A Star is Born:
Let’s Play Champions Online Pt. 1

 By Shamus Sep 22, 2009 63 comments

I’m enjoying Rutskarn’s Morrowwind series so much that I’ve decided to do one for Champions Online. This will run every Tuesday-ish until I get bored with it, people get sick of it, or I cancel my account. Or I forget. Or I die.

Starting off, I decide to create the quintessential silver-age superhero. Not one of these brooding black-caped, spike-covered, angst-ridden antiheroes like all the young people are into these days. I want someone wearing classic tights and using classic iconography. But not, you know, operating under the same silver-age idealism and respect for all life. Heavens no. I’m going to have the same approach to fighting crime as The Punisher. I’ll just be wearing stretchy clothing and a brave smile when I do my vigilante-style killing.

Looking through the powers, I discount all blade-styled weapons. Too messy. There are a couple of fighting & fisticuffs based power sets that seem to fit his style, but they’re also a little bland. (And I am already playing a couple of other melee-based characters.) Then I see Telekinesis, which is based on Ego and Constitution. Ego? I can base my abilities on the strength of my own ego? Sold!

I go for a quick run-through of the character building options and am able to craft my avatar in just under a fortnight, which is a new record for me.

ME: Let's see... does the nose look more heroic at 10% width or maybe a little closer to 14.5% width? MY WIFE: Are you <strong>still</strong> staring at that man?
ME: Let's see... does the nose look more heroic at 10% width or maybe a little closer to 14.5% width? MY WIFE: Are you still staring at that man?

In keeping with his silver-age design, he’s got a chin that falls somewhere between “Jay Leno” and “bulldozer”. His suit is bright and colorful, and he’s ripped like Hercules even though his powers do not involve physical strength. In fact, I can’t think of a power more fattening than telekinesis. These days the only exercise I get is from walking to, and subsequently opening, the fridge. If I could move food with my mind and fly, then it would take me about two weeks to get to the point where I could cosplay as Castle Wulfenbach.

Thus begins the journey of Star on Chest. His Bio:

Star on Chest is becoming the premiere celebrity crimefighter of Millennium City and is the author of “An Awesome Being on Being Awesome, the Story of Star on Chest”. He appeared in People magazine’s “Top 50 best-looking superheroes of 2007″, and was a guest judge on ABC’s “Dancing with the Superheroes”. He’s the exclusive spokeshero for Altmier’s Brand Zesty Hot Sauce and for State Trust Auto Insurance.

For product endorsements, public appearances, or crime fighting, please contact Champion Media Worldwide and ask to speak with his agent.

A personal message from Star on Chest: “I’ll be appearing at the grand opening of the Northwood Center Mall this weekend. Stop on by to see your favorite star-based hero in person! Autographed photos just $20! Bring a friend!”

Champions Online doesn’t have catchphrases, but if it did his would be, “Don’t you KNOW who I AM?!?”

No, wait. It won’t let me use that bio because it’s too long. Apparently the biography system is powered by Twitter. I whittle it down, but then it complains that I have profanity. After much confusion I discover it was the phrase “hero in” that was setting it off, which it was evaluating as “heroin”. The content filter was worried I was promoting the use of dangerous narcotic drugs.

Dear Young People: Heroin can reduce you to a puking husk of a glassy-eyed junkie prostitute. Eventually you’ll find yourself haggling over the price of sex because you don’t have change for a five. Please do not try heroin unless your life is already worse than that. There. That should keep the kids safe.

Anyway, I revise the bio for brevity and remove the words “hero in” so as to avoid corrupting our impressionable youth with pro-heroin propaganda.

Eventually I summon all of my strength, all of my willpower, and boldly click the start button to begin the game.

Man, I should have gone with 10% width on the nose.

You know all those anthills you stomped on as a kid? Well, payback is a bitch.
You know all those anthills you stomped on as a kid? Well, payback is a bitch.

