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Not completely unpopular

Why I’m Not Playing DCUO

In one of my last posts of 2010, I discussed six games that are on my radar this year.  In the comments, I was twice recommended to think about DCUO (DC Universe Online).  To be sure, there’s something about a super-hero game that has that aura of cool radiating.  When I played City of Heroes long ago, I enjoyed it for the most part but had difficulty because of the game’s eventual failings.  DCUO is tempting, but I’m going to list off some pros and cons and attempt to explain why I’ll be taking a pass on this game.

First of all, the pros.

  1. DCUO is a game in a recognizable universe.  Superman, the Batman, Wonder Woman, Green Lantern, the villains Lex Luthor, the Joker, Poison Ivy, Mr. Freeze…the list goes on and on.  These are superheroes and villains that you don’t play (except in certain arena settings), but they are there to set the mood.  You know who these guys are and their general histories.
  2. Top notch voice talent.  Mark Hamill (Joker), Kevin Conroy (Batman), Adam Baldwin (Superman), Gina Torres (Wonder Woman), James Marsters (Luthor), Jennifer Hale (Zatanna), Dwight Schultz (Flash), Wil Wheaton (Robin).  That’s a damn good list.  Hamill and Conroy themselves are a huge win (Hamill’s Joker is brilliant).  The rest of the cast looks pretty amazing and from my small interactions with the game, used very nicely.
  3. Some unique gameplay involving PvP.  Not that I particularly like PvP in games like this, but DCUO had some interesting takes on what you can do and what their customer base would like, which I have to say I liked.
  4. Movement powers immediately at start.  One thing that was quite annoying in CoH was the fact that before you could get your top level travel power, you needed to get up to level 20.  And the first several levels, you’d be hoofing it until you got your first underwhelming travel power.  For example, if you wanted to fly, in CoH you’d first get this power which was a weak form of levitation, useful for having to not take the stairs but worthless as trying to get anywhere as running was almost certainly faster.  Then you got a second slightly more useful travel power several levels later before you could max it out.  DCUO avoids this.  You have a travel power right off the bat.  Very nice.
  5. It’s possible that some good friends of mine will play this game, which is always a nice incentive.

How about a short list of middling things?

  1. Sony announced that there will be monthly content updates.  But there’s so little actual news coming out of Sony that the question is will this be another empty promise?
  2. I’ve read on a number of forums that the game has changed significantly in the last few weeks in terms of gameplay.  Beta is a time where you usually hammer out the bugs or start to balance the classes a bit, not make wholesale changes.
  3. No crafting to speak of.  Not a huge problem for me, but some people like it.  Star Trek Online’s crafting was so poorly done it was a waste of time to even try, so maybe not having crafting is not so bad.  However, you can’t say that it won’t drive people away.

Here’s my list of cons for the game.

  1. I did manage to get a beta on a PS3 and try out the game.  It is awful on a console.  Graphics are sub-par, the controls are clunky which turn the game into little more than a button masher, there’s a general lack of responsiveness in the controller, menus are not intuitive to navigate, travel power activation is inconveniently located (I kept on activating my flight power when moving around one of the joysticks), it takes forever for the game to start, game updates took hours to download…it was just a rotten experience on the PS3.  As an MMO player who is used to the immediate responses of a keyboard-mouse combination, it was a complete failure to try and create a limited control system.  Plus, how are you going to do chat with a PS3 controller?  Basically, I couldn’t help but feel I was experiencing a gimped version of this game on the PS3.
  2. PS3 notwithstanding, I was not impressed with the character creator.  Honestly, aren’t we past the ala-carte selection methods of creating your character?  I had assumed that the technology was there where you could change items through the use of sliders and not a pick and choose method.  Not that I was expecting a brilliant character creation experience, but come on, do better than what they currently have.
  3. Menus are not very intuitive themselves.  It took me a long time to learn how to change the color of my pre-picked costume and get it to save properly.  Why should this be hard at all?  Why does the UI feel like it was tossed together by a monkey?
  4. Initial missions were predictable.  Kill/defeat x number of villains, collect x number of so-and-sos, report back to quest giver, upgrade items.  I know, I know, it’s the typical MMO formula but it’s not working for me here.  I got bored very quickly.  Once you found a winning combination of button mashing, there was little else to worry about.
  5. Character power setup is underwhelming as well.  And it also fits into the familiar tank, DPS, healer, controller classes.  There’s nothing remotely new about this formula.  Sorry if I feel like I should desire something new in a game.
  6. Sony doesn’t exactly have the best track record lately when it comes to MMOs.  Everquest is likely an exception because it was on the vanguard and it seems they didn’t fiddle with the formula to much until WoW came along and took over the big boy on the block crown.  Star Wars Galaxies, Planetside, Matrix Online, Pirates of the Burning Sea…each of them had their issues.  The NGE patch for Star Wars Galaxies is one the biggest controversies that happened in all of the MMO world.
  7. No chance I’ll get Melanie to play with me.  That’s a bigger factor than you would think.  Having said that, no Mac port either.

