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Bill Roper: Reflections on Hellgate
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Bill Roper: Reflections on Hellgate

February 7, 2011 Article Start Previous Page 5 of 6 Next

Balancing advantage and disadvantage, and unfortunately the balance was not struck, I guess.

BR: Yeah. Yeah. I think, if we would have had another six months, maybe things would have been different. The game would have come out much better and met more of the expectations it had. Again, in trying to please so many people, even the game style... I think that people that saw it as taking the Diablo experience into a 3D realm were the ones that were the happiest with the game.

But there was a lot of people that thought like, "I'm getting an MMO." And then they were like, "This is an MMO? I hate this game." Or so many people thought, "I'm getting a first-person shooter." And then they got the game and went, "This is a crappy first-person shooter." So, those people were very disappointed...

Because it wasn't a first-person shooter.

BR: Because it wasn't, and we never pitched it as such. But because it was an RPG with FPS elements, a lot of people latched onto the FPS portion. They were like, "Oh, cool. It's an FPS."

I did get a demo where somebody over-messaged to me "FPS people can get into this game!" I think the lesson, in terms of design, is realizing the implications of the decisions you make.

BR: Yeah. Absolutely. Again, it was trying to be like, "We're going to appeal to everybody." In hindsight, it's like, "Wow, we did so many things that seem so stupid," but at the time, it was like, "We want everybody to play this game. Here's this core thing, and how do you spice up the core thing? Oh, this will be great. We'll add that. We'll do some of this."

And after a while, you have what was originally that great dish, you have put so much other spices and crap in it, it just becomes a big messy gumbo.

Whereas Torchlight was an example of honing in on something very specific.

BR: I honestly think that as much as people hated me, as much as people hated Hellgate and hated Flagship, people would have loved Mythos. And that was the second game from the studio. And there was a lot of crossover, you know. And I think that Torchlight proved that that next game idea was...

But the thing is they're kind of doing it in this three-stage process, where they released a single-player version. Runic did the game like "Here's a single-player version." The next is going to be a peer-to-peer type thing. And then it's going to be, "Okay, now everybody goes online and plays."

The advantage we had with Mythos is we would have been right at stage three because all that tech was already there. It's a real drag. There was a version of Mythos... We did internal, and then we pushed from the internal server to beta server. And people who were playing Mythos when we closed the company, the version that was next going to get pushed to beta, which was internal, had all these changes to it based on everybody's feedback that was playing.

It wasn't hub-instanced anymore. It was a big open world that then you would go into all the instanced content. You could actually run around with people. We were like, "Oh my God, this is it. This is going to be so great." But you don't get there. And I think that's the difficulty, that we were in an unsustainable business model.

I mean, the game sold, actually, a good number of units, not a failure number of units at all. We never released our box money because we never cracked [our royalty numbers]... Because development cost was so high. We were like, "God, we'll never make that."

We even at one point just realized, "We're never going to make money off box sales. Even if this game sells multiple millions of copies, we might never make our money back on the box sales. We're going to have to make our money on the back end, on the online." Because that was a much lower nut to crack every month. But we just didn't get the number of players.

Right. And once the buzz went, thus the game.

BR: Yeah, then the game went. And I think the sad part is there was... It's that kind of thing where, it's like if you have a student who's very promising. It's like, "Oh, this kid is really smart. He's going to be great. He's going to do great in school."

It's like, "Alright, here's the first huge test he had where he finished his first year. Wow, he did not do well. Okay, well, I guess we should kick him out of college and he should be a garbage man for the rest of his life, because obviously he can never be a scientist or whatever."

And I think that's the sad part. It's almost throwing the baby out with the bathwater, which I think Mythos was, and I think that other products... We had learned so much. It's that kind of thing; you learn from your mistakes. And I think it is the rare, almost unique company that never makes mistakes.

Even if you look at the best filmmakers. It's like Howard the Duck, hello. There's the classic Howard the Duck things, whatever he does, but that's not like the end of their career. It's not like, "Alright, Mr. Spielberg, you're done. You're not allowed to make any more movies," right. It's just like, "Oh, wow. That was a really bad movie. Well, alright, let's see what the next thing is."

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