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CES 2009: Sony Online Entertainment

Posted by: John at 1/9/2009 8:28 AM
Sony Online Entertainment has always been very generous with us and I was really looking forward to seeing DC Online up close and personal. Being a big comic book fan I was anxious to see how the project is coming. The demonstration given to us showed some of the customization process of the character. You'll be able to pick various powers and sources of the power as well as a focus object. For example, if you want to create a Mr. Freeze type character select the  freezing power and double guns. While you can't be any of the main super heroes or super villains, you can create your own characters that are inspired by real ones.

So what we were shown was a mission involving Doomsday and Luthor's henchmen. Luthor sent some folks to try and gather up some genetic material left over from a fight between Doomsday and Superman. The setup was a pair of heroes going in to secure the materials and take out the enemies. After completing that part of the mission, the pair  were then sent into Star Labs to help with Doomsday as he escapes capture from that area.

The two heroes that were used in the demonstration were distinctly different in terms of power and movement. One had a quick Flash-like dash and super strength. The other wielded dual katanas and moved around acrobatically being able to leap high and far as well as cling onto the side of structures.

The pair teamed up to take down Doomsday and we even got to see Superman come in and join the fight. The look of the characters were pretty clean and it did remind me of a better looking City of Heroes.
We were shown the city of Metropolis and it looked pretty nice.

One thing of note is that no one really dies in the game. When you  lose all your health you are just knocked out. A timer lets you know when you can wake up and get back into action. The same with enemies as you just knock them out. The more you get knocked out the longer it takes for you to return to action. The developers didn't want to put in any deaths and were trying to stick to the comics of twenty years or so ago where heroes and villains were always in a constant struggle where each one would come out on top in certain situations. With PvP, the concept stays the same although I'm interested to see how one team "wins" a fight if they can just keep coming back.

For those that play with friends, you won't be restricted to a server. If the load is available, just hop onto one with your buddies and you'll continue from there. Speaking of buddies, they do have a concept of grouping so you can form your own League or Teen Titans but  a few things are still being fleshed out. They weren't prepared to talk about headquarters yet either although what's a team without some sort of headquarters even if it's just an apartment with spinning furniture that rotates into a command center. We also touched a little bit on a social aspect of having a web site devoted to your team but nothing concrete was mentioned yet.

I'm hoping that there will be some tie-In with a comic so that we can get not only the experience of playing some of the story online but also reading it as well. They are going to be shipping with pretty much all the major heroes and villains when the game is ready. I asked what was the most obscure character they have in there now and their response was they did have a model for Ambush Bug.

You'll see and hear a lot more once we have the video ready to go but  DC Online looks pretty good in its early state. Although we were the first ones that saw the game crash and it happened twice while we were interviewing them.

The final game for me and Sean was Free Realms which from the name you  can discern that it's a free game. It's an MMORPG that's totally free and all you need is an email address to sign up. The game's aimed at
the early teen crowd so you won't get any killings or gore in this MMORPG. You setup a character via a website and then when you are done you jump into a full 3D client. All the software is streamed to you computer so there's no initial big install you have to do.

The game lets you take up various jobs or classes in a simple sort of way. Be a postman, a ninja, or a race car driver to name a few. You aren't limited to a single profession and you can switch to any of them at anytime by going and participating a mini-game aimed at that specific profession. The mini-games encompass both 2D and 3D giving you a nice variety to play with. Two that come to my head are a matching type game for the postman where you try and link up various objects on a board and the other is a Mario Kart like race car driving game.

It's build for the casual gamer really and there are some aspects that let you jump in and out of the game quickly. If you just want to play for 15 minutes and do a race you can and have your buddies join you in doing so. To help get you into the mini-games faster in other cities, you can warp to the cities you discover via a warp stone. That way you aren' t using up all your time trying to travel to one place or another.

Since it's free, the developers are looking to have some in game advertising but there will also be a subscription model. They didn't know if the paid folks will have an advertisement free experience yet though. I mean there's this one shop in a town I saw with a big coffee cup that's similar to Starbucks. They are hoping to add advertisement but not be obnoxious and to accomplish this by creating advertisement that fit the style of the area you are in. To also help the company
earn revenue, there are going to be some items that you can buy using Station Cash. Now, these items won't affect any core gameplay as they are more cosmetic than anything.

Free Realms looks like it'll be a fun little game for the casual and young folks. Since all the content is coming from the Sony server, parents can be assured everything is going to be family friendly. Even the ability to do free chat is restricted for a certain age. There are some social aspects of the product and it will be determined if some information will be exposed so other sites can publish the information as well. Free Realms might be the MMORPG that everyone can enjoy
without worrying about any offensive material or offensive players.

Dan will be back with more on the PSN side of things but DC Online looks great and Free Realms looks like a fun little MMORPG that's free for everyone to play.