomb.com

Growing up, I always dreamed of being a superhero. I wore a blue blanket around my neck as a cape and ran around the house vanquishing invisible enemies with what I perceived as martial arts, but that my parents probably thought might be closer to some kind of interpretive dance (I’ve always been a very uncoordinated individual). So, it makes some sense that the only MMORPGs I ever had any real interest in were the ones that let me make my own superhero.

Great MMORPGs are supposed to be able to suck you in and make you want to keep playing and building up your character and keep influencing the universe you find yourself in (and keep paying the monthly subscription fee), but I got bored with City of Heroes after a while and the same happened with Champions Online.

DC Universe Online was supposed to be different though. Over the four-plus years of development and delays we had to endure, we kept being told how it was going to change the world of MMORPGs, how it was going to be different, and how it was going to appeal more to people like me who weren’t into collecting rat pelts and beating up on smaller foes constantly in order to just level up once in the hopes of advancing past the next mission.

Well, after weeks of near non-stop research, where I sacrificed contact with the outside world, and also with my razor (see picture), I have come to this conclusion: DCU Online is easily the most fun, engrossing, and enjoyable superhero MMORPG I’ve ever played. But after playing it non-stop for a month, I don’t see any reason to extend my subscription beyond the free 30 days the game comes with.

The game opens with Brainiac putting into motion his master plan, his end game that will finally eradicate the heroes and villains who have always stood in his way and that will give him absolute control of the Earth. And he will succeed. Furious over missing the threat right under his nose and letting his obsession with Superman get the best of him, Lex Luthor from the future builds a time machine that allows him to temporarily travel back to the Justice League Watchtower before Brainiac launches his attack. Future Luthor has brought back with him Exobytes, little nanobots that Brainiac used to download the DNA and powers of Earth’s heroes and upload into his robot army for the final push of his conquest. Luthor releases these Exobytes into the atmosphere, thus creating millions of new heroes in the hopes it can change his present and our future as he is ripped back to his own time.

It is here that you can then create your own hero or villain. First, you have to choose a server offered and I normally wouldn’t even mention this, but as a comic book fan, I took a little extra joy in seeing each one named after a classic DC storyline, whether “The Killing Joke”, “Final Crisis”, “Justice” or the many others. Now, if you want to jump right into the action after this, you can choose from one of 15 hero/villain presets, but if you’re like me and want a more personal touch, then you can choose from hundreds of various combinations, with more that you can earn over the course of your playing time.

Either way, you can choose from one of six “mentor” types who will influence your safe house and mission layout. If you choose to be a hero that follows Batman, for example, you’ll face more of his villains like Scarecrow and Bane. On the other side of the coin, if you choose to be a villain that follows the Joker, you’ll face off mostly against the Bat Family.

I created one hero and one villain to start. The hero I made is a tech-ninja who sports a sweet black mage hat named Strong Protector and who is a dedicated brawler. The villain I created is a dual-pistol wielding army reject named Ray Rage. Someone is now going to use this information to probably lay out a psych profile for me. Anyway, I stuck with the more realistic hero powers, but ice, nature, fire, psychic, and dark magic abilities are all at your disposal as well when creating your own personal characters.

The instant appeal of DCU Online doesn’t lie in the fact that you can create your own hero or villain though because it’s been done before. The appeal lies in the fact that you are playing in an established universe with over 70 years of history to it. You’re jumping right into Gotham’s East End to cause havoc with the Joker for the GCPD and stop Huntress from putting pressure on your mob allies or maybe you’d rather jump into Metropolis’ Chinatown with Superman and need to stop the Hive from stealing mystical artifacts.

The concept clearly is enough to get my blood pumping, but how does the game actually stand up once you get into Metropolis, the Watchtower, or various other areas in the DC Universe? The best way to describe it would probably be a mixed bag.

The scope of the world you find yourself fighting in is absolutely massive and obviously being able to support thousands upon thousands of people online at once takes its toll on the aesthetics of the game, but that’s really no excuse for the amount of visual glitches you’ll find in DCUO. Much of the world is very slow loading and there are holes everywhere. Thank goodness there is a warp option in the menu otherwise I’d still be falling through an invisible hole that was in the middle of the Metropolis boardwalk. The graphics do look great though during the story cut scenes or the small comic style vignettes you earn after defeating every hero or villain you face.