The city is in chaos. It’s being invaded by bug aliens known as Qualar or Quaa’lar or Qua’lor or some such piffle. Aliens run rampant through the streets and the police are fending off never-ending waves of bug man from behind hastily constructed barricades. Buildings have been smashed. Fires burn. The dead litter the sidewalks. The coffee shops are all closed.

Oh, now I'm going to have that 80's song stuck in my head all day. Thank you so much, game.
Oh, now I'm going to have that 80's song stuck in my head all day. Thank you so much, game.

I begin my life as a hero in* the midst of this destruction. My first act is to climb out of a pile of rubble. I’m not the only one, though. Apparently this rubble has been spewing out heroes in an endless stream since launch day. This rubble is the king-hell clown car of the ages. There are actually people appearing on top of me before I can even step away from the pile. This leads to that awkward moment you get in MMO games, “Pardon me miss, but it seems we’re occupying the same physical space and you haven’t even bought me a drink yet.” I step out of the transporter malfunction and greet the nearby police officer.

Time to see what’s going on around this burgh.

* This phrase is not an endorsement for heroin.

202020363 comments? This post wasn't even all that interesting.


  1. Bizarre says:

    I would read a comic about Star on Chest. Or at least buy the trade.

  2. Jabor says:

    Utter hilarity ensues.

    I’m looking forward to more of this series.

  3. illiterate says:

    I like to play as Lee Iacoca in every game.

  4. Rowan says:

    Very funny. Keep up the good work!

  5. I like to create super heroes who look just like my husband (i.e. long-haired computer geek with jeans & t-shirt) and name them CAPTAIN CORRECTION.

    But, I definitely enjoy reading about Star On Chest and his promotion of rampant ‘hero in’.

    Leslee

  6. Nihil says:

    So I’m guessing the game won’t allow female characters *at all*? As in, heroines.

  7. BuschnicK says:

    You Sir are genius writer (or writing genius?)! Hilarious.

  8. Mephane says:

    The funny thing is, when two or more people spawn at the same place – collision detection. Unlike other MMOs, CO provides full collision detection, so with two people at the same spot, both get pushed in random directions, sometimes like across the street. Every time as hilarious.

    By the way: Although the ingame music is really nice and appropriate, try playing a session with something like the Pirates of the Caribbean soundtrack running in the background. Now that is an epic feeling.

  9. karln says:

    @Bizarre: probably not possible now, I expect Star On Chest is officially the intellectual property of Atari. Except that he already became property of NC Interactive when Shamus created him on CoH.

    CoH User Agreement 6(c): Members can … create content on our servers in various forms, such as … characters … (iii) acknowledge and agree that such Member Content is the sole property of NC Interactive.

    CO Terms and Conditions 18: The Site and Game are owned and operated by Cryptic … including, without limitation, any and all user accounts, titles, … characters, character names, stories, dialogue, catch phrases … and any intellectual property and other rights relating thereto

    Hmm, the CO one is not quite so clear about whether user-created characters become theirs. He definitely seems to be owned by NC though.

  10. Knut says:

    A hero game that doesn’t allow the word hero in the bio? Crazy.

    And yea, thanks for giving me that 80′s song on my mind…:P

  11. Matt K says:

    Sounds a lot like Captain Quark (Ratchet and Clank series) even looks a bit like him as well. Seems like an interesting series even though I have no desire to play the game (I can’t justify paying $40 for a game and then $15 per month to play).

  12. Stephen says:

    Huh? It even flags it with the space? That would explain the NPC message I saw the other day, which was something like “Amazing Man **** bunch of Viper villains in jail!” From the context, the only thing the stars could have been was “put a”; I’d assumed the designer had forgotten the space and wound up with a Spanish swear word, but if the profanity filter is that gung ho, there must be a parade of interesting censorings just waiting to happen.

