Cryptic lassoes Roper, Hellgate relaunching?

Former Flagship CEO resurfaces as design director of the forthcoming PC/360 superhero MMORPG Champions Online; Korean publisher HanbitSoft reportedly working on new expansion.

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It's been a roller coaster year for former Flagship Studios CEO Bill Roper. After overseeing the October 31, 2007, launch of Hellgate: London, he looked on as it struggled to carve out a niche in the market. However, despite decent reviews, the title never gained traction. The game's dwindling support forced Flagship to lay off most of its employees in July, and copublisher (with EA) Namco Bandai announced last month it would shut the game's servers down on January 31.

In August, some of the Flagship castaways announced they were forming a new independent studio, Runic Games. Today, Roper revealed he has landed a new gig of his own at Cryptic Studios, developer of City of Heroes and the forthcoming Star Trek Online. The San Francisco Bay Area-based shop hired the veteran developer to be design director of Champions Online, its forthcoming massively multiplayer online role-playing game based on the classic pen-and-paper title.

"Cryptic has experienced huge growth over the past year and has exciting opportunities ahead of it," said Roper in a statement. "The company knows how to choose compelling IPs that have rich histories such as Champions and Star Trek. I'm looking forward to working with the team."

Roper gained notoriety working on Diablo, Warcraft, and Starcraft while working at the pre-World of Warcraft Blizzard Entertainment. First hired as part of the now-Activision-merged developer-publisher's audio department, Roper rose quickly through its ranks, eventually becoming vice president of Blizzard North and a director of Blizzard itself. In 2003, he left Blizzard to found Flagship studios and work on Hellgate and the still-unreleased Mythos.

Speaking of Hellgate, this week also brings news the game may live on after Namco pulls the plug on its servers in January. In two separate posts, Korean publisher and developer HanbitSoft claims it now owns the Hellgate IP and is working on a new expansion for the game. The posts say work on the expansion is being done at a "newly established studio in the US." A July Gamasutra report pegged the studio as a San Franciscan subsidiary of Asian publisher T3 Entertainment, which was also continuing development of Mythos.

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