DC Universe Online has been entertaining players for almost a decade now, but it looks like its latest episode might be among the most captivating yet. Next month, the popular free-to-play MMO is set to debut "Wonderverse", its latest gameplay episode. As the title would suggest, the event will unite various iterations of Wonder Woman from across the corners of the DC multiverse -- and it will pit them (and players) against a pretty pivotal foe. ComicBook.com can debut the exclusive first look at Grail, who will be making her debut appearance in the episode.
The daughter of Darkseid and an Amazonian assassin named Myrina, Grailfirst debuted in the pages of DC Comics in 2015, and has made a pretty profound impact in the years since. While Grail might seem like an unexpected character for the world of Wonderverse, her ties to Wonder Woman and to the larger DC universe made her a perfect fit.
"I think that was the big surprise," DC Universe Online creative director SJ Mueller tells ComicBook.com. "Like nobody expected Grail to be part of Wonderverse. She's very much a multiversal character herself, because she kind of goes interdimensional. She's the daughter of Darkseid - yeah, the Darkseid -and Myrina. So she's half Amazon, half Darkseid and she's like this perfect representation of these things colliding in this episode."
Keep scrolling to check out our full interview with Mueller, where we talk more about Grail, the Wonderverse episode, how DC Universe Online and its community have evolved during the COVID-19 pandemic, and what else the game has in store!
ComicBook.com: So before we dive into Wonderverse, I am a Birds of Prey superfan, and I love the episode that you guys put together for that. What has the response to that episode been like?
SJ Mueller: A lot of "Finally!" My dev handle online is "Nerd of Prey," so it's a little surprising that it took nine-ish years to do a Birds of Prey episode. They've been featured throughout the game a lot. Barbara Gordon/Oracle is a huge part of our game. She's the hero mentor. We had a presence, but we never put the spotlight on them like we did this time. So they were just excited to finally see it happen.prevnext
What can you tease about the narrative and the overall structure of the Wonderverse episode? It seems so compelling and kind of unexpected.
That's the funny thing about it. It's something that nobody really thought about, but then when I brought it up to DC, they were like, "That's amazing. Why haven't we done that before?" And I'm like, "I don't know! Dibs. It's my idea". And they were like, "Go for it. It's awesome". They even love the title that the team came up with.
I just had this idea of -- we have a council of Batman from across the different multiverses, and we have a council of Lex Luthors. Obviously, Wonder Woman has grown in popularity and mainstream appeal, even though she's been amazing forever. She's just huge. I was like, "I really want to do a huge Wonder Woman episode, but we've already done Amazon Fury, which was a three-part story arc that featured Wonder Woman very prominently. What can we do now?" And the only thing that really just jumped in the front of my mind was, "More Wonder Woman! More Wonder Woman!" So we have our council of Wonder Women now from various different universes in the DC multiverse.prevnext
What can you tease about the council of Wonder Women? That's such a fascinating concept.
We did a teaser where we had the silhouettes of all the different ones, and we finally revealed them all. We have Flashpoint Wonder Woman, which was a hugely successful multiverse event in the comics. And they did an animated film and there are rumors - I don't know anything about it - but there are rumors out there about more stuff to come for Flashpoint. So we obviously included her. She's very fascinating because she's not like the other Dianas, we'll just put it that way. She does things a little bit differently. The crown of being queen weighs heavy on her head. So she makes choices that the other Wonder Women aren't sure about, particularly Nubia.
Oh my God. I've been wanting to get Nubia in the game for so long. Players have been requesting her forever, because she is such a wonderful take on Wonder Woman. She's from Earth-23, where a lot of the Justice League heroes and the Justice League are predominantly made of black characters. You've got Calvin Ellis, who is president and also Superman. And we've got Nubia, a Wonder Woman of Amazonia, is what they call it in Earth-23. It was so awesome to make her, actually, the leader of the council of Wonder Woman. She's like front and center and it was her idea that, "Hey, you know what this multiverse that's falling apart needs? It needs a team of Wonder Woman".prevnext
Grail is such a cool and underrated character. What can you tease about her role in the Wonderverse episode?
