What do you do when you and your Millenium City friends are confronted with a robot super villain that wants to eradicate all forms of sentient life in Champions Online? Party up and take on the heartless steel monster? Head to new zones, even new satellites to put down the nanobot virus as if it were polio?
If you said “Yes!”, good for you. You’re a true Champion. We’re pencil pushers, so we ask for help from Cryptic Studios.
LoreHound: Who are you, and what do you do in regards to the game?
Cryptic: I’m Russell Williams, and I’m the studio director at Cryptic North which is based in Seattle. I help set the long term vision for the game, do playtests, and generally beat up bad guys in Millennium City.
Champions Online has been out for quite a while now, and there are doubtless many players who have left the game, or never given it a try at all. If given the chance to sit down with any of them, what would you say? Why should a player consider returning to the game now or giving it a try if they never have before?
The depth of content. This is a game that has been running for five years, and we have been building onto it continuously for all that time, so it has a huge number of missions, villains, vehicles, locations, and powers to explore. Plus, we’ve been tuning and refining the game while paying close attention to player feedback, so new players will have a much more polished experience, and we have new features to provide additional depth for long time veteran players, such as the Reawakened Automaton.
What has been the main issue driving community feedback? How has that issue been addressed?
Players always want gameplay to feel fresh, so we’ve always worked to keep Champions feeling original and active. We’ve made sure our updates include a variety of new locations and challenges, like raiding a flying carrier or facing off against a supervillain tag team.
Our Public Test Server is another great way that we can showcase what we’re working on. Even when we were focused on the new Steel Crusade content, players could follow what we were making, and be a part of the process by giving us feedback.
What is the main issue being looked at for the future?
While we have a one year plan, we don’t discuss our coming features publically because we like to be flexible based on player feedback. For example, when we introduce something like the Reawakened Automaton, we like to see how players take to it. Depending upon the response, we decide how much we’ll continue to add onto it versus the other new things we have planned.
Steel Crusade launched on September 10th. Will you tell us a little about that?
This is our biggest update this year, with the new mission chain and related systems, all thematically linked by the threat of Mechanon. Originally designed in the far future to travel back in time and avert an ecological catastrophe, his programming was corrupted, and he became the enemy of all organic life.
Now he’s spreading a nanovirus through Millennium City, and heroes will have to miniaturize themselves into civilians’ brains to save them, then shut down the virus at its source. In Part 2, coming on 9/18, the finale will have the heroes attacking his orbital satellite in a last-ditch effort to save the world. In addition to this, we’re introducing a new Archetype, the Reawakened Automaton, and the new UNTIL space station mission hub.
Is there anything Steel Crusade is bringing to the game that you’re particularly looking forward to?
We’re looking forward to everything in the Steel Crusade, but there are three things we’re particularly excited about. The first is the more serious tone. There’s a lot of great, fun stuff in Champions (I really loved the recent Foxbat Con event), but in Steel Crusade we’re ratcheting up the pressure. People in Millennium City are spontaneously combusting, and while there are ways to stop the process on a particular person, it’s a large-scale threat, and people continue to burn even as you work through the problem. It’s a level of intensity we haven’t done before, and I think players are really going to love it.
Second, we introduce some of the anti-Mechanon organizations. Mechanon is so terrifyingly dangerous that there are multiple organizations that are constantly researching Mechanon and working on defenses against him. It’s a world-wide response to the threat, and reinforces the magnitude of the event.
Finally, we’re introducing the UNTIL space station, something we wanted to get into place for our future content.
Will you go into a bit of detail about the Reawakened Automaton? I’ve seen it described as more focused, but what kind of playstyle is it more focused on?
The Reawakened Automaton is primarily about dealing ranged damage, and positioning enemies to hit as many of them as possible with AoE powers. One of the new powers, Rocket Punch, deals damage to villains in a straight line, and other powers drop damage circles on targets. The Automatons trade durability for damage, but with careful play, they have the powers to limit the damage they take and get in-combat healing.
Their new passive power, Aspect of the Machine, rewards Automatons for getting the last hit against enemies, stacking up buffs of Frenzy and boosting their damage. You’ll see Automaton players specializing into their AoE powers to take advantage of this.
Is there anything I haven’t asked that you’d like to share?
We’d just like to thank our players for all their feedback during this update’s design. Part of the reason Steel Crusade focuses on Mechanon is because players kept bringing him up, and when we started thinking about it, everything fell into place. Not only did Mechanon match the kind of darker story we wanted to tell, but we also wanted to expand out into space, so it was a perfect fit. So, thanks guys, we hope you enjoy it!