DC Universe Online so far has had a relatively (in MMO terms) smooth launch. Despite some very variable reviews, including ones which I personally feel are so off-base they might as well be on a different planet, generally the action MMORPG has been well received, despite criticism (unfair perhaps, but certainly something to be listened to) that the game is merely a direct console port. I won't disagree that certainly the console side has clearly impacted on the games design. But I personally feel that if you're going to take the cross-platform approach, which for many games companies is the ultimate holy grail to be honest, a subscription MMO game that you can hit PC users AND console users with, you're going to have to at some point hit compromises between the platforms. Sony so far in the pre-launch phase, the launch itself and the now post launch phase have though some issues, and certainly some things they should also be praised for. The things they need to address and the challenges they've set themselves are, in my eyes, the community communication strategy, the on-going content pledge, the RP servers, the buddy code issues (only if you get a collectors edition? What?) and the poor chat system implementation. They should be praised and remembered for though running an outstandingly visual based pre-launch marketing strategy, creating a game which has some amazing production values and producing a high quality action-based MMORPG (admittedly, on the near horizon many more action MMORPG's are heading our way and it has been attempted before, but this games certainly embeds action better than most).
I remember reading a WAR developer talking about why they weren't having forums, he said that the reason was that they wanted the PvP and bloodletting to be in the game between characters, not on the forums between players. Certainly forums can be like this, though thankfully DCUO's forums haven't become the Age of Conan collective primal scream pages that I remember. One issue with the forums, and the community management in general at the moment as I see it though is the lack of engagement with the various extra-game tribes (the mechinema tribe & the modding community in particular, but not exclusively) who surround the game. In a way I can understand this approach, and it is perhaps a limitation of the technology being cross-platform that they can't open up the UI to modders, and perhaps a limitation of the IP that they can't effectively encourager mechinema, however I feel that a trick is being lost. These types of tribes are really the enthusiastic vocal product champions for the business, and I'm a little surprised that no real engagement strategy has been implemented.
On a related note, the forums are simply old fashioned, and the platform they are currently using looks better suited to Everquest in 2001 than DCUO in 2011. When you look at Blizzard's recent upgrades to their forums you quickly start to see what I'm talking about in comparison. Why no role sub-forums, why no server forums? These are MMO community forum basics that the community expects, and SoE have so far been very slow to look at.
Finally, where's the community strategy to encourage a metagame of DCUO websites? Facebook, yes. Twitter, yes. Youtube, yes. But where's the community strategy in place to encourage players to blog about their experiences? Build websites themselves and build communities? Nowhere. Which I think speaks volumes about how they are approaching the internet PC-ing community.
The game is clearly from a marketing perspective, from what I can see, a console based platform in which the PC gamer is the additional money-spinner, rather than the other people are trying, of creating a PC game and cross-platforming it to the console. The ignoring of building a internet PC community speaks to this.
This isn't a deadly criticism of course, merely an observation of the choices they've clearly made. If other games companies decide to tread this path will be interesting to see.
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