DC Universe Online
|DC Universe Online|
|Developer(s)||Sony Online Entertainment|
|Publisher(s)||Sony Computer Entertainment
|Engine||Unreal Engine 3, Havok (physics engine)|
|Release date(s)||Microsoft Windows, PlayStation 3
January 11, 2011
November 15, 2013
|Genre(s)||Massively multiplayer online role-playing|
DC Universe Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) based upon the fictional universe of DC Comics. Developed by Sony Online Entertainment's Austin studio and co-published by Sony Computer Entertainment and WB Games, the game was released in January 2011.
Jim Lee serves as the game's executive creative director, along with Carlos D'Anda, JJ Kirby, Oliver Nome, Eddie Nuñez, Livio Ramondelli, and Michael Lopez. EverQuest developer Chris Cao was the game director through launch up to May 2011, but has since stepped down to be replaced by Mark Anderson, previously the art director. Mark Anderson himself has since been replaced by Jens Anderson. Shawn Lord is also involved. Geoff Johns is the principal writer.
The revenue model was subscription based with a user cost of $14.99 per month, rather than using microtransactions. The UK subscription was £9.99 a month, £19.99 for three months, and £49.99 for six months. The cost for Australian subscribers was $19.95 AUD. It was announced on September 19, 2011 that the game would go free to play. On November 1, 2011 the game became free to play for everyone. DC Universe Online was announced for the PlayStation 4 on June 5, 2013 alongside with PlanetSide 2.
DC Universe Online features three available types of game membership for players:
- Legendary - The paid subscription membership in DCUO is called "Legendary". Sony Online Entertainment allows players to purchase monthly, 3-month, 6-month, and 12-month subscription packages. Lifetime memberships with no expiration were also made available at game launch. Legendary players can create up to 16 characters, can carry unlimited in-game cash, and are automatically granted access to all DLC content.
- Free to Play (F2P) - Available starting November 2, 2011. F2P players can join the game at no cost and can create up to 2 characters. F2P players have a very limited inventory, are limited to $2000 in-game cash (excess is deposited in escrow), and have no DLC content available.
- Premium - If a F2P player makes at least a $5 with SOE Station Cash, or if a player allows his or her Legendary membership subscription to lapse, they become Premium players. Premium membership allows up to 6 character slots and has similar inventory and in-game cash limitations as F2P.
DC Universe Online features an in-game Marketplace where certain forms of content can be purchased separately in the form of micro transactions. The currency used for these transactions, Station Cash for PC and Loyalty Points for PS3 can be linked to a SOE account, credit card number, or PayPal account.
DC Universe Online is a massively multiplayer online role-playing game (MMORPG) set in the DC Universe. Sony Online Entertainment's stated goal is to make a different kind of MMORPG, with The Incredible Hulk: Ultimate Destruction cited as one of the main inspirations for gameplay. SOE is working to make DC Universe Online more interactive than standard MMORPGs, while trying to keep their key elements, which include a leveling system, raid instances, endgame progression and inventories. The world is mainly shared, public space instead of heroes or villains owning territory. The public space features dynamically-generated content designed for both hero and villain player characters (uniquely created by the player, who cannot choose DCU stalwarts).
The player creates a new, original character that interacts with the heroes and villains of DC Comics. Players choose their character's faction (Hero or Villain), gender (male or female), body type (both height and muscularity), personality (cheerful, flirtatious, serious, primal), and form of special movement (flight, acrobatics, or speed). Numerous hair, skin, and costume types are available, and up to 3 colors can be applied to the color scheme palette. Pre-built templates, inspired by some key DC heroes and villains, are available to expedite the character creation process.
All player-characters receive their superpowers from Brainiac's exobytes, and choose a mentor based on the source of their powers. Characters with meta-human powers receive missions from either Superman or Lex Luthor, and will start the game in Metropolis; Characters with technology-based powers receive missions from Batman or Joker, and will start the game in Gotham City; and Characters with magic-based powers receive missions from either Wonder Woman or Circe, and also start the game in Metropolis.
There are four roles in the game, determined by the type of super powers chosen:
- Damage (aka DPS) - All players start the game as a damage-dealer
- Defense (aka Tank) - Players in this role defend teammates from taking damage
- Healer - Players in this role heal the life meter of their teammates in battle
- Controller - Players in this role recharge teammates energy meters, as well as stun and trap enemies with crowd-controlling effects
The player chooses one set of superpowers for their character. Each set of powers has a Damage role and one of the specialty roles as mentioned above.
