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SDCC 09: DCU Online Pre Alpha – Instances, Achievements And Costumes
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Tom Cheredar   |  
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An updated version of DCU Online — DCUO — pre alpha demo was available to all attendees at the San Diego Comic-Con, showing vast changes to the version shown at the event during the previous year. Some of the more recognizable features plucked elements from both World of Warcraft and City of Heroes, yet adapting them to improve the user experience, at least in concept, anyway.

It’s impossible to know until a beta version is released since so much of a good MMO (Massively Multi-Player Online) game relies on the entire experience. The developers seem to understand this concept and they’ve done a hell of a job integrating the 70-plus year history of the DC Universe into the recognizable elements of an MMO. I’ve listed a few notable occurrences from the revised demo at Comic-Con…

High Level “Instances”
It’s nearly impossible not to refer to the epic battle areas of an MMO that requires a load screen as anything but “Instance” — as they’re called in WoW. That’s the term DCUO Creative Director Jens Andersen used when describing the high-level battle areas that will take the form of classic DC Comics landmarks like S.T.A.R. Labs. But while WoW makes their Instances disposable after achieving higher character levels, I don’t know that DCUO will want to do the same.

Headlines – “Achievements”
Achievements made their way to World of Warcraft because they were experienced by virtue of playing the game too much. Essentially all it did was begin acknowledging the milestones that already existed (Make Love, Not Warcraft).

With DCU Online, the same is true of milestones except they’ve never been playable — only read about in the pages of a comic book. (Think – “First Encounter With Green Lantern Corps”) In a much cooler move, they’ve reintroduced the “Achievement” element as “Headlines” found in the Daily Planet. Check out the screen shot from the Demo footage below…

Appearance Collection (Costumes & Wearable Gear)
As an early player of City of Heroes, I can confirm that the coolest portion of the game was in designing your character. Much to the dismay of both Marvel and DC, you can achieve a close-enough likeness of your favorite character or opt to keep it entirely original. You also have access to four different costumes that further allows you to take ownership of your avatar. Stuff like that matters when every “Instance” looks like the same warehouse you’ve seen 10,000 times and the henchmen are only slightly different versions of the same model. “I think they go for fashion over function… they’re fluff,” Andersen said of other hero genre games during the Comic-Con panel.

That doesn’t mean appearance isn’t important. It’s a major factor if the intent is to have users become submerged into the DC Universe, as stated by Senior Producer Wes Yanagi in the same panel. The DCUO has an Appearance Collection (see screen shot below) that aims to keep the same cohesive character look that was originally chosen, but doesn’t exclude the visual presence of new wearable gear. Essentially, any new pieces of gear conform to the color scheme of the main costume. Players have the option of toggling off the added gear as well.

It’s a perfect mesh between the mixed up look of WoW armor, and the customized costume creator in City of Heroes.

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