news: Game Talk: DC Universe Online – storyline

Comic book legend, Marv Wolfman, chats exclusively to eu.playstation.com about bringing the massive world of DC Comics to PlayStation 3.

How does writing the script for a massively multiplayer online action game (MMOAG) such as DC Universe Online compare to crafting one for a comic book, which is normally only 22 to 24 pages?

It takes much more time to do a videogame than a comic, let alone writing an MMOAG, but that’s not the main difference. Comics are still pictures and videogames are always moving. But even more than that, the writer controls the story in comics; you follow exactly what we want you to follow.

In a massively MMOAG, the player is in charge. What the writer does is to come up with ideas that get you involved, that need your contributions; then we let you take over. So not only does the mission have to be interesting story-wise, we’ve got to lead you into great gameplay.

Comics are about us telling a story that you read. MMOAGs are about us telling you there are great things out there, and then letting you decide how you want to deal with them. They’re very different.

What were the main guidelines and rules you had to follow when creating your stories in DC Universe Online?

The missions I came up with all had to be very DC Universe centric. That means when crafting a story that deals with Batman, it can’t be the same kind of story The Flash would deal with. The characters are all different and so should the stories be.

How did the writing team work together to maintain a sense of cohesion on a project with as much scope as DC Universe Online?

The game producers are in complete charge of that. As a writer I take their lead and follow their directions. The missions I come up with are to solve problems the game designers and producers ask to be dealt with. Gameplay has to come first in order to make the game a great experience. The writer tries to find the most entertaining way of solving the game designer’s problems.

How difficult was it to create so many great storylines given the constraints of writing for videogames?

It was only difficult in that I came in early, just as the process was still being developed. I’ve written videogames before but not MMOAGs and you have to keep reworking ideas so they work in an open world MMOAG environment as opposed to a regular videogame.

So there was lots of starting up, throwing things out and then starting all over again. Otherwise it’s still a matter of coming up with a great Wonder Woman story or a great Teen Titans story that actually deals with the player first and the heroes second.

Did you drop or alter any of your creative ideas during the game’s development?

Someone told me when I began writing for videogames that all games start at 300 per cent then cut their way down to 100 per cent. And that’s always been true. So lots of things you try then get cut as you figure out what your game is and how best to tell your stories. It’s very much trial and error until it all comes together as perfect as it can.

What sort of references in the game can fans expect to see from classic or current DC Universe stories?

Because it takes so long to create a game such as this, think of DC Universe Online as the classic DC Universe. We can’t be absolutely up to date since it could take a year to get something done and by then the comic book continuity has moved on. But we can refer to events and keep moving the game forward as we go on.

Was it difficult to write for characters as powerful as Superman and Doomsday, knowing that players interact with them in the game rather than watch or observe them like in a comic or movie?

No. Player control is the sole purpose of the game, so you never let yourself think you’re doing a Green Lantern game. Instead you’re thinking about doing a game with the player that includes Green Lantern and is a perfect Green Lantern experience. It’s the same with the other characters. You always think of the player first.

And finally, with DC Universe Online finally in the hands of gamers, which storylines are you most proud of?

I really liked some of my ideas for Gorilla Grodd, the Teen Titans and Superman.

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