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Hellgate: London

Bill Roper talks action-RPG debut

Hellgate: London is the first game to emerge from Flagship Studios, the developer founded by former Blizzard North employees - including Bill Roper - following their departure from the WoW developer in 2003.

Blizzard North, of course, was responsible for the Diablo series of games, and as such action-RPG Hellgate has been surrounded by plenty of anticipation.

It's due out next month, and we caught up with Flagship CEO Roper prior to launch for a little chat.

When you first started to put Hellgate together, what was your original vision for the game and have you achieved that goal?

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Bill Roper: I really do think we have. The original, very high level concept was being a mix between Diablo II and Half-Life. We wanted to have that randomisation. Having these elements that were so popular in the Diablo series, but then mixing that with a true 3D engine.

Being able to craft some of those experiences and having those moments when you jump out of your seat when you're playing in first-person.

I think the team has done a very good job of staying true to that and really making that the core thread of the game.

Was it always your plan to have a game of such huge scope, or is that something that's evolved during development?

Roper: Both (laughs). For better, for worse. Maybe years down the road we would have bit off a little less. But to be honest, that's something we've never done. We get an idea in our heads and then say, "Right, how do I really want to do it?"

We've worked extremely hard. We've done a lot more than people will realise. A lot more even than we realised we were going to be able to do.

It is a big undertaking. We knew we wanted to do a triple-A game from the beginning. But I think that as time went on we just elected to take more and more things into our own hands to make sure they got done to the level we wanted to have them at.

Do you think there's not enough creative risk being taken in the industry?

Roper: It's a difficult balance to strike. Games are gigantic, expensive endeavours for the most part. Functionally I think a lot are pushed towards more casual games that have smaller teams... smaller budgets, and they're able to take more leaps of faith and more risks.

But when you're making something of a very large scope, that millions and millions of dollars are invested in, for the people with the money - which for the vast amount of time is the publishers - they're rolling expensive dice and they want to make the surest bet they can.

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Unfortunately, a lot of the time, the way that they make that sure bet is to say, "Well, why don't we use a well-known license" or "Why don't we use this very specific game mechanic that everyone knows", and not venture very far outside of that.

Because of the size and scope of then industry and the amount of money they put into the games, and the fact we're doing worldwide global releases - when the money goes into that from the publisher side, they do tend to push towards, "Let's try to make this as safe a bet".

A lot of times if you have this crazy idea you kind of have to fight a lot more for it.

In that respect did you have a hard time pitching Hellgate: London, especially as a PC exclusive?

Roper: Yes and no. There were some people that saw the potential and got what we were going to be doing. [But] there were also a lot of people that had concerns about PC-only or didn't understand the game concept.

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