In spite of my fervent attempt to avoid any enthusiasm about new games in general, and Champions Online in particular, Syp’s regular outpouring of cool screenshots and information is proving hard to resist. For one thing, I don’t think anybody is immune to the lure of the superhero and I’m no exception; and for another, it’s looking pretty damn good.
I never really got to play Champions as a tabletop game (an intro session doesn’t really count), though I had a friend who’d been in a campaign that had been going for years and who waxed lyrical about the freedom and complexity of the system. Superheroes are cool, yes, but for me they’re at their coolest when they’re multi-faceted — more Watchmen or V for Vendetta than Batman the TV series, if you see what I mean. (Which is not to diss the latter at all, which has an enduring and unique camp charm.) I like my heroes to have, at very least, a darker wrinkle here or there. Heroism — and that includes super-heroism — is at its most powerful when it involves a measure of sacrifice, if doing the right or necessary thing is difficult and somehow costly. I like dilemmas. I also firmly believe that story is rooted in character (and not the other way round, for the most part), so complex characters are essential to any enjoyment I may derive from story-telling.
Deep analysis aside, however, what got me thinking yesterday was leafing through the “Rate My Champion” section of the official website and looking at the various names and looks people come up with. Yes, this is a shallow pursuit, but looks and name are integral to designing a good superhero and, to be honest, I tend to spend ages deciding on both even for my characters that aren’t super-powered. Names are important: a character’s name may mean nothing to anyone but me, but it resonnates for me and that makes a difference when I play. Which is why I’ll never have a character called xxSlayAxx; I’m not bothered if you do (much), but that’s the online-game equivalent of a cold shower for me.
I recently gave my worse half the nickname of “Mr Methodical” because, unlike me, he usually knows what he needs to do and in what order and spends a fair deal of time making sure stuff is correctly planned for and laid out. Even in games! (My attempts to emulate this usually end up with 2,487 pieces of paper scattered around my desk and me having no clue what the scribbles on them mean.) It then struck me that this wouldn’t be a bad superhero name: it doesn’t take much to imagine an obsessively organised person with all manner of neatly laid out tools, maybe an underground forensics lair (with humming devices and machines that go ping), and possibly a Mr. Monk-like compulsion to neatness or other repetitive activities. Mr Methodical might be a bitch to go on missions with unless you’re prepared to wait 3 days for him to come up with the perfect plan of action, but he’d be invaluable in terms of research and investigation.
Sadly, I don’t appear to have a real life superhero name. Tangent Girl? Mr Methodical suggested that I cook a mean potato (baked, roasted, sauteed, saladed, you name it), but “The Tater Maker” doesn’t quite have the ominous quality I’m looking for. I suspect I’m just not ominous enough to warrant a myserious and ominous nickname. Fortunately, that won’t stop me from making such characters when Champions comes out.
What’s your real life superhero name, if you have one? I’d ask people for names they plan on using when the game launches, but that’s akin to industrial espionnage in MMO terms and I don’t want anyone to send out flying mechanical (or mutated) monkeys to hunt me down.