Bill Roper: Reflections on Hellgate
February 7, 2011 Page 3 of 6
And you had two publishers in America, which was confusing.
BR: Yeah, we ended up with two publishers in America. And we were kind of Namco-funded but EA-published, but Namco still a little bit. And HanbitSoft was the Asian holder for the publisher, but we had The9 in China, IAH in Southeast Asia, and Hanbit was in Korea. So, there were all these partnerships, because we were really trying to maximize penetration for all those markets and support in those markets.
We wanted to work with experts in their markets. But to do all that, we really had to go out and honestly hype like hell. You've got to be showing these people that are investing tens of millions of dollars in your project and company, "Yes, your investment is worth it."
And I get excited about the projects that I work on. I don't think that I talked any more about what the game would be, or could, than I would with Blizzard product. I think that just when a Blizzard game came out, it got close to matching that.
And the things that weren't there, that maybe at some point we had talked about that didn't make the final game were overshadowed by the final product. When Hellgate came out, I think there was an expectation that it was going to change the face of PC gaming, right? And it didn't.
It might have! Not the way you're suggesting. [laughs]
BR: But the backlash, honestly, was staggering. And I think it was, to me, the level and the depth of the backlash. It wasn't just like, "Hey, I played this game, and I didn't like it. It sucked. I hate this game. This game is the worst thing ever." Okay, you didn't like the game and all that. But it got to the point where there were personal attacks on developers.
It seems like the layers, one is like, "Did you like the game or not?" You could say, "I think this game is horrible." Perfectly fine. "Hey, I think your company is crap because it makes bad games." Okay, you know, whatever.
But then I started to get... It got to this level where at one point, on our forums, at the same time... Kind of the backend of this all happening is I was actually going through a divorce at the same time, and somebody found that out and posted on the forums, you know, "Well, I'm sure that his wife is leaving him because he lied about the size of his penis like he lied to us." I'm like, "Oh my... Really? Really? This is where we've come."
And I don't know if it's just because we happened to strike a chord where people had such high expectations for the game... I mean, we had high expectations for the game. We didn't deliver on what people wanted.
And maybe, also at that time, that's just to where the internet -- I hate to use that broad-based term in quotes -- had gotten. Like, people love flaming. The whole thing is all -- they want controversy. They're going to say things. It's like, "Hey, you don't know who I really am. I can say whatever I want." You see it in the press now.
BR: It's not limited to gamers and gaming forums. It's become this, you know, almost outspoken Wild West in some instances...
Well, it was a mixture of things, too.
BR: Yeah. And there was a lot going on. We all felt miserable that the game didn't do what we wanted to, not just because we wanted to make money, but because we wanted to make a great game. And I think there were a lot of great ideas there.
I think there were a lot of things that happened in that game, and in the backend. When I talked earlier about how we got much bigger than we wanted to, we had to start a separate company. We had to start Ping0, which did all the backend, the game servers, the support, the billing, like everything. We never thought we would have to do that.
That was originally part of the deal. That was going to be provided. And then when that didn't happen, we said, "Well, we actually need to serve the game, so we have to start a second company." I was CEO of two companies at one point.
It's like now we're making games, and we have a second game we're working on. We tried to have something, like we talked about, having something coming up. Oh, and there's a tech company we're running. So, we had a hundred employees, where we wanted 25.
Things just spiraled out of control.
BR: Things got real big, real fast. But I think that's part of the process. We had really strong people there. We had really intelligent people there. That was a great team, and I think that we were all willing to do anything we could to try to get this game to come out like we wanted, and a lot of times that was just great. "Yes! Wait, nobody is going to do this? Screw it. We'll figure out how we do it."
And I think in the end, we tried to carry way too much of a load, and ultimately we dropped the ball and nobody was happy. Even things like the business model. I talked to people in the industry, they thought, "I thought that was a great idea, especially at the time, for a business model." "Hey, the game is free to play? Oh, but if I want to give you $10 a month, I'm going to get everything you ever do? Sure, I'm in." But gamers hated the idea.
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