Imagine for a moment that you were bitten by a time-travelling robotic nano-flea that embued you with extraordinary abilities. I’ll give you a moment.
…got it? Okay.
So, given your strange new powers, would you step out on the streets to uphold the tenets of truth and justice? Would you cross swords with authority and concern yourself only with number one? Would you eat a bowl of cereal and go back to bed?
Ever since Sony Online Entertainment started releasing video footage of DC Universe Online in action, I’d been itching to start creating characters. The game could have played like a big flea-ravaged dog, and I still would have bought it just so I could mess with the character creator for 30 days.
See, the way I look at it is this: creating and playing a character on DC Universe Online is the closest you can possibly come to creating a character for the DC Universe proper (outside of writing and drawing your own fan fiction or, you know, actually working for DC Comics). Making my own little doppelganger and having him do battle with The Joker is the kind of thing I’d have dreamt about doing as a kid, except back in the 80’s the only choice I had was “Beast Man versus Bobby The Henchman” (10 points to anyone who recognizes those names).
However, this time around I knew I wouldn’t be making a virtual Lantern Savage straight away. If Lex Luthor sent an exobyte from the future to bite me on the butt so I could save the world from an impending Braniac invasion, I’d probably still try to get one more hour’s sleep in before getting up to trudge through waves of HIVE drones and Trigon’s minions. For me, creating a character for DCUO meant I would need to forge something new, something fresh, something original.
Originality doesn’t come easily to everyone – just ask Wonder Boy, BAT LADY, Sephiroth19, WadeWilson or Red Arrow (yep, those are all real player names I’ve spotted). And while I can sort of understand the ironic pleasure you could derive from naming yourself Suupermaan and having the real Superman call on you for assistance, I wanted to go for something a little more… out there.
Before DC Universe Online was released, my imagination ran wild with all the possibilites. Who would be my mentor? Which city would house my base of operations? Who could introduce me to Cassandra Cain? The easy answer for me was, of course, Batman (and Gotham City. I’m not talking about the city of Batman, Turkey). I’ve been a Batman fan since I was a kid, The Joker is one of my favorite villains… it just made sense. Of course, I knew that choosing a mentor would also mean choosing the kinds of characters I would end up interacting with. Nightwing, Two Face, Robin, Scarecrow, Batgirl and Harley Quinn? Done.
My decision wasn’t completely black and white, though. I did consider that the Green Lanterns probably wouldn’t be hanging out in Gotham City, and neither would that mysterious kook in the blue suit and the gold hat – Doctor Fate. I feared missing out on a chance to meet some of my other favorite non-Gotham-related characters, like Booster Gold, Martian Manhunter, Zatanna, The Spectre and The Phantom Stranger (as it happens, my fears were later proven to be unfounded).
I decided to make Gotham City my entrance into the DC Universe. I wanted Oracle to send me out on missions! I wanted Jim Gordon to question my vigilantism! I wanted to wash the Batmobile! I wanted Alfred to think I’m cool! And so, I set out to create the perfect addition to the Batman family:
A giant, flying octopus wearing a top hat and a mustache.
What do you mean, “that sounds ridiculous”? There’s plenty of octopuses in the DC Universe! All-Star Superman featured a giant, sun-eating octopus; Catwoman fought an octopus in the pages of Batman, Inc.; the Indigo Tribe’s entity looks kind of like an octopus; and Aquaman is friends with a super-intelligent octopus named Topo (he was even taught how to use a bow by Green Arrow!).
It seems like most people want to make the coolest new hero or the most badass villain in the DC Universe, but that seems like a fool’s game to me. No matter how cool or badass you think you are, there’s always going to be a cooler or… badassier character than yours. That’s why I wanted to make something a little weirder. I’m a lot more likely to be noticed for being the strange one, rather than the coolest guy in the room, and I think that’s something a lot of comic fans can relate to. So why not an octopus?
Because DC doesn’t want me to be an octopus! No options for a bulbous head, multiple arms, suckers, Hypnotoad eyes… ahhh frell. I’ve read online that a few players have been disappointed with DCUO’s character creation, and that games like Champions Online and City Of Heroes have more in-depth options for creating your perfect vision of a hero right from the get-go. I’ve had no experience with either of those games, but I haven’t found DCUO to be all that limiting. Okay, so I can’t have eight arms and an insatiable desire to eat crabs, but the variety in costume and body pieces during the character creation process still allows for an insane amount of possibilities.
And besides, I like the way DCUO’s costume system works. As you play, you earn and pick up new, better items for your costume – from spikey shoulderpads and demonic helmets to fireaxes and Deadman shirts. Your character feels more like an organic, evolving being, rather than a static figure who you set up at the beginning of your game and never change. Limitations merely encourage you to be more creative, and even helped me to come up with a back story for my new character:
Born as an octopus with a particular talent for picking winning football results (almost always the Gotham Knights), Saul The Octopus’s life changed the day he was bitten by an exobyte sent from the future. Transforming him into a human being, Saul retained his octopus personality (his “octopussery”, if you will), but tries to fit into polite human society as an equal by wearing classy suits and top hats. With his new “psychic” powers, he fights crime and protects the innocent as… GENTLEMAN OCTOPUS!
Sure, he looks a bit like a goofy clone of Zatara, but he’s MY goofy clone of Zatara, and armed with his mental powers and a staff, he’ll be adventuring his way on to the For All Seasons server and flying around Gotham City… in the next JOKERFISH.
(And thanks again to awesome artwork from my girlfriend, Rochelle Savage!)