It's a funny business dealing with the PR people in the games industry. They have their agenda, we have ours. Sometimes things don't work out quite the way they are supposed to. In March, after Champions Online was revealed in Gameinformer and I listened to Jack Emmert speak on the future of MMO's at GDC, I contacted the appropriate PR (I'm not naming any names) with a bunch of questions about the game. The answers took their time, which isn't out of the ordinary. In the beginning of May I got the answers, provided by Jack Emmert from the PR. Wonderful. Then I got another mail this week... Finally, the answers were ready...again. Jack Emmert had answered my questions... a second time. I now had two answers for every question. I though some of you might find it interesting to have a look at a few of the answers... and see what the difference between May and August really is:
To someone who hasn't played Champions (pen and paper) how would you describe the game and what elements made you want to create an MMO out of it?
May: The Champions pen and paper roleplaying game has been around since 1981. Since then Champions has developed into a rich world setting with one of the most customizable game systems out there - you can go anywhere and do anything. The rich world setting and customizability are two of the key elements we are focusing on in Champions Online. The gameplay areas in Champions Online are rich and varied, ranging from the scorching desert to the frozen north, the city of tomorrow to exotic islands, the depths of the ocean to the moon... and beyond!
Customizability is the other major focus. Champions Online will allow players to customize their powers and costumes in ways they have never been able to before in an MMOG. Players can select backgrounds for their characters that affect their gameplay, modify their powers with advantages and limitations, customize the look of their characters with a vast costume library, and even create their own Nemesis to fight throughout the game!
August: Two things really thrill me about Champions. First, the ability to make ANY character you can imagine. In Champions, there's no set number of powers or abilities; players literally design these themselves with a framework. Second, Champions has a rich, deep history with terrific villains and heroes. I've been following it for decades.
Will Champions Online feature cross platform (PC and Xbox 360) play?
May: The current plan is to integrate gameplay between PC and Xbox 360. It brings some interesting challenges to development, but we've come up with some innovative solutions.
August: There are no technical obstacles; both can play with one another right now on the same servers. But there are other factors to this decision besides the technology.
There has been a few console MMOs, but none have been really successful so far (Final Fantasy XI achieved moderate success). Why do you think that is and what do you bring to the table to convince console players to pay a monthly subscription fee and devote countless hours to just one game?
May: There are a lot of challenges with bringing an MMO to consoles. Console gamers generally expect a focused play experience with a lot of action and/or problem-solving. MMOs provide more of a "big world" experience with a long-term progression and social community.
One of the goals for Champions Online is to bridge the gap by providing more action-oriented and reactive gameplay - something that simply hasn't been seen before in MMOs. PC gamers will have the opportunity to play a new style of MMO while still enjoying the long-term gameplay they want, while console gamers can try out MMOs and still get the fast-paced, action gameplay they are used to. Both types of gamers will be able to enjoy an extensive and rich world where they can develop a fully customized character in a very social game experience.
August: I think WoW has hit a heck of a lot of people that were traditionally labelled as console players. So these people now understand how great a value a MMORPG is. I also think that we need to communicate to other console players what that monthly fee provides: countless hours of gameplay plus new content every few months. A normal console game offers what - ten to twenty hours of gameplay for $60? Champions Online can give that week in and week out for months - for far less than the cost of a new console game.
Hmm, I think the biggest difference between May-Jack and August-Jack is that he had more time to eloborate on his answers in the spring. Anyway, from what I saw of Champions Online at E3 the game is coming together nicely...