  13. The TubStar says:

    I’d change the catchphrase “Don’t you KNOW who I AM?!?” to “Who the hell do you think I am?!”, but that’s just a personal taste thing :P

  14. Drue says:

    The ‘hero in’ thing remind me of a time when I was asking about a quest on the WoW forums. It involved finding grapes and the forum censor detected the word ‘rapes’. It was confusing to me because there was nothing telling me that it was detecting anything so only after posting did I know. I just wanted to find the g!@#$%@.

  15. Mephane says:

    @Drue it was even funnier in the German WoW forums, because the English filter applied to them. That means the German word for “big” or “fat” (“dick”, and yes I know what that means in English) was being censored, and it was a word used very often, for example to describe damage bosses or other players do (“dicker schaden” = “big damage”).

    That’s why I always turn off any kind of profanity filter if possible, it screws up too much usually, and I can handle profanity myself.

  16. Adalore says:

    Ah let’s play’s.

    I haven’t done much of the way of that recently, life has been kicking my butt to much.

    But I plan some time on doing these…
    Wizardy8
    Thief

    It seems that the test recordings of Wizardy8 failed so badly, and Thief is simply not installed atm.

  17. luagha says:

    Do keep in mind that Champions Online right now is not really a finished product. It’s more like a late beta.

  18. Yar Kramer says:

    @The TubStar: I think that would make more sense if his character was The Goddamn Star On Chest. But that would probably get caught by the profanity filter.

    Also! Seeing an exclamation mark above someone’s head makes me think that “vweet!” sound from Metal Gear Solid when you’re spotted. And I’ve never even played a single Metal Gear game!

  19. Rutskarn says:

    Hehe, nice. I loved the Wulfenbach reference.

    …okay, I need to start singing one of my countersongs now, or else that’s gonna be stuck in my head too, dammit.

  20. Groboclown says:

    Particle Man – the anti-song-stuck-in-head song.

  21. Dev Null says:

    I’d get the game just to make Triangle Man, but I’m sure its already taken.

  22. Lord Almaz says:

    You know, this post is tempting me to try out Champions Online myself – if it wasn’t a freaking MMOG which requires you to shell out $XXXX every month, I’d definitely go for it. I have great ideas for a female superhero(yes, I’m a guy, deal with it – men and women play as the opposite gender in all MMORPGs for giggles) that are sexy, cute, and innocent. ^_^

  23. Sheer_FALACY says:

    From what I’ve heard, including on this very blog, no name is “already taken” – every account can make any name it wants to. You send PMs to charactername@accountname.

  24. Blackbird71 says:

    @Groboclown (20)

    Nah, then you’re just stuck with They Might Be Giants running through your head all day.

    I’ve always found the theme from “Green Acres” to be the ultimate reset song.

    Go ahead. Try it. What harm could it do? ;)

  25. Varil says:

    That guy…is pure awesome. He LOOKS like he should be powering stuff by sheer ego, that’s for sure.

  26. krellen says:

    Star on Chest is still comic brilliance. I guess his campy style sort of fits the eye-burning graphics.

    Yeah, I’m still hung up on the graphics. I can totally take a game with bad, low-res graphics, but something about CO’s style just makes my eyes hurt.

  27. locusts says:

    Thanks all, now I have Shamus’s original song running laps in my head, but it is being chased by Particle Man and Green Acres. For theatre people out there I recommend the Nutcracker Suite, because I know that one usually drowns out most everything else. I typically use the Love Boat theme, because I can never remember more than:

    “The Love Boat, it is exciting and new,
    The Love Boat, da da duh da da duh da da dew.
    The Love Boat…”

    And then all the rest of the music in my head is gone.

  28. Matt K says:

    @locusts: I tend to use Godsmack’s Voodoo to purge songs. Tends to work pretty well for me.

  29. Mephane says:

    I’d get the game just to make Triangle Man, but I’m sure its already taken.

