Earlier this month, a small firestorm of controversy erupted when Flagship Studios, a company founded by key veterans of Blizzard's Diablo team, revealed that its long-awaited debut game, Hellgate: London, could have some kind of subscription element for online multiplayer play.
The game, which lets you explore the gutted remains of England's capital and fight hundreds of different monsters and demons, will feature a complete single-player game, as well as a significant free multiplayer component. To set the record straight, Flagship CEO and cofounder Bill Roper talked with GameSpot about closing the Pandora's box of controversy before opening Hellgate.
GameSpot: What are the plans for the multiplayer component of Hellgate: London? Will there be free multiplayer gameplay? Are there plans for some kind of subscription content? If so, what would be the difference between free and subscription multiplayer?
Bill Roper: We have always had the intention of providing rich, robust, massively multiplayer online gaming experiences for our players. This means that we will be providing everything from a secure client/server infrastructure to 24/7 customer support to maintaining a complete live team to provide not only balance and bug fixes, but more importantly, continuing, ongoing content updates to the game. And while we are still finalizing the commercial and game aspects of our online plans, we can tell players that there will definitely be significant free online play.
GS: Regardless of the multiplayer situation, you will be able to play Hellgate: London entirely as a single-player game, correct?
BR: Of course! This has never changed and has always been a key part of our design. We know that not everyone has the ability or desire to play with others or online. Just as with the Diablo series, we have created a complete single-player experience whose longevity of gameplay benefits from all of the randomization, rarity, and customization you'd expect from us.
GS: When can we expect the details to finally get nailed down regarding the multiplayer situation?
BR: We're working to create a plan that allows us to provide all of the service and ongoing content while taking the interests and needs of our players around the world into account. It is a complex process, but we should be able to share these plans with our fans soon.
GS: The game will go into a closed beta test at the end of the month. What are the plans from that point in terms of development?
BR: We're going to begin testing of our online component in a closed "friends and family" alpha at the end of this month. Based on this testing process the pace and increased player base of our beta program will take shape. We are progressing on the development of the game at an excellent pace, and we're extremely energized by how all the pieces are coming together. Our weekly play days are pushing us further and further along the storyline and scope of the game, and our class advocates (developers who are responsible for making sure their class is the best it can be) started offering directed feedback last week.
GS: Is there anything that you'd like to add?
BR: We're actually excited to know that so many people are so passionate about the game that they want to know as much as possible about it. We continue to put every ounce of our energies into making the best game possible, and we can't wait to start playing with everyone in the beta over the next few months.
GS: Thank you, Bill.