The developers of "DC Universe Online" told me that gameplay balance or technical issues wouldn't be the largest problem holding back PS3-PC compatibility -- it's the different way that PS3 gamers and PC players communicate with each other.
When I met with "DC Universe Online" creative director Jens Andersen and senior producer Wes Yanagi earlier this week, I had to ask about an update on cross-compatibility.
In my interview with SOE-Austin creative director Chris Cao earlier this year, he said the main issue of having cross-compatibility between PS3 and PC was fairness in terms of getting updates for the game to both platforms at the same time; acquiring certification for updates on the PS3 may sometimes take longer.
However, while Yanagi acknowledged that that could be a setback, there was another issue to consider: the social conventions of PS3 and PC gamers.
"PC players are used to the anonymity of text chat most of the time... Whereas console players, I think they're just used to going into voice chat right off the bat."
"[The certification process] is going to be a consideration, but for me personally, it's going to be establishing the best experience for the users," Yanagi explained, "and right now the speculation for me is that PS3 players and PC players are kind of different social groups. PC players are used to the anonymity of text chat most of the time, and then once you get to know somebody or are playing with friends that you know, then you go to voice and use Ventrilo or TeamSpeak or something like that. Whereas console players, I think they're just used to going into voice chat right off the bat."
"Or muting voice," Andersen quipped, inciting laughter around the room.
"I also found that console players will just talk smack all the time," Yanagi continued. "While PC players tend to be a little bit more polite because of the social group acceptance and how chatting via voice comes about."
"If you're just offending people left and right, they're not going to want to group with you and they're not going to want to talk to you."
Andersen added that the way MMOs are played may be different to the console player who's used to joining different matches constantly; they don't have to worry as much about what they say to whom. "You can offend as many people as you want [in multiplayer console games] because you're just going to automatically go into the match anyway," he said. "[In 'DCUO'] you choose to make a hero and you have to live with these people; you're going to see them all the way up and in the end game, and if you're just offending people left and right, they're not going to want to group with you and they're not going to want to talk to you. [MMOs] are social games, they're about getting together and accomplishing really great things, forming guilds and leaving your stamp on this virtual world. And you need lots of people to do that. So you know what? It will probably be a good thing. It'll teach those kids some manners!"
Yanagi reiterated that it comes down to what the best experience is for the players -- whether they're on the PC or PS3. "I wouldn't want to upset the established communities with already-established conventions on the PC side as we're throwing a flood of console users who might need to work through that established social structure."
"People have a certain expectation," he continued. "There hasn't really been any really, truly cross-platform games like that before so we don't know what will happen right out of the gate, but definitely, you don't want disaster to happen."
PC gamers and console gamers -- can't we all just get along?
(Stay tuned for more from my interviews with the "DC Universe Online" developers.)
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