The audio is spear-headed by tremendous voice acting from former DC Universe animation veterans like Adam Baldwin and James Marstens (Superman and Lex Luthor from Superman: Doomsday) and of course Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill (Batman and the Joker from Batman: The Animated Series and countless other DC animation projects), but I was surprised at how generic the music was. It kept sounding like you’d hear the beginnings of Danny Elfman’s Batman theme in Gotham or John Williams’s Superman theme in Metropolis, and then it would just taper off. Would it have been too much to ask to bash heads to the music that many comic book fans have come to associate with their favorite heroes?

Where DC Universe Online really shines is in the simple controls and mechanics. Unlike most other MMORPGs, the action is completely responsive to your button commands like a traditional action-game instead of the random or turn-based styling that is more accustomed to this kind of game. This allows for players to have a much stronger say in what happens in a fight instead of relying on making the right choices when leveling up and hoping for the right digital role of the dice behind the scenes.

The leveling up has also been streamlined compared to most MMORPGs as you only decide on what new powers you can learn or new fighting styles to acquire. Your health, defense, attack power, speed, and other more traditional attributes increase at a fixed pace, which can be augmented via finding various types of gear from fallen foes, with the best goodies obviously being dropped by the super villains you take out.

Also, instead of having to go back and knock out a plethora of weaker enemies as you progress in order to level up, DC Universe Online successfully has eliminated the rat pelt collecting and has you level up at a much more consistent pace no matter what level you may be. You deserve a reward for bringing Doctor Psycho, Giganta, Harley Quinn, or any of the other countless villains in the DCU to justice no matter what your level is so whether you’re Level 5 or Level 25, you’re going up a level if you beat a villain.

The big problem right now with DC Universe Online is that you can actually get through most of everything you can do in the game in the free month that you get with it. Sure, you could stick around to test your mettle against other created characters in the small or large scale PvP Raid and Arena instances or join up in Legends mode and play as your favorite hero and villains in some classic goal oriented multiplayer, but there isn’t enough for you to buy a monthly subscription until the level cap is increased and some new villains and missions are added. Of course, you could just try out other mentors and powers for the main game as well and create a small army of characters if you really fall head over heels for this game.

When all is said and done, DC Universe Online is a solid, but not spectacular MMORPG unless you really love the DC Universe and their characters, like myself. If so, then this game is definitely worth a purchase, just make sure not to start your free 30 days until you know you can get some solid gaming time in, because even the most diehard of DC fans will probably be ready to hang up their cape after a month.

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 7.0: In it’s defense, you’re going to have a lot of visual glitches in a world the size of what DC Universe is set in. A big knock against it though is this game has been in development for nearly five years when it was finally released so I was pretty ticked when I fell through the middle of Metropolis’ boardwalk for what seemed like forever and I have to SOE out on it.

Audio: 7.0: I loved the voice actors featured in the game and the SFX are something you would expect in any comic book game, but you couldn’t get the rights from Warner Bros. for some licensed music? I want the Danny Elfman theme for a Batman protégé character damnit!

Plot/Plot Development: 10.0: Great original comic book plot that fits perfectly into the DC Universe and just like many of the comics the game is based off of, if done properly, it will never truly end, but continue to evolve along with the game’s community.

Gameplay: 8.0: A bevy of super powers available to you early on and an easy leveling up system that didn’t have you running around collecting rat pelts was a nice change to your standard MMORPG. Despite this, much like the graphics, there were a lot of glitches and slow response times to your command inputs due to lag and it became irritating at times.

Replay Value: 7.0: An engaging and original comic book plot that will always change and evolve is a tremendous concept, but I will never understand the willingness to pay a $15 monthly charge for any video game that costs $60 to begin with. Unless this all you plan on playing for a good long while, you can probably get your entire superhero fix in the free month that comes with the game.

Overall (not an average): 7.5: As much good as there is in this game, there are still a lot of problems that I’m sure will be fixed over time, but as it is now keeps it from being elite and definitely not worth a monthly subscription fee. Find a spot on the calendar when there won’t be a lot of good games coming out, buy this with the free month, and then be done with it until it gets some sweet expansion pack.

Originally Published: November 3, 2010, on ClassicGameRoom.com

As a part of CGR Undertow, I reviewed the event Blizzcon 2010 as we saw the new Demon Hunter class revealed for Diablo III and Tenacious D perform live!

Originally Published: October 24, 2010, on NationalLampoon.com and ClassicGameRoom.com

At NYCC 2010, I had the chance to talk to the Creative Directors of the highly anticipated MMORPG, DCU Online, comics legend Jim Lee and Chris Cao.