I think that was the big surprise. Like nobody expected Grail to be part of Wonderverse. She's very much a multiversal character herself, because she kind of goes interdimensional. She's the daughter of Darkseid - yeah, the Darkseid -and Myrina. So she's half Amazon, half Darkseid and she's like this perfect representation of these things colliding in this episode. Old gods, like the Greek gods, the heavenly gods, and the Celtic gods. And then you have the New Gods as they call themselves: Darkseid, Orion, Steppenwolf, Kalibak. Old Gods versus New Gods is a big theme we have in this episode.prevnext
That combination of the Greek gods and the New Gods is just such a cool thing to do. It's obviously been done before in comics and animation, but how does it feel to adapt it into a video game?
It was fun. Of course, [Grail is] a boss fight. So you have to fight Grail, of course, it's a video game. And you enter her room, which is called the God Sphere. That's where the gods live in the multiverse, and it's colliding and crashing into each other, just like everywhere else in the multiverse. Right down the middle of her room, we have Olympian Greek architecture, and then Apokolips Darkseid architecture. She's kind of got one foot in both and her power's kind of tiptoe. She got Amazonian bracers, and then she'll do a mega beam. So, it was really cool to think of it from a gameplay interactive perspective, and not just on a comic book panel.prevnext
What are you most excited to see fans respond to with the Wonderverse episode?
We have a new gameplay type. We do great episodes. It's almost like a television show. It's very formulaic. "You do this, this and this." Great story, great gameplay. Earned a bunch of cool stuff for your character and you move on to the next one. And it was really, really good. Like we took years to find this formula, but I was starting to get the sense that when we put out Birds of Prey, people were like, "It's really, really good. It's good. It's a good DCUO episode." I'm like, "I want more than that. I want people to be excited."
We restructured the way we did it. We moved our raids. We have two raids usually, and it's eight players in a small, little area and they work together. We were like, "What if we blew it up and put it out into like a big, giant area, in Themyscira?" So you're fighting these gods that are like seven times bigger than you are. Maybe a giant hydra with three heads, but fans will have to play to find out.
So, we took that and created a new gameplay where you're out in the open world, fighting these giant mythic creatures, and having these experiences where you're meeting new people. That's the beauty of online games, is that you don't know who that is over there, and then you fight this giant hydra together and you're like, "Hi, I'm SJ!" or "I'm Nerd of Prey!", and you make new friends and grow your leagues. It really helped me to really just bring the community together in this gameplay of these open world raids.prevnext
With the pandemic and quarantine, everyone is spending more time at home, and a lot of people are probably playing more video games. Has there been a difference in the growth or the comradery among the DCUO community over these past few months?
I absolutely think so. I think a lot of people have taken this time to also self-reflect about what's important to them and searching for positivity. Of course, there's always going to be the jerks, but regular folks are looking to each other. And they are absolutely spending more time on video games. I know I am. I absolutely am. As soon as we went into lockdown in March, we all started working from home right away. We were really good about it, and we knew it was safe and the smart and right thing to do. So we wanted to get home and get set up, so we could start working on our episode and launch Birds of Prey.
The leadership, and the design, and art engineering team, we all got together and we're like, "What are we going to do? [Our players] need something". We even did an open letter to the community, where we told them that we spent extra time putting together these week-long events. We used to have a couple of weekend events here and there. They need something to take their mind off of how crappy things were at the time, to be honest. And so we put together a bunch of new events, and just gave lots of extra bonuses and they were so grateful.
A couple of the messages that I got sent on Twitter actually made me cry because they were like, "I really needed something and you guys were there for us. And it means so much to me." And I'm like, "Oh God, it's so dusty in here". It was actually a nice, bright light in a really dark time.prevnext
The 10th anniversary of DCUO is coming up soon. Are there any surprises that you can tease in regards to that?
I'm sure that guy that's not talking on the line, our brand manager, would probably not be cool with that. [laughs] But it is going to be something special, because we're celebrating 10 years of this level of popularity, success, and just a fun game that's free to play. Right now, we're running this thing called "Open Episodes", which means like a lot of our premium content is available to anyone at no cost. That's another thing we're doing during the pandemic, so that players don't feel like, "I don't know what to do. I don't know what to pay". Just keep playing. We just want you to keep playing, and have something there for you.
So it's going to be big. I'll just say that it's going to be big. It has to be big. I've been thinking about it for two years, so I'm expecting something special.0comments
DC Universe Online's "Wonderverse" episode will launch this August.prev