    Actually, character names are only unique within an account, i.e. there can be multiple characters with identical names as long as they are on different accounts (for things like tells you can use the account-wide alias everyone has to choose upon registration).

  30. Vegedus says:

    I lolled. Always a good sign. Also, the name “Star on Chest” is still and absolutely amazing superhero name.

  31. Tesh says:

    Mmm… Castle Wulfenbach. Not a bad hero name, come to think of it. Well, except for that copyright thing.

    Castle Wolfenbeethoven?

  32. Badger says:

    My superhero(TM) name is “Anticlimactic Man” because nothing exciting ever happens when I show up. It’s a lame power, believe me!

  33. GABS says:

    Just fyi.. you know that Telekinetics is in fact more a melee weapon based power than anything else? I love it, but it isn’t really “telekinetiks”, should just be named “Mind Blade Powerset” or something like that.

  34. DaMunky89 says:

    @Badger / 32:
    Well think of it this way, if there’s some epic cataclysm about to bring the world to an end, all you have to do is stroll in and read a magazine to avert it. *lol*

  35. Maldeus says:

    Star On Chest. Best. Hero. Ever.

    moarplzkthxbai

  36. Kristin says:

    I played Evony for a few weeks last spring. One of the more amusing filters I’ve ever seen: “girls” would be *****.

    “Okay boys and *****, let’s make sure our archery stat is up to snuff…”

  37. Veloxyll says:

    I trump all your bad songs by inflicting the following on your brain based music players

    Ringringringringringringringring Bananaphone.

    My evil deed done for the day! (aside – typing Ring 8 times in a row is HARD)

    Ahh profanity filters, they’re so cute in their over-zealousness, and just like their DRM brothers, people who want to get around them will, and only people who aren’t considering them get stung.

    I thoroughly approve of Star On Chest beating people up with his giant Ego however, and hope to hear more about him in the future.

    Also on the copyright issues – does that mean if I make Veloxyll on CoH, and then I make Veloxyll AGAIN on CO, that I make the companies breach copyright? If I make them at the same time, who prevails :O

  38. Uncle Festy says:

    And god forbid we should want to discuss her ointment. :P
    Nicely done, Shamus. I approve. :D

  39. MelTorefas says:

    I have neither the time nor money for another MMO! Quit making me want to play this! *sobs*

    (Great comic as usual!)

  40. mixmastermind says:

    I think Star On Chest deserves a medal for easiest-to-remember name.

  41. LintMan says:

    @Kristin: Evony filters the word “girls”? Evony?!?!. Evony of the preposterous busty-chested “play DISCREETLY” and “save your lover” ads? Wow.

    (Mandatory link to this awesome Evony parody by Popcap: PvZ Ad)

  42. Sam says:

    I can honestly say that Star on Chest has both the best superhero name I’ve ever heard and the best superhero biography I’ve ever read. I could not stop laughing. I look forward to his further adventures.

    You’re tempting me to once again head back into the realm of which I boldly stated I would never return. I’ll be living vicariously through your posts. I pray that they are not too entertaining, for I may end up living vicariously through my own life.

  43. Ian says:

    I’m really loving the game as well. I did find a couple of low level missions that got bugged but being able to switch instance and try it there really helped.

    My second biggest issue is getting time that the girlfriend will let me play.

    The biggest issue is of course the Nemesis! Earl Grey has sworn to defete the evils of Decafinator and free his beloved Lady Grey using the powers of a big sword and top hat.

    Click here should you really wish to see him in action.

  44. Rick C says:

    “I begin my life as a hero amidst this destruction” will solve your heroin problem.

  45. Cuthalion says:

    SPELLING NAZI! Morrowind has one ‘w’. HEIL WEBSTER!

    Edit: Awesome. I have a monocle now. …because I misspelled my email. Never mind. :(

  46. Cuthalion says:

    @Blackbird71: I’ve always found the theme from “Green Acres” to be the ultimate reset song.

