Why We're Hopeful for the Future of Champions Online

By Jeff Francis
Why we're hopeful about the future of Champions Online

I've been a lifelong lover of superheroes and comic books. Whether it was the Uncanny X-Men, Batman, the Question, Magnus: Robot Fighter, the New Mutants, or the Justice League, there was always something that was incredibly appealing about fighting crime while wearing an colorful costume. Sadly, the options for gaming online as a superhero were pretty slim until City of Heroes came along. I spent countless hours in that game, before moving on to Champions Online for a number of reasons, and I greatly enjoyed playing the online rpg. It is true that the game has been in a lull for quite a time, but some recent news has gotten me feeling better about the fate of the superhero-themed mmo. Allow me to explain why we're hopeful for the future of Champions Online.

I was an enthusiastic player of Champions Online when it was initially released and for quite some time after. The development of the mmorpg was very interesting as it was originally (as it was told to me) supposed to be a Marvel mmo, but the deal fell apart after a lot of resources had already been poured into the game. That's why Cryptic went out and bought the rights to the Champions pen-and-paper roleplaying game in order to have a coherent universe that was already complete with heroes, villains, history, and powers. Another benefit of snapping up the Champions IP was that Cryptic owned it outright and would never have to satisfy the holders of the copyright, like they have to do for a game like Star Trek Online.

Champions Online fight

To be honest, Champions Online has been in dire straights for some time. There was a concerted lack of new content created over the last few years, with the Steel Crusade update back in September of 2014 being the standout over that period. The development for the game suffered as Cryptic moved resources to other projects, notably Star Trek Online and Neverwinter. Yet the recent news that development for the game is returning back to its original development studio in Los Gatos, California, is giving me some hope for the future of Champions Online. To be honest, Cryptic North (most likely with very limited resources) had put out new content for the game, such as Steel Crusade and a lot of costumes, but a regular slew of playable new missions had not been achieved.

There are two factors in the news announcement that have me raising my hopes for Champion Online's future. The first is that the person heading up the game design team is Randy Mosiondz. He was a mission designer on City of Heroes and the original lead designer of Champions Online. The second factor is that he says that the development team is working on new content updates as well as the standard new costumes that seem to be popular. I love hearing the words of "new content updates" as the most important features for me in an online game are content, content, and content. A regular release of new themed content should help lure players back to the game, especially as there is very little competition in the world of superhero mmo games.

The other main reason why I have hope for the future of Champions Online is that the basic structure of the game is solid. I love the combat system where you use a power builder ability to generate energy to use your other superhero powers. The Nemesis system where the player creates an archenemy still has a lot of potential. I'm also a fan of alerts, which are quick five-person missions such as stopping a bank robbery. Not to mention that the character creation system is probably the best in online gaming. The point is that there are a lot of great systems found in the game that can be expanded upon. I would love to see a Foundry system introduced where players could create their own content, but I think that such a feature is probably too resource-intensive for the current time and would require a great deal of changing the basic code of the game.

Champions Online superheroes

However, there are some clouds that can obscure the possible bright future of Champions Online. One would be that the mmo work on fixing the most pressing bugs that players have been complaining about for years is not done. A gamer can only be frustrated for so long before they leave entirely. Another issue is that there have been no timetables laid out nor has a vision of what the developers have for Champions Online been released. Players need to know that good things are coming in concrete terms and not just vague promises. Communication needs to be improved so that players aren't left in the dark over the game's development.

Overall, I do think that it'll be an uphill climb for Champions Online, but I do have hope for its future. There are a lot of factors ranged against it, such as declining player numbers and a pitiful neglect by Cryptic. It's this neglect that confounds me as every dime they make from the game goes to them as they own the intellectual property outright. Even just a new series of missions that are linked together, like their old comic series releases, that are released every few months would have a tremendous impact upon the game. The tools are there to be used. Still, the fact that the original lead designer is back in charge and the news that new content is being planned does make me optimistic. I just hope that such optimism isn't misplaced.

Apr262015

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