When you ask Creative Director S.J. Mueller and Executive Producer Leah Bowers what makes them passionate about DC Universe Online, their reasons are as vast as the game itself.
There is a definite shimmer in Mueller’s eyes as she recounts her comics-filled childhood memories with her sister, or the moment she was thanked by a deployed servicemember for creating a game that allowed them to not only keep in touch – but actually play – with their kid from across the world.
The just-announced Nintendo Switch version of DC Universe Online will be arriving this summer, and we had the chance this week to not only get our hands on the real thing, but also pick the brains behind this very unique newcomer in the Nintendo world.
Going into the demo, you can be sure we had our share of questions. As the first full-fledged MMO available in the US on the Nintendo Switch (Dragon Quest X was ported over in Japan), our curiosity abounded around details such as servers, online features, load times and cross-play. How could it all possibly work on this platform?
What we discovered was a carefully planned strategy for the release of this game on new platforms – one in which slow and steady will (hopefully) win the race.
Right off the bat, the biggest elephant in the room was the lack of cross-play with other systems. As DC Universe Online is now over 8 years old – and the core of its appeal is the ability to play with massive numbers of other players online – it will be difficult to sell this version of the game to those who wish to play with users on PlayStation or PC (Xbox does not currently support cross-play either).
The response to this concern is one that has clearly had its benefits weighed against its costs. Bowers explained to us that, as the game is already very established on other platforms, they want to ensure that any new version first has parity before it is added to the mix, so that it does not jeopardize the enjoyment of others. Therefore, as they did with the Xbox release, they have decided to (likely temporarily) give the Switch version its own server, in order to be able to work the kinks out in a controlled environment before releasing it into the wild.
The possibility of cross-play with other platforms is being investigated later this year – and based on what we saw of the game’s initial performance on Switch, it definitely looks promising. As we explored the vast new map of Atlantis, we noticed smooth rendering and texture loading – little if any lag, and running at a steady 30 fps in handheld mode.
With a nervous chuckle, the team told us we were actually playing on the hotel’s guest wifi network – which they weren’t sure would be able to handle the game until they arrived. Not only that, but they’d also been testing it on a mobile hotspot previously, and found that it worked well then, too. Even they had surprised themselves.
This bodes very well for the possibility of cross-play on the Switch in the future, as it appears the game performance is definitely on par with the other systems it has more established on. They also said Nintendo and Microsoft are both “very open” to cross-play opportunities on their systems, and are hopeful about the upcoming discussions.
The next question we had was regarding Nintendo Switch Online and the game’s integration with this service. Although there are no concrete plans right now, talks are happening, and it will hopefully be in the works soon. For now, voice chat is integrated into the game itself, and can be used with an external mic.
On the topic of subscriptions – for those who are unfamiliar with DC Universe Online – the game itself is free-to-play when purchased; however, it is also constantly being updated with new maps, episodes, visuals, and other features – often on a weekly basis. Players have the option to either purchase these updates à la carte, or to opt into a $14.99 per month subscription, in which they automatically receive all new updates as they release. For Nintendo fans, who are generally used to this format with DLC in other games, this is a flexible option that allows for users of any level to play what they want, as much as they want.
As Bowers and Mueller made very clear, their end goal with this game is to bring as many players from as many walks of life as possible together to enjoy an ever-changing and growing experience with each other. The ability to now reach a brand-new audience in Nintendo, and enable players to take this MMO wherever they go, is something completely new and exciting for many fans – and while it still has quite a few hurdles to jump in order to achieve success here, it’s clear this dynamic duo absolutely has the experience and passion to follow this game through to its realized success on yet another platform, potentially for years to come.
Have you previously played DC Universe Online on other platforms? Do you plan to give it a shot on the Switch this summer? Let us know in the comments below.