Hellgate: London Interview with Bill Roper (english version)

gamona / HellgateLondon.de:
By announcing your new online-division you obviously decided to create an extensive online-component. We would really like to see extensive support, too. How are you going to get as close as possible to the international community?

Are there any plans for a localized closed or open beta or even area-based community-websites which offer a platform for tournaments, ladders and content connected to the scene of the game? May we once again enjoy the advantages of a website like the "Arreat Summit", that features all the numbers, stats, items, skills, etc.?

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Will there be something like GMs and Community-Managers? And, for example, what will you do to prevent commercial selling of items, gold and characters?

Bill Roper: We have a lot of plans for our online presence, both in and out of the game itself. We're currently looking for world-class programmers and engineers to develop a high-performance client/server network platform and the essential online game functions for Hellgate: London. While we have already begun the work on our online destination, we're at the stage where we need programmers to build upon our basic architecture and infrastructure.

In regards to the community, we definitely view this as a global commitment. We have always enjoyed spending time with and gaining valuable insight and feedback from gamers around the world. We currently run a fansite program that has members from the US, Germany, France, Brazil, Korea, Japan and - of course - the UK. Hand in hand with this localized interaction will be

eventual closed and open betas in many different countries, as well as providing them with the information necessary to support Hellgate: London to the fullest extent possible.

We are also currently working on a huge upgrade to our Hellgate: London website, which is currently designed as a cornerstone site for downloadable content. We know that players want a definitive source for information on the game, and we are dedicated to providing that for them. We also will continue to work very closely with both the international press and our fansites to continue to get the word out about Hellgate: London and provide more details as we continue the development of the game.

As for our plans in terms of the online business model and provided support, we're still evaluating our options and working closely with our publishing partners to determine the best path. Our goal is to provide a safe, fun and rewarding online experience and our dedicated online destination will reflect this.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: Will the game feature persistent parts? You mentioned that players meet in town-like areas to chat, trade and hang out, will there be one of these areas for each server, will it look more like in World of Warcraft, where there are different, geographically placed cities, or do you intend to create a world cut into acts like in Diablo2? Will the player teleport or travel between those areas, or do you "join" them like a game or an instance?

Bill Roper: The economy, community and characters in Hellgate: London are persistent, as are the Underground stations (you can think of them as towns) where players and guilds come together to meet and interact.

The adventuring areas are dynamically generated to accommodate the levels and numbers of characters adventuring in them, as well as to provide a focused and unique play experience. There is no "chat room" as in Diablo II, and there are also no vast static landscapes as in World of Warcraft. The interaction between the persistent and instanced areas of the game is closest to what was done in Guild Wars. There are, however, some major differences that we think players will find very exciting, chief amongst them being the completely randomized and dynamically generated areas where all the demon hunting and loot collecting take place!

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As for the world layout / design, we aren't dividing Hellgate: London into the strict confines of Acts as you saw in Diablo. We intend to have players travel back and forth between areas, evolving them as our story progresses. As for travel between the areas, we like to get players into the action as quickly as possible as opposed to forcing them to run long distances or take mass transit.

We have a few different ways we allow players to get around the world very quickly, including the ability to instantly Recall to the last station they visited, or to quickly travel between any stations they have previously visited.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: Will quests/instances lead you through a connected, linear storyline of events you trigger by questing, like in d2, or will quests be more like in a MMORPG, only remotely connected to a main-plot, telling stories about the world and also involving a lot of "kill x, collect y"-quests?

Bill Roper: The short answer is yes. Currently our quests break down into three categories: Storyline, Class-Specific and tasks.

Unlike most MMORPGs, we have a definite storyline that we want players to experience. This means that every character in the game will share key events, but with our dynamic generation system, the journey between these points is unique for every player. We are creating a rich world and we want to tell a story with our game, so having a series of Quests that drive this is essential.

These are quests that are designed especially for each character class. For example, there is a Templar NPC that has a chain of quests that not only reveal more about that NPC, but also about the Templar Order. Players need a certain amount of Faction within their character's class/organization to do these quests, and there will be ways for players to gain a high enough reputation to go on quests outside of their own class. Obviously, this will take some dedication on the part of the player to gain the trust and respect of the leaders of these other classes. Speaking of which…

Tasks are the generic, "kill x, collect y" style missions that provide short, directed goals with a clearly defined benefit. Apart from experience, money and items, some of these Tasks will also gain the player increased Faction with other groups. This will be one of the ways players can unlock class-specific quests outside their chosen organization, as well as discovering other secrets in the world.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: The only thing we know about the level-limit is that it will be "obscenely high". How long will it take to reach the maximum level? Weeks? Months? What will you, besides randomization, do to provide motivating high-level content? Will there be a few really

difficult and epic instances like in WoW, or are you trying to create a bunch of areas that are profitable for high-level-players?