- Fire - Tank and DPS
- Ice - Tank and DPS
- Gadgets - Controller and DPS
- Mental - Controller and DPS
- Nature - Healer and DPS
- Sorcery - Healer and DPS
- Light - Controller and DPS (available with DLC 1: Fight for the Light)
- Electricity - Healer and DPS (available with DLC 2: Lightning Strikes)
- Earth - Tank and DPS (available with DLC 3: Battle for Earth)
- Quantum - Controller and DPS (available with DLC 7: Origin Crisis)
- Celestial - Healer and DPS (available with DLC 8: Sons of Trigon)
- Rage - Tank and DPS (available with DLC 9: War of Light Part I)
Power Sets announced for future releases:
- Atomic - Blast your enemies with nuclear-powered energy. Inspired by Firestorm
- Munitions - Arm your character to the teeth with militarized weapons. Inspired by Sgt. Rock
- Serums - Inject your character with exotic chemicals. Inspired by Bane
Each character is given a communicator appropriate to their faction, via which they receive urgent communications from their mentor and his/her colleagues and subordinates; heroes will frequently receive status updates from Oracle, while villains will receive data from Calculator. In addition to assignments from their mentor, player characters may also receive requests for help from other mentors of the same faction. Player characters may also accept missions from non-player characters (NPCs) in the street, usually minor characters from their faction. There are also opportunities for quick street encounters appropriate to the character's faction: for example, a hero character may encounter a thug robbing an armored truck, trying to break into an office building, or in the process of mugging a citizen; while a villain character may be presented with opportunities to assist NPC thugs with an armored truck robbery, or assault a citizen using an ATM. All NPC interactions are fully animated and voice-acted. Player characters will earn threat ratings that will cause NPC heroes and villains to interact accordingly with the character.
The shared worldspace offers primarily solo and team player versus environment (PvE) gaming opportunities in the form of open air missions and instances, although player versus player (PvP) combat is also possible in this worldspace. Other PvP and PvE gaming is available in various types of queued instanced encounters: "Legends", small scale PvP combats in which players take on the identities of iconic characters (continued success in Legends combat unlocks additional iconic characters); "Arena", small scale PvP combat in which players fight as their own characters; "Alerts", 4-player cooperative team missions; "Raids", 8-player cooperative missions; and "Operations" which can consist of either 4 or 8 player missions and take place in a mix of instance-based maps and the open game world. Success in PvE missions is rewarded with in-game currency, costume pieces, equipment and consumables, while PVP combat is rewarded with unlocks of special equipment sets.
The opening cinematic takes place in a gritty, war-torn future depicting a final battle between the world's greatest heroes and villains. A future version of Lex Luthor provides voice-over narration.
This battle takes place in the ruins of Metropolis. Lex Luthor, wearing a heavy mech armor, commands an army of super-villains that includes Circe, Deathstroke, Black Adam, and Giganta. A scarred, armored Batman commands the heroes, which includes Cyborg, Flash, Green Lantern, and Wonder Woman. The battle culminates with the death of Wonder Woman at the hands of Lex Luthor, at which point an unshaven, weary Superman hears her dying screams from orbit and flies to Earth to confront Lex. As Superman cradles Wonder Woman's dead body, he collapses to the ground, and it is revealed that Lex hid kryptonite pellets in her mouth as a trap. Lex impales Superman with a kryptonite-tipped spear, and stands back to proclaim his victory, only to see Brainiac's war fleet fill the skies.
The scene then shifts to the present-day Watchtower, where the future Lex Luthor, heavily modified with Brainiac technology, is telling the story to the present-day Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman. Future Lex explains that the deadly final war between the heroes and villains was triggered by the subtle manipulations of Brainiac (who had been slowly downloading their powers over time). With the planet's most powerful beings dead, Brainiac intended to use the pirated data to create an army of metahumans under his control, facilitating his conquest of Earth. As the only survivor of the war, Lex Luthor could do nothing to resist Brainiac's subjugation of the planet. Lex Luthor explains that he was able to survive in secret and eventually steal the stolen data and energy from Brainiac's mothership in the form of "Exobytes" (nanobot-sized devices that can bond to a living host and give them their own superpowers). Lex has traveled into his past to release the exobytes into the atmosphere of present-day Earth. The heroes are outraged, but Lex Luthor explains that because he has done this, soon thousands of new metahumans will be created from ordinary humans (becoming the player-characters of the game). He implores the Justice League to find and train these new metahumans, because Brainiac is coming and the Earth must be ready to succeed where it was once doomed to fail.
