DCUO Atlantis interview: "One of our most ambitious episodes to date"

We caught up with DC Universe Online's creative director to get some details on the game's newest expansion.

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Remember when Aquaman was nothing more than the Justice League's comedic foil? For the longest time, it seemed like the character was nothing more than a joke about talking to fish in an orange and green jumpsuit. Lately, though, the king of Atlantis has been getting a lot of credit as the badass he's always been. Could it have something to do with the fact that none other than Khal Drogo himself, Jason Momoa, in the DC cinematic universe? Perhaps it does. But whatever the reason may be for Aquaman's sudden resurgence in popularity it looks like DC is going to ride the wave, pun intended. To that extent, the long-running DC Universe Online MMORPG is getting a new Atlantis update with some fishtastic new features. We got a chance to catch up with DCUO creative director SJ Mueller to find out where the underwater world fits in the online world. 

Shacknews: Can you talk about what you guys recently revealed?

SJ Mueller: We recently launched one of our most ambitious episodes to date: Atlantis! For the first time ever, players can venture beneath the sea to a stunning rendition of Aquaman’s kingdom.

Shacknews: What does Aquaman's power set bring to the gameplay experience?

Mueller: Aquaman, along with all Atlanteans, possesses all sorts of superpowers from their Atlantean physiology. What a lot of people forget is that Atlantis also has deep ties to the magical parts of the DC Universe, so we were able to draw on that for inspiration in our mega boss battles. Another important attribute is the ability to swim and breathe underwater, which is pretty helpful in Atlantis!

Shacknews: What are the gameplay challenges you faced when adding a new zone that’s completely underwater?

Mueller: An underwater city of this size was a huge endeavor for our art and design teams. We held many meetings defining the details on what Atlantis would look like, feel like, and how we’d deliver this immersive experience into a multiplayer 3D space. Even small details such as lighting look different when you are hundreds of feet below the sea. Special considerations were taken on the way you move (this is when we decided swimming was necessary!) since we wanted the experience to be as authentic as possible. Even some of the boss fights take place entirely underwater! All of this influenced how design thought about their mechanics – including minor details like undercurrents pushing players into deadly wall spikes.

Shacknews: This is one of the biggest expansions to hit DCUO since its launch, can you talk about how advances in technology have changed the game since it’s initial release over 7 years ago?

Mueller: With Atlantis, we’ve pushed the bar on the visuals and gameplay. The open world city is a sight to behold – absolutely jaw-dropping. And we’ve pushed boundaries on what we can do with game mechanics – allowing us to go up against a giant sea beast toe-to-toe (or is it fin-to-fin?)

Shacknews: What is your relationship with the DC comic books as well as the DC cinematic universe and how is that reflected in your overall game design and how does it feature in your expansions and patches?

Mueller: We have an outstanding relationship with DC Comics who allow us to do truly incredible things within the game. We’ve been working side-by-side with them since day one and developed a tremendous amount of trust in one another. And clearly, like with the Teen Titans Episode this past summer and the Atlantis Episode this winter, we strive to be part of the overall plan for the DC Universe and its properties.

Shacknews: How much of Aquaman's lore is taken from comics and how much is based on the film version of the character?

Mueller: Our corner of the multiverse is mostly influenced by various comic book stories, but since we’re all drawing from the same source material, the similarities are definitely there. But in DC Universe Online, we try to capture the most iconic version of each character and adapt them for a modern audience. We also often expand on lore or add a little something to the universe to make it our own.

DCUO and the new Atlantis content is available now on PS4, Xbox One, and PC for free. 

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Blake has been writing and making videos about pop-culture and games for over 10 years now. Although he'd probably prefer you thought of him as a musician and listened to his band, www.cartoonviolencemusic.com. If you see him on the street, buy him a taco or something. Follow him on twitter @ProfRobot

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