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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 6 of 6

Now here's a question for someone has gone through a very conspicuous flameout. Are you surprised when you see publishers, experienced publishers, completely fuck up launches of MMOs and online games still? Like Final Fantasy XIV is a cluster.

BR: Yes and no. Yes, from that standpoint... There are certain things that have been done so many times, you're like, "Oh my God. How do you not do that?" But at the same time, having been in the middle of it, sometimes you just miss stuff. You're like, "You know, that never happened before," which always seems weird. That will invariably happen with something with every launch.

Like "Wow, we never had that problem until, of course, the game launched, and now this weird problem has shown up and, oh my god, how do we fix it?"

And the thing I think that's difficult, too, is there are times where the developer has to carry the blame for the publisher or the operator because the publisher or the operator in Asia has a lot more on the line. They're servicing multiple games. They have multiple products they've got out.

So, if there's a problem that happens, it's easier and safer for them to say, "Oh, well there was a problem with the code," or "The developer did something, but they'll fix it. They're good guys. Don't worry. It will get fixed." Because you can't lose faith in the people that bring you all the different games, you know, you're giving the money to.

There are instances where, certainly there were problems with things that happened with Hellgate, where when we would spend a day tracking it down, we would ultimately going back to someone not with our company and say, "You know, when you guys did this? You did that thing wrong, which is why this isn't working. So change this to that. You put the wrong file in." It's a simple mistake, but it happens.

So, in that instance, I'm not surprised that it happens because it's not like that person did it on purpose. It's just somebody messed that up. A lot of times, that fault all gets pushed back on the developer, when it isn't. It's just one of the hazards.

But at the same time, when it's a catastrophic failure, right, it's like, "Didn't anybody see this was going to happen?" I actually think that was one of the challenges we had with Hellgate, and this is something that was a strength at Blizzard that we didn't have when we started Blizzard. At Blizzard, there was Blizzard North and Blizzard HQ.


BR: Right, down in Irvine. Like, the Diablo guys would play the Craft games, and they'd say, "Hey, so we were playing this, and we noticed this, and we thought that, and have you guys thought about..." There was this really high level quantitative feedback on the game.

Same thing, working on the Diablo titles, the Craft guys would go like, "Hey, so we were playing this. Have you thought about that and have you thought about this?" So, you had this sounding board that was incredibly good to bounce ideas off of. And we had these oversight groups, these strike teams that we ran for everything that was all the highest level guys in the company that looked at every product and gave directed feedback.

We didn't have that. We were our only sounding board. Namco wasn't doing PC games. We were their only PC title. And they were doing very little development in the U.S., so any feedback we tried to get through Namco, they didn't have that level of experience we were doing at all.

When we were trying to get feedback from Hanbit, they were predominantly a publisher. They weren't doing any internal development. So, the feedback we got from them was from the publishing side, and a lot of times it was very vague. "Oh, you should have more social in your game." "What does that mean?" "Here's the elements we believe are social." "Where are we not doing that?" And they wouldn't be able to describe it.

Once, interestingly enough, in early '08, we took a business trip. Eric [Schaefer], Max [Schaefer], and myself came over to China to talk with several companies. We were trying to get more funding for Flagship. We started meeting with publisher-developers, like Perfect World is a good example.

And we'd sit down with them, with publishers that make their own games, and they would say, "Yeah, you know." And they would have the same comment. "You guys really need some more social aspects in your game." And we'd say, "You know, we've heard that before, but no one can explain that. What do you mean?" And they'd say, "Oh, this is what we mean," and they'd show us an example from their games.

We'd talk with developers, and we'd be like, "Oh. We understand what it is you're looking for now. Yeah. We can definitely do something... That would work in our game." But we didn't get a lot of feedback. Everybody needs that. Even the best writer needs an editor, right? Everybody needs that. I think that was a huge thing we didn't get.

I mean, that can be part of it, too. Was there ever anybody that could look at it and go, "Hey, maybe this is a problem," or "Have you thought about this," or "Holy crap, that's not going to work." So, it is a surprise because you just can't believe, like, "How can that, in this day and age, with all these games that have come out and all this information that's there, happen?" But I get how it happened.

Article Start Previous Page 6 of 6

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