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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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