When this cinematic ends, the player is brought to the character creation menu to build their new Hero or Villain.
In the second trailer to the game "In Lex we Trust", we find that Lex Luthor's description of events leading up to his arrival in the present time is not as he described to the heroes. The trailer begins with Lex Luthor reviving his companion Fracture from being unconscious. Lex Luthor explains that Brainiac's forces have already penetrated the Fortress of Solitude and that their time is running out. As they approach a time portal chamber, a Brainiac Eradicator attacks and Fracture destroys the robotic drone with a small grenade. The two arrive at the portal which is being stabilized by Batman (whose face is disfigured and arm is replaced by a robotic prosthetic due to injuries from the battle of villains and heroes). As more Eradicators enter the chamber, Lex Luthor lies saying his armor is damaged and that he can not hold them off. Batman tells Fracture to take the canister that contains millions of Exobytes and go through the portal attacking the Eradicators and buying him more time. Fracture thanks Lex for using the exobytes to give him his powers. Seeing the opportunity he had been waiting for, Lex Luthor kills Fracture describing him as "an excellent lab rat." As Lex Luthor is about to step into the portal, Batman calls to Lex Luthor warning that "I'll be coming for you" to which Lex responds "No, you won't" and activates a self-destruct sequence. Lex Luthor enters into the portal and the Fortress of Solitude suffers massive explosions. He arrives in a dark alley, presumably present day. He is greeted by his present-day self who describes him as being late.
It is then shown at the end of "The Prime Battleground" raid that Future Lex Luthor and Lex Luthor are working together to steal Brainiac's power. Lex Luthor is then betrayed by his future self as Future Lex Luthor wants the power for himself. It is then seen that Future Batman survived the explosion at the Fortress of Solitude and has been chasing Future Lex Luthor through time. Future Lex escapes and Future Batman follows him. In the following cutscene, Future Batman is said to be the last hope for humanity.
Following these events, the heroes are led by Future Batman, while villains are led by Future Lex Luthor to the Nexus of Reality (the center of the Multiverse itself). Both sides fight for control, using paradoxes from constant time-travels to alter the past of iconic character, forcing heroes and villains to work parallel to each other, changing the timelines in the same fashion. What one causes, the other reverts, thus making an infinite cycle. This result in a massive paradox creature that consumes time itself. In the game's hardest raid, the player must stop the creature from destroying the time-space continuum (one of the many raids where both villains and heroes have same goal). This event completely ends the storyline the game was based upon. The DLCs provide new storylines to continue side missions (currently those about the Lantern Corps and the Amazons).
While the game has shown a DC Universe largely similar to the pre-New 52 DCU, notable differences exist, such as the absence of Damian Wayne and Stephanie Brown. Dick Grayson as Nightwing and Tim Drake still operating as Robin, Cassandra Cain still operating as Batgirl, Bane's continued use of the Venom steroid, Black Adam's return to super-villain status despite recent comics changing him into an anti-hero, and Ralph Dibny still active.
This video game also featured the appearance of various fictional companies such as Ferris Aircraft, Wayne Enterprises, LexCorp, Stagg Industries, S.T.A.R. Labs, and Blaze Comics. There were also various brands in this video game such as Big Belly Burger and Soder Cola.
It seems as though Final Crisis has not occurred, as Batman has not apparently endured trauma at the hands of Darkseid, the Martian Manhunter is alive, but Barry Allen appears to be serving as the Flash. Jonathan Kent is also alive and well, unlike his mainline DC Universe counterpart. Several story-arcs used for alert and raid instances are based upon content that occurred in-continuity that pre-dates Final Crisis and occurred, in some cases, as events in 52 and Countdown to Final Crisis. Examples include the Oolong Island instance and multiple story-arcs centered around Black Adam as well as Darkseid being currently absent from content. Also, certain key events from the mainline DC Universe are still referred to as history in the world presented in the game, including the Crisis on Infinite Earths, The Death of Superman, and Knightfall.
Additionally, the events of Flashpoint and The New 52 reboot which ensued have not been reflected. Hero and villain design as well as in game canon all continues to be based on the pre-Flashpoint DC Universe.
