1. Superheroes and villains always make for fun and interesting video game story lines. Tell us about the premise for Champions Online?

Champions Online is an action game featuring heroes you as the player get to create and customize. Once you've created your hero he's immediately thrust into the midst of the action as he's called upon by the super-team known as the Champions to help save Millennium City from an invasion. The insect-like Qularr have surrounded the city in a force field and are attempting to turn the downtown into a staging ground for their invasion of Earth. And that's just the tutorial.

Once you make it past that first adventure, learning how to play as you go, you then get to explore more of the world where you encounter a number of villainous groups, solo villains, and master villains. The world is vast and as you progress you learn about some of the expansive back story distilled from more than 25 years' worth of supplements from the tabletop game.

2. Who are some of the characters in Champions?

The most important characters are those created by the players. We specifically wanted you, the player, to feel like you're the main character in a comic book filled with action and adventure.

But I think you mean, who are some of the characters that the players meet over the course of the game. First and foremost are the Champions. They're the most successful and most well-established super-team in the world and are sometimes encountered as mission-givers, characters that help on some missions, or even as heroes who've been captured that you need to rescue. The Champions include Defender, who wears power armor and leads the team; Witchcraft, a powerful sorceress; Sapphire, a telekinetic and attention hound; Kinetik, the speedster; and Ironclad, who's an alien gladiator now fighting to protect his adopted home. And there are many more such as Dr. Silverback, Justiciar, Celestar, and Ravenspeaker, just to name a few.

As for the villains, there are the villain groups such as the overly ambitious VIPER who seems to be involved in everything, DEMON with its foul magic and infernal Morbane priests, PSI and their teams of powerful mentalists, and ARGENT with their high-tech and highly trained agents. I already mentioned the insect-like Qularr and their attempted invasion of Earth. They stick around for the heroes to fight, but they're not the only aliens. The heroes also have to tend with the reptilian Gadroon. Unlike the Qularr who are physically very powerful and often possess powers of their own, the Gadroon use high-tech weaponry to overcome their foes.

Apart from the groups, there are a number of solo villains and masterminds. Characters like the cyborg Ripper, the mentalist Menton, the super-strong, four-armed Grond, über-geneticist Teleios and his various mutated clones, spymaster Rakshasa, the crazy Dr. Moreau and his multitude of Manimals, and the biggest bad guy of all, Dr. Destroyer; the man who wiped Detroit off the face of the Earth in the Champions universe and whose Destroid robots continue to run rampant performing whatever tasks their master commands.

Then there's Foxbat. He's a bit nutty and sometimes straddles the line between hero and villain. He's crazy, not entirely harmless, but mostly a lot of fun, so everyone cuts him a little slack. It's hard to really be mad at someone for stealing a bunch of ping-pong balls, right?

3. Champions Online is truly a unique game play experience, especially because of the character customization tool. Tell us about it.

One of our main goals for Champions Online was to give the players as many options as possible and that begins with character creation. When you log in to create your character you can change pretty much everything. There are options for the gender, height, weight, how muscular the character is, hair, eyes, and all the other "normal" characteristics of a person, but it expands from there. You can also decide how the character stands, including an option for a hunched-over bestial stance, how the character's face is shaped, the length of his arms and legs (which is separate from the character's height) as well as the size of their hands and feet. The level of customization on the body alone is really remarkable and allows characters to create everything from a normal human to the most bizarre and misshapen creature imaginable.

As for costume and clothing options, there are billions of possibilities. You can customize every aspect of your hero. Each section of the hero, from head to feet, has its own dropdown menu to choose from. So you could have a hero with a hat, helmet, hood, hair, horns, or whatever and then each of those options likely has another dropdown menu or three so you can determine their specific size, shape, and texture. I can't possibly describe all the options, but the parts you can customize include: headwear, ears, eyes, facial features (including options like animal heads, demon heads, alien heads, undead heads, and more), neckwear, shoulder pads, multiple cape options, many different styles of wings, cowls, masks, cybernetics, body armor, tattoos, armbands, gloves, bracers, belts, shorts, "pants" (loose pants, tights, bare legs, skirts, etc.), leg accessories, boots and shoes, options for different types of feet. And then there are all the textures and colors to choose from. You can even choose different shading effects to give your clothing the appearance of normal cloth, leather, or reflective metal.

The character creator is pretty exhaustive and a lot of fun to play with. If you have a character in mind, it can create it.

4. How did you go about developing such an extensive list of powers and character customization options?

It wasn't really a matter of coming up with an extensive list of powers, but about letting players use those powers how they wanted. The comics are full of characters with this energy blast and that magical power. We just wanted to give players the tools to create the hero they have in mind. There's definitely something for everyone. If you want to play a super-strong, super-tough character who flies; great! That's in there. If someone else wants to play a half-dragon/half-human hero with wings a tail and the ability to breath fire and rip opponents apart with his claws; that's possible, too. Ninjas. Pirates. Cyborgs. Battlesuits. Vampires. Dark avengers. Magicians. Soldiers of fortune. Shark-men. Aliens. It's all possible with a few clicks in the character creator and a few power choices as you go up in levels.

