The PS4 DC Universe Online shares players with PS3, graphics with PC, and eases way for new players

The PS4 DC Universe Online shares players with PS3, graphics with PC, and eases way for new players

DC Universe Online is a launch title for the PlayStation 4, and the next-generation title will launch alongside an update that will also change the existing PC and PlayStation 3 versions of the MMO.

The decision was made early on to treat the PlayStation 4 version as a re-launch of the game, and that strategy expands to all other versions of the game.

“The reason for that is because when we heard news of PS4 and it became a possibility and then a reality that we were going to be able to release the game on the PS4… because that was not necessarily a done deal, you know. We have other partners,” Jens Andersen, the game’s senior creative director, told the Report.

“Not only does PlayStation themselves have to approve a PS3 game going on there, but DC needed to give us approval as well, on whether or not we could release on an additional platform, because that wasn't part of our deal with them,” he continued. Luckily, everyone was enthusiastic about launching on the PlayStation 4.

This sort of thing rarely happens in online games. There’s the fact that a next-generation console is launching with a free-to-play MMO, that’s strange enough, but then combine that with the fact that you’re able to use that fact as excuse to improve the existing game makes the situation unique.

“It's not often in a live game like this, in an MMO, you get to go back and take another stab at some of the content that you released at launch, and this gave us that opportunity,” Andersen said. “So every single thing we've done, we fixed almost 2000 issues that players have had with the game, in engineering, art and design-related [issues].”

The official page has a few of those details, but Andersen explained some of the upgrades in greater detail.

“The first thing you're going to notice, if you've never played the game, but you somehow magically had hindsight at your disposal, you'll notice that levelling a character is a lot smoother,” he said. “Previously we would kind of dump different types of content on you, that weren't part of the main quest. They were mission-chain, and it was confusing to people, like, why don't I have something else to do in my storyline? Oh, I need to go do these random other things, like queue for an alert or go do a race, or go do this bounty, and that would give me enough experience to now have the next stage of my mission pop up.”

The PlayStation 4 will help the PC version look much better

This update will improve the PlayStation 3 version in certain ways, but now the current-generation version of the game no longer informs the PC release. Instead, the PlayStation 4 and PC versions of the game will be able to share the same assets. No longer will the PC version of the game be held back by the PlayStation 3.

This is an interesting technical challenge, because the Playstation 3 and PlayStation 4 versions of the game will share a server; players who move from the existing version of the game to the PlayStation 4 will still be able to play with their friends on the PlayStation 3.

It’s all actually a bit confusing. “With the PlayStation4 platform coming into the mix, those customers on the PS3 and the PlayStation4, they are the same. They are the same customer base,” Andersen explained. “There is no reason to keep them separate from each other… Community-wise, console and PC don't mix. Graphical-wise, PC and console didn't mix, but with PS4 coming into it, the PC players and the PS4 players will be sharing similar fidelity graphics now.”

Just to be sure we’re all on the same page: PlayStation 3 and PlayStation 4 players will be on the same server, interacting and playing together, but the PC players will be on a different server, although the PC and PlayStation 4 versions of the game will share art assets and graphical upgrades that won’t be on the PlayStation 3. So PlayStation 4 players will share graphical updates with the PC, while playing with PlayStation 3 players.

This led to some… interesting challenges.

“There were some definite changes that had to happen in the code on both platforms that made it work for the PS4, but needed to also work on the PS3. It was hard. It was definitely hard,” Andersen said. “The artists had a really big task in front of them, to go through and make these enhancements to the very same assets that were going to be working on the PS3 and needed to fit within the budget there. They had to go in and make different versions, or enhance various aspects of that asset to be taken advantage of only on the PS4, without impacting memory on the PS3.”

We'll see how well it worked when the game launches alongside the PlayStation 4. This is a pretty grand experiment, and I'm looking forward to giving the game another try, updated graphics and all.