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Runic Games' Schaefer Talks Lessons From 'Painful' Flagship Crash
Runic Games' Schaefer Talks Lessons From 'Painful' Flagship Crash Exclusive
May 5, 2009 | By Leigh Alexander

"I think that our biggest mistake with Flagship was trying to do too much, in every respect," says co-founder Max Schaefer. "We have so many lessons we learned from that."

"If you look at any part of the dev that we had for Hellgate: London, it was trying to do everything, and you can't do everything," Schaefer tells Gamasutra. "We had a single-player version, we had free and [subscriptions online]. And we were making an MMO that was also an FPS that also had a third-person view... it was just too much of everything."

Schaefer, also an original Blizzard North co-founder and a co-creator of Diablo, now has the opportunity to take those lessons and apply them with his new company, Runic Games, where he's joined by FATE designer Travis Baldree and a number of other developers who were behind Flagship's second project, Diablo-esque online RPG Mythos, still in late development at the time of Flagship's closing.

Through a new deal with major Chinese online game publisher Perfect World, Runic gets a second chance with the concept of a Diablo-like MMO with Torchlight, on which Schaefer recently spoke as part of a larger interview with Gamasutra.

At the time of Flagship's founding, says Schaefer, the economy was booming, and "that's what publishers wanted to hear; that you were making the next giant, crazy, huge-hit game -- and we just got kind of caught up in it. The biggest mistake we made was not trying to start simply in bite-size chunks."

"It was a classic case of just running out of money, and not being able to finish everything to the level of quality and polish that we wanted to."

The plan for Runic with Torchlight is "more
focused and more modest the first time out," says Schaefer. "With the new company, this is also one reason why we're doing single player first... everything in manageable and attainable ways. We're focusing our design, starting small, and just keeping eye on costs and design and [doing] better planning."

"It was a painful time, the Flagship crash," Schaefer adds. "We're definitely turning a page and learning the lessons that we had to learn from it, painful as it may be. It's as much my fault as anyone's, and all the founders will tell you the same thing -- we're coming out wiser, and with lessons learned."

"Pretty much the entire Mythos team," led by EP Schaefer, had been having so much fun making Mythos together that they wanted to "stay together and see this through and do it right," he explains. "Everyone in Seattle was thrilled at the chance to stay on and try it again and do it better now."

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Damien Foletto
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Good luck, guys! I loved Mythos and I'm looking forward to Torchlight.

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This user violated Gamasutra’s Comment Guidelines and has been banned.

bill banche
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I'm hoping and praying that this new game will be like Hellgate: London in the following way:

In Hellgate, players are POWERFUL.

The real world is tough, especially right NOW.

So, being able to play a game where you can use your developed skills and hand/eye coordination, to take on overwhelming odds, and rarely die, is just what we need more of.

The World of Warcraft, and Everquest, etc. form factor of grinding, taking SO long to kill ONE low level mob, is no longer acceptable to me, and to a LOT of players that have experienced Hellgate: London.


Now, there are some that complained about Hellgate, including some that say it was too easy, but these are not people that played this game much at all.

Hellgate has a broad range of difficulty.

Also, for those of you that never played Hellgate; please be aware that you have missed something incredible. Hellgate has changed the way MMO's will be from now on, forever.

Once you've tried it, you will realize just how wimpy your high level toons are in WoW, Everquest 2, Lord of the Rings, Age of Conan really really are.

YES, I am looking forward to see what these guys can do with Torchlight.

With the experience they've gained, lessons learned,

It can only be GOOD. :)

bill banche
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I will insist on first person option available though. :)

I don't want to click-to-move, then click a button and watch the fight.

I want to fight them myself!

AND none of this (WoW, EQ, EQ2) crap of 4 to 15 swings to kill one measly monster!