Executive creative director, Jim Lee, chats exclusively to eu.playstation.com about developing DC Universe Online on PlayStation 3.
How have you approached the design of each of the main villains and heroes from the DC Universe?
On an individual character level we tried to make each costume and character look as cool as possible but not to change them to the point where they no longer looked identifiable. It really is the same thinking I apply to any character I draw when I have to draw them for the first time in a comic book story.
At the end of the day, I had to make a ton of creative choices as to which costumes from which eras were the most classic. I also gave Sony Online Entertainment (SOE) direction and information about what material the costumes were made of; what exact colour shades comprised Batman and Superman's costumes for example.
We took some liberties here and there but less so with the most iconic ones. There are certain costumes that don't work as well in a 3D virtual space and we also wanted to make sure that all the characters could line up and look consistent next to one another. In other words, that they all belonged in the same unified universe.
What do you think is the most difficult thing to capture when transferring DC Comics characters from the page to a videogame screen?
A lot of the stuff that works in comic books works because you choose the angle and can add lighting effects and things like that. In the massively multiplayer online action game (MMOAG) space we don't have those same kinds of controls. Characters have to look great from all angles. A lot of the times we'll draw a side view that's a lot different from the front, three-quarter view. In the virtual world, there's a lot less room to fudge things. A lot of time was spent early on sharing the art style with the entire art team so they began to internalise it.
Every artist has their own natural signature that shapes, in very subtle ways, the myriad of creative decisions they make on a millisecond by millisecond basis to create a drawing or a 3D asset. We spent a lot of one-on-one time refining these decisions, making very subtle changes to things like eyebrows, noses, lips, hair styles etc. It really was a fascinating way of working collaboratively with so many talented artists, each of whom had their own natural styles.
How did you decide on which iteration of certain characters to include, given the constantly changing face of DC Comics' ongoing series?
In terms of the continuity, we're really shooting for the ideal, platonic version of the DC Universe at launch. We're not going to tie into the comic book world per se, at the beginning. So Bruce Wayne is not Batman in the comics, in the game he is. So 99 per cent of the fans agree that is the core of the DC Universe, or, that is what the DC Universe is all about. That's what we're going to have at launch.
As the game evolves, there is going to be an opportunity for us to tie into the DC Comics continuity. So, if there is an alien invasion, and we know about it in advance, there is some cool stuff we can do where we have the event unfold in the comics and in the game at the same time. It's going to involve a lot of co-ordination between people working on the game and, obviously, DC Comics editorial. Luckily I know some important decision makers at DC Comics [laughs].
There's already a lot of synergy in terms of how we're creating things for the game that will actually show up in the comics and vice versa, in terms of headquarters design, new character design, things like that. As far as what's going to be in the game at launch, it's more a question of what we're not going to put in.
What are you most proud of in DC Universe Online?
The fact that we were on it from beginning to end. It's the biggest, longest project I have ever worked on and I am so proud to have worked with some amazingly creative folk at WildStorm and SOE Austin. They really took me in like family, gave me a crash course in how these types of games are made, and made me a part of the team.
Check out PlayStation 4 at the PlayStation E3 press conference on 10 June 2013.
Abandoned cities reclaimed by nature. A population decimated by a modern plague.