PC Interview

Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

RPG evolution comes to the city

Inspired by the prospect of a game crafted by one of the minds behind Diablo, Duncan Lawson grills gaming visionary Bill Roper (formerly of Blizzard) on Flagship Studios debut Hellgate: London.

What made you choose London as the setting? Everyone knows Milton Keynes is already halfway there already.

London is a fantastic place to set a game for many reasons. There is the architecture of the city and the amazing structures that lie beneath it. Having interesting areas in which to set randomized content - especially subterranean areas - was a big part of our choice. Then there is the mythology and the heroes associated with the city. We strove to create a rich alternative world that firmly sets our universe within a recognizable location while still offering unexpected twists, and the international status of London was a key element in realizing this. Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

Hellgate is being compared to Diablo a lot. What does it owe to this title, and where does it significantly depart aside from the POV?

We want all of the fans of Diablo to feel right at home within Hellgate: London, but also be experiencing some great new twists, turns and innovations. We're doing a much better job of immersing the player in the world, telling stories and making the character a central figure in the tale. There are more game play mechanics that we can explore because of the ability to play the game from both the first and third person perspectives. And, of course, being in 3D with true physics lets us do some very fun things that we weren't able to achieve in Diablo II.

What classes of character are now included? Will mission decisions affect the plot?

We have six character classes across the Templar, Cabalist and Hunter factions.

The Templar Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

The Order of divine warriors and righteous swordsmen is, by and large, composed of noble men and women who wish only to preserve humanity and smite the Great Dark that has fallen upon our world. After the Earth all but ended under the tooth and claw of Demonkind, the Templar deemed themselves the necessary leadership caste of London's remnant force - they are the frontline in this righteous battle.

Blademaster

An aggressive, high damage melee character class that isn't afraid to rush into combat and initiate contact. Blademasters come into their own when wielding dual weapons and are at their best when inflicting pain with sharp objects. They play best with others by running to the front and causing havoc in spurts, allowing other ranged classes to deal damage from afar and in relative safety.

Guardian Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

Guardians are not shy. This defence-oriented class thrives by drawing groups of Demons close, where they can punished en masse. In fact, they are most effective when overwhelmed and surrounded as many of their abilities only get better with more demons around them. Plays best with others by running into the fray, taunting enemies and then drawing them near before hunkering down to apply major damage.

The Cabalists

Cabalists are seekers of knowledge who desire to control the fate of mankind by studying The Great Dark and using that power to wrestle the Earth from the jaws of Demonkind. To the uninitiated, this philosophy seems to border on madness, but the Cabal is too great an asset to dismiss, as one highly trained Cabalist can equal an army if properly equipped and strategically deployed.

Summoner Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

Never ones to travel without an entourage, Summoners have mastered the science of creating or controlling elementals and monsters that can be unleashed to distract and destroy the enemy. Aside from being able to call upon packs of helpers, Summoners also focus on regeneration skills which allow them to spread the wealth of life to their 'pets' and party members. Summoners play best with others when allowed to sit back and summon the right 'pets' for the right situations before blasting away from mid-range with a variety of spells and magically enhanced weapons.

Evoker

Evokers manipulate storms of condensed supernatural fury by funnelling raw power into damage amplifying focus items. In this way, they deal out ever more powerful offence-oriented skills. Unique focus items allow Evokers to multiply the effects of skills while also altering the amount and type of damage. They play best with others by quickly alternating between skill attacks and focus items to effectively stun, burn, poison, shock and phase enemies. Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

The Hunters

Hardened well before the Demons came, Hunters are highly trained ex-military operatives who have been through almost every war-like scenario imaginable. Cold and calculating in the field, they utilize hyper-advanced technology that makes them especially effective from long ranges. Hunters never surrender.

Marksmen

These long-range specialists know their weaponry and are highly adaptable, ensuring they are inflicting the most damage in any situation. Marksmen get boosts when scoring critical damage hits, including self-buffs, homing bullets and even reflecting bullets. Flagship boss Bill Roper explains Hellgate: London

They play best with others by staying back behind the first and second lines of offence, picking off unsuspecting enemies with ease.

