Sunday, September 11, 2016

No More Hero : DCUO

I've always had a soft spot for DCUO. Hardly surprising, given I've been a DC fan since I was four years old. Playing DCUO, though, that hasn't been so much of a thing.

The game's been around for well over five years now. I beta-tested it back in late 2010 and played for several weeks when the game launched in January 2011. The level cap at release was a low-bar 30, something that's never changed and probably never will, because DCUO is effectively two different games.

The first thirty levels offer a very enjoyable, free-flowing, rough and tumble sort-of open world MMO, filled with traditional questing and some exciting all-pile-on large-scale events. If you rolled on a PvP server, as I did, there was also plenty of ad hoc Hero on Villain action along the way.

At thirty the game changes utterly, becoming an intense, group-oriented experience built around instances, raids and an ever-receding chase after the increasingly essential yet ever-elusive Combat Rating.

Here's a guide to what to expect when you turn thirty. I'm not vouching for the accuracy. I've never even gotten that far. All my information on what comes after the watershed I take from Tipa's long-running, highly entertaining but ultimately off-putting tales of life with Team Spode.

That's really not my kind of thing at all but flying through the blue skies of Metropolis or clinging to the rain-drenched rooftops of Gotham very much is. My first character made it into the low 20s before I lost focus and my second, created a couple of years later, stalled somewhere in the teens.

At least I think she did. Hard to be sure. She's not around to ask.

But wait, we're getting ahead of ourselves. First let's get the game installed.How hard can that be, right? I mean, they want people to play...

I hadn't logged into DCUO  for a year - could be two. There's a copy sitting somewhere on one of the HDDs I removed from my old PC but not the one I currently have fitted into a USB enclosure. Rather than swap them over I thought I'd just re-install. We have an excellent cable connection, it's around a 20GB download - should take what, half an hour, tops?

So, about a week later it finishes downloading. Say what? Well, there's a bug in the launcher. Of course there is. For reasons no-one can explain for some people the launcher simply keeps closing itself without warning, sometimes after a few seconds, sometimes a few minutes.

There are umpteen suggested fixes, none of which I bothered to apply. I took the recommended brute force method and just kept restarting the launcher every time I noticed it had closed. Only since I opened it and then left it to run in the background while I played something else I mostly didn't notice it had closed, which is why patching it up took me all week.

 In the end it got done and I logged in to my old account. Of course, in keeping with my entire convoluted history with SOE/DBG, that account is no longer the one I'm paying money for, meaning my old characters are subject to DBG's somewhat intrusive F2P restrictions.

Which we will get to in due course. First, though, there's The Case of The Missing Hero. She's just gone. Not at character select. Vanished. Why? Well there's the mystery.

A F2P player is entitled to two character slots and a "Premium" (ex-subber) six so it's not that. The handy Restore Deleted Character button tells me I have no deleted characters, which is to be expected since I almost never commit virtual murder. Or is that virtual suicide? Whatever.

Maybe there was some kind of low-level purge? I thought she would have been high enough to escape a cull if so but who knows? She was on a different server - a PvE server - but if there's any way to select servers I can't find it.

In fact I couldn't find a way to choose servers even after I decided to stop looking and make a new character instead. At the end of Character Creation (which is as counter-intuitive and badly explained as it always was, which is how I ended up with a character with yellow lips...) the game simply dumped me into the world with no server choice required.

Some quick research tells me that you no longer have to decide from the get-go whether you want to go PvE or PvP. In fact, far from not having to decide, you aren't allowed to make that choice. You have to PvE to level 10 now, at which point you can swap via a teleporter. Not sure if you can come back.

Not wanting to carry on leveling on a PvP server was one reason I decided to start over. The PvP is a lot of fun but I would like to have a chance to remember how the heck to play this game before I front up to any passing supervillains with a whim to kick some clownfox butt.

The other reason was the aforementioned F2P restrictions. Even grandfathered in on a Premium account I didn't have anywhere near enough inventory space to hold all the things I already holding. I had to spend the first twenty minutes selling and destroying things just to get down to having full bags.

Then there's the currency limit of $2000 - my character already had $5k on him so most of that went into escrow. I looked at the rest of the rules, including having to use DB Cash to use the broker, and decided y'know what, I have an account I'm actually paying for that I could use for this. So I did.

There were a few new options available when it came to powers and such. I took Skimming as my travel power which turned out to be an amazing experience: two discs strapped to my feet and a superb sense of movement. I could have skimmed all over Metropolis only the discs disappeared when I pressed something and I haven't worked out yet how to get them back.

Movement in DCUO is reason enough to play for me. Flight, wallcrawling, super-speed and now skimming - they're all viscerally thrilling. When I used to play I tended to spend more time just haring around than I did fighting anything. And taking screenshots, of course.

I also chose Wonder Woman as my mentor this time. I haven't been tutored by her before so that will add a new frisson. Not that Ambush Bug ever did much for my previous character. Then again...Ambush Bug. What were they thinking?

Anyway, for better or worse, for longer or, almost certainly, for shorter, I'm back in DCUO. Now if I can just work out where I put those skimming discs...


  1. I'm highly intrigued how character creation managed to get you to make your character's lips yellow without you intending to...

    1. It happened somehow when I was coloring the costume, which as you can see is blue and yellow. I went back to fiddle with the face and I did do something to the lips but I swear I didn't go anywhere near any yellow. I am guessing I'd left the slider on yellow from the costume and somehow it carried the setting over. You wouldn't think that was possible but it's an MMO so...

  2. I always thought DCUO was a pretty good game mechanically. Strong combat and the like. Unfortunately I couldn't be less interested in DC, so that rather killed the game's longevity for me, but I respect it, and I've always been a little perplexed that it isn't a more popular game.

    "Movement in DCUO is reason enough to play for me. Flight, wallcrawling, super-speed and now skimming - they're all viscerally thrilling. When I used to play I tended to spend more time just haring around than I did fighting anything. And taking screenshots, of course."

    This pretty much describes my time in DCUO. I think I spent at least half my time just running up skyscrapers for the hell of it. Traditional mounts seem so dull by comparison.

    1. I never bought into the whole Marvel vs DC thing. I grew up reading both and went on reading both all the way into the 90s. I have huge affection for many characters on both side of the divide but if push came to shove I'd have to go for DC.

      DCUO is actually very successful and has been for the whole of its run. I'd bet it's DBG's most successful property although they may well make more money from H1Z1 since they own that IP outright. It was immediately noticeable when I made the character that the newbie areas were teeming with people and that's in a game that by all accounts has the huge majority of its population at the cap. It's yet another of the really quite large number of highly successful MMOs that no-one in Blogland ever seems to talk about...

  3. I have recently become enamoured with Green Lantern and started buying graphic novels of some of the old story lines (Sinestro Corps War down, ordered Blackest Night) and I recently googled whether or not you could be a green lantern in the game. Ran across a couple tutorials on how to make a character that looks like a GR, but need to investigate further. Do you know?

    1. Ask Tipa! Her character was a Lantern of some color or other (Taupe?). There was a whole long DLC storyline about the Lanterns I think and even at launch there was a public event involving them that I vaguely remember so they are definitely a significant part of the game. Whether you can actually, officially, play as a Green Lantern I'm not sure. It would kind of have the same issue as playing a Jedi I guess...


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