The Death of Captain America. Again. (Maybe.)

By Alec Meer on November 14th, 2007 at 5:18 pm.

This seems a little like spotting three magpies on the lawn and ringing everyone you know to tell them they’re going to die, but maybe there’s something in it. Has Marvel Universe Online, the next project from City of Heroes developers Cryptic, gone the way of Jean Grey?*

1-Up presents its case for the prosecution here, with a worrying list of (mostly circumstantial) evidence to support it. With a year since the game’s official announcement and nary a whiff of a screenshot since (the pic above is from button-mashing pseudo-RPG Marvel Ultimate Alliance), no reply from Cryptic to a direct “whuddup?” and one too many situations where they’ve avoided even mentioning the Spidey’n'chums MMO, there’s probably something going on. I’d guess that we won’t be seeing the game any time soon – really, how many MMOs do ship in a timely fashion, at least with all the stuff they promised they’d have at launch? – but actual cancellation of a project Microsoft and Marvel alike are doubtless willing to throw sacks’o'cash at seems hugely unlikely. A release date wasn’t ever given in the first place, so even shouting ‘delay!’ would be a reach.

I hope MUO is in fine health, at any rate, as this is one ememoharrpeegee I’m quite excited about. I’m a partially-reformed Marvel geek and, though it got too samey too soon for me, City of Heroes is the MMO I’ve had the most amount of fun in by a long shot. One day, I’ll post crazy fanfic about my own character, The Entomologist, on here. Then you’ll be sorry.

Still, it’d a toughie to think how MUO could be done right. You can’t have 800 Professor Xs running (or rolling, I guess) about, so the logical approach is creating your own bespoke hero and having the dubious pleasure of chatting to an oddly stationary Charles Xavier NPC whenever you want to level up or buy a new hat or something. So, if this is taking longer than hoped to develop, I really hope it’s simply so that Cryptic have longer to come up with something that doesn’t demean Marvel characters by letting Freddie Fratboy play Doctor Strange as as foul-mouthed teabagger, but does allow players to interact with them meaningfully.** Or, ideally, so that there’s a way I can play as J. Jonah Jameson. How do you think Marvel Universe Online should be done, noble blogchums?

Oh, and here’s the “crap, we haven’t actually made anything yet. Quick, render some CGI!” teaser trailer from last year, in case you missed it.


Thanks, Gametrailers! Bet you look good in spandex.

*By which I mean if it is dead now, it almost certainly won’t be by this time next year.
** How about a mini-game in which you try and drink Tony Stark under the table?

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27 Comments »

  1. Kieron Gillen says:

    Hmm. To be honest, without any real information or quotes from their source, I don’t see there’s anything at all to this story yet.

    It’s an MMO. They take years. Publishers (both comics and games) can keep their shit tight until they have more.

    But certainly interesting to think about though…

    KG

  2. Kim says:

    I never bothered looking into this much – always thought this MMO would be hard to produce; one reason being, that it would have to follow up City of Heroes/Villains and two, how would they pull of using actual marvel characters without someone missing out on all the cool characters being stuck with playing as Marrow?

  3. Kieron Gillen says:

    I have a rough theory of how I’d do it. Since I have to presume it’s a console/PC cross-development, I’m thinking it’ll lean heavier on the instancing thing.

    So you select which hero you want to be, each of fit into an archetype. You develop them the way you want. These are the heroes from the marvel universe.

    Now, you get together and go with your chums, and go on a mission. If you have multiple people of the same character, one of them gets turned into someone who’s a little analogous. Like, say, if one of your guys is the Hulk, they get swapped for someone else VERY BIG AND VERY STRONG.

    (Or, if you didn’t like that, have just a non-branded version of a hero. Or an alternate dimension version of Wolverine or whoever – god knows there’s enough.)

    With a game that leaned heavily on instances, you could get it to work, I bet.

    KG

  4. Alec Meer says:

    There’s a problem with that idea.

    HULK IS THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS.

  5. Kieron Gillen says:

    Lvl 70 HULK IS THE STRONGEST ONE THERE IS!

    KG

  6. Kim says:

    Hehe.

    Instances would work, although character-wise – if you had to swap out to another character if Hulk was taken, you’d have to take out character level-up? Unless the player themselves leveled up and had a pool of stats that they could dish out to whatever character they ended up with (if this had any form of stats-based progression). Or achievments that are attatched to different character ‘types’ (like Melee, Psycic, Speedy-fast-runner-bloke).

    Thing is, I’d want something of my own to build up and have further ambitions with – an investment if you will. One of the very cool things of City of Whatever, was the character customisation – it was satisfying, it feeds egos and lets them project themselves into the character they are playing.

    I suppose i’m having problems with this, because i’m in the mind set that alot of popular MMO’s are role play games. And I’m hoping this doesn’t try to be an MMORPG.

  7. Kieron Gillen says:

    Yeah – I mean, I’m not saying there’s not problems with that approach, but as a kind of set-up, I think a team could think their way around it.

    KG

  8. drunkymonkey says:

    How about heroes helping you out in instances as cameos? I think that would be cool.

  9. Nick says:

    WTS Stretchy trousers: +3 to You wouldn’t like me when I’m angry.

  10. Alec Meer says:

    The insurmountable problem I’m seeing – playing devil’s advocate and taking the Protect the IP at All Costs! Marvel Moneymen perspective – with playing as established Marvel characters is in-game chat.

    Sure, you can play as Thor in, say, Marvel Ultimate Alliance, and I don’t doubt there’s a game where you can have Red Suit Spidey fight Black Suit Spidey or pit Wolverine versus Ultimate Wolverine, but you can’t make him say your words. Whether it’s “Batman is better than The Punisher” or “Your mother’s vagina resembles a dead grizzly bear”, I just can’t see Marvel allowing words they don’t approve to come out of their characters’ mouths.

