The secrets of the long-awaited "DC Universe Online” massively multiplayer video game from Sony Online were revealed at its panel during Comic-Con International in San Diego. Attendees received beta passes to test out the game after listening to a panel of industry heavyweights including Jim Lee, Marv Wolfman, and Joker voice actor Mark Hamill.
As the panel started, Hamill received a standing ovation, which he extended by showing off the "Batman: The Animated Series” cast jacket he was wearing. Lee then introduced the game’s trailer created by the studio Blur, who had previously done cut scene animation for games like "Marvel: Ultimate Alliance” and "X-Men Legends.”
In the trailer, futuristic versions of Superman, Batman, Wonder Woman, Flash, Green Lantern, and Cyborg square off against Lex Luthor, Giganta, Circe, Joker, Harley Quinn, Deathstroke the Terminator, and Black Adam. After a massive battle in which Luthor reigns victorious, Brainiac invades, and it is revealed that the event is being told in the present by a time traveling Luthor to Superman, Batman and Wonder Woman, before sending out a pulse wave to the earth.
"Obviously there’s a little time travel going on here,” said Jens Anderson, one of the game’s directors. "This [game] is telling how all the heroes and villains – you guys – are coming into the DCU.” He then explained how, when Luthor sent out the pulse blast to the earth, he was infecting people with "exogene technology,” which Brainiac used in the future to capture the powers of heroes, giving ordinary people powers in an effort to make an army to fight off Brainiac.
"Obviously he had this Faustian bargain with Brainiac, but he screwed up,” Lee, who designed the look of the characters for the game, said.
Wolfman, who is creating mission scenarios for the game, was very impressed by the trailer.
"I saw this last night and I just flipped, that is one of the most incredible trailers I have seen for anything,” Wolfman said. "I have worked on a number of games, and on the year and a half that I have been working on this, it’s better than anyone else ever convinced me it could be.”
When asked about the long development cycle of the game, which was first announced in 2005, Lee was very happy it was finally close to release. "It feels a little surreal,” he said. "I’ll believe it when I see it, but at the same time, I know the game is coming along, so I’m excited that the game is coming out. For years, we had the same press event and we had to be coy and demure about it.”
The release date of November 2 was then given, and if the game is pre-ordered now, players will be able to use Batman in simulation missions.
Hamill was then asked about his association with the game. "I started doing Joker in '92 with a five year gap,” he said. "TV shows get canceled, Broadway shows close, but it’s fun to get behind the wheel of that crazy car. You have great anonymity and it’s very liberating in a way because you can take chances in a way you can’t if someone can see you. It’s always hard when kids say, ‘Do the voice, do the voice!” I say, ‘Close your eyes!’
"Even in this trailer though, I forgot how fun it is to say things like ‘We’ve got a lot of murdering to do!” dropping into the Joker voice. "How fun is that? It also has great resonance for me because I am a fanboy. I loved comics when I was a kid; I loved the Joker the minute I laid eyes on him. To be in something that was so well handled in ‘Batman: The Animated Series’ through ‘Arkham Asylum’ and now on to this, it’s just stunning. As Joker would say, ‘Finally, a game named after me, DC Universe! DC – Demented Clown. HAHAHA!
"I can’t help it, I can’t quit him,” Hamill concluded.
In addition to Hamill, other alumni of DC animated properties are voicing characters in the game. Kevin Conroy and Arleen Sorkin return to their roles from "Batman: The Animated Series” as Batman and Harley Quinn. Adam Baldwin and James Marsters reprise their roles from "Superman: Doomsday” as Superman and Lex Luthor. Additionally, Gina Torres of "Firefly" fame plays Wonder Woman and "Battlestar Galactica” actress Michelle Forbes plays Circe.
"I was Green Lantern screaming and Black Adam as well,” admitted Anderson.
When asked what stage of development"DC Universe Online” has reached, director Chris Cao said that beta is quickly ramping up, and they need testers to tell them what areas of the game needs improving.
"As an MMO, you guys ultimately own the game,” he said. "We make it, we put it out there and then you live in this world. You are going to be the next legend, either hero or villain.”
"Just imagine being able to control Power Girl,” Hamill said. "I’ll let your imaginations go wild.”
The discussion then moved on to various real DC characters that will either be playable or interact with player characters in the game. "There are a lot of cool games featuring iconic characters, I actually like the fact that there are characters like Ambush Bug,” Lee said to a few gasps from the audience. "There are a lot of secondary and tertiary characters that you’ve never seen in a video game space. I think exploring Gotham and Metropolis and running into characters you’ve never seen before would be a dream comes true as a fanboy."
Many environments were described as well. "Smallville, let’s just say Lex let an experiment loose there and it’s gone kind of awry,” Cao said. "You’re going to go to the moon to beat up on H.I.V.E. You’re going to go to a volcano filled with Ultra-Humanite’s angry albino gorillas. Area 51, Brainiac is attacking that because aliens invade the United States all the time. You’re going to have all of those places as well as all of the places in Gotham and Metropolis. Arkham Asylum isn’t this small place; it has all of these vast separate wings. S.T.A.R. Labs, we have the Green Lantern Corps and the Sinestro Corps going at it. The universe has been brought to you."