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DC Universe will swap classes for stances

Easy grouping at heart of spandex MMO.

Sony Online Entertainment spent last week's Consumer Electronics Show demoing its PS3 and PC superhero MMO DC Universe Online to the American press, and a few new details have filtered through.

Most interesting is the news that the game will offer selectable offensive, defensive and support stances - damage, tanking and healing in other words - that will allow any character to switch between the roles normally associated with permanent character classes or semi-permanent character builds in MMOs.

Opposable Thumbs reports that you'll naturally be more effective in these roles if you've specialised in them, but the system still offers tremendous flexibility for grouping up.

The Opposable Thumbs preview also notes that DC Universe Online will employ another concession to easy completion of multiplayer content, which SOE is calling "soft grouping". This "allows players to complete raids and instances together without being in a group", with all contributors who take part receiving experience. Sounds like a variation on Warhammer Online's clever Public Quest system to us.

Meanwhile, Gametrailers boasts an extensive three-part video walkthrough of the DC Universe demo, which not only shows the game in action (including some nifty new character models), but also sheds some light on the character creation system.

As is the case with City of Heroes and the forthcoming Champions Online, you won't select a class for your hero, instead piecing him or her together from component parts. In DC Universe Online there will be four of these: super power (light, electricity, etc.), power source (key weapon), movement modes (super-speed, flight, acrobatics) and traits (physical aspects like strength and metabolism).

IGN adds that you'll either be able to do this manually, or select a DC legend - Superman, Batman, Green Lantern and co - for your character to be "inspired by", thus getting a quick route to the action.

The game is currently at a "very early pre-alpha" stage, so don't expect it in 2009. More at the DC Universe Online gamepage.