Interviews

Champions Online

CVG talks to MMO legend, Bill Roper

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Roper: I don't really know that we have a lot of restrictions on that. I think those are issues that Atari and MS are hammering out right now - how often we can release updates and how it will work.

I think the thing that's good about our Nemesis system is that it resides within the game as it's shipped, it's not separate or a DLC component, which gets around a lot of the concerns you might have when you look at Xbox. You are adjusting things that are already in the game.

The fact that there aren't really a lot of MMOs on consoles is not due to developers not wanting to make MMOs for consoles, and I think that console players would love to be playing MMOs. I think it's just that it's always a higher-level question that has to be sorted out at a corporate business level. How will it all work? For example, MS has a lot of restrictions on the 360, and they work really well for 95 percent of titles, but I think MMOs fall under that five percent where we break all the rules in terms of how we have to interact with our customer.

360 owners already have to pay for Xbox Live Gold accounts. So there must be an issue over getting them to pay again for MMOs with subscription business models...

Roper: I'd imagine there will be.

Would a PS3 version of the game ever be considered?

Roper: Sure. I'd love to have us release on every platform conceivable. At this point, I'm sure it's all about figuring out how to make an MMO model work on consoles.

And you've chosen the 360 as the first to try it on?

Roper: The 360 is basically a PC in a box, right? So it's a lot easier to do that. The PS3 is a whole different development platform, but we've been talking with PS3 development teams who can at least do the engine conversion. It's something we've been exploring. I know everybody in the team would be ecstatic to get the game out everywhere we can, because the more players the better.

You've been quoted as saying that World of Warcraft is now so polished that efforts to challenge it would be futile - or words to that effect. It's dominated for almost five years, do you see it dominating for another five?

Roper: I think it's difficult to know when it'll stop being dominant. I think there'll be a window that will open that'll allow another game to step in. That's what WoW did to Everquest. Everquest was winding down, Sony was focused on Everquest 2, there weren't any other real big MMOs in the pipeline, and the idea for WoW was originally "we're going to make the best Everquest that's ever been made". It's the same gameplay model, but polishes everything and gets rid of everything that didn't work.

I think the difference is that the next game that comes along and captures that imagination is going to be a game that does something different - a game that offers some other really compelling thing in an MMO space for players to do. Because I think it would be near impossible for someone to say "let's make the best WoW you could ever make and get rid of things that don't work", because that's what Blizzard already did.

But making something that takes advantage of the fact that WoW has opened up the MMO genre to a massive amount of players, especially in the West, is where other people developing MMOs should look to. It's not about "How do I make the next WoW", it's more about "How do we make a great MMO that we know a lot of people will want to play, and have something different that's compelling and interesting."

WoW has a lot of players, but when you talk to some of these players they're like "yeah, I play, but there's not a lot else to play", they try something else and then they come back. Maybe WoW will dominate for another five years, maybe only for another year. Who can tell?

Thanks for your time.

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