Breakfast Of Champions For Two Please

By John Walker on February 20th, 2008 at 7:37 pm.

My favourite MMO? Well, that would be City of Heroes. So it’s happy news indeed to see the developers, Cryptic Studios, have unveiled details about their next project, Champions Online.

Superheroes do like to pose.

Cryptic were of course, until recently, working with Marvel to create Marvel Universe Online. With this project cancelled, Cryptic have wasted no time in picking up a new license to develop, which they say they’ll self-publish. It’s safe to say it’s at the opposite end of the fame scale. Hero Games’ pen and paper RPG, Champions, began in 1981. Cryptic explain if only you’d superclick.

“Champions was one of the first roleplaying games to forgo the traditional dice-rolling system of character generation in favor of a point-based system. The player would spend character points to determine exactly what kind of character they would be, what superpowers they would possess, the precise personal characteristics of their hero and even what disadvantages their do-gooder alter-ego would be forced to overcome.”

Splatter!

This is the approach they intend to take with Champions Online. The big emphasis is on character customisation – something in fact that City of Heroes still does better than any MMOs that have appeared in the four years since its release. But this time they seem to be taking it much further.

“Choose from hundreds of different costume pieces, colors and body types to create your character’s one-of-a-kind costume and look. There are billions of possible combinations, and in a universe brimming with the fantastic and the unforgettable, you can still be completely unique!”

Here's a difficult game: goody or baddy?!

It doesn’t stop there. The powers are similarly to be tweaked, letting you choose how your powers appear, their colour, their special effects, their design. And being a superhero, you need an archenemy. Which you’ll also being designing during character creation. Cryptic explain, “In Champions Online, you design your character’s supreme adversary, choosing a name, powers and costume for a superpowered foe to bedevil your hero throughout his or her career.”

The other advantage of the license is the location freedom. So while things appear that they will begin in a more familiar setting, skyscraper-filled Millennium City, you’ll be able to visit other dimensions, underwater cities, the Moon, and most excitingly of all, Canada.

He just wants a cuddle.

The usual promise that’s made at the beginning of every MMO’s development appears here too. The combat will be fast and dynamic, like offline action games. This is a promise that’s been broken every time, as every team realises how impossibly hard that is to do in a shared online space. But still, Cryptic seem certain, and it’s the subject of their first posted article on the site. They’re certainly confident. In critiquing the standards of current MMO combat, poster “Kestrel” says,

“Auto-attack is so common that players have even come up with a nickname for this gameplay: click “A” and pray. Yawn. This all changes with the debut of Champions Online! Players instantly leap into action as soon as they hit a button. Once an animation completes, the player can attack again. There are no lengthy recharge times, and no boring auto attack. Instead, Champions Online has the fast-paced gameplay normally found only in fighting or action games.”

Help, my eyes sting!

Concerns? Well, obviously this sounds like it bears an awful lot of similarity with City of Heroes. Is it CoH2, or something completely fresh and distinct? Hang on – CoH2 would be excellent! Forget I worried. The other thought would be their character customisation. CoH’s is utterly fantastic, but saw them in court for years with Marvel, of all people, trying to sue them for the game’s ability to generate characters too similar to their own IP (in a case somewhat akin to suing Crayola for their crayon’s ability to draw the Incredible Hulk). Now, let’s take the sensible assumption that the code behind Champions Online might just have something in common with the code behind the cancelled Marvel Universe Online – are we going to see the comics behemoth swinging its moneycock around again if they make something even more sophisticated?

Another superhero, yesterday.

There’s an absolutely huge amount of information on the brand new website, so be sure to plough through it all. Cryptic have a habit of being remarkably frank on their site, so it’ll be somewhere to keep checking back on over the next year until the planned Spring 2009 release. We certainly will be.

Screenshot gallery here.

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24 Comments »

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  1. Kieron Gillen says:

    This has me genuinely excited. Fuck knows how they’re going to get the Champion Character creation stuff working, but I look forward to reading more about it.

    KG

  2. Mister Yuck says:

    Moneycock eh? Sounds like one David Wong has been writing for you (not that that’s an insult).