I want to like this game, I really do.  I like the whole superhero concept as an MMO, but I’m feeling this isn’t the one for me.  Maybe it will change in the future, but I think I’ll need to have a trial of the game again before I drop any actual money on what seems like a poor MMO experience so far.

8 Comments

  1. although i don’t know about the ps3 version, the pc version didn’t suffer to that extent the game play faults you describe and yes there is an underwhelming amount of content. but the predictable beginning, its an mmo… what are you expecting? overall you have changed my opinion on this game and bravo, though addicting i am looking for more depth YOUR A SUPER HERO SONY!.

  2. Hi, Elias. Thanks for commenting.

    I’m not sure it was necessarily fair basing my thoughts on just the review from the PS3 version. I’ve played a number of MMOs. All of them were on a PC. The PC has natural advantages of not having to switch to a bluetooth keyboard to chat, more precise controls with WASD and mouse, generally better hardware. Playing it on the PS3, I was quickly annoyed with the slow movement of the camera view, plus the other hand contortions needed to actually perform actions while moving.

    As to the content, I wasn’t surprised, but someday I want to be. I want to be pleasantly surprised that an MMO has finally transcended the formula. But the current way of doing things works and makes money…well, what do you do? That’s why I’m hoping that Guild Wars 2 and Star Wars: The Old Republic manage to budge those formulas into a more enjoyable experience. GW2 looks like they will have a dynamic mission system that will be more immersive. SW:TOR promises to bring more story to an MMO. DCUO…well, like I said, the voice acting is good, but I didn’t feel more engaged in the game because of it.

    My guess is that DCUO will get better over time, especially if the monthly updates turn out to be true. However, the MMO market is becoming saturated and there are smaller and smaller pieces of the pie to cut up. MMOs are being pushed out the door because there’s this thought that they can be eventually patched up while the game is officially live. I saw that last year with Star Trek Online, I’m seeing it now with DCUO. I’d rather have the development get closer to a polished product rather than having something pushed out the door to hit an arbitrary date. That, of course, is a whole different topic.

    Thanks again for the comment!

  3. What the hell? I play on PS3 with my league, and we all have friends who play on PC. I love the game, and one could say I am unhealthily obsessed with it to a scary degree. And if you are as obsessed with Comics as me, you will be too. The game is great. I have a great reason to sell all of my other games and finally smash my XB360. All that being said, for those interested in playing on PS3, here is what makes it work for me. #1. I have the PS3 Text Pad that attaches to the controller, sort of a necessity, and if you already have a blackberry, then you will text lightning fast. #2. My whole league/Guild have Tritton Headsets, they literally sound as good as voice recording in a Studio (which I used to do) You have to have them turned on before you start the game. When in game, go to social, press square, that brings up your league, send them group invites, then they will join chat (have all members set to chat) and you will all be visible in blue on the compass map. Another biggy for me, is I hate being backed off from my character, I want to be close up, now whether this is your desire or not, on PS3, like PC you can do this by pressing L1 and holding while pressing up on the D-pad, or down to pan out. If you are ROLE PLAYERS like me, Voice chat is an opportunity to expand on that, by going to your PS3 setting in the Accessory settings under Voice changer, you can move the slider to sound like a 10 year old girl, or the incredible hulk, or Ironman, or (Insert hero/villain here) This game is all I will play for years.

  4. Hi, thanks for commenting.

    I’m glad that you enjoy the game. I’ve got a friend of mine who really digs it and is having a blast playing through the game. It’s an extra bonus that it’s in the DCU and there’s a lot of familiarity with the background.

    However, and I’m trying to point this out to people, this isn’t going to be a game for me.

    For your first point, I’m not a fan of having to get as a necessity extra hardware in order to play the game properly. It being an MMO, the chat function should be a no-brainer. Chat for the PC is a given, seeing that we’re playing on a keyboard. How many players are going to rush out and buy a keyboard to chat?

    Not much to say about your second point because that’s entirely up to you if you want to run with a headset. I have a headset that I use for my other games on PC, but I never use the game based voice client…an option that I’m sure you do not have on the PS3.

    Again, I’m not trying to bash this game completely, what I am saying is that it’s not for me. If you see that list of cons I initially made, there’s nothing there which is likely going to change. I don’t enjoy God of War style button mashing for games and when you get to your so-called higher power levels, on the PS3, that’s what you’re left with. Mash, mash, hold, mash, mash, mash…I don’t like that sort of game play. And because that is so deeply ingrained into the experience on the PS3, there’s nothing I can do to improve it. The character creator is crap, especially for what is considered a triple A game. Menu and the general UI still sucks, although it might get better over time.

    As a final comment, I thought it was interesting that although you’re playing DCUO, when you mention in the voice changer, you clearly reference Marvel characters and not DC.

