Shamus Plays

Shamus Plays: Champions Online, Part 1



If you’re one of the millions of people who now see my Let’s Play series as your only reason to live and you were thinking of killing yourself now that Lulzy’s grand adventures in Lord of the Rings Online have staggered to an end, then I am about to save your life. This series is a repeat, but odds are that you haven’t read it before, which is the same thing as being new except it’s old. And if you did read it before…? Eh. Read it anyway. It’s less labor-intensive than suicide.

Note that this is talking about Champions Online as it existed about six months ago, so don’t start complaining about how out-of-date my whining is, because bellyaching is for losers. And you’re not a loser, are you? Aside from that whole suicide thing, I mean.

Also note that through the magic of editing the spelling and grammatical errors that appeared in the original series will all be replaced with new and different spelling and grammatical errors in order to keep things fresh and new.


Too bad, we’re starting anyway.

First 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.

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 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.

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.

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.

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.

* This phrase is not an endorsement for heroin.

I briefly consider slipping back into the rubble and waiting things out, but a police officer recognizes me and calls me over. He serves no other purpose than to welcome me to the game. He’s sort of the Wal-Mart greeter of the alien apocalypse. Officer Greeter tells me that SOCRATES wants to talk to me. Socrates is the immense self-aware AI that guides the heroes of the city. Of course (s)he would want to talk to me. (The gender of Socrates seems to change depending on what mood the thing is in and what service packs have been recently applied.) I clap him on the shoulder and let him know he’s doing a good job. I’m a professional, and I know you always let the police know they’re doing a good job. It’s the sort of lie they really appreciate.

As luck would have it, the closest Socrates kiosk is right across the street. It’s hard to miss, since it projects a twenty foot hologram of Socrates looking down on us. Since the entire purpose of this device is to allow us to talk to Socrates, it seems like they don’t need anything more elaborate than a microphone and a speaker. Your average McDonald’s drive-thru mastered that technology ages ago. I don’t know how much a 20-foot holographic projector costs, but I it’s probably a waste of taxpayer money if it just serves basically the same function as a pay phone. Ill bet people vandalize these things all the time.


Anyone using this thing is going to glance upward and get an eyeful of holo-crotch. When it comes to misappropriating public funds, this city doesn’t screw around.

Let me paint you a picture of what is going on around me:

No that won’t do. I can’t find my paints and my brushwork is inept. You’ll have to settle for prose: Across the street is the looming hologram projector. Beyond that are some tents, and beyond those is a hastily constructed barricade where a couple of cops are fending off waves of aliens. To my right are rows of heavily armed soldiers, who are doing nothing. To my left is a street where aliens have deposited a bunch of oozing eggs.

Socrates asks me to walk over and kill some eggs. Three, to be exact. All things in moderation, I guess.

Right. Time to send these space-roaches packing. I smash some eggs the aliens have foolishly laid in the middle of the street and I can’t help but feel a little un-heroic. I mean, they’re eggs. What the hell kind of strategy is this? Did Hitler begin the scourging of London by putting German babies all over Piccadilly Square? I don’t claim to be Sun-Tzu or anything, but I’m pretty sure you don’t spearhead your invasion with abandoned infants.


Worst. Tactics. Ever.

The eggs are gooey. I made sure my suit was made of glossy easy-wipe material for just this reason.

Next Socrates wants me to help the police test some weapons. Rows of police are standing nearby, waiting to see if their weapons work. Socrates’ plan is thus: I stand still, police shoot me. Yeah. And this is the guy who opens every conversation by telling you how smart he is. Directly to my left are four street cops holding off an endless wave of aliens with their sidearms, and here we have ten paramilitary guys with body armor and handheld howitzers who won’t join the fight until they can shoot someone and ask them if it hurts.


They instruct me to, “Use the block button.” I instruct them to, “Stop shooting me, asshole!”

So, we’re countering the babies-first invasion tactics of the aliens with mandatory friendly-fire against our own troops. Here is an idea for you geniuses: Point your weapons at the bugs and shoot. If they die, the guns work. If not, grab a brick. Once you’ve got a fight going within brick-throwing distance, it’s time to stop with the R&D and make do with what you’ve got.

Barring that, why shoot me? Just shoot some cars or rubble or something if you want to see the gun go zap so bad. It’s all going to be written off anyway. It’s not like I own any of this stuff.

This whole thing is obviously a bad idea and a waste of everyone’s time. I’m beginning to suspect that Socrates might be a little buggy. But if I refuse to get shot in the face, people might think I’m a coward, and the whiff of cowardice is deadly for a hero. Companies will pull their endorsement agreements in a flash if the public gets the impression you’re a jelly-spine. From a public relations standpoint, being called a chicken is worse than being caught in a hotel with heroin* and a couple of underage hookers**.

* I would like to re-iterate my very strong and focus-group approved anti-drug stance.
** While I have no official position on this sort of thing, it’s probably not a good idea. Try to keep this sort of behavior to one at a time.

So I take a couple of blasts in the face. As I walk away, I make a point of NOT telling the officer he’s doing a good job. That should sting a bit, and maybe next time he’s repelling an invasion he won’t ask passing allies for permission to shoot them. Knave.

Socrates sends me to see the mayor. This sounds impressive, but the mayor is in a tent ten feet away and being ignored by every single person in his employ. There’s not much mayoring that needs done at the moment. Maybe he can publicly condemn the aliens via a public address (shouting) or a strongly worded letter (although I bet he doesn’t even have a pen) but other than that he’s making even less of an impact than Officer Greeter. Unless he’s got guns or kung-fu he’s just in the way. I suggest he go over and visit the friendly firing squad and make himself useful, but NPC’s never react when I say things out loud to my computer.


Here is our befuddled and not-particularly-useful mayor. Usually the question mark is there to tell the player, “I have quest stuff for you,” but in this case it’s there to express, “Uhbuh-what?”

The mayor asks me to walk to the other side of the barricade and recover the city disaster plans, as he seems to have left them in a building I have now dubbed, “Space-roach Central.”

“Sir, the good people of this city took the time to author disaster plans. Your only job was to have those plans. I don’t want to seem rude, but… is the deputy mayor available?”

In any case, I’m betting that if we did have the plans here, somewhere near the top of page one it would say: DO NOT TEST WEAPONS BY SHOOTING EACH OTHER. I agree to get the plans, in the hopes he can at least put a stop to that.

I jog over and grab the documents. They’re in a pile of rubble and guarded by about a half dozen loitering bug men. These guys aren’t really invading, but sort of hangin’ out. I am glad to see that despite their fantastic array of space guns and future toys, the aliens have faces which are susceptible to punching.

Nearby is a woman wanting to be escorted back to the safe zone, but there is a line of heroes waiting to do so. They’re all elbowing and jockying for position to be the next lucky hero to march her back to the mayor’s camp site command center before she appears back in the hot zone and needs to be re-rescued. I opt to not rescue her at this time.

I would like to point out that chivalry is not dead, it just hates waiting in line.

The mayor is grateful for the documents, and sends me down the street to meet with the chief of police.

Right. We’re off to see the chief of police.

Next time: Are you DEAF? I just said we’re off to see the chief of police.


Shamus Young is the guy behind Reset Button, Twenty Sided, DM of the Rings, and Stolen Pixels.

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