5. How much liberty does the player have in mixing and matching powers and body types?

They have an incredible amount of control over mixing and matching and the way powers appear. It was relatively easy for us to create powers in the game and give them each their own area of specialization with different effects. But what we wanted to do was offer the players a game in which they can combine the different power sets in pretty much any way imaginable -- and allow them to change the way the powers look. So, you and I could both have a character with a fire blast, but during character creation I "hue-shifted" my fire so that it's cobalt blue and you decided to hue-shift your fire powers so they look white-hot and then changed the "emanation point" of your power to your chest, so all of your blasts come from there, whereas mine come from my hands. It's all about choices.

6. Once you’ve created your character, where do you battle? Describe the worlds.

The world is pretty expansive. We wanted the different sections of it, called zones, to feel big and to allow players explore without artificial barriers. So, if you're in Millennium City you can wander around the whole city, from its central plaza to the far corners. Players are free to move around, go on missions, and investigate whatever they want, but there is a risk of wandering into a section of town with bad guys who are much higher level than you.

In addition to Millennium City there's Canada, which is the setting for Force Station Steelhead. Unsurprisingly, it's a frozen tundra where the players encounter evil spirits, VIPER, ice demons, Gadroon aliens, a group of militant separatists called the Hunter-Patriots, and even a clan of bigfoot. (Bigfeet?).

Then there's the southwestern desert which includes locations like Project Greenskin, which is a government project dedicated to capturing and studying the super-powerful, irradiated monster Grond and his many Grondlings which now plague the area. There's also Area 51, an atomic wasteland, Stronghold Prison which is suffering from many, many escapes, and Snake Gulch. All of these locations have their own signature villains and overall feeling, so despite the fact that you're in a single (large) zone, the game is very different from one area to the next. Villains in the desert include Grond, Irradiates, Stronghold Prisoners, Menton and Stronghold Prison Guards who've been mind-controlled by Menton, Cowboy Robots, Ghosts, and VIPER.

Lemuria is the underwater domain of the, uh, Lemurians. They're a race of people embroiled in a civil war that's all but over. Their leader has been overthrown, but he's working (with the heroes' help) to turn things around. The Lemurians that survive have all been transformed into amphibious "lizard" men. The areas of this zone include the Undying Reef, the Caliginous Depths, Rastrinfhar's Abyss, and a branch of Stronghold that acts as the last bastion of the few "human" Lemurians left. In this zone the characters encounter villains such as Lemurians, Bleak Minions, Karkaradon, Pirate Ghosts, and of course Sea Creatures.

And finally, there's Monster Island. A tropical island far out to sea littered with strange creatures and lost experiments. A number of different groups appear here; ARGENT, VIPER, Dr. Moreau and his Manimals, Teleios and his Teleioclones, and unusual critters like Qwyjibo, the giant flaming gorilla.

And those are the five main zones.

7. You have even customized the travelling powers. Tell us about them.

I don't know if I'd call it customizable, but you definitely get a lot of options. They're all there; flight, teleportation, superjump, superspeed, swinging, tunneling, some variants like fire flight, jet boots, and rocket jump, and there are even powers that allow you to move around on a hover disk, an ice slide, a chunk of earth, and finally there's acrobatics, which includes a bit of super-leap and a bit of super-speed with some really great animation that's cool and very unique. No matter how you want your character to get around, it's probably in the game!

8. Tell us about the super groups?

Users can form new super groups at level 10 by paying a resource cost, but they can join an established super group at any level. Super group leaders can designate color and emblem defaults for super group costumes. Super groups also have a rank system, chat channel, message system, and super group vault access. As the game progresses, users will likely see more features in super groups; possibly a leveling system or super group hideouts.

9. Tell us about the different organizations that are in the game.

There are so many it's hard to know where to start and I covered some of this earlier in the interview when talking about the villain groups. That said, we tried to give each group their own character and motivation, so despite the fact that ARGENT and VIPER are similar on the outside, they're very different groups once you fight them and learn more about them. In some cases the differences between groups is obvious. The Grondlings are all about physical power and causing as much damage as possible, while PSI is all about mental powers and advancing their egocentric agenda. Again, you learn a lot about the groups when you encounter them.

10. Every hero needs an anti-hero. Tell us about the Nemesis system.

Every Champion will be able to keep their biggest enemies close to them through the use of the Nemesis system. Having a nemesis is iconic in the superhero universe and in Champions Online players will be able to customize their character's ultimate adversary. Letting players create their own nemesis as a character means that it will have all the tools given to our regular players, from its own costume, its own name, its own powers, even to its own minions and back story. The Nemesis system is the first step for Cryptic providing more user-generated content for the players. The work we’ve done with the Nemesis system has laid the general groundwork for all sorts of user created content. You’ll see us moving farther in this direction both in Champions Online as well as Star Trek Online.

11. The action in this MMO is extremely fast. How did you go about ensuring such immediacy?

It took a lot of careful planning when we went about designing the powers and enemies in the game. We wanted something more action-oriented and immediate but also had to be careful about latency in busy environments. We ended up designing the powers to be fast attacks with only larger or specialized powers having cooldowns. We built our villains to have easily readable power schticks which players could watch for and react to by blocking or moving. You’ll still find some traditional MMORPG mechanics but mixed with more fighting game style reactive gameplay.

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