    Go ahead. Try it. What harm could it do? ;)

    I hate you forever.

    Also, I may be the only 19-year-old male who has seen most of the episodes of Green Acres. *shudder*

    Regarding swear filters, the one in Maplestory was pathetic. It would ignore actual cusswords (e.g. f***, iirc) and block completely random stuff. Maybe they were transliterations of Korean swears… but in any case the badly translated NPC’s were hilarious.

    Star on Chest is my hero. I am naming my child after him, should said child be fortunate enough to have a lucky birthmark. That is all.

  47. RJR says:

    Welcome to the LP world! More audience participation!

  48. Will says:

    I remember the first time I noticed that occasion in an MMO. Somebody logged in right on top of another player who happened to be standing there.

    An onlooker said “There’s a girl in you.”

    It was almost as memorable as the time in FFXI I trekked across the game world to get to that San d’Oria and right at the city gates there was a high level that had aggroed a newbie monster and then put his weapons away, therefore giving everyone the sight of an oversized Sheep with a camel hump slamming its heads into the buttocks of an armored man who was not taking damage but was giving a pretty good animation of this hips being pushed in the right direction considering where the heatbutts were coming from.

    I’m pretty sure he was afk, but I couldn’t help but imagine this dialogue:

    Sheep: *butts him* Man: Umph.
    Sheep: *butts him* Man: nnnph
    Sheep: *butts him* Man: quit it.
    Sheep: *butts him* Man: Stooooop. You’re bothering me.
    Sheep: *butts him for infinity* Man: I’m in hell.

  49. Daedalist says:

    Ego? I can base my abilities on the strength of my own ego? Sold!
    Dude, you so need to play the tabletop game it’s based on. HERO system is awesome!

  50. Matt says:

    One of my favorite profanity filter bits was in World of Warcraft, which had vanity pets you could acquire (they didn’t do anything other than follow you around). One of them was the “Maine Coon” cat, which you couldn’t talk about in chat without it coming out as “Maine ****”.

    What I found amusing about it is that it really only served to highlight the possible negative interpretation of the world. Without the filter, I’d never have made the connection.

  51. SethNA says:

    I would totally pirate your webcomic if it wasn’t already free.

  52. John Funk says:

    Man, Shamus, you’re making me want to resume playing my power armor hero :P

    • Shamus says:

      Funk: Man,. Power Armor was the first class I played. And, I guess, the second.

      It’s a brutal and slightly tricky class. It’s certainly the most confusing for newcomers. The language on the description, “You work well alone or as part of a group” made me think of the WoW hunter, and how it was such a good solo class and led to low-key gameplay. The power armor and it’s multi-toggle fighting system is about as far from “simple and low-key” as you can get. There needs to be a mild warning on power armor to encourage newbies to try something else first.

      I very, very nearly concluded the game was too confusing and frustrating to bother with. Then I gave fisticuffs a try and the whole thing clicked for me.

      In conclusion: Hats off for getting Power Armor to work for you.

  53. Ergonomic Cat says:

    I took my power armor character to 40 in beta, via the end of beta event. Level 7 to level 40. I almost immediately logged out, logged in my supernatural/might character, and kicked robot heiney.

  54. Wandre says:

    This character looks distinctly like Captain Smiley from Comic Jumper, a new Twisted Pixel game still in the pipes.

    http://kotaku.com/5353753/after-splosions-comes-comic-jumper

  55. Lilfut says:

    I’m going to have the same approach to fighting crime as The Punisher. I’ll just be wearing stretchy clothing and a brave smile when I do my vigilante-style killing.

    So he’s Deadpool, basically.

  56. [...] choose this option and not if you choose that one.  Stupid.  I could go on and on about it, but Shamus over at Twenty Sided has already said most everything I could thing of about this sad example of a good RPG turned into [...]