  5. *note: this is pleasant banter, so give it nice overtone as you read*
    DCUO definitely has a TON of bugs on the PS3 that need to be fixed yet aren’t being addressed at all. I am soooo frustrated with freezes and that thing where the communicator starts beeping incessantly until you log out.
    As for the character creator…it’s fine to me. I’m sorry, I’ve seen the top games with their “sliders” and awesome customization…except that in the end, they all look alike anyway. That’s not even considering that the clothes they wear are the same and that unless u zoom in real close, you can’t see their facial features anyway.
    Typing is a nightmare, but its an MMO! You cannot have come into this game not at least plugging a keyboard in or something. And you really should have voicechat if you’re trying to play an MMO. I do agree that it sucks that as a PS3 player you have to grab a headset and something to type with, but that’s PS3’s fault if they didnt include them in the console box. My xbox came with everything i could need. Made PSU fun as hell, lol.
    I can totally understand not enjoying button mashing games. I can’t imagine why you’d rather have a slow press of buttons down a line in a specific routine over and over, but I love those games too, so I’m guilty as well haha. But I’d rather mash than auto attack any day. Of course, you can’t actually mash past the first handful of levels though. After that, you have to start using powers artistically or you’re going to get toasted over and over.
    Never accidentally activated my travel power…and considering that that is an actually button built into PS3 games and theres no need to press down while using the stick that’s on you and will come back if you try and ply any game using the L3/R3 buttons. That and theres really no reason for your travel power to ever be off. Not going to die from being toooooo fast.
    Haha, at least, those are the reasons I give my bf who COMPLETELY agrees with you on every point. But we all like different things right? I can’t seem to get him to like the pc or ps3 version. He’s all about his Champions Online…which i cant stand.
    I really would like to see an mmo with some unique quests tho. But what can they do really? At least DCUO makes you understand what you’re doing and why. Poor WoW prolly has volumes of quest text no one has ever laid eyes on. I’d def like to see something fresh tho.
    Idk, I like it, but at the same time, they’ll lose me probably. I give a lot of slack to new mmos, but there’s no excuse to roll your game out with all these bugs and not fix them. It’s been a month for god’s sake.

  6. Hi Ivey, thanks for the comment. I’m definitely reading it with a pleasant conversation tone in mind. 🙂

    For most people, the character creator is not a big deal. I happen to like a robust creator because some people are really creative. I remember playing City of Heroes and a couple of people had created Ace and Gary from the Ambiguously Gay Duo and I laughed my ass off when I saw them. Can’t really do that in DCUO and it’s a shame. People can be really creative. It can be a pretty neat part of the game. For all of my complaints of Star Trek Online, the character creator was okay (still think the hairstyles were limited) and some people went out of their way to make some crazy looking aliens.

    My problem with the travel power being on L3 was that I had chosen flight and I’d often end up above the people I was fighting. I chose some weird powers and none of my attacks were ranged. Maybe that was an issue with my choice, but I still felt that could have been done better.

    DCUO and Champions Online are different beasts…probably not a lot of crossover there.

    If you’re looking for unique quest structure/storyline, Guild Wars 2 hopefully will be out this year. From the looks of it, the game promises a different immersive experience where things happen more on a real-time basis rather than get quest, kill ten of something, rinse, repeat.

    I’m hoping DCUO can iron out the bugs. Even though it’s not something that I’m likely to play, that doesn’t mean that I want the game to fail.

  7. While from what i heard its way easier to play and faster on a keyboard but the controlling is harder than any MMO, u literally have to memorize every single key command to play it well, and some keys arent on a laptop, like Num-Lock, used in the game for Travel Skills. But on a PS3 controller, its much easier

  8. Hi Steve, thanks for the input.

    I guess it’s a matter of personal preference. In the old days where I was playing Tribes on a regular basis (there’s another story completely), I had I think all but a handful of keys mapped on my keyboard, including the numlock pad. A typical keyboard has 128 keys, so that’s a lot of commands. I know that for that game I didn’t map the F-keys because they were designated for other system commands, but I also used combinations of Shift-key, Alt-key, Ctrl-key. I don’t have a hard number, but I believe I had nearly 150 keyed commands.

    Playing LOTRO, I have four full bars of commands (forty in all) in addition to the system keyed commands. Travel commands for this game are mapped to my third mouse button while voice key up is on the fourth mouse button. Just me, but a mouse with multiple buttons is a necessity, four buttons minimum. Even when I’m playing EVE online, a game that you can do nearly everything with a right click of the mouse, I have probably fifty or so mapped commands.

    It’s a matter of mindset for that sort of thing. There was a generation of consoles (PS2 and the like) which I never purchased or played my games on, even though I grew up on the Atari 2600, the 5200 and later the SNES. It reflects the types of games I like to play on consoles…driving games, the EA NHL games, platform games like Little Big Planet, and games like Deathspank.

    But because I also got in on the ground floor of FPS games and later with MMOs, having a game with limited UI options like DCUO is a big negative for me. I like having the ability to map as many keys as I want or need. It’s just a matter of using them often enough and in a matter that the actual practice of those mapped keys becomes second nature.

    Thanks again for the comment!

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