The following heroes, villains, and other characters appear in this game:
The game's voice cast is very large, and is inclusive of many known characters in the DC Universe. Sony Online Entertainment released a complete voice cast list on January 18, 2011. Some cast members, such as Kevin Conroy and Mark Hamill, were announced early. The high-profile heroes and villains include:
- Adam Baldwin – Superman/Clark Kent (Previously voiced the character in Superman: Doomsday)
- Corey Burton – Brainiac (Previously voiced the character in Superman: The Animated Series, Justice League and Legion Of Super Heroes)
- Kevin Conroy – Batman/Bruce Wayne (Previously voiced the character in Batman: The Animated Series and numerous other productions)
- Susan Eisenberg – Wonder Woman originally voiced by Gina Torres until the introduction of DLC 8 Sons of Trigon when Susan Eisenberg took the role.
- Michelle Forbes – Circe
- Mark Hamill – The Joker (Previously voiced the character in Batman: The Animated Series and numerous other productions)
- James Marsters – Lex Luthor (Previously voiced the character in Superman: Doomsday)
- Dwight Schultz – Flash/Barry Allen and Martian Manhunter
- Arleen Sorkin – Harley Quinn (Previously voiced the character in Batman: The Animated Series and numerous other productions)
- Wil Wheaton – Robin/Tim Drake
- Jens Hartvig Andersen – Aquaman, Gorilla Grodd, T.O. Morrow
- Alexander Brandon – Black Adam, Black Lightning, Cyborg, Major Force, General Zod
- Beth Broderick - Hippolyta
- Tracy W. Bush – Calculator, Booster Gold, Deathstroke, and Ambush Bug
- Charles C. Campbell (voice actor) – Kilowog, Ace Factory Thugs, Brainiac's Robots, Civilians, Joker's Goons, Spectre's Possessed, Zombies
- Bruce Carey – Bruno Mannheim
- Claire Hamilton – Huntress/Helena Bertinelli, Jinx, Zatanna, Police
- Samantha Inoue Harte – Isis, Zombies
- David Jennison – Penguin, Green Arrow, Jeremiah Arkham, Solomon Grundy, Heat Wave, Manhunters
- Brian Jepson – Felix Faust, Ultra-Humanite, Sentinels of Magic Member
- Robert Kraft – Mr. Freeze, Sinestro, Spectre
- Lana Lesley – Hawkgirl, Giganta, Arena Announcer, Green Lantern Corps Member, Raven
- Jason Liebrecht – Bane, Eclipso, Hawkman
- Robert Matney – Doctor Psycho, Green Lantern Corps Member, H.I.V.E. Drones, League of Assassins Member
- Edwin Neal – Two-Face, Killer Croc, Harvey Bullock
- Robert Newell – Doctor Fate, LexCorp Troops
- Shawn Sides – Fire, Arena Announcer, Green Lantern Corps Member, Police
- Mike Smith – Pete Ross, Atrocitus, Ace Factory Thugs, Atlanteans, Bane Thugs, Black Adam Priest, Circe's Bestiamorphs, Civilians, Mr. Freeze's Goons, Green Lantern Corps Member, Gorilla Grodd's Gorillas, Guards, Joker's Goons, League of Assassins Member, LexCorp Troops, Mutants, Poison Ivy's Minions, Police, Prisoners, Robots, Scarecrow's Goons, Sinestro Corps Members, Zombies
- Brian Talbot – Vandal Savage, Kyle Abbot
- Ken Webster – Commissioner James Gordon, Wildcat, Sinestro Corps Member
- Ryan Wickerham – Captain Cold, Metallo, Flash/Jay Garrick
- Cyndi Williams – Poison Ivy, Queen Bee, Advertisement Voices, Civilians
DC Comics announced in January 2010 that they would be releasing DC Universe Online: Legends, a 52-issue weekly limited series (along the lines of previous similar series like 52, Countdown to Final Crisis and Trinity) which would be based on the game. Rather than a weekly series, the format was changed to a biweekly series, with comic book writer Tony Bedard and game writer Marv Wolfman, and with artists Howard Porter and Adriana Melo. The title launched in February 2011.
DC Universe Online offers downloadable content or "DLC" packs which expand the game universe with newer, more difficult missions; new costume styles and types of equipment; and new sets of super-powers for players to incorporate into character designs. Legendary members are automatically granted access to all DLC packs, while Premium and Free-to-Play members must purchase each DLC pack individually.
- Fight for the Light was the first DLC, launching September 6, 2011, free to all subscribers. This pack was the first to include a new Controller power, Light, to supplement the 6 powers available at character creation. Players had the option of creating a new character with Light powers, or applying a free token that would alter a current character's power to Light. Hero characters join the Green Lantern Corps and villain characters join the Sinestro Corps. New missions included 3 Alerts and 1 Duo.
- Lightning Strikes launched December 6, 2011. It introduced a new Healer power, Electricity, and a new open-world environment: Central City. The Central City open-world features solo-player missions and 8-player bounties. The DLC also featured one Duo mission.
