'Champions Online' to unleash virtual heroes and foes

A new massively multiplayer online role-playing game, Champions Online, will let gamers create their own virtual superheroes.

The PC game, launching next month, is based on Champions, a pen-and-paper role-playing game published in 1981. It's being developed by Cryptic Studios and published by Atari.



"The idea with Champions Online is that we allow players to create any hero they can envision, and that's every single element from what the costume looks like to what exact powers they have to things like the colours of their powers," said executive producer Bill Roper. "It's a detailed system that lets players create an iconic character in our world."



"Champions isn't the first superhero-themed online game. Cryptic Studios also developed City of Heroes in 2004 and its sequel, City of Villains, in 2005.



DC and Marvel Comics have also announced they are developing their own online games, which will allow gamers to fight alongside characters such as Superman and Batman.

Roper isn't worried.



"One of the things I like about having the Champions universe to play with is that players don't know what to expect," he said. "So they get to explore. They get to build, and they get to become the important heroes in the world, as opposed to having to live in the shadows of iconic characters that they've known and been reading about forever."



Beyond battling hordes of smaller foes, Champions players will be tasked with taking down big villains such as Dr. Destroyer's behemoth Destroid robots and Qwyjibo, a giant gorilla with flaming fists and fiery breath.



Roper said the hairy beast organically spawns in the game's Monster Island enclave and can only be taken down with a team of other superheroes.



Players who reach level 20 will learn their character has his or her very own archenemies. Roper said players can try to stop their adversary solo or invite other players to assist in throwing him in The Stronghold, a supervillain prison located in the game's virtual desert. At level 25, they build their nemesis - just like their superhero - from scratch.



"You use the same tools that you use to build your hero, so it's a really customized, personalised experience," said Roper. "You choose his costume. You choose the power set that he uses. You even choose his minions, his personality, what weapons or powers his minions use and then there's this whole story line that's based on fighting your nemesis."

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