Exclusive Interview: DC Universe Online's Senior Creative Director Talks Huge Update

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DC Universe Online is about to receive its biggest update yet with Update 31, designed to prepare the game for the coming release of the PlayStation 4. The new update promises improved graphics, a better leveling experience, and a new coat of polish throughout the entire game.

ComicBook.com got to speak with the game's Senior Creative Director, Jens Andersen, about the big update. Here's what he had to say:

ComicBook.com: Tell us a bit about Update 31.

Jens Andersen: When he heard about the PS4 we wanted to treat it as a relaunch of the game. We wanted to take advantage of the three years of expert advice we've been given by our players on PC and PS3 and really just do a top to bottom overhaul on the experience to make sure that when we got it on the PS4 it would live up to expectations, not only as a next-gen experience but, also, in terms of any bumps in the road that we had that our veteran players were letting us know about, so that those that came behind benefited from that experience and didn't have to go through the same stuff.

ComicBook.com: What aspects of the update are you most excited for players to see?

Jens Andersen: I think what I'm most excited about for a new player, coming onto the PS4, is the leveling experience that they're going to get. We've really done a good job of overhauling the XP progression and the risk versus reward aspect of it, giving new and different kinds of rewards to people at lower to mid levels, so that they can take advantage of some of the advanced features that came out in subsequent DLCs after launch. For example, the base system, where you get to make your own lair, your own Batcave so-to-speak. We're giving players the type of currency they would normally only get in the endgame a lot earlier so they can take advantage of having a sidekick or a henchman that's attainable in their base with the Home Turf content.

For veteran players that might be making the jump to PS4 from PS3, I'm excited for them on the performance aspects of the game. They're going to see much higher fidelity graphics and much bettter performance than they would have on the PS3 as far as frame rate and all that goes...We basically touched almost every single environment asset in the game to up-res it to the PS4 level of fidelity. Basically, you're going to see more PC like graphics on the console...When we did the overhaul of the leveling experience, we also went back and did some changes to the environments themselves, actually changing and better taking advantage of the environment. For example...the new Robinson Park in Gotham City, or the new Centennial Park in Metropolis.

ComicBook.com: Are there any notable changes to particular powers or skills?

Jens Andersen: We're always adding new things to the game. We just released two new powers with our last two DLCs, and we have another one coming along the way. We did a big change to how tanking works. We wanted to change how our aggro management works so its a lot easier for two tanks to work with each other. As it is now, its really hard for two tanks to coordinate different kinds of tactics based on how our taunting and our aggro works. We actually just did an overhaul where we added more single target taunts that override group taunts, so tanks have an easier time of actually maintaining aggro and doing different tactics and strategies. We've made a few changes in that area.

ComicBook.com: Can you describe some of the visual upgrades coming in Update 31?

Jens Andersen: We had a few areas of the launch title, specifically around the Scarecrow area when you start, where he was releasing fear gas into Gotham City, and it was really cool because it added so much atmosphere and immersion in the area. We didn't always take that to the max level we could because we were very scared, at the time, of certain restrictions on PS3 and some of the performance implications that had. Since then, we've done a lot of optimization on the client and the engine that allowed us to go back and actually put these environment volumetric effects in, whether they be or fogs or fog volumes. We use both of those techniques in some of the more damaged areas of the city to give it a more realistic and immersive feel. I think players are going to notice now when certain area of the city have be toppled by whatever villain and their forces are fighting in that area. For example, we have an area in downtown Metropolis where the Green Lanterns and the Sinestro Corps are having an all out battle and, literally, buildings have been leveled, but there's not a speck of dust in the air. Now there is. We've got really cool volumetric and cool particle effects in there. I think it adds a whole new level of immersion and a kind of emergent storytelling as well. You really feel like something is going on and you're in the middle of it now.

ComicBook.com: What are some of the other changes that have been made to the leveling experience?

Jens Andersen: We restructured the entire mission system and XP distribution from level 1 – 30. There were many points in each of the 6 Hero and Villain storylines that gave veterans some trouble. They pointed them out to us as the game matured. When the PS4 became part of DCUO’s future, we took it as an opportunity to go back and tighten up the experience...We had a lot of mentor specific missions where there were certain feats or styles for character customization, and feats are very important because feat points transfer into skill points, and skill points can be spent on enhancing your characters power through weapon specialization or putting points into the stats in those weapon trees as well. So players who wanted to min-max their characters and really cared about those styles, either for appearance or for the feats, had to basically go out and shout and beg people who had a specific mentor to allow them into a mentor mission. Now they don't have to panhandle or work agreements out with people or wait for someone who could get them in. They can do that on their own. The reason for that is we want to make sure that people have the ability to max out their character and not necessarily be at the mercy of somebody else trying to help them to advance their character or finish a certain feat. We thought in the past that setting that up would be something that would give people uniqueness per character, but really that's not what happened. Players really want to get all those points and possible achievements on their single character, especially people that don't necessarily have alts. We thought at first that would be a great way to promote alt play and that people would get a different experience, but, unless you're going to restrict that and not allow anybody at all that wasn't with the mentor to go in their, so you couldn't group with your friend to go help them out.

Anderson also confirmed that the PlayStation 4 version of the game will feature remote play through the use of a PS Vita, meaning players will be able to play DC Universe on their PS Vita using a WiFi connection.

There's also a DC Universe mobile companion app on the way, launching as early as tomorrow. More details about the app should be forthcoming.

Update 31 is scheduled to be released in early November and the PS4 version of DC Universe Online is set to release on the PlayStation 4 launch date, November 15.

You can find out more about the free-to-play DC Universe Online at their website.