- Battle for Earth launched March 13, 2012. It introduced a new Tank power, Earth, and Tier 4 gear for characters. New missions included a mix of Challenges, Duos, Alerts, and two Raids. The "Prime Battleground" raid brings the Brainiac story arc, which began at game launch, to a conclusion.
- The Last Laugh launched June 19, 2012. This DLC focused more heavily on Player-Versus-Player (PVP) rather than Player-Versus-Environment (PVE). New PVE duos and alerts allow players to enter the Safehouse of the opposing faction. This DLC also introduced the Shield weapon for both PVE and PVP.
- The Hand of Fate launched September 2012. This DLC introduced a new type of PVE mission - "Operations" - which can be played in either 4 or 8 player groups and are a mix of instance-based maps and the open game maps of Gotham and Metropolis. New Legends PVP avatars for Doctor Fate and Felix Faust were added. This DLC also introduced the Utility Belt Attachment, which expands the number of consumables or trinket items a character can equip.
- Home Turf introduced Player Bases (also called lairs) which come in a variety of styles and can be decorated using items that are found as loot in missions. Player Bases are available maps for PVP Arena matches. All players are granted 1 Base by default, while additional Bases can be purchased from the game marketplace. 
- Origin Crisis started the next major story arc of the game, continuing from the conclusion of the "Prime Battleground" raid in DLC 3. Tier 5 gear was added. New solo Challenges have the player-character take on the identity of an iconic DC hero or villain (depending on faction) to re-enact a defining moment in their origin. This DLC also introduced a new Controller power, Quantum, which manipulates time and space, and 2 new Alerts. 
- Sons of Trigon introduced a new type of map - a limited subsection of the Gotham City open world where the environment has become a hellish wasteland. Three new Duos and one Alert were added. A new Healer power, Celestial, was introduced. 
As was announced at the 2013 SOE Live Convention by DCUO Developer Jens Anderson, all DLC packs from this point forward use a "trilogy" format to follow a certain connecting theme.
- War of Light, Part I the first chapter in a trilogy focused on the seven Lantern Corps and the Blackest Night. Launched January 22, 2014. The "Metropolis Warzone" mini-open world was added, following map type used in DLC 8. A new Tank power, Rage, which features the Red Lantern ring, was introduced. There are three sets of gear styles in this DLC: Green Lantern for heroes; Sinestro (yellow) for villains; and Rage (red lantern) for both factions. This DLC also features two Alerts and 1 raid.
- Amazon War, Part I the first chapter in a trilogy focused on Wonder Woman and the amazons. Launched April 30, 2014. The "Gotham Warzone" was added as a mini-open world. Two Duos and 1 Alert are included. Tier 6 gear was introduced.
- Halls of Power, Part I the first chapter in a trilogy focused on the New Gods from Jack Kirby's Fourth World. Launched July 2014. Features 1 Alert, 2 Operations, and 1 Raid. Introduces League Halls which expand upon the concept of Player Bases to act as a shared base for an entire player league.
Development and updates
A Beta was released on December 14, 2010 and was closed on January 5, 2011. There were a number of technical issues that came to light when the beta was closed which were only partially resolved by the game's release.
In August 2011, there was a global server merge implemented by the developers to consolidate all PC servers and PlayStation 3 servers into 4 individual servers, one for each platform per region. In mid-2013, as part of a hosting deal, accounts for the European PC version were sold to ProSeibenSat.1, however they are still capable of using the US Servers, and the PS3 accounts are still hosted by Sony Online Entertainment for all regions.
DC Universe Online received generally positive reviews from critics. Nick Kolan of IGN said, "I wish I loved DC Universe Online, but instead I just like it. It's got a lot going for it – a great license, some superb voice actors, a lot of well-crafted settings, fast action-based combat, and an entire market of people who, so far, have barely been exposed to the MMO genre." GameSpot's Kevin VanOrd wrote, "PC players will be immediately struck by the console-focused interface and the overzealous profanity filter, which inexplicably couldn't be turned off (this was later added in through updates). However, loading times on the PC are zippy, and the game runs smoothly as you soar across the skies. The PlayStation 3 version is noticeably more sluggish. Menus take too long to pop up; the frame rate chugs along every so often, or the game might freeze for a second or two; and the telltale texture pop-in common to games using Unreal 3 technology is all too prevalent."
As of August 2014, the game has 18 million registered users, and it's the number one revenue generating free-to-play title on the PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4.
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