Engineer

Technologically savvy, Engineers apply their knowledge of the latest theoretical science to build bots and weapons. Unlike the Summoner, who is always summoning something new again and again, the Engineer focuses on fewer drones and bots, improving them with skills and equipment as time goes on. Engineers play best with others by tricking their drone out with mods that do damage, take damage and heal. He is definitely an all-purpose adventurer.

The game is set to encourage mods - what can we hope to see from player and official add-ons?

Providing ongoing content to our players is a top priority for us, so you can expect to see quite a bit come out from Flagship Studios after the game launches. Our online play model is designed as a secure, client/server space. This means that we really can't allow players to modify that game code, just as games like EverQuest or World of Warcraft don't let you mod that portion of their games. We do have a single-player component for Hellgate: London and, just as we saw with the Diablo titles, we're sure people will come up with some very creative things in that regard, as well as create interesting online tools like you see for World of Warcraft.

How will the combat system feel? What is the balance between RPG stat rolling and FPS style strafing and blasting?

Hellgate: London is first and foremost an RPG. The Templar and Cabalist factions represent this to the greatest degree. The Hunter, while still being rooted in RPG play mechanics, is the most hybrid of the factions. For FPS fans, Hunters are going to be very appealing since they will require a level of personal ability / dexterity, but still firmly rooted in the RPG elements of levels, skills, spells and equipment representing the biggest degrees of scaling. The goal was not to make a "twitch-based" RPG, but rather an action RPG that occasionally blends in the compelling elements of the FPS genre.

The number of available weapons is comparatively limited at 20 or so in terms of modern RPG's. Much has been made of how each weapon will feel completely different, how is this implemented?

Hellgate: London has a great mix of technology and magic, meaning there are everything from high-tech guns to flaming swords to magical devices. Characters also have a variety of skills and spells to call upon, so there is really a wide variety of ways for players to hunt down demons. We've created over 100 basic weapon types for the game, and then layered on all of the randomization, customization and rarity elements. This means that there are literally millions of possible combinations in terms of what weaponry you have to play with.

One thing that's really fun to play with is the whole "Mod" idea. Basically, when an item is dynamically generated, there is a chance that it will have slots on it that different Mods (modifications) can fit into. These Mods, which are also randomly created and gathered by players during the course of adventuring, can alter or enhance the effects of the weapons they attach onto. They also change the look of the weapon, as well as the effects of the weapon (muzzle flash, hits, and special effects) so that other players can see what you've done to your gear!

What sort of machine will we need to get a good performance from Hellgate?

We haven't determined the final system requirements for the game, but we've gone to great lengths to assure players that they won't need a bleeding-edge system to enjoy Hellgate: London. We're pushing the envelope upwards with DX10 and Vista support, and downward by creating low-poly versions of all the art assets. We want to do everything we can to ensure that if you have a reasonable system with a decent 3D graphics card, you're going to be able to play.

What extra depth will we get from the multiplayer mode?

First and foremost, players will be able to enjoy the complete experience of the single player game in a secure, massively multiplayer online setting. Our general intention is to offer an online experience that is very similar to Diablo II for no additional cost.

Past that, gamers will have access to all sorts of expanded content in every area of the game. We are committed to not only providing 24/7 customer and community support, but also to provide ongoing content to continue to expand the world. We have a slew of things in production and on the drawing board, and as we move into alpha and beta testing, we'll start going into them in detail.

The intro movie is exceptional. How many of those particularly gorgeous cut sequences will we get?

We have two major cinematic sequences in the game and a handful of short in-game cut scenes that tie the story chapters together. We are huge fans of the amazing work that Blur has done with our cinematics and it has been a real honor to have worked with them to bring our story and world to such a detailed and incredible realization.

Thanks for your attentions Bill, best of luck with completing Flagship's debut title.

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