Originally Published: October 24, 2010, on NationalLampoon.com and ClassicGameRoom.com

At NYCC 2010, I had the chance to talk to the Creative Directors of the highly anticipated MMORPG, DCU Online, comics legend Jim Lee and Chris Cao.

The Call for a Hero

Originally Published: September 1, 2009, on 1050ESPN.com (now ESPNNewYork.com) and Comicvine.com

Five years ago, Cryptic Studios released a game, which many of you might remember, called City of Heroes that intended to give the player the ultimate personal experience of becoming one’s own super hero. Once released though, Cryptic realized that no amount of patches would allow them to create the ULTIMATE online superhero experience in that format.

So they returned to the drawing board. Technology advanced, graphics improved, online games became faster, and superheroes evolved. Now, influenced heavily by the popular pencil and paper RPG Champions, Cryptic has released their MMORPG masterpiece.

Champions Online gives you the opportunity to immerse yourself in a superhero world on a scale unheard of in MMORPGs. Not only is the game itself massive, but the options are nearly endless when creating your superhero.

This might actually be the best part of the game, especially as you unlock more costume pieces. I spent close to two hours creating the look of my superhero and my hero is far and away one of the more simple characters you’ll see in the fictional world of Champions Online. Mixing color schemes, utility belts, capes, cowls, boots, gloves, hundreds of emblems, and every other possible combination you could think of to make your hero. Not to mention several species choices, as well.

Before choosing your hero’s look, the most important aspect of the game is choosing your power set. From martial arts to archery to elements like fire and ice, you can customize your heroes’ powers like never before, including mixing and matching! You could have an archer that breathes fire or a martial artist that also carries a shotgun for good measure. The possibilities are near endless!

After creating your hero and his back story (optional), you’re then immersed in a series of basic tutorial missions that will probably take you close to an hour alone to completely blow through before you start traveling to different locales across the globe as you try to quell a larger, worldwide threat.

Now, I admit that I’m only up to about a Level 13, and I have only gotten through the first two locales, but I realize I have only just to begun to scratch the surface of this game’s story. In order to help get a more in-depth analysis of the parts that I probably won’t be able to reach before my 90-day press kit runs out, I spoke with Executive Producer for Champions Online and MMORPG legend for his work on World of Warcraft and the Diablo series, Bill Roper.

Champions Online Preview w/ Ray Carsillo
Video by Jared Bodden

Ratings are based on a scale of 1 to 10 with 10 being the best.

Graphics: 7.5: For a MMORPG, considering how many players are involved at once and since it does have a comic book theme, the cel-shading was a perfect choice for the graphics, but it is still a drain on your PC unless you have a top of the line gaming PC.

Audio: 8.0: The music can get a little repetitive after a while, especially considering how easily you can become addicted to MMORPGs, this included, is really the only draw back.

Plot/Plot Development: 10.0: A complex plot that encompasses several different locales in a massive sandbox world will keep you engrossed as you attempt to find every secret, perk, and bonus mission as you try to save the world and become the ultimate hero.

Gameplay: 7.0: Simple gameplay that is easy to just pick up and play gives this a solid score. A good amount of lag on servers that aren’t being stressed by the true masses yet though knocks this score down considerably.

Replay Value: 10.0: The true value of an MMORPG is how much it offers you to keep coming back. The reason why I let a lot of my subscriptions run out on MMORPGs is because most of the time I get so addicted that my already abysmal social life is put even further on hold. This game does the same. My entire weekend flew by in the blink of eye as I devoted great portions of my Saturday and Sunday to the computer screen. Add-in an arena system that you gain access to at level 10 to battle other heroes and test your mettle and this game will easily occupy your time for a long while.

Overall (not an average): 8.5: This game is easily the most pure super hero fix you can find out there and will make you forget everything in the real world as you will get pulled in with believable characters, awesome powers, and an original, compelling storyline. If you are a fan of superheroes or MMORPGs, then this game is a must have on September 1st via ChampionsOnline.com.

Also, a very special thanks to my editor Joseph Layton for letting me use his gaming computer, otherwise this review would not be possible.

Review computer specs (incase you’re curious):
OS: Windows XP SP3
CPU: Intel Pentium D 3.2 Ghz
Memory: 2GB RAM
Graphics: NVidia GeForce 9800GT
Sound: Creative Sound Blaster X-Fi Extreme

-Ray Carsillo