‘DC Universe Online’s’ executive producer talks moving to the PS4

dc_scr_DLC7_IconicAnomaly_Bizarro_002As the executive producer for DC Universe Online, Larry Liberty probably has the most perfect name for the job, as he sounds like a superhero already. Since launching in 2011, the game has gone free-to-play and seen tons of content updates thanks to an ambitious DLC schedule. At E3, Sony Online Entertainment announced that it would be making the jump to the PlayStation 4, so we caught up with Liberty (Truth and Justice were busy) to find out about the new content plans, and what bringing the game to Sony’s newest console would mean.

So, we know DC Universe is coming to the PlayStation 4. But what does that actually mean for the development team? What’s new with the game?

Larry Liberty
Larry Liberty

So we launched in January 2011, we went free to play in November. Also post launch we basically developed a three or so month cadence for our DLC or mini expansions. So, we’ve added those to the game, and our most popular additions beyond just content are the powers. Since launch, we’ve added light powers, what Green Lantern uses, electricity, earth powers, and then after that we added shield weapon types. So, basically powers’ most popular weapons are close-based, but are still powers. People really gravitate towards them.

After we added the shield, we had DLC 5 which added utility belts, ala Batman. So, normally, you could only have one trinket, but a utility belt allows you to expand and have up to four trinkets. Which is really convenient with what came next in DLC 6. DLC 6 introduced player bases, and the cool gameplay feature for that was mainframe. So, it’s like having your own Bat Computer and having your own Brother Eye. If you invest in abilities, you could actually have mainframe abilities like calling in orbital strikes, supply drops, those sort of air support items.

“…in the first ten months we had under 2 million registered players, and we are well over 11 million now.”

You could also have sidekicks, like your own version of Robin, or a henchman if you’re bad, the equivalent. So, you can have one pretty good very, effective ally, or you can have a group of three come in, and you basically called them in as a “trinket.” So, that was the big addition for 6, and just last month we came out with DLC 7, which is Origin Crisis. Origin Crisis was talking about the origins of heroes. So you saw Future Batman and Future Lex in the trailer. That is Future Batman in Origin Crisis you basically get to see a council of Batmen and a council of Lexes working together against each other’s council. So if you’re a hero you might get to go up against Future Lex, Cyborg Lex, Spaceman Lex, and so on. It’s just interesting to watch them muck about with different hero origins they’re all interwoven.

As a villain you can go to Krypton, and leave red Kryptonite in the spaceship that transports young baby Kal-El to Earth. And then, as a hero you can see a mission where you actually get to see Lex with a kind of a Superman lapdog. He looks a little different, more sinister, evil, and corrupted. And likewise you get to see an Evil Batman. Basically you get to see these kind of neat “what if” scenarios. As a comic fan, I love it. It’s probably my favorite overall storyline for our DLC, and it’s our strongest to date.

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Red Kryptonite does unpredictable things to Superman. So, in this case, it’s been known to make him evil. So, exposing that to him during his formative stage corrupted him, and made him malleable and suggestible. And because Lex knew that, he was able to guide young Kent, and take him to a specific place. There’s also a scenario where the Waynes don’t die. Bruce Wayne’s parents weren’t killed, and you get to see what would have happened in Gotham if the Waynes were just a positive force. We were able to develop some new tech that would allow us to alter Gotham and Metropolis: create and insert new maps, new art, new skyboxes, and really give it a different feel,

It was probably our most well received DLC today. We’re pretty happy with where we are.

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That’s where you are now, but let’s talk about where you’re going to be, which is on the PS4.

That’s right, we announced that we are going to be on PS4, that you are not going need a PlayStation Plus membership to play for free on the PS4. And if you’re a current PS3 player, you can seamlessly transition over, and still play with your friends on one server. So, that’s basically the best of all worlds, you don’t have to leave your friends behind, you can keep your characters and keep your trophies and, anything that you actually bought obviously just transfers over. We want it to be as seamless and painless as possible.

At launch?

Launch is our goal.

How have things changed since you went free-to-play?

So, in the first ten months we had under 2 million registered players, and we are well over 11 million now. We have really just broadened our scope, as a result of going free-to-play. It’s definitely going to be the thing for us moving forward, especially with the PS4, this could be a golden opportunity for us. Because if we’re one of a handful of games available at launch, and we happen to be a great game. This is really a triple A game that costs tens of millions of dollars to develop, and people just get it for free. You get so much for nothing; you basically get the Blu-ray game, and then some more on top of that for free.

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Will there be new content planned when DCUO launches on the PS4?

We just detailed DLC 8, and DLC 9 will come out right around the same time as the PS4 version. In addition to what we’ve talked about, all those content updates benefit all platforms. But, as far as PS4 specific stuff is concerned, there’s probably going be some exclusive stuff if you transition over. But it has to be stylistic, or something just for fun, because we don’t want it to be a game breaking thing. 

The other thing that we’ll be doing as a result of PS4 development is creating a companion app. First for iOS, then for Android that will allow you to see your character, look up friends, view a guide, and so on. We actually don’t have an in-game guide right now. That’s something I hope to remedy soon, but there will be a guide so you can see. What is this thing? What do these items do? What is this stuff? One of the really cools things is we use … voice chat. And with the app you’ll actually be able to talk to your league channel, so you can actually talk from your phone into the game.

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So what do the other DLC updates revolve around?

“We basically had a nice breakthrough just to get small portion ready in time for E3.”

DLC 8 is “Sons of Trigon.” Trigons are the big demon characters, and if you’re familiar with the Teen Titans, we will also have Titans in that DLC. One of the big features that we’re adding is kind of a hellish version of Gotham City. They call it the Gotham Wastelands. It’s a complete new open world, variant version of Gotham. It’s kind of a purgatory Gotham, and there is a lot of solo content that will take place in that. There is a cool alert where you actually get to battle Trigon, and it’s our first giant boss in the game.

There’s some really fun content stuff in it. There’s going to be some new Legends characters rolled in. I’ve mentioned a few of those, including Xerxes, Wonder Woman will be around that same time.

How far in advance do you plan content?

Traditionally we’ve done about a year in advance. But, we’re a fairly agile team, so there have been times where we say, “Oh wow, this technology is taking too long to develop.” Like the player base system we just wanted to get out sooner rather than January this year, but we had to shuffle things around; and we’ll do that as needed. We don’t want to rush something out if it’s not ready. Likewise, League Halls is something that took more investment in terms of technology and engineering. So, we’ll probably be pushing that into probably Q1, 2014.

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Has bringing the game to the PS4 provided any unique challenges?

It was a little harder. For those who don’t know, the PlayStation 4 has an eight core processor. The PS3 has a single core processor. So certain programs like Unreal Engine 3 do not inherently take advantage of multiple cores very well, so, there’s some things we are going to have to do to actually take advantage of the hardware. But, I’m confident now, and I’m feeling much better than last week. We basically had a nice breakthrough just to get small portion ready in time for E3.

But we’re already at what pretty much our baseline will be. And throwing in antialiasing, that would be really nice. I think if we’re lucky we will get to add a few more cool bells and whistles to it, and just make it the best place to play. The RAM and being 64 bit should mean that it’s a really stable, smooth experience. It should be great.

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