    For that reason alone, I suspect playing as [Insert Favourite Marvel Character Here] isn’t even on the table, no matter what cool ideas Cryptic (or any of us) might think up on how to implement it.

  11. schizoslayer says:

    You play helpless members of the general population who get rescued from peril by GMs playing as Marvel characters.

    Then after you pay $30 each month to Microsoft Stan Lee comes around your house and bums you to death before weearing your small intestine as a hat and laughing like he’s the badguy out of Who Framed Roger Rabbit.

  12. Coyote says:

    Personally? You GOTTA be able to play your favorite superheroes. If all they are is cameos / patrons / whatever, you may as well be playing CoH.

    So… my experiment would be to let players play ALL of the heroes. Or any of them. Have a world that’s heavily instanced. Maybe within each instance, you can only have one Wolverine. But as teams form, you can pull out your level 16 Wolverine for a particular mission.

    It might break the feeling of community because L337Kill4h is Wolverine one mission, and Spider-Man the next, which breaks the feeling of identity with the avatar. But as a total “altaholic,” I LOVE the idea of having a stable of all of my favorite super-heroes at various levels.

  13. Solario says:

    As completely undoable and unlikely it is, I’d like a Revolving Characte Roster. One month you can be Ironfist, MODOK and Doctor Bong and the next you’re Chamber, The Gibbon and Will O’ the Wisp.

  14. Zeno, Internetographer says:

    Here’s how I would do it, for what it’s worth:

    So, the Marvel Universe has tons of characters, and potentially any number of these could be playable. The way I would do it, is make it so that each world operated in a series of large instances; for example, maybe each city or similar area would be a large instance, and each instance can only have one of each character. When a player begins, they only have access to lower-end characters, the nobody characters that appear in a minor subplot of one issue, etc. As they level up, they eventually gain access to better and better characters.

    There would have to be a “player level”, which is universal, and a “character level”, which is obviously specific to each character. Player level would be the primary influence on stats, while character level would determine the skills the player has access to.

    The end result of all this is that you won’t see multiple Spideys running around; in fact, since he’d be a higher-level character, you might only see him rarely.

    Also, on a side note, it’d be kickass if the moderators appeared as Doctor Strange and other godlike characters.

  15. Prince Prospero says:

    Considering that Cryptic just sold the IP Lock stock and barrel to NCSoft and are splitting the development team between CoX and their new project, I’d have to go out on a limb and say that the above article seems a little… wierd.

    Adding in the quote – “Cryptic’s recent sale of the City of Heroes IP to NCSoft has no bearing on the development of “Marvel Universe Online,”. is pure foolishness, as it has everything to do with MUO’s development, as it clears the legal pathway to separate the IPs with a nice little dividing line.

    I’m fairly sure this is a case of “no news is good news” on MOU’s front.

  16. marxeil says:

    I think they probably have enough superhero characters for everyone.

  17. LRa2oR says:

    The problem I see with instancing to allow players to select they’re favourite character, is that you’re going to end up with thousands of instances empty except for one guy playing as Spider-Man. Or Hulk. Whatever the current fan fav is. Unless they put limits on the number of Spider-Man’s or whatever that can be in play at any one time it just won’t work. And if you do that, you’ll have a lot of angry customers who can’t wear they’re favourite spandex outfit that they’re paying for.

    Only way I can see it working is for all the main Marvel characters to be NPC’s.

  18. malkav11 says:

    I have a really hard time picturing this game being at all interesting. I mean, Cryptic definitely earned their chops with City of Heroes, but I already own City of Heroes and I don’t see myself shelling out more money for the Official Licensed Version ™. And I dunno what else they’d do with the IP. But we’ll see, I guess.

  19. Stick says:

    Erm. Thought struck me.

    Wolverine: Looking for group! Er, instance!
    Everyone, everywhere: WE’RE FULL.

  20. Simon says:

    Lord of the Rings Online seems to have done pretty well in fitting player characters in a very specific, existing universe.

  21. Dean says:

    It’s an easy enough backstory– all the players are Skrull, and you can impersonate any hero you wish, until the real one shows up, then you have a level 70 fight and either you die and start over, or you become the real hero and no one else can become that hero. Unless the real one is already dead.

    Or something like that.

    Okay, I haven’t actually thought this through.

    Isn’t that what the Marvel editors have actually been doing anyway?

  22. Justice Pie says:

    Well, I remember when Marvel attempted to sue CoH because they claimed that players were making copies of their licensed characters…only to have it blow up in their faces because it was discovered that Marvel was actually making the characters themselves…

    So, I cannot imagine Marvel “allowing” anyone, to play their creations. Sure we don’t want another ‘CoX’ clone, but for this to really work, I think MUO and CoX are going to be very similar.

    Because the power pool in the Marvel Universe is so broad (and I garauntee Marvel had their panties in a twist when CoH first came out because they’re thinking “Why didn’t we come up with this!!!”), I would be (happily) surprised if it wasn’t anything like our current superhero MMO.

    I figure archetype character creation, fully customizeable costume control including capes at level 1, familiar locations, well known cameos, heavy on the super-hero teamed instances and liscensed restrictions. Banning such names like ‘Wolferine’, ‘Triclops’, ‘Mr. Fabulous’ and ‘The Punishim’.

    LOTRO in my opinion works well with the cameos and instances, so maybe MUO could take some notes.

    I don’t know, I’m scared of what’s to come. Someone hold me.

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