On designing MMOs for both PCs and Consoles.

Last year, the reports from interviews with Jack “Jackalope” Emmert were that the Xbox version of Champions Online was “ready to go”, just waiting for some Microsoft red tape to get sorted out.

Jackalope, on the Champions Online forum yesterday:

100% of our focus is on making the current PC product the best it can be. There are no current plans for a console version of Champions.

Some guy, a couple of months back, talking about Star Trek Online:

1. Stop designing MMO to be released on both PCs and consoles. You end up removing half the depth, the game fails, and then it never ends up coming out on a console in the end anyway. See: Champions Online, Age of Conan.

I agree with that guy. Seriously, stop doing that. Unless you’re Square Enix, in which case you can probably get away with it, in spite of the grotesque UI you’ll inflict on your PC users, because we Final Fantasy fans will pretty much take what we’re given.

You’re probably not Square Enix. Planning for your game to work on a console with a gamepad, and on a television, is just going to lead to game design compromises that mean that PC gamers do not get the experience they deserve.

Champions Online announces First Expansion

Slightly oddly timed during the Star Trek Online End of Beta Event, Cryptic have announced their first paid expansion for Champions Online.

Vibora Bay Watch
We’ve had a big secret here at Cryptic, and we can’t hold it in any longer. Over the past few months we’ve been working like mad on our first (untitled) expansion for Champions Online! The setting is Vibora Bay, one of the Gulf Coast’s largest and most exciting cities. It’s a center of commerce, culture, tourism, and some incredibly strange goings-on. It maintains unusual traditions of mysticism and religion along with an eclectic group of inhabitants and frequent paranormal activities. Heroes constantly face threats of global proportions, but this time the crisis is greater than ever. The apocalypse has come, and it rides upon the half angelic / half demonic wings of Therakiel.

A web page is currently in the works that will feature screen shots, a video trailer, and detailed information on this level 37 – 40 mega-adventure pack, so stay tuned for more information!

Daeke: I’ll cut off this speculation before it even begins. Vibora will be our first paid content expansion. I can’t talk pricing yet, but it will not be something on the scale of a full boxed game. It is a new zone, and will be priced accordingly.

I’m already being hard on STO, so I’ll skip the obvious remarks about a single-zone paid expansion for an MMO that five months ago launched woefully short of content, and continues to be. Oh darn.

Champions Online Early Access Begins

Wheee! Still struggling with the character creator, I’ve had another try at Spelling Bee. Mostly working on his body shape, to make him somewhat less hideous to the eye, and fiddling with his haircut, I finally came up with something reasonably decent to be getting on with.

There was something about his face though. It was nagging away at me. Imagine my dismay when about five minutes into the tutorial I suddenly realise:

Spelling Bee as Michael Jackson

That my majestic literate bee has ended up looking like a manga Michael Jackson. He’ll be taking a trip to the tailor as soon as practical, for a new head.

The Mighty Spelling Bee: Champions Online

I’m gearing up for the Champions Online Early Access on Friday. The Beta server is still open, and so I’m beavering away at trying to convert my old City of Heroes characters.

Spelling Bee in City of HeroesSpelling Bee in City of Heroes.

Spelling Bee in Champion OnlineSpelling Bee in Champions Online.

I have a little work to do before I fully recapture his beelike majesty. OK, I admit it, he’s hideous. This is not helped by the complete absence of horizontal stripes as a costume pattern option, and the limited colour choices, which are almost all far too glowy. In truth, Champions character creation seems a bit more limited than CoX, which surprised me seeing as it is essentially the same team behind it. Turns out I also prefer the graphical engine of CoX in general, as Champions seems kind of fuzzy and weirdly lit most of the time.

I greatly enjoy City of Heroes, and often pop back for some Bee fun, so I am hoping that Champions will eventually fill a similar gap. Currently though it feels a lot more limited. While it is unfair to compare a fresh game with one that has 5 years to mature, it is still the case that new games should be expected to be better than their ancestors, and I am unconvinced that Champions is. Or possibly I’m just bitter about the horizontal stripes thing. I only spent a little time in the open beta, so it is too early to jump to too many conclusions, but Cryptic’s previous work still provides strong competition. Cryptic must work hard to speedily add all the features that folks have come to expect from a superhero game.

I’ll write more on Champions once I’ve had more of a chance to play it on Live.