  3. Jives says:

    oh my oh my oh my

    this will be brilliant, and i’ll even have a computer that can play it, unlike when i played city of heroes, which was just an enjoyable slideshow.

  4. Jon says:

    Um, so how is this different to City of Heroes and City of Villians?

  5. Mr.Brand says:

    City of Heroes goes to 10. This one goes to 11.

  6. Tak says:

    Why not just make Champion’s 10 better?

  7. Leeks! says:

    Moneycock. Haw.

  8. elias says:

    The fourth edition was once again a top seller, and was so well-received that it remained more or less unchanged for almost a decade.

    Lol, well, I suppose that is one possible reason why it could have remained untouched for so long…

    More than 225,000 copies of the game have been sold since 1981.

    That’s probably closer to the mark…

    All the same, this is pretty exciting.

  9. Kieron Gillen says:

    Champions, I stress, really is a very different sort of system to be basing an MMO on. The points-building stuff which they’re claiming on appropriating is… well, it’s a world without character classes for a start.

    KG

  10. Joonas says:

    Great to see old pen and paper games getting the love they deserve. Very excited about this.

  11. Brent says:

    Champions was my favorite RPG as a Teen and I still have the original game in it’s original, now beat-up box, stored somewhere under my stairs. I may have to go dig that out…
    This might be the one MMO that I would be willing to cough-up for monthly.

  12. AlpineViper says:

    This sounds a lot like city of heroes 2. And that makes me WAY more excited than Marvel online ever didi!

    Customisable power effects? Something that CoH players have wanted for a LONG time. As much as they (and the devs) want it, apparantly it would just take far too much time/resources to do it with the way the engine was built, and would mean no new content for a long time.

    Personal Archvillain? another CoH feature never made it into CoH.

    Basically, it sounds like cryptic have learned from their mistakes and are going to try and do it better.

    So yeah, I’m actually really looking forward to this one!

  13. Scandalon says:

    No, no, see, other MMO’s, when they reach that level, level 10, that’s it. But when Champion’s get there, when it just needs that little bit extra “Oomp”, “Ker-Pow!” or “Biff!”, they crank it to 11.

    (If you want 12 you’ll have to wait for the expansion pack.)

  14. Gendal says:

    I never really played any pen & paper RPG but man did I ever love the source books, and Champions was way up there.

    But the combat sounds like they are just removing auto attack. I will need a lot more details about that before I get excited, especially since fast and frantic is a lot less entertaining to me than thoughtful and slow.

  15. Solario says:

    Awesome. As someone who was into CoH pre-Beta, hell pre-NC Soft take over and the huge overhaul on the project, this looks just execellent. I like the more cell-shady art direction a lot more than CoH too.

  16. Citizen Parker says:

    Champions (and the entire HERO system became) is long overdue for this.

    Nothing was so satisfying as being able to create a cosmic ray (10 pts) that would do minor damage to a target (3 pts), deliver massive stunning damage to everyone around that target (15pts), but would leave you slowed for the next round (-5 pts) and unable to speak for 10 minutes. (-3 pts)

    If you introduce classes to this kind of gleeful insanity, I will cry.

  17. Tellurian says:

    OH YES, CHAMPIONS! O____ô

    Hopefully this will put Champions / HERO System “up there” with the other big ones (which it has already surpassed, being one of the best P’n’P rule sets there are).
    It’s of course bigger in the state, but here overseas in a non English speaking country it’s hard to find. Maybe that’ll change with Champions Online.

  18. Matthew Craig says:

    “In Champions Online, you design your character’s supreme adversary…”

    I wonder if you could let the program do that FOR you. I mean, can they write a…script…programme…thing that reads your character’s name, attributes and powerset and extrapolates the most interesting villain from there? e.g.:

    Spider-Man
    Young Male Hero
    Agile
    Superstrong
    Locomotive Abilities/Accoutrements
    Animal-Based
    Science-Based
    Distance attacks
    Close Combat
    Honourable Hero (c.f. Anti-Hero, Vigilante, etc.)
    Romantic Hero