  57. [...] to do a Let’s Play series with Star Trek Online in the spirit of Shamus Young’s Let’s Play Champions Online series (which itself was in the spirit of Rutskarn’s Let’s Play Morrowind series).  [...]

  58. [...] writing skills are… less developed than Shamus Young’s, and it’s after his Champions Online Let’s Play that I’m modeling this one, so my initial instinct is to go for the same length as his [...]

  59. Lord Scourge says:

    My wife and I have long-since discovered that the “song that gets other songs out of your head” is a completely individual matter. She can exorcise any annoying song by singing “What Would Bryan Boitano Do?” and I can banish the most insipid songs just by humming the Star Wars Imperial March to myself.

    No need, however, since I’ve always liked that Bonnie Tyler song, though… I think I still have it on vinyl, even.

    I highly recommend learning this trick, too… once you know what song you can use to drive out other songs, you are completely immune from the trick people are trying to do in this thread, of forcing your brain to pick up on a song, and start driving you mad.

  60. John Magnum says:

    I quite like how–if I’m not mistaken–you seem to have used the “metal” specular map for every single aspect of his costume. Including stuff like his cowl and cape. I’m weirdly charmed by that.

    I’ve only tried the free trial. I ran a single Power Armor character to the end of the tutorial level, and then a Munitions character to the part where the chief of police wanted his soldiers to shoot at me. I wanted to do a big guns character like Cable or Warmachine or someone, but it’s not to be. The ranged combat is also kind of…not…great. I’ll have to try a melee character, because the ranged stuff was unsatisfying, only worked at really close ranges anyway, and monsters ended up getting right in my face.

    One thing I don’t like about the free trial is that it doesn’t give you any opportunities to choose new things at level up. Well, okay, I suppose you get the items that go in your slots, and can boost Endurance and Recovery and Presence, but it was completely impossible for me to notice any effects. Aside from presumably greater health and damage, there’s no difference between a level 1 and a level 5 CO character. They could’ve at least let you pick an actual new power at some point, so you didn’t just have the energy builder and the tier 0 for the entire time.

    I’ve been reading very briefly some articles that discuss voice in MMOs, and noting how Old Republic will have lots of it and Champions Online hardly has any. Obviously, adding voice to a Massive game is a staggeringly vast enterprise, and it seems easy to say “Well, players skip most of it anyway!” and just have text and speech bubbles. Perhaps. I think some of the best voice stuff is the incidental dialogue that you don’t have to hear, but which creates the sense that the people around you are doing something. When I played CO, it seemed weirdly quiet, because there was so little incidental noise. There was some random BGM, and the sounds of my immediate battle, but not much else. Kind of odd.

  61. I think what you composed made a lot of sense. However,
    what about this? what if you were to write a killer headline?
    I am not suggesting your information isn’t good, however what
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    I mean A Star is Born:Lets Play Champions Online Pt.
    1 – Twenty Sided is a little vanilla. You could glance at Yahoo’s
    front page and note how they create news titles to grab people to open the links.
    You might try adding a video or a related pic or
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    Just my opinion, it would make your website a little bit more interesting.

  62. Superb post however , I was wanting to know if you could write
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    grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Cheers!

3 Trackbacks

  1. By Life in 3D » Blog Archive » Champions Online on December 30, 2009 at 11:34 pm

    [...] choose this option and not if you choose that one.  Stupid.  I could go on and on about it, but Shamus over at Twenty Sided has already said most everything I could thing of about this sad example of a good RPG turned into [...]

  2. By Star Trek Online @ Ordering Disorder on January 15, 2010 at 8:13 pm

    [...] to do a Let’s Play series with Star Trek Online in the spirit of Shamus Young’s Let’s Play Champions Online series (which itself was in the spirit of Rutskarn’s Let’s Play Morrowind series).  [...]

  3. [...] writing skills are… less developed than Shamus Young’s, and it’s after his Champions Online Let’s Play that I’m modeling this one, so my initial instinct is to go for the same length as his [...]

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