Bill Roper: We haven't set a level limit, and we probably won't for quite a while. We tend to find this through continued playing and iteration rather than arbitrarily setting it at the beginning of the project. We do want players to have a very complete and long-term experience with the game, but this involves much more than just gaining the maximum level with their character. We have a lot of ideas as to what kind of compelling game play we will offer to high-level characters, including the creation of different game "types", raid-level content (epic areas and quests), time-based events (areas that are not always available) and a few other tricks we can't quite talk about just yet. We're looking at our past experiences with what players like to do at high levels and incorporating those ideas into Hellgate: London, so rest assured that we want our players to be able to have fun with the game for years and years!gamona / HellgateLondon.de: Could you tell us something about the general class-design of Hellgate: London? We only know about the templer-class, which seems like a hybrid-class to many players. Will the other classes be based on stereotypes (the traditional "fighter, caster, rogue, ranger"-theme) or will the classes be hybrid-creations, hardly connected to known class-schematics? Are you trying to reinvent the wheel? And.. are there any hints about the other classes?

Bill Roper: We're not trying to re-invent the wheel as much as redesign it for better performance and traction. The Templar is a good example of the hybrid-class concept we've been working with, as they are both a strong melee combatant and have a range of divine abilities as well. Any character should be able to complete the game on their own if they want to, so we are specifically not creating "support" classes that are only really successful when in groups. That being said, we are certainly creating skills and spells that offer real reasons to have each character class in a party of adventurers.

As for hints on the other character classes, all we'll say is that from the feedback we've had from our community as to the types of things they would like to see in this area - they won't be disappointed.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: We´ve recognized that a lot of players are afraid that there will be no traditional mage-class in Hellgate: London, since a lot of spells are delivered by weapons and others seem to be more subtle. The light-armored, fragile mage that calls up impressive arcane powers to create devastating and spectacular spells seems to be something not really possible in a world that is dominated by swords, guns and science, and that's why caster-players are afraid of ending up as a ranger-type class. What are your plans for those smart casters out there?

Bill Roper: The classes in Hellgate: London are being designed to offer a lot of options to players so that they can create a character that matches the way they like to play. The Templar appeals to players who love to jump into the middle of a fight and mix it up

while also having subtler shades of group benefits through their Divine spells. With skills and abilities focused on both offense and defense, a Templar can decide whether to focus more on dishing out damage or sucking it up.

That being said, players who love the challenge and tactics of lightly armored, high damage classes will find we've taken them wholeheartedly into consideration with the design of other classes.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: Will there be something like crafting in Hellgate: London? We've heard you may come up with a Horadric-Cube system, but besides that, will there be some kind of professions, adding to

the depth of the gameplay? A simple example would be a first-aid ability you are able to learn from a trainer.

Bill Roper: Since our items are randomly generated, having traditional MMORPG-style crafting just doesn't make sense. However, there are a lot of other ideas we're playing with that might be pretty interesting to players who want other game elements to fiddle with. As we try these out and decide which ones work well, we'll talk definitely talk about them. But for now, it would all just be speculation as to what might actually make it into the game.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: What about guild-support? Will there be things like guild-emblems, or even houses? Are there any plans for guild-ladders and tournaments? Which advantages and features will a member of a guild experience? (And, by the way, which name do you prefer for player-communities in HG:L? Clans, Guilds or even Squads?

Bill Roper: We know that guilds are a huge part of the online experience, and we've been throwing around a lotof ideas as to what we can do to support them. Things like dedicated chat channels and identifiers are definitely in, but the overall complete detailed list of things is still being hammered out. We'll probably get into greater detail early next year as to our online support and how that will affect people wanting to have guilds, so stay tuned. As for the preferred naming convention for player-communities, we hope it's happy! On a more "serious" note, there is a long standing tradition and precedence in the real-world history of England for the use of the term Guild, as is evidenced by the Guildhall section of London.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: How much of an RPG is Hellgate: London? Are you creating a real main-plot, a whole roleplaying-world with known heroes and villains? Are there NPCs populating the world besides merchants and trainers? Will there be options for actually role-playing the game, like rp-servers and emotes? Will there be places where role-players can meet to share their stories?

Bill Roper: Hellgate: London is first and foremost an RPG, and even in our MMO play we have a dedicated storyline for players to experience. We have a rich world with thousands of years of history, named heroes and villains (both past and present) and more backstory and research than we'll ever be able to cram into the game. We have created a writer's bible for use in both the design of the game and in creating other media such as comics, books, collectibles, movies and so forth. We definitely want the world of Hellgate: London to be much more than just a thin veneer slapped onto a game engine.

Role-playing is something I am personally into, as are more than a few of the members of the development team. We have yet to get into detailed discussions as to how deeply we will support this, but we definitely want there to be ways for players to get as into their characters as possible.

gamona / HellgateLondon.de: Last but not least let us ask you a personal question. It is more than 2 years since you left Blizzard. How do you feel today when you take a look back? Are you sad in some way? Was it difficult to start from scratch once again or did you like this real life adventuring? And the question of all questions of course is: Do you still play your old games and are you looking forward to play a Diablo 3 one day?

Bill Roper: The nine years I spent at Blizzard were incredibly rewarding in terms of the experience I gained, the relationships I formed, and the games I helped create. Leaving was a difficult experience in that we all left behind close friends, as well as the worlds and characters we had been making for many years.

Starting up Flagship Studios, however, has been the most gratifying, exciting, challenging and wonderful professional experience I have ever had. I honestly cannot imagine launching into a new game company with a better group of people, and the talent and passion in the team we have here is second to none. I am honored to be a part of what we're doing here, and we all can't wait to unleash our first game on the world!

Finally, I do still play StarCraft and Diablo II every now and then, although I am such a game-aholic that I'm always trying out the latest thing!