Interview: Taking DC Universe Online to the next level on PS4

The PlayStation 4 will have no shortage of free-to-play games when it launches later this month, but one title that should be on everyone's radar is DC Universe Online. Owners of a PlayStation 3 are probably already aware of the game from Sony Online Entertainment, but for those of you who aren't, it's a massively multiplayer online action game that sees you create your very own super hero and battle it out alongside various DC Super Heroes and villains.

The free-to-play title has proved extremely popular on both PC and PS3, and with the launch of the PlayStation 4, SOE is hoping to take the gameplay experience to a super hero level. Earlier this week, I had the opportunity to talk with DCUO Sr. Creative Director Jens Andersen who shed some light on the upcoming PS4 version of the game and from how it sounds, it seems they are doing just that.

GameZone: Now that we're getting close to the launch of the PS4, how's DC Universe Online shaping up so far?

Jens Andersen: Everything is going as expected which if you know anything about the games industry means there's been ups and downs through the entire process. It's really a tricky endeavor for Sony in general to launch the next generation of consoles. So they have their own things their worrying about getting the hardware out, which we, of course, then have to coordinate with them on our end to try and get DCUO on to the PS4.

The product itself is looking amazing right now. The graphics, the performance, everything about DCUO on the PS4 is taking the game experience for players to the next level. Right now we're just dealing with the obvious finishing touches that go into doing something like this.

That's not only including the work that we have to do on our end but hoping that Sony has all their ducks in a row on their end so that we can get this thing out on launch day and have our free to play title ready to patch and ready to go for our players.

Everything's looking great that it's going to happen (Sony has since confirmed DCUO will be available at launch). I think overall it's going great. It's certainly been a very, very Herculean effort for us to do this. We're obviously approaching our third year anniversary right now and we have the game up and running PC and PS3.

Compared to PC, is there anything that makes it a better or even just a different experience?

DC Universe Online PS4

I think you're going to find that the PS4 experience, aside from obvious interface and control differences, is going to play a lot like the PC now and resemble the PC very much. In the past, if you compared PC and PS3, you would definitely notice some differences — not only in performance, but in fidelity of the graphics, the distance of our level of detail (LOD) system, whether it comes to animations or actual environment assets; all that stuff you'd see a noticeable difference between PS3 and PC just simply because of hardware constraints.

But now with the PS4 having so much more muscle it is absolutely approaching — I'd actually say it's equaling the level of fidelity and performance that you see on PC.

Are there any extra features PS4 owners can look forward to?

There aren't any special extra features. All of the platforms are being supported equally so aside from controller interfaces and things like that, everything is the same. You aren't going to see any real differences from  PS3 and PS4 as far as performance.

In fact, one of the driving factors behind that is that those two platforms will be sharing the same server. A lot of PS3 players that have existing accounts are going to be buying a PS4. They aren't going to have to make that tough decision of whether or not they want to play on their old system and play with their friends or have to meet new friends on the PS4.

Will all of the DLC and progress transfer over to the PS4 version?

Everything's transferring over. Anything you've purchased, all character progress that you have, everything. You're not going to have a real disruption other than the time it's going to take you to download the software onto your PS4 and pick your jaw off the floor when you see the difference from the game you were just playing to the game you're playing now.

Note: PlayStation and PC versions are not sharing a server so PC players are not able to bring their characters over to the PS4. And because they are separate accounts, DLC purchased on the PC will also not be able to transfer to the PS4.

Speaking of downloading, what size are we looking at for the PS4 version?

A rough estimate would be 22GB. Keep in mind, that's 22 gigs when the PS4 hits. As we release more and more DLCs, a newcomer will see that number go up. 

Are you guys taking advantage of any of the DualShock 4's features?

DC Universe Online PS4

We have some support that we're doing for the controller that we plan at launch and more things that are a little more bells and whistles that we have planned for after launch.

The touchpad will be used for a button because we're losing a button. It was really tough to get all of the functionality that an MMO requires onto the PS3 controller. And the PS4 actually loses a button — they don't have a select (they have the Share button instead which can't be used for other purposes) — so we are going to be using the touchpad to replace the select button. The touchpad will be used to bring up the menu when you press select.

We do have plans in the future to use the touchpad for some other things like scrolling in menus or pinching to zoom in or out of maps. None of that is going to be at launch, but we do have plans for after launch.

We are supporting the headset jack as well, but I'm not sure of what headsets will work. There's been some sort of buzz by Sony of what they will and will not allow, but we do plan on having that work for whatever peripherals they allow.

Note: During the interview, Jens also mentioned plans to utilize the DS4's LED light to reflect the color of your character and super powers, but again, this won't be implemented until after launch.

What about subscription? You guys are free-to-play, but does Sony require a PS Plus subscription?

There's no PS Plus required to play DCUO. That was something that we got a waiver on because the game is advertised as free to play and we thought it important that it stay that way.

And do you feel free-to-play is the big draw for PS4 owners to play DCUO?

You're going to notice the same great service that we offer players on PC and PS3 platforms. We try to and launch updates every four weeks. Updates are available to all players in the game. We don't really release any premium content that you'd need to pay or be a member for in the updates. It's usually bug fixes or shared content for all membership levels.

And we do DLCs roughly three to four times a year. It's going to be tight this year with the PS4, but we try to release them every quarter. These cost $9.99 or you get them for free if you're a Legendary member.

We've already announced three new DLC trilogies — so nine DLCs worth of content that we're talking about doing in the coming  years. So we've really laid out a road map of what we're doing.

I think there's really no better value out there for gaming than looking at some of the SOE titles. Our company motto is "Free to play. You way." and we offer up incredible products for really no cost of investment to you. And we really allow you to find the games that you like and the ways you want to support those games. We try to offer really competitive and compelling experiences for our players.

I'm just excited for the opportunity of free to play on the PS4. The industry and Sony in general with its platforms is embracing this model which is just friendly to the consumer if done properly. And Sony Online Entertainment has a head start in that area.

DC Universe Online will be released alongside the launch of the PlayStation 4 on November 15th. The game will also support the Vita/PS4 Remote Play at launch, meaning you'll be able to stream DCUO gameplay from the PS4 to your Vita, freeing up the television for other activities.

PlayStation 3 owners likely already know what a great play DCUO is, but for those of you new to the PlayStation brand, I highly suggest you check out DC Universe Online when it becomes available for download.