    Click the…dooberry…and you get

    Doctor Octopus
    Older Male Villain
    Dark Mirror Villain (reflects the hero’s personality/looks. See also Scorpion, Venom)
    Superstrong
    Locomotive Abilities/Accoutrements
    Animal-Based
    Science-Based
    Close Combat

    Green Goblin
    Older Male Villain / Young Male Villain
    Obsessed With The Hero
    Superstrong
    Locomotive Abilities/Accoutrements
    Science-Based
    Dishonourable Villain (not always a tautology)
    Distance attacks

    Black Cat
    Young Female Villain
    Agile
    Animal-Based
    Close Combat
    Honourable Villain
    Romantic Foil (Spider-Man does less damage when he attacks because he thinks he can “save” her…for Romance!)

    etc., etc..

    I mean, why give yourself an easy ride with The Looter (Piss Weak/Thick As Pigshit/Science-Based/Rides A Hot Air Balloon) when you can match wits with The Vulture? It would seem more like a story, then.

    Oh, Christ, I know SO LITTLE about programmings and compters!

    //\Oo/\\
    (see how I resisted the “Surprise “O-Face” Attack” joke?)

  19. Lu-Tze says:

    The classic way to auto-generate a nemesis would see it push all the sliders in the opposite direction.

    You wear all black? They stole their clothes from a clown. You use Fire? They use Ice. You are thin, tall, and young? They are fat, short, and old.

    It feels like City of Heroes 2. It looks like City of Heroes 2. Neither of these things worry me in the slightest.

  20. Mr Pink says:

    I had a dabble in CoH, but the combat didn’t really grab me. And since (at the time) there was little else to do in the game but fight, that sort of put a dampner on things. I think this game will live or die on its combat system.

    They’re spot on with the character customisation though. The biggest problem with MMOs (especially WoW) is the feeling of your character being so generic. I spent as much time in the CoH character generator as I did in the game, and if they’re extending this to the powers as well… it sounds like it has an awful lot of potential.

  21. Stromko says:

    This sounds exactly like what I was hoping CoH to be when it was far off from release, a game that let you mix and match powers and effects to make just about any kind of hero you could think of. But I’m going to try to keep my expectations low on this one.

    It seems to me they planned CoH to be a lot like Champions Online is planned to be. With CoH they eventually compromised with a class-based system with every character occupying a group niche. I felt the combat also lost its shine after awhile; running around the city smacking down entire gangs is quite nice, but it took way too long to get new powers and having a given set of powers lended themselves to the same one or two combos over and over and over again.

    That said, CoH is still one of the very best MMOs out there. Even if you have to mold your idea around the system rather than the other way around, the customizable ID card and wealth of outfit choices went a long way to delivering on their promise. They’ve supported it very well with additions like the black market and the Invention system, the ‘Issues’ look like an excellent example of episodic content (love the newspaper mission arcs), and that they now have a successful and well-developed superhero MMO in their portfolio just might give them the financing and ability to make Champions Online the game they, and I, wanted CoH to be.

  22. Mr.Brand says:

    @elias:

    200000+ sales for a pen and paper game is much better than similar sales for an MMO. PnP typically needs only small teams – it’s a book with some art and a system thought up by whichever people were considered the “big brains”.

    Then you add expansions, sourcebooks, modules. A team of 20 or so could churn them out at a fair clip, and with 200k owners of the core game books (usually more than one book!) would at least buy some of them.

    Too bad everybody interested have scattered all over the world. Will have to look into some of the online-based PnP tools..

  23. Ferrous Buller says:

    Didn’t CoH originally try to be “a world without character classes” (i.e., purely skill-based, not class-based), but the developers discovered that players were gimping themselves by trying to do too many things, so they had to come up with the current class system? If I’m remembering that correctly, I’m curious what they’ll do to avoid that problem this time. Never played Champions PnP before, so I don’t know how the system works.

  24. Anthony Damiani says:

    If, as is reasonable, we assume this is just taking as much of the code from the now-cancelled Marvel MMO as they can legally get away with, and sticking a Champions wrapper on it– I think it’s doubtful that we’ll see anything as point